Legion flags back at Newry church after being burnt by rector
A Church of Ireland congregation has put the troubled tale of a flag-burning rector behind it with the dedication of new flags.
At a solemn service yesterday, new standards were installed at St Mary's Church in Newry - after the previous minister had burned the old Royal British Legion (RBL) flags a year ago.
The Rev Kingsley Sutton then replaced the RBL flags at both St Patrick's and St Mary's Churches with a white flag featuring a red heart.
He told the congregations that he removed the flags because he wanted to "make a break" from the past. But many members of the church said the move had caused deep hurt.
Rev Sutton had also barred the Orange Order from holding parade services there and changed the traditional services.
A few weeks later, the controversial rector was stood down.
It later transpired that Rev Sutton, who had defied the instructions of a senior bishop in removing the flags, had actually burnt them. He later said that he "utterly regretted" his "inappropriate and unacceptable" decision to take down the RBL standards, which commemorate soldiers who died in the two World Wars. Rev Sutton resigned and was sent to a parish in Cork.
Yesterday, St Mary's put the saga behind it and was joined by other Churches for the dedication of the new flags. Those attending included Rev Dr Michael Barry of the Presbyterian Church; Bishop Harold Miller; representatives of the Royal British Legion, and the Rt Hon Richard Gordon, Deputy Lieutenant of Co Down.
Colin Whiteside, chairman of the Newry Branch of the Royal British Legion, told the Belfast Telegraph last night: "A firm in England called Newton & Newton were so upset they provided Newry branch with two new standards free of charge and today we were laying up the standard we currently have back in St Mary's, and we have the new one dedicated today.
"It means a lot to us because the one taken down was the original flag of Newry branch from away back in the 1940s.
"The people of the parish were most upset when that flag was taken down and destroyed and they now have one back up again and we have a new one dedicated for service. We can now move forward."