Belfast Telegraph

Attwood wears poppy on grave visit

The decision of SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie to wear a remembrance poppy has been followed by a colleague visiting war graves in Belgium.

SDLP Social Development Minister Alex Attwood made the journey in honour of a great uncle who died during the First World War, in what was a first for the politician.

The west Belfast representative said such moves would help heal old wounds in Ireland.

Many senior nationalist and republican politicians, plus public figures including President of Ireland Mary McAleese, have shared in Remembrance Sunday events.

Mr Attwood's move comes after his leader recently became the first head of the SDLP to wear a poppy.

Mr Attwood said: "In July 1917, my great uncle, the man whom I am named after, was killed during the Great War. His body lies in an unmarked grave but his name is inscribed on a memorial at Nieuport on the Belgium coast, along with the names of 527 other men who lie in unknown graves.

"I will be the first of my generation of Attwoods to visit the memorial and to acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of my great uncle. I strongly believe that more and more people in Northern Ireland desire to share more fully in the life of the island of Ireland."

He added: "But in going forward, I also believe that there should be acknowledgment of that part of the experience of many families on the island, members of whom fought in the First and Second World Wars and who paid with their lives.

"This is part of our history. It is also part of our history that the British Army has been responsible for many wrongs on the island of Ireland. It is also the case that the British Army is sent to fight in wars that I and many like me do not agree with.

"But there are many of the nationalist tradition who acknowledges that part of our family experience has included family involvement in world wars. Indeed, in visiting the memorial that bares the name of my great uncle Alex, I very much wish to acknowledge his courage and his sacrifice."

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