War of words as DUP propose poppy fields

A war of words broke out at Craigavon Council after a DUP motion to buy poppy seeds from B&Q and plant them throughout the borough in commemoration of World War One.

The Notice of Motion proposed that council support the Royal British Legion Centenary Poppy campaign by buying poppy seeds from Flanders from the local B&Q to plant on an area of land within the Civic Centre boundary.

Discussions will then take place with the Legion in Lurgan, Portadown and Donaghcloney to select an area of land which is council owned in each and sprinkle the poppy seeds.

“Funds raised will go towards the £1.6m the RBL spends each week on vital care and support for the whole Armed Forces community. This campaign will see the UK awash with poppies during the centenary period in commemoration of all those who lost their lives in the First World War,” the motion stated.

The notice also proposed that the council forms a 2014 World War 1 Commemoration Committee given that 2014 will be the 100th anniversary of the The Great War. The committee will be made up of council members, officers and the chairpersons of Lurgan, Portadown and Donaghcloney RBL and will be responsible for organising events. The group will have a budget from council funds.

Proposed by Cllr Carla Lockhart, and seconded by Cllr Robert Smith, it was supported by unionists.

Sinn Fein’s Gemma McKenna said her party had proposed setting up a committee to deal with the decade of centenaries, as had been done in Belfast, but the DUP were not interested.

“They are only looking at one side,” said Ms McKenna. “Enough is enough. We have a shared history. This only looks at one side. It is divisive and shows no respect.”

SDLP Cllr Joe Nelson said while he and his party had no problems with the motion in essence, the said the majority of Irish men wen to war in the belief that they would return to a united Ireland, but that didn’t happen. Mr Nelson also had issues about raising revenue and was concerned about consultation with local communities.

Ulster Unionist Cllr Ken Twyble said he would support it as he would hope to support other items in this decade of anniversaries.

Sinn Fein Cllr Mark O’Dowd aid the motion is ‘unfortunate’. “It is nothing but a British fest, an armed forces fest. I don’t care if they were Catholic soldiers or Protestant soldiers. We just know what they did to our country.”

The motion was carried with 12 voting for six against and the two SDLP abstaining.