Belfast Telegraph

Jeffrey Donaldson hopes to bring Tower of London poppies to Northern Ireland

By Liam Clarke

The ceramic poppies from an iconic display at the Tower of London will come to Northern Ireland within a couple of years, according to DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson.

Mr Donaldson has been to the fore in promoting the poppy as well as the welfare of armed forces veterans.

He said: "I am confident that a large part of this display will come to Northern Ireland in 2017 or 2018. We are still in the process of putting in an application."

Almost 900,000 poppies were in the original installation by artist Paul Cummings and set designer Tom Piper.

Northern Ireland has already missed out on the first part of the tour, which started last year, but fresh applications are invited next year and Mr Donaldson is convinced the province will succeed.

The display at the Tower was called Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red, with the poppies representing the British war dead of the Great War.

They were erected to mark the centenary of World War I and attracted more than five million people when they were in situ last year.

After the Battle of the Somme, in which many Irish volunteers died, the poppy became a symbol because so many were found growing on the blood-soaked battlefield.

There were over a million casualties in four months of fighting between July and November 1916, making it one of the bloodiest battles in history. More than 70,000 British and South African soldiers with no known grave are commemorated at the Ulster Tower in Thiepval alone.

The two portions of the display which could be sent here are among the most striking. They are Weeping Window, with poppies pouring from a window, and Wave, which cascades over a causeway at the Tower of London. After touring the UK these two key pieces of the installation will be displayed at Imperial War Museums in London and Manchester as part of a legacy project.

Other ceramic poppies which were ranged around the Tower of London's ancient moat are being sold at £25 each as souvenirs to raise money for charity.

The travelling installation is aided by two charities, Lady Susie Sainsbury's Backstage Trust and the Clore Duffield Foundation, as well as the Government.

It is not known where the poppies will be displayed here.

The Tower of London is owned by Historic Royal Palaces. The same body, an arm of the Royal Household, controls Hillsborough Castle, the Queen's Official Residence here, so that would be an uncontentious location.

Mr Donaldson is seeking cross-party support for the move.

He said: "I hope Sinn Fein will support this. Those who died were nationalists as well as unionists, Catholics as well as Protestants.

"It was a tragedy for us all and we can all remember them with the anniversary of the Somme coming next year."

Mr Donaldson said the DUP had not yet decided whether to take part in the commemorations of the centenary of the 1916 Rising.

"I can't commit because we haven't decided it" he said, adding: "Either way we will want to ensure that the many British soldiers and civilians who died or were injured during the rising are also remembered."

Belfast Telegraph


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