A SENIOR clergyman has defended comments at a Dublin Remembrance Sunday service in which he praised Derry’s James McClean stance for refusing to wear a poppy in the face of constant abuse from the terraces and the British press.
In his sermon at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Canon Peter Campion described his regard for the Creggan born winger’s stance at West Bromich Albion where he plies his silky left footed skills.
James will be in the Republic of Ireland line-up for this evening’s crunch Wold Cup decider game against Denmark at Dublin’s Aviva stadium with the game poised at 0-0.
A win will see Martin O’Neill’s men reach the World Cup finals in Russia next summer.
The cleric told a Dublin congregation that included Irish President Michael D Higgins and Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan: “James McClean is a national hero.
“He scored the one and only goal against Wales last month to propel Ireland into the play-off to qualify for next year’s World Cup.
“James McClean also refuses to wear the poppy. I admire him for that.”
He also said that he admired the West Brom player’s “great restraint and integrity in enduring those annual taunts”.
He added that his stance must be “very difficult and hurtful for him nonetheless”.
And Rev Campion said that the footballer had “never made an issue of it, but others have made it an issue”.
His comments have provoked anger within the Church of Ireland among his own ministers.
But Rev Campion remains defiant and stands by his praise of local lad James..
“I was very nervous getting up in the pulpit and saying it, but I think we need to try to move forward.
“I was not deliberately setting out to upset people.
“I began my ministry in Ardoyne in the middle of the Troubles.
“When I began my ministry, I made a point of going to visit the family of anyone who was killed in the area, whether they were Catholic or Protestant. Some people were not pleased, but I thought it was important.”
The canon insisted that he would have made the same comments if he was still ministering in his former parish in Woodvale.
He said that people “should not wear the poppy because they feel they have to”.
James McClean has spoken publicly about his attitude to the poppy due to its British military connotations.
He said the Bloody Sunday massacre by the Parachute Regiment was still a reminder to him of the “painful presence of British soldiers at that time”.
Rev Campion told the Dublin congregation that he chooses to wear a poppy as a tribute to his grandfather and great uncles who served with the British Army in the First World War, and “to remember the 50,000 Irish and others who were not so fortunate”.
He added that he did not expect people south of the border to admire him for wearing the symbol, but said that he hoped they respected his choice.
He said that his grandfather, who went on to become a Church of Ireland dean, had found protests outside St Patrick’s Cathedral at the end of the Great War “very hurtful”.
Rev Campion added that his grandfather had not received a “hero’s welcome” when he returned to Ireland.
Instead, he had been “derided and scorned for his decision to enter the British Army”.
The canon stated that there were “no longer protests outside the cathedral doors”, and “as a nation, we have moved on a great deal”.
He added: “It is always a privilege to welcome the President of Ireland to this service, which would have been unheard of not so long ago.”
The Church of Ireland declined to comment.Tags: