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Cross-party consensus on policy needed for flying flags and lighting-up of County Hall

Pembrokeshire County Hall

A CROSS-PARTY consensus of the policy for flying flags at Pembrokeshire’s County Hall is needed to avoid creating “the potential to cause controversy and create tensions between community groups,” councillors were told.

At the March 7 meeting of Pembrokeshire County Council, a pre-submitted call was made by Cllr Huw Murphy for the Haverfordwest home of Pembrokeshire County Council to fly the Falklands flag on June 14, to mark the islands’ “return of democratic rule following an illegal military occupation by Argentina” 40 years beforehand, in 1982.

Cllr Murphy, in his submitted call to the March 7 meeting, had said: “The purpose of raising the Falklands flag at County Hall on June 14 is to remind us of the ultimate sacrifice made by 255 service personnel serving our country during the Falklands war.

“Poignantly 22 of those lost in the conflict were serving on HMS Ardent, a Royal Navy destroyer sunk on May 22, 1982. HMS Ardent has a close association with the county of Pembrokeshire through its affiliation with Milford Haven.

“The raising of the Falklands flag at County Hall will have great resonance for the town of Milford Haven and for members of the HMS Ardent association, in that their service many years ago is still remembered.”

Answering the question, Council Leader Cllr David Simpson said: “I would like to suggest that collectively we really need to agree a policy both for the flying of flags and the lighting-up of County Hall.”

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County Hall has previously been ‘lit up’ for a wide variety of reasons including Holocaust Memorial Day, Universal Children’s Day, International Women’s Day, in tribute to NHS workers, and to mark domestic abuse awareness month.

It has also been lit up for LGBT+ History Month and in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, the latter drawing the ire of the-then Pembroke Dock county councillor Cllr Paul Dowson, who later unsuccessfully stood for UKIP in the Senedd elections.

Cllr Simpson added: “Like all symbols, flags and the lighting up of buildings are open to wide-ranging interpretations and therefore also have the potential to cause controversy, and create tensions between community groups whose opinions may differ, a situation which we ourselves have experienced here previously.

“County Hall should be a neutral venue and I therefore suggest we secure cross-party support for any cause requesting the flying of a flag or lighting up of the building, which will hopefully be achievable through the development of a suitable policy as a number of other public bodies have.

“My concern is this request will likely trigger further requests as we have seen in approaches for lighting up the building here at County Hall, and as a key civic building for the county I think we need a key approach in how to respond to requests.”

He suggested the general matter should be referred to the March 19 meeting of the Policy and Pre-decision Overview and Scrutiny Committee for further consideration before being brought back to council in May, along with Cllr Murphy’s proposal.

Cllr Murphy expressed his hope his request would be ratified, and the flag flown to “reflect the sacrifice” made by the service personnel.

The flag of the Falkland Islands features the Union flag in the top left along with a coat of arms featuring a ram and a ship, The Desire, which discovered the islands.

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