Belfast Telegraph

Ritchie poppy 'is act of moving on'

An Irish nationalist has become the first leader of her party to wear the poppy on Remembrance Sunday.

SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie attended a ceremony in south Down in Northern Ireland to mark the sacrifice of millions of war dead.

The poppy has been a controversial symbol in Northern Ireland, often dividing unionists from nationalists who resent the British Army's role in the country.

Ms Ritchie, South Down MP, said her party believed in reconciliation on the island of Ireland and wanted to acknowledge Irish nationalists who fought in two world wars and had been airbrushed out of history.

"We have to reach out and I was doing that by reaching out to those who lost loved ones in both wars," she said.

"I simply see this as an act of remembrance, an act of respect, moving on and reaching out."

The poppy is sold by the British Legion in the run-up to Remembrance Sunday in November to raise money for veterans. Pat Catney, the chairman of Lisburn SDLP, said society in Northern Ireland has to break away from claiming exclusive rights over symbols such as the poppy.

As he laid a wreath during a ceremony in Moira, the former GAA player said he was proud to have maintained a personal family tradition stretching back more than half a century.

Mr Catney's uncle, Laurence Catney, was serving in the Merchant Navy when his ship was sunk off the coast of Tenerife in 1942.

"I first attended the Moira ceremony as a little boy with my father. He was remembering his brother who was lost at sea at just 18 years of age," said Mr Catney."

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