AOH boss slams Tyrone branch over poppy slur

A senior figure within the Ancient Order of Hibernians (AOH) has accused its Tyrone branch of displaying 'ignorance and disrespect' by objecting to a child wearing a poppy to school.

Wednesday, 29th November 2017, 7:03 pm
Updated Wednesday, 29th November 2017, 7:09 pm
The controversial Tyrone AOH Facebook message posted on November 7 but since deleted

AOH assistant secretary John Shanahan said a message posted on Facebook by the Tyrone County Board earlier this month – saying it “deplored” reports that a seven-year-old pupil at a Catholic school in Tyrone had worn a poppy ahead of Remembrance Sunday – was “entirely incorrect” in politicising the symbol.

A message posted on the Tyrone AOH Facebook page on November 6 said its members had been made aware of the child being permitted to attend school wearing the poppy and “deplores this development”.

The following day, a further message said: “The Tyrone AOH is delighted to announce that no British military poppies were on display today at the Tyrone primary school referred to yesterday. Let’s keep it that way. These things have been traditionally regarded as symbols of oppression by generations of Ulster Irish Catholics.”

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Both messages were deleted from the site earlier this week.

Mr Shanahan, an American military veteran and commander of the American Legion in Dublin, said the poppy was a “mark of respect for the military service and sacrifice of Irish men and women,” regardless of the country they were serving at the time of their deaths.

“The complaints announced by the Tyrone AOH in the postings make reference to a ‘British poppy’ – a reference that is entirely incorrect – and then depart from that flawed reference to draw a false equivalence between the poppy and implied support for unionist sentiment and British rule in Northern Ireland,” he told the Tyrone Courier.

“The wearing of a poppy as a memorial symbol has its roots in Canada, not Britain. It is an unfortunate mark of ignorance and disrespect for anyone to attempt to politicise the poppy or to attribute its wearing to another thing or purpose other than that for which it is intended – a mark of respect for those brave men and women who came forward, answered freedom’s call, and laid down their lives so that we may live in peace and freedom today,” he added.

Mr Shanahan told the News Letter he was speaking in a personal capacity – not on behalf of the AOH – when he made the statement.

Neither the AOH Board of Erin nor Tyrone AOH has responded to a request for comment.]

• High-profile republican Gerry McGeough was elected president of the AOH in Co Tyrone in March 2016.

He caused widespread outrage a few months later when he branded Catholic judges and prosecutors in Northern Ireland “traitors” who will be dealt with as “collaborators,” following the reunification of Ireland.

McGeough was released from prison on licence in 2013 after serving two years of a 20-year sentence for the attempted murder of a part-time UDR member. Last month, the Tyrone board’s ‘Hibernian Day’ event included “honouring the hunger strikers” as well as Our Lady of Fatima.