Belfast Telegraph

Poppy wreaths stolen and burnt on Bogside bonfire to be replaced in Cenotaph service

By Leona O'Neill

Poppy wreaths which were stolen from the war memorial in Londonderry and burned on a controversial Bogside bonfire are to be replaced this morning at a special service.

Three poppy wreaths, laid in tribute to those who lost their lives during the First World War, were stolen from the Cenotaph in the city centre and appeared on the bonfire alongside flags and boards bearing the names of murdered police and prison officers.

Yesterday, final preparations were being made for this morning's rededication ceremony at the Cenotaph.

Victor Wray, from the City of Londonderry Grand Orange Lodge, said the community felt it had to do something to replace the tribute to those who died.

He said: "We as an organisation would not think of disrespecting a chapel or church. I feel the War Memorial in the Diamond comes into that category.

"These people who gave the supreme sacrifice were maybe 14 or 15 years of age. And they were from both communities, so the people who stole and burned the wreaths have disrespected everyone.

"I know within the Catholic community that there were people there working to get the wreaths off the bonfires, but they couldn't do it.

"Our community felt very hurt and disgusted that a poppy wreath could be put on a bonfire and burned.

"We would hope that the wreaths can be left there and people can go and look at them and remember. I think it's very sad that the wreaths can't be left alone."

The DUP's David Ramsey, a member of the No Surrender Club of the Apprentice Boys, who also had their dedicated wreath stolen, said: "These wreaths are dedicated to members of our community, both Protestant and Catholic, from both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, who lost their lives.

"We felt that it was shocking that this hate is still within our society.

"I would love to meet these people face to face and talk to them.

"Replacing the wreaths means that we are rehonouring the people who lost their lives for everyone in society and in the world. These were world wars, not a local situation."

The wreaths will be laid at 11.30am today during an Apprentice Boys Parade.

Belfast Telegraph

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