Queen should ‘hand back’ Irish regimental flags, says Ahern

Ex-taoiseach says only ‘good lady herself’ can return standards given to king

File photograph of Seamus Green from the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association after a special Mass to mark the outbreak of the first World War was held in Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin.

File photograph of Seamus Green from the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association after a special Mass to mark the outbreak of the first World War was held in Saint Mary’s Pro-Cathedral, Dublin.

 

Former taoiseach Bertie Ahern has said Queen Elizabeth should hand back the Irish regimental flags given to her grandfather after the first World War.

The colours of the six southern-based regiments of the British army were laid up in St George’s Hall, Windsor Castle in 1922 after independence.

The king was emotional about the handover of the flags from regiments which had long histories in the British army

The flags were those of the Royal Dublin Fusiliers, the Royal Munster Fusiliers, the Leinster Regiment, the Connaught Rangers, the Royal Irish Regiment and the South Irish Horse.

King George V hosted a formal ceremony at Windsor Castle on Monday, June 12th, 1922, to mark the disbandment.

The king was emotional about the handover of the flags from regiments which had long histories in the British army.

“I fully realise with what grief you relinquish these dearly-prized emblems; and I pledge my word that within these ancient and historic walls your colours will be treasured, honoured, and protected as hallowed memorials of the glorious deeds of brave and loyal regiments,” he then said.

Speaking at a seminar on the Island of Ireland Peace Park on Friday, Mr Ahern revealed that he tried many times as taoiseach to get the flags back to Ireland.

‘Well-respected across the water’

“We had almost reached the point 15 years ago when they were to be returned to their rightful place,” he said. “Those flags are well-respected across the water, but it would be lovely to have them back. I still think it should be followed through. If we were to follow the line of symbolism, that would be No1.”

Mr Ahern said he had 'rattled on for years' about the flags and finally got through to the relevant civil servant in Windsor Castle to be told that only one person could make the decision

Mr Ahern said the flags ought to have been returned after the queen’s state visit to Ireland in 2011 and the reciprocal visit by President Michael D Higgins to Britain in 2014, during which he viewed the flags.

Mr Ahern said he had “rattled on for years” about the flags and finally got through to the relevant civil servant in Windsor Castle to be told that only one person could make the decision - “the good lady herself”, the queen.

He told the seminar organised by the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association and Dublin City Council that he decided to clean up the National War Memorial Gardens in Islandbridge in 1994.

“The place was a disgrace,” he said. “I asked the OPW [who run it] why was it like this and they said it was always controversial and nobody asked to do anything about it.”

It took a further 12 years before it was officially opened in 2006. It was supposed to have been officially opened by the then taoiseach Éamon de Valera in 1939, but the opening was postponed because of the outbreak of the second World War.

Mr Ahern said in 2006 he had reinstated the Easter Sunday parades to mark the Easter Rising. They had been suspended during the Troubles. He felt for balance that the National War Memorial Gardens should be opened too which it was on the 90th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme.