TD wears 'symbolic' poppy in Dáil

An Irish Government TD has said he wore a poppy to the Dáil today to show that remembering the Irish war dead is no longer off limits.

Frank Feighan, who called last week for a joint British-Irish approach to commemorating the First World War, is the first TD to make the gesture for 16 years.

“We have well and truly moved on from that dark, bloody era in the North before the evolution of the peace process – a time when the politics of fear and divisiveness tore apart communities living side by side,” he said.

“Thankfully, the peace dividend has delivered a new politics which has allowed us to publicly respect all traditions on this island.

“This politics of inclusiveness has also allowed us to publicly revisit some aspects of our past which up to recently were off limits. That includes the countless Irish men who fought and died in the Great Wars.”

Mr Feighan, chair of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, is the first TD to wear a poppy to the Dáil since 1996 when Labour’s Emmet Stagg, and Fine Gael TDs Paddy Harte and Brian Hayes set the example.

He said he wore the poppy as a symbolic gesture to remember the war dead and to illustrate how the politics of engagement and not war is the only way forward in solving seemingly intractable conflicts.

Mr Feighan represents Roscommon-Leitrim and his home town of Boyle was a barracks base for the Connaught Rangers.

About 50,000 Irish men who enlisted for the First World War died.

Some 31,500 of John Redmond’s National Volunteers joined the war effort. Around 26,000 unionists from the north and south of Ireland also enlisted.

The Irish Government this year pardoned about 5,000 soldiers branded deserters and blacklisted for fighting for the Allies against Nazi Germany in the Second World War.

“Sadly, it is only in recent years that the stories of many of these brave Irish men have been recognised,” Mr Feighan said.

“Indeed, many of the WWII veterans that returned to Ireland were treated not just with hostility but were persecuted by official Ireland, and had their employment, pay and pension rights affected.

“For me, wearing the poppy in the Dáil is a symbolic gesture to not only recognise the Irish men who fought in the Great Wars but to illustrate how the politics of engagement and not war is the only way forward in solving seemingly intractable conflicts.”

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