Ni Riada would wear poppy for inauguration

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A row has erupted after Sinn Fein candidate for President of Ireland, Liadh Ni Riada, said that if elected she would would wear a poppy symbol on the day of her inauguration.

Ms Ni Riada (pictured, centre) made the controversial vow to wear the symbol, which commemorates Britain’s war dead, during a presidential debate on Monday night.

During the televised debate, candidates were asked if they would wear the poppy on the day of the inauguration, which coincides with Remembrance Sunday and the 50th anniversary of the end of World War One.

Ms Ni Riada said she felt that wearing a poppy would be an important gesture.

“I think it’s a sign of maturity,” she said. “You are saying that we have come this far in extending the hand of peace and friendship. And so yes, I would.”

There was unusual criticism of her comments by some Sinn Fein members on social media.

Padraig Mac Lochlainn, a Sinn Fein senator, said that it would not be appropriate for the president to wear a poppy because it was still a divisive symbol in Ireland.

“Ms Ni Riada spoke in a personal capacity, that’s her own position. I have a different view and I think most people in Sinn Fein would, too. I have no problem commemorating the First World War . . . but the poppy commemorates all British war dead in every conflict. The poppy, at present, is still a divisive symbol,” he said.

Daithi Doolan, a Sinn Fein councillor in Dublin, “completely disagreed” with Ms Ni Riada but said that he would still campaign for her. “Republicans have been in much tighter corners on much more difficult issues than this,” he said.

Saoradh’s Dee Fennell said Ni Riada’s poppy vow was an example of Sinn Fein’s new position within the establishment.

“This will come as no shock to the republican base, who will see it as the logical extension of Sinn Fein’s normalisation policy regarding Crown Forces that occupy our country,” he said.

He claimed it was proof that Sinn Fein will “abandon any and all principle” as they move toward “a gombeen administration” in coalition with either Fine Gael or Fianna Fail.

“Their willingness to embrace remembrance traditions of those who murdered republican activists and civilians through state murder and collusion, and who continue to deny national self-determination and sovereignty by force, vindicates that analysis,” he said.

Speaking afterwards, Ms Ni Riada said she immediately thought of the former Deputy First Minister’s gesture when he met the queen of England in 2012.

“An image of Martin McGuinness came into my head and I remembered all the times he went to the Flanders fields or shook the Queen’s hand and making bold moves in showing how inclusive we are.”

“I often think how he would approach things and I think that was indicative the other night when the question came up and he just popped into my head.”

“I obviously realise as a republican what that means and the hurt that is there,” she added.

“To wear such an emblem like that, it’s not about diminishing that sense of republicanism, I think it’s about being comfortable in your own republicanism to be okay with that.

“I do however think that it’s about being bigger than me, being bigger than all of us in one sense of trying to be inclusive.

“It’s not a Sinn Fein position and I understand that very clearly, however I’ve had a lot of positive feedback.”

CASEY CAMPAIGN SUSPENDED

In a separate controversy, TV reality show celebrity Peter Casey (pictured, left) has said he is considering abandoning his campaign after an outcry over bigoted remarks he made about Ireland’s gypsy-like Travelling community.

Mr Casey said Travellers were simply people “camping on someone else’s land” and Ireland’s recognition of them as members of an ethnic minority was “a load of nonsense”.

The millionaire, one of three stars of the same TV show ‘Dragon’s Den’ bidding for the Presidency, refused to withdraw the comments and insisted Travellers don’t pay their fair share of taxes in society.

Amid a furore, he denied his comments were part of a stunt to boost his support, at just 1% according to one recent poll. He said he had suspended his campaign and would consider whether to end it entirely.

“You’ve politicians accusing me of being a racist, it’s just wrong,” he said. “I do not want the people of Ireland to elect me as President of Ireland just based on one statement I made.”

Latest polling indicates that incumbent Michael D Higgins is favourite to remain President with 66% of voter support. Another ‘TV Dragon’ and an unsuccessful candidate in 2011, Sean Gallagher, is on 12%, while Liadh Ni Riada is on 11%.

The election takes place this Friday, October 26. The count will begin at 9 a.m. on Saturday 27 October.

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