Speaker raises first flag to the British Overseas Territories

The British Overseas Territory of Monserrat is being celebrated by the Speaker of the House of Commons with the raising of the country’s flag in New Palace Yard.

The tiny island, which sits just south of Antigua, celebrates St Patrick’s Day on 17 March – the same day it commemorates the nine West African slaves who lost their lives after a failed rebellion in 1768.

In fact, Montserrat, which has a population of less than 5,000 people, is the only nation in the world outside Ireland that treats St Patrick’s Day as a national holiday.  This stems from the fact that the majority of the island’s early settlers, who landed in the 17th century, were predominantly of Irish origin.

Sir Lindsay Hoyle said it was important that the UK Parliament marked the ceremonial days of the British Overseas Territories.

‘Now more than ever is the time to celebrate and commemorate Montserrat, particularly as many Montserratians now live in the UK as a result of a volcanic eruption that destroyed the southern side of the island, including the capital Plymouth, in the mid-1990s,’ he said.

‘I want to nurture our relationship with the overseas territories, and this starts in a small way by recognising and respecting these countries that mean so much to us by the raising of flags on their national days.’

The Hon Joseph E. Farrell, Premier of Montserrat, said: ‘The Government and people of Montserrat are delighted at having our island’s flag raised at New Palace Yard on 17th March 2021.

‘This is indeed an auspicious accession, especially on St. Patrick’s Day when both Montserrat and Ireland celebrate a shared history and rich heritage.’

Montserrat, which is 11 miles long and seven miles wide, was named by Christopher Columbus in 1492. He believed the pear-shaped island resembled the land around the Spanish abbey of Santa Maria de Montserrati.

A self-governing overseas territory within the Commonwealth, Montserrat’s head of state is the Queen, who is represented by an appointed governor.