DERRY footballer James McClean has hit out at his former club Sunderland over his refusal to wear a poppy on his football jersey.
The former City man says he was “hung out to dry” for his refusal to wear a poppy in recognition of Remembrance Sunday during his time at the English club.
In a candid and wide-ranging interview with the Belfast Telegraph today, James explains how he was advised against explaining his stance when the furore first erupted after a game against Everton in 2012.
McClean, who earned widespread praise for his open letter to his Wigan chairman, Dave Whelan, on the same issue last November, believes the controversy could have been “nipped in the bud” had Sunderland’s public relations staff allowed him to speak publicly on the matter.
“I think it could have saved so much hassle….when you think two years later I finally get to speak about it” he said. “For me, that’s two years too late!”
McClean explains how fatherhood has brought a new serenity into his life and says that he no longer uses Twitter, the social media which got him into trouble when he first moved to England.
“All of a sudden, my every move was in the papers” he tells the Belfast Telegraph today.
“The stuff I had been doing my whole life. Probably naively, I didn’t know any different. I was just being me. I was just writing (Twitter) and singing and doing all the things I had done before, but all of a sudden it was all in the papers.
“I think I learned the hard way that I couldn’t be doing that anymore.”
Full interview in today’s Belfast Telegraph.
James’ letter to Dave Whelan:
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 Paddy 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.
Read more at http://www.wiganlatics.co.uk/news/article/14-11-07-statement-regarding-james-mcclean-2070059.aspx#Q3fPqXkB3UIOrZVM.99