Belfast Telegraph

I hope one day all in Ireland will wear Poppy, UUP man tells Dublin audience

By Staff Reporter

Ulster Unionist councillor Chris McGimpsey has told a high-ranking audience at Dublin City Hall - including ex-Taoiseach Bertie Ahern - that he hopes one day everyone on the island will wear poppies in memory of the fallen.

The Belfast councillor was attending a seminar on the Messines Peace Park, Belgium, and its contribution to Irish-British reconciliation.

Mr McGimpsey said he expects all of Ireland to commemorate fallen heroes of the First World War.

He praised the Irish National War Memorial Gardens at Islandbrige, Dublin, describing it as having been a catalyst for reconciliation.

The memorial fell into neglect before being restored and officially reopened in 1988. It has played host to State commemorations to all those who died in the First World War's Battle of the Somme.

"Some day we will all wear the Poppy," Mr McGimpsey added.

Meanwhile, speaking at the same event, Mr Ahern touched on the current political situation in Ireland following the announcement by Taoiseach Enda Kenny that he is stepping down.

Mr Ahern said he expects a general election to take place next year, no matter who is next leader of Fine Gael.

Leo Varadkar is hot favourite to beat colleague Simon Coveney to take Enda Kenny's position as Taoiseach.

However, ex-Fianna Fáil leader Mr Ahern would not bite on who he felt would be the better man for the role.

Asked if he thought Mr Varadkar would be a good fit to become the first Taoiseach from the city of Dublin since himself, Mr Ahern said both candidates were strong and whoever is elected will lead Fine Gael for a long time.

The Drumcondra man insisted that he knows both candidates well and said he regularly sees Mr Varadkar at GAA matches in Dublin - a hobby the Social Protection Minister has engaged in since getting into politics. "I knew the Coveneys, I knew his dad and his brother," Mr Ahern continued.

"I think the two of them are two really good candidates and I know both of them, I probably know Leo very well because I meet him a lot, but best of luck to whoever wins.

"I wouldn't say if I had (a preference).

"I don't know (how long the next Taoiseach will last), well there'll be an election next year anyway, I think everyone thinks that. Whoever gets elected will probably last 10 years, not necessarily as Taoiseach but as (party) leader."

"I think both of them are (a good fit). Either of them seem to be very competent guys, very competent Ministers," he added.

Mr Kenny announced on Wednesday that he would retire as Fine Gael leader at midnight that night, but he would continue to serve as PM until a successor was appointed by June 2.

The former teacher from Co Mayo has led the centre-right Fine Gael party for 15 years and been Taoiseach since 2011.

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