Belfast Telegraph

Tyrone Order of Hibernians in row over poppy worn by pupil

By Cate McCurry

An internal row has erupted in the Ancient Order of Hibernians over a primary school pupil wearing a poppy.

The Tyrone branch of the AoH claimed on their Facebook page the child had been "permitted to sport a British poppy in a rural Catholic school in south Tyrone" earlier this month.

The Tyrone Courier reported that in the post, which has since been deleted, the branch said it "deplores this development" and added that the principals and governors of these unidentified schools "need to get their acts together".

It added: "As far as the Tyrone Hibernians are concerned we believe that an Irish Catholic primary school is no place for the promotion of British military symbols."

The next day, a second post said: "(We are) delighted to announce that no British military poppies were on display today at the Tyrone primary school referred to yesterday. Let's keep it that way. Let us only honour those patriots who fought and died for our nation's freedom."

However, the AoH's assistant secretary John Shanahan hit out at the remarks, saying that the reference to a "British" poppy is "entirely incorrect".

Mr Shanahan, who is a US Navy veteran, said the poppy was a mark of respect for the military service and sacrifice of Irish men and women, "regardless of the country" to which they were attached.

In a statement to the Tyrone newspaper, he said: "The complaints announced by the Tyrone AoH in the postings make reference to a 'British poppy' - a reference that is entirely incorrect - and then depart from that flawed reference to draw a false equivalence between the poppy and implied support for unionist sentiment and British rule in Northern Ireland.

"Firstly, the wearing of a poppy as a memorial symbol has its roots in Canada, not Britain.

"In the spring of 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies growing in battle-scarred fields in Belgium to write a now famous poem called In Flanders Fields.

"It is an unfortunate mark of ignorance and disrespect for anyone to attempt to politicise the poppy or to attribute its wearing to another thing or purpose other than that for which it is intended - a mark of respect for those brave men and women who came forward, answered freedom's call, and laid down their lives so that we may live in peace and freedom today."

The Tyrone AOH did not respond to a request for comment.

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