Irish president sparks bitter Twitter war after lowering flag in honour of British Prince Philip

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Ireland’s president has lowered the country’s flag to half mast to mark the funeral of Britain’s Prince Philip, a move that angered Irish nationalists who were quick to remind about 800 years of British rule on the island.

As Philip was laid to rest in Windsor on Saturday, Irish President Michael D. Higgins ordered the Irish tricolour lowered to half-mast above his residence at Aras an Uachtarain in Dublin’s Phoenix Park.

The tricolour flying at half mast at Áras an Uachtaráin today, to mark the death of Britain's Prince Philip.

— President of Ireland (@PresidentIRL) April 17, 2021

Higgins was the first Irish president to host a visit from a British monarch since independence, welcoming Philip and Queen Elizabeth II to Dublin in 2013. That visit was controversial and took place under heightened security measures – and the lowering of the flag has too quickly stirred consternation online.

Irish nationalists decried the gesture, with one wondering “if the President of Ireland died, would the UK fly its flag at half mast?” Another declared that anyone defending the mark of respect was “no Irishman.”

Embarrassing. I fully understand that diplomatic protocol sometimes means lowering the flag to mourn tragedies in our allies, but the natural death at age 99 of the husband of a head of state who is head of state because her ansectors won a war, is not a tragedy.

— Sorcha Nic Ón Rí (@sarahkingnadal) April 17, 2021

Why are we showing respect to a man who was part of an establishment that has thrived off of colonialism and racism, and couldn’t care less about Ireland? Is diplomacy more important than self-respect?

— Cillian (@LFC_Cillian) April 17, 2021

Should be flown higher in celebration.

— Darragh🇮🇪 (@LaochNaGaelach) April 17, 2021

The history of English rule in Ireland is a turbulent one, beginning with the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1169. Sporadic conflicts between the English and the native Irish played out until the late 17th century, when Ireland was conquered proper. Irish nationalists won independence in 1922 after a two-and-a-half-year war – but six northern counties have remained part of the UK.

No matter the history, some commenters felt that Higgins’ gesture was a commendable one. “The most Irish thing in this world is to mark the passing of a neighbour,” one wrote. “A funeral is a funeral – you show up.”

The most Irish thing in this world is to mark the passing of a neighbour + even if they support a different parish/county in the hurling, vote differently, or even if their grandfather bought/inherited land they shouldn't have 80 years ago – a funeral is a funeral – you show up

— Maurice Fitzgerald (@maurfitzcappa) April 17, 2021

I saw comments that they wouldn’t do the same for us – So what? What others do should not stop us acting with maturity, dignity and sensitivity when the occasion requires it. President Higgins represented us well with this gesture.

— Níall McCullagh (@mccullaghniall) April 17, 2021

If you’re serious about wanting a United ireland you’re going to have to understand why things like this are necessary. It’s just a gesture of respect. Doesn’t cost you anything to do that. In doing so it takes away a lot of unionists arguments that they’re not being respected.

— Force Ghost David 🇰🇭 (@davidintheforc1) April 17, 2021

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