Derry man James McClean has written an open letter about his decision not to wear a poppy for the Wigan Athletic’s clash against Bolton Wanderers last.
The letter was issued after the former Derry City favourite met with the Wigan chairman Dave Whelan.
In the letter, published on the Wigan website, the Republic of Ireland international said while he had “complete respect for those who fought and died in both World Wars,” to wear a poppy would ” be a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles,” especially those who died on Bloody Sunday.
McClean added that he issued the letter as he believed he owed both the chairman and the club’s fans an explanation for his decision.
The letter reads:
“ Dear Mr Whelan
“I wanted to write to you before talking about this face to face and explain my reasons for not wearing a poppy on my shirt for the game at Bolton.
“I have complete respect for those who fought and died in both World Wars – many I know were Irish-born. I have been told that your own Grandfather Pade dy Whelan, from Tipperary, was one of those.
“I mourn their deaths like every other decent person and if the Poppy was a symbol only for the lost souls of World War I and II I would wear one.
“I want to make that 100% clear. You must understand this.
“But the Poppy is used to remember victims of other conflicts since 1945 and this is where the problem starts for me.
“For people from the North of Ireland such as myself, and specifically those in Derry, scene of the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, the poppy has come to mean something very different.
“Please understand, Mr Whelan, that when you come from Creggan like myself or the Bogside, Brandywell or the majority of places in Derry, every person still lives in the shadow of one of the darkest days in Ireland’s history – even if like me you were born nearly 20 years after the event.
“It is just a part of who we are, ingrained into us from birth.
“Mr Whelan, for me to wear a poppy would be as much a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles – and Bloody Sunday especially – as I have in the past been accused of disrespecting the victims of WWI and WWII.
“It would be seen as an act of disrespect to those people; to my people.
“I am not a war monger, or anti-British, or a terrorist or any of the accusations levelled at me in the past.
“I am a peaceful guy, I believe everyone should live side by side, whatever their religious or political beliefs which I respect and ask for people to respect mine in return.
“Since last year, I am a father and I want my daughter to grow up in a peaceful world, like any parent.
“I am very proud of where I come from and I just cannot do something that I believe is wrong. In life, if you’re a man you should stand up for what you believe in.
“I know you may not agree with my feelings but I hope very much that you understand my reasons.
“As the owner of the club I am proud to play for, I believe I owe both you and the club’s supporters this explanation.”