TD wears poppy in Dáil to honour dead
A Fine Gael TD has said he wore a poppy to the Dáil today to show that remembering the Irish war dead is no longer off limits.
Frank Feighan, who called last week for a joint British-Irish approach to commemorating the first World War, is the first TD to make the gesture for 16 years.
"We have well and truly moved on from that dark, bloody era in the North before the evolution of the peace process - a time when the politics of fear and divisiveness tore apart communities living side by side," he said.
"Thankfully, the peace dividend has delivered a new politics which has allowed us to publicly respect all traditions on this island.
"This politics of inclusiveness has also allowed us to publicly revisit some aspects of our past which up to recently were off limits. That includes the countless Irish men who fought and died in the great wars."
Mr Feighan, chair of the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly, is the first TD to wear a poppy to the Dáil since 1996 when Labour's Emmet Stagg, and Fine Gael representatives Paddy Harte and Brian Hayes wore the symbol in Leinster House.
He said he wore the poppy as a symbolic gesture to remember the war dead and to illustrate how the politics of engagement and not war is the only way forward in solving seemingly intractable conflicts.
Mr Feighan represents Roscommon-Leitrim and his home town of Boyle was a barracks base for the Connacht Rangers.
About 50,000 Irish men who enlisted for the first World War died.
Some 31,500 of John Redmond's National Volunteers joined the war effort. Around 26,000 unionists from the north and south of Ireland also enlisted.
The Government this year pardoned about 5,000 soldiers who deserted the Irish Army during the second World War.
"Sadly, it is only in recent years that the stories of many of these brave Irish men have been recognised. Indeed, many of the WWII veterans that returned to Ireland were treated not just with hostility but were persecuted by official Ireland, and had their employment, pay and pension rights affected," Mr Feighan said.
"For me, wearing the poppy in the Dáil is a symbolic gesture to not only recognise the Irish men who fought in the Great Wars but to illustrate how the politics of engagement and not war is the only way forward in solving seemingly intractable conflicts."