Unionists slam students’ bid to ban poppy from Queen’s Union

Queen's Students' Union
Queen's Students' Union

Unionists have hit back against a reported Sinn Fein-backed motion which will be brought to the Students’ Union at Queen’s University Belfast tonight, urging a ban on the annual Poppy Appeal.

The motion claims that “the Poppy Appeal is a politically charged and necessarily divisive initiative given the nature of local politics” and urges the Students’ Union to “end the sale of poppies in the Students’ Union to provide an end to political sponsorship of the Poppy Appeal, in the name of peace, inclusivity and progressivism”.

Asked what the university policy was on the Poppy Appeal a spokeswoman offered no comment and referred the matter to the Students’ Union. Sinn Fein offered no comment either.

Gordon Douglas, Director of Queen’s Students’ Union, said the union does not have a policy on poppies.

“We aim to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for all,” he said.

“The poppy has been on sale in the union for quite a while.” He said a motion has been tabled for discussion at tonight’s student council meeting.

DUP MEP Diane Dodds said that while the motion talks of “peace, inclusivity and progressivism, it is actually regressive, backward looking and an attempt to politicise the poppy”.

She added: “The Equality Commission recognises that the wearing, and presumably the sale of poppies in a respectful manner within the appropriate period, should not be regarded as anything which would cause offence.”

She noted that WWI saw soldiers “from all parts of the island of Ireland fighting side by side”.

UUP councillor Alexander Redpath said: “The poppy is an internationally recognised symbol which commemorates the hundreds of thousands of people who gave their lives in defence of freedom.”

He added: “The very fact that Queen’s Students’ Union is able to debate such a crass and intolerant motion such as this is because of that sacrifice, but this point would no doubt be lost on the closed minds behind this motion.”

TUV Lagan River council candidate Samuel Morrison said he was “disgusted but not terribly surprised” to hear that Sinn Fein has backed the motion at the Students’ Union.

“The poppy is a symbol of those who served their county with honour and fought for freedom, both nationalist and unionist, Roman Catholic and Protestant, against tyranny in two world wars,” he said.