Friday 20 September 2019

Government defend Taoiseach decision not to wear poppy

David McKittrick and Michael Brennan

THE Government has insisted it was normal policy for Taoiseach Enda Kenny not to wear a poppy symbol during his historic Remembrance Day visit to the North.

Mr Kenny did not wear the symbol for fallen soldiers from the British army when he travelled to Enniskillen, Co Fermanagh, to become the first Taoiseach to attend a Rembrance Sunday service in the North.

Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore and President Michael D Higgins also did not wear poppies when they attended Remembrance Sunday events in Belfast and St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.

A spokesman for Mr Kenny said that normal protocol when attending official ceremonies does not involve wearing the poppy and that it is official Government policy stretching back decades not to wear any commemorative symbol at official events.

The Taoiseach and Tanaiste broke new ground by taking part in the Remembrance Day services in the North.

Mr Kenny laid a laurel wreath at the cenotaph in Enniskillen, close to the spot where a no-warning device killed 11 people and injured more than 63 others assembled for a Poppy Day commemoration.

Mr Kenny said: "This is part of our shared history and I wanted, and the Irish government wanted, to be part of sharing that remembrance." He later met some of the families affected by the bomb, which is regarded as one of the worst atrocities of The Troubles.

Meanwhile, Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore laid a laurel wreath in central Belfast during an hour-long ceremony. The laurel wreaths are considered a politically neutral symbol.

President Michael D Higgins, accompanied by his wife Sabina, joined hundreds of people at a remembrance service in St Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin.

In his sermon, Rev Nigel Crossey, chaplain of St Columba's College in Dublin, said the attendance of Mr Higgins and that of the Taoiseach and Tanaiste at Enniskillen and Belfast was of the "profoundest significance" in building trust, respect and understanding that was essential to take the peoples of the island forward.

Meanwhile, one family who gave all their sons to the war effort during World War One have been remembered for their "heroic contribution".

All seven sons of Mary and William Furey from Loughrea Co Galway, fought in the Great War and were either killed, injured or taken prisoner.

Four of the boys -- Willie, Martin, Malachy and Henry -- were killed in Flanders, Belgium. Another son, Michael, was also sent to Flanders to fight. John was wounded at Givenchy, while Thomas was taken as a prison of war to Germany.

Their sacrifice was commemorated with the unveiling of a plaque in their hometown of Loughrea, Co Galway, by their closest living relative, Kathleen Ward (74) from Loughrea.

Irish Independent

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