Motion to support veterans of WWII

Motion to support veterans of WWII

3 July 2019

A PROPOSAL to provide the district’s surviving World War 2 veterans with a silver poppy ahead of the 75th anniversary of the end of the conflict has been referred to Newry Mourne and Down Council’s Good  Relations Forum.

The decision was taken at the local authority’s monthly meeting on Monday evening after the issue was raised by Mournes DUP councillor Glyn Hanna.

He wants the council to recognise the contribution of the men and women who fought in the war, highlighting that with each passing year, the number of surviving veterans diminishes, with time to provide them with “public and appropriate recognition running out”.

Cllr Hanna wants the council to provide veterans and those who served with the Merchant Navy to receive a silver poppy to “mark their service in the fight against Fascism and Nazism”.

The Mournes councillor proposed that poppies would be presented to surviving veterans at a special cross-community service of remembrance this November and is keen for Newry, Mourne and Down Council to encourage the Province’s 10 other local authorities to do likewise.

While his motion was supported by UUP and Alliance councillors, the SDLP and Sinn Fein suggested that the issue should be referred to the local authority’s Good Relations Forum for discussion. 

Cllr Hanna agreed with the proposal, insisting that his motion was not intended to be “divisive” but was simply recognise the service of the district’s war veterans.

He continued: “The Second World War was fought to stop the cruelty of Fascism and Nazism across the world. If Fascism hadn’t been beaten we would be living in a very different world today. “We would be living in fear of a regime which would not tolerate any descent. We are very lucky and should be thankful to those veterans who risked all and gave their tomorrow for our today.”

Cllr Hanna said the district’s surviving veterans were small in number and well into their nineties, and that society owed a debt to them for their part in the battle to secure the freedom people enjoy today.

He said he included the Merchant Navy in his proposal because many risked their lives on merchant ships to ferry supplies which helped win the war.

“This was a cruel war where many lost their lives and I really hope we never have to face anything like this again. Those from Northern Ireland who fought and served during World War Two came from all sections of the community.

“Before it is too late, I believe this council should acknowledge what these brave people did for us all by presenting surviving veterans with a silver poppy at a cross community service in November,” said Cllr Hanna.

He added: “I hope that the council will support this motion as a mark of respect for the generation which has given us freedoms we take for granted.”

The SDLP’s Declan McAteer said he was “somewhat dubious” about the suggestion for the council “to go out on a limb and procure silver poppy medals”. 

“I fully respect the sentiment of those wishing to identify with what is essentially a British symbol which won’t by endorsed by all Irish men or women. The poppy, for better or worse, is associated with all conflicts that Britain was  involved in from the First World War right through.

“I would say that perhaps that if we do anything around this we take a lead from the British Legion in Ireland which decided on a shamrock poppy which has been worn by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.”

Cllr McAteer proposed that the issue be referred to the local authority’s Good Relations Forum, with Sinn Fein’s Mickey Ruane in agreement.

Cllr Ruane said he was respectful of the motion Cllr Hanna and his party had tabled, suggesting the Good Relations Forum was the “ideal committee” to send the issue to.

He added: ”We need to look at this issue and decide what event we are going to have and come to a respectful decision.”

At the debate conclusion, Cllr Hanna reaffirmed he had no issue referring his proposal for further debate, highlighting the need for the matter to be dealt with quickly.

He also said he had no difficulty with awarding veterans a shamrock, suggesting that they could perhaps be offered the chance of being awarded this or a poppy.