RTÉ's Tony O'Donoghue and Independent.ie's Kevin Palmer defend James McClean in feisty radio debate

James McClean has been verbally abused over his refusal to wear a poppy

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Media coverage of the annual James McClean poppy debate has contrasted dramatically in England and Ireland in recent days, with RTÉ 2FM's Game One show setting a few record straight as Tony O'Donoghue and Kevin Palmer gave their views on the saga.

In a passionate defence of McClean refusal to wear a poppy, O'Donoghue suggested the Republic of Ireland winger deserves to be respected for his stance, as he suggested the abuse that comes his way is unjustified.

"I'm sorry for James McClean," stated the respected RTÉ broadcasteer. "I admire him for standing up for what he believes in and that he has to go through this year after year after year. It's extraordinary and the way it is reported in ridiculous, I have to say.

"Where James comes from, the Creggan in Derry...Bloody Sunday. It is perfectly reasonable that he has this view and to give the clubs he has played for credit, when he has explained it to them, they have backed him on it. Now he has to go through it all over again.

"In my view, he is the one showing a bit of dignity and a bit of education in this. I'm in London now and I don't see many people wearing the poppy. It has been called poppy fascism. If you are on TV you have to wear them and in a Premier League team you have to wear them.

"Don't forget Nemanja Matic of Manchester United chose not to wear the poppy at the weekend after his village in Serbia was bombed by NATO in 1999 and it reminds us that we have a troubled history all over the world.

"If you want to wear a poppy and remember the sacrifices people made, the is fine. If you choose not to, you should be entitled to as well.

"James McClean, I'm glad the FA are taking no further action against him, but James has asked why he is being targeted. We need to be sensible about this before it becomes a ridiculous issue."

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Independent.ie reporter Kevin Palmer also backed McClean's stance, although he suggested his emotional social media posts from the Stoke player in recent days have 'fanned the flames' for those looking to criticise him.

"Some in the English media are not interested in educating themselves as to why why James McClean makes this stand and that is where the problems start in the way this is reported," he said.

"I am the son of Irish parents born in London and Tony is right. You don't see too many poppies over here and it has become a political correctness issue. Any time the weather man forgets to wear a poppy, he needs to apologise to the nation and the message is lost amid this modern desperation for everyone to be offended every five seconds.

"The only issue I would have with James McClean is his eagerness to get involved in the row in such a public way. I spoke to Niall Quinn a few years back and he mentioned that when he was Sunderland chairman, he woke up every day worried about what James might say next on Twitter and how it might encourage the idiots looking to have a go at him if he goes on to social media and fans the flames, it gives those guys what they want.

"These guys don't know why James does this, they have no interest in understanding it and by making these statements on social media, he adds fuel to the fire of his detractors."

O'Donoghue stepped in to question that stance, as he suggested McClean's feisty social media were entirely justified in the face of relentless abuse.

"I admire him all the more for his decision to defend himself," he added. "As he says, he gets death threats every week, chants that can be heard load and clear. His family have to put up with all this, so I admire him for speaking out because when you get to know James McClean, he is a very sensible young man and to be able to respond intellectually to this, to something that clearly moves him.

"We are in a very turbulent time in the world. People are jumping on symbols and using them for the wrong reasons and the time is right to stand up to what you believe in."