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Paying tribute to the fallen British and Commonwealth soldiers during Remembrance Day ceremonies in London, British prime minister David Cameron said, “We stand united to remember the courageous men and women who have served our country, defended our freedoms and kept us safe”.
Does that freedom include the freedom of Wigan Athletic’s Republic of Ireland international footballer James McClean to not wear a poppy on his football shirt as his club takes part in football’s annual Remembrance Day commemoration?
This decision by McClean not to wear the poppy resulted in him having to defend his stance by letter and a face-to-face meeting with Wigan club chairman Dave Whelan.
Despite the acceptance by Mr Whelan of Mr McClean’s decision surely this issue should never have arisen? We are reminded ad nauseum that the poppy symbolises the sacrifice of millions of lives in defence of small nations and individual freedoms. Does that freedom include the freedom of individual choice?
James McClean articulated an unambiguous respect and gratitude for those who fought and died in both world wars and “mourns their deaths like every other decent person”, a sentiment I totally agree with. However, as McClean pointed out, for people from the North of Ireland, and specifically those from Derry, scene of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, wearing the poppy is not just a simple non-controversial symbol to remember those who died in the Great War. Hopefully the response to James McClean’s deeply held convictions will be respected and understood. Many millions throughout Europe and beyond gave their lives for this freedom during 1914-1918. Their sacrifice should be respected.
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