Belfast Telegraph

Poll: Sinn Fein plan for Easter lily at City Hall just like poppy - do you agree?

By Jonathan Bell

Sinn Fein has proposed Belfast council workers should be allowed to wear the Easter lily like they are the poppy.

The party said the republican symbol should be given the same status as the poppy and, as well as staff allowed to wear it at Easter, it should be sold at City Hall and other council buildings.

Sinn Fein leader on the council Jim McVeigh denied a suggestion the proposal was about antagonising those from the Protestant community.

"This is about giving people the choice... and I think some people will wear both the lily at Easter and the poppy at November," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"This is about equality and parity of esteem."

The Easter lily is traditionally worn by Irish republicans and is associated with the 1916 Easter Rising, with collections used for the upkeep and maintenance of republican graves and monuments.

Council staff are barred from wearing the lily as it is deemed a political symbol, but have the freedom to wear the poppy should they wish to do so.

"This is primarily about allowing staff to wear the lily," Mr McVeigh added.

"Every year the poppy is sold at the reception at City Hall and staff are allowed to wear it. We have over 2,500 staff and some to us asking why they can not wear the lily."

"This is not about glorifying anything. The lily like the poppy means different things to different people.

"People wear the poppy - and I have no problem with that - for many reasons; to commemorate just those killed in the great wars or for those killed in those wars and modern conflicts and likewise there are those that wear the lily to commemorate the 1916 rising or to some it marks those involved in the contemporary conflict."

He added: "The council has vowed to mark the decade of centenaries in a respectful manner. We held a civic reception for the Easter Rising centenary and if we can do that, then we should allow staff to wear the lily.

"It is about choice and not forcing people to wear the symbol."

UUP councillor Chris McGimpsey, however, described the proposal as "silly nonsense".

Speaking on the BBC Stephen Nolan show he said there was "no equivalence" between the poppy and the lily, but he did not have a problem with people wearing the symbol.

"Sinn Fein are wanting a formal endorsement of the Easter lily, and that is wrong," he said.

"The council is very stringent with these sorts of issues and what Sinn Fein are seeking is to glorify the Provisional IRA campaign. I think they sit in a wee dark corner of the Felons and say 'we need to poke the Prods in the eye'.

"It is just silly nonsense."

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