Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

New poppy row as council votes to turn borough red

Mayor of Craigavon, Carla Lockhart

A poppy row has broken out at Craigavon Borough Council just weeks after Remembrance Sunday.

It's not the wearing of the symbol this time that's causing the political upset, but the sowing of seeds on council land to commemorate the 100th anniversary of World War I next summer.

It's understood the Craigavon is the first Northern Ireland council to bring forward its plans to mark the centenary, which includes forming a commemoration committee between councillors and local British Legion chairs.

Former mayor and DUP councillor Carla Lockhart (below) is behind the motion to sow poppy seeds on council-owned land to mark July 26 – the date the Great War started.

While the motion was passed on Monday night due to a UUP and DUP majority, next year's celebrations have already caused friction within the council.

Six Sinn Fein councillors voted against it and two SDLP members abstained amid claims of "one-sidedness".

Both Sinn Fein and SDLP stressed that their concerns about Ms Lockhart's motion was nothing to do with their parties being unwilling to commemorate the historic landmark.

However, unionist members earlier this year turned down a proposal to set up a committee to look at a range of shared history 100 year anniversaries, including the Dublin Lockout and formation of the Irish Volunteers in 1913, and the 1916 Easter Rising.

Speaking of the Ulster men who fought in the war, Ms Lockhart said: "Whether they be Protestant or Catholic, male or female, we must remember them.

"I trust this motion will be supported by all parties given the significance of it and the fact that this is a shared history."

Afterwards Sinn Fein's Gemma McKenna said: "Unfortunately, the DUP in Craigavon are only willing to recognise history as they perceive it.

"Within the last year they refused to accept a motion, brought forward by Sinn Fein, to form a Decade of Centenaries committee that would draw up plans to acknowledge and mark all points of view in relation to our joint history on this island."

Councillor Joe Nelson of the SDLP said: "There are parts of the borough which are strongly nationalist and may not welcome the expenditure on this."

Roberta McNally, chairperson of the Royal British Legion Lurgan and Brownlow Branch welcomed the decision, saying: "It is of paramount importance that this part of our history is never forgotten."

BACKGROUND

The sowing of poppy seeds throughout the UK to mark the Great War has found favour with PM David Cameron. The Royal British Legion has joined forces with B&Q to sell seeds, with a £1 donation from each sale going to the RBL. Funds raised will aid the £1.6m the RBL spends weekly on caring for the Armed Forces community.

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