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Government minister tells commissioners that a cross on a war memorial might ‘exclude’ some people

Juan Watterson MHK

Juan Watterson MHK

Ramsey Commissioners have changed the design for a Great War memorial – after a government Minister told them a cross might leave some residents feeling ‘excluded’.

The initial design was for a cross of ceramic tiles, each decorated with a poppy and inscribed with the name and date of death of each of the 120 servicemen who lost their lives in the First World War, to be placed on the side wall of the Courthouse.

But following intervention by the Home Affairs Minister Juan Watterson MHK the panel will now be in the form of a rectangle and not a cross.

In an email to the commissioners, Mr Watterson asked them to review their original concept, pointing out that the Courthouse is a registered building and that his department has received comments from members of the public regarding the placing of a religious symbol on a civic and non-religious building.

He said the current community is not necessarily all-Christian in belief and that some residents, while supportive of the desire to recognise and commemorate the sacrifice of those who fought in the First World War, may ‘feel excluded by the use of a Christian symbol for such purpose’.

He added: ‘You will appreciate that I have also become aware of these plans through my chairmanship of the Isle of Man Government War Memorials Preservation Committee.

‘In that guise, I support the views of many that, when the Cenotaph was built, it was deliberately without religious connotation, likewise the many “swords of sacrifice”.

‘Whilst I would accept that many of those who left Ramsey will be Christian men, it is perhaps a step too far to presume this of all of them.

‘I would therefore hope that further consideration is given to the shape of the memorial.’

Speaking at the monthly board meeting, commissioner Graham Jones said: ‘I have never heard such rubbish in my life. The cross is not a Christian symbol – it predates Christianity by hundreds if not thousands of years.’

Commissioner Richard Radcliffe agreed with Mr Jones and added: ‘I find it disappointing that the government of this island thinks that a cross could cause offence to people.

‘There is far too much kowtowing to the perceived sensibilities of the minority.

‘If people don’t want to honour our traditions, there’s always an alternative in the morning.’

Despite their resentment against Mr Watterson, the board agreed to a new proposal be drawn up by artist Michael Starkey for a rectangular panel composed of 120 four-inch tiles, which will build up to depict the image of a single poppy.

Details of the fallen records will be discussed and agreed with the Royal British Legion.

The panel will be constructed in the town hall, with tiles being laid at regular intervals so the picture builds up over the four commemorative years.

A permanent location has yet to be decided.

What do you think? Does Mr Watterson have a point? Or do you think that it’s ridiculous to think that a cross coud cause offence?

Email opinions@newsiom.co.im or comment below.

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