Remembrance of the sacrifice and bravery of those who served in the Great War and in conflicts since then is a deeply personal issue. However, as a public representative I am mindful that I pay not just my personal respects, but represent the people of Upper Bann as I stand before a War Memorial.
In this centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War we look back on a time when soldiers from across Ireland, answered the call and fought side by side on the narrow ground of battlefields such as the Somme and Messines. This is our shared history, yet unfortunately its narrative sometimes still divides us.
There are reasons to be encouraged, Representatives of the Irish Government were present on Remembrance Sunday in London, Belfast and Enniskillen. Nationalist representatives in Northern Ireland often have demonstrated that leadership too and have paid respects on behalf of the whole community. That must not be forgotten. In Northern Ireland we still have some distance to travel, but I believe that remembrance, and the poppy should be something which unites us all.
The poppy emerged as a symbol of remembrance and was adopted by organisations in different countries including the Royal British Legion. For me, as a representation of life emerging from the horrors of those battlefields it is a deeply poignant symbol. It does not glorify or celebrate war because there is nothing glorious in war and nothing to be celebrated about the loss of life on a battlefield.
There is nothing exclusive about the poppy as a symbol of remembrance, nor about any remembrance ceremony. People will wear a poppy for various reasons and may have a personal story behind their attendance at a ceremony of remembrance. What is common across all those stories however are the individuals, who served in uniform, and paid the ultimate sacrifice.
For me, remembrance is a personal opportunity to demonstrate some small measure of gratitude for the sacrifice and service of so many brave men and women. As a public representative I am always very mindful of what it means to local families for whom the stories of service from a century ago are cherished, or for whom the pain of loss is much more recent.