Belfast Telegraph

Extracts of football star's message to Wigan chairman

I have complete respect for those who fought and died in both World Wars - many I know were Irish-born. I mourn their deaths like every other decent person and if the poppy was a symbol only for the lost souls of World War I and II I would wear one.

But the poppy is used to remember victims of other conflicts since 1945 and this is where the problem starts for me. For people from the North of Ireland such as myself, and specifically those in Derry, scene of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, the poppy has come to mean something very different. When you come from Creggan like myself or the majority of places in Derry, every person still lives in the shadow of one of the darkest days in Ireland's history - even if like me you were born nearly 20 years after the event. It is just a part of who we are, ingrained into us from birth.

For me to wear a poppy would be as much a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles - and Bloody Sunday especially - as I have in the past been accused of disrespecting the victims of WWI and WWII. It would be seen as an act of disrespect to those people; to my people.

I believe everyone should live side by side, whatever their religious or political beliefs, and ask for people to respect mine. I just cannot do something that I believe is wrong. In life, if you're a man you should stand up for what you believe in.

Belfast Telegraph

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