Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Funeral flag was an utter disgrace

While it was not given that title, the funeral of Margaret Thatcher was to all intents and purposes a state funeral. Her coffin was borne on a gun carriage and flanked by soldiers from various regiments and the Queen led the mourners in St Paul's Cathedral.

There were dignitaries present from all parts of the world and crowds lined the street as the procession passed. And of course the proceedings were beamed across the world.

As the UK's first woman prime minister perhaps it was an appropriate way to mark her death.

Not that everyone saw it that way. Without doubt she was the most divisive political leader in the UK in the modern era, although that was a badge she wore with honour. Little wonder then that her passing was greeted by protests as well as sorrow and Mrs Thatcher, no doubt, would have accepted that. After all freedom of expression is the bedrock of a mature democratic society and those who chose to turn their backs on her funeral procession were merely availing of that freedom.

What was not acceptable – and should never be – was the pure bile displayed on the streets of Londonderry where INLA men flew a flag rejoicing in both her death and that of Airey Neave, her political ally blown up by the terrorists in 1979 as he drove out of the Palace of Westminster car park.

The actions of yesterday's protesters place them beyond the Pale and the bounds of any civilised society and they deserve to be roundly condemned.

Of course it has to be remembered that they represent only a tiny minority of people in Northern Ireland – and that most people were unaware of their actions – but they have brought disgrace once again on the name of the province.

The images of the flag will be shown around the world and people in other countries will shake their heads in bafflement and disgust and wonder what kind of place this is.

We know that is not a true reflection of life here, but it is one which will be given undue credence.

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