James McClean has been hailed as a "national hero" for his stance on not wearing the poppy at the annual Service of Remembrance in Dublin yesterday.
McClean has released numerous statements on his reason behind not wearing the poppy. The poppy Appeal is organised by The Royal British Legion to honour all members of the British military, something McClean takes issue with due to the British army's conduct in Northern Ireland and his county of Derry.
Three years ago, McClean wrote a letter to Dave Whelan, who he then worked for at Wigan, to explain his stance.
I have complete respect for those who fought and died in both World Wars - many I know were Irish-born.
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.
But the Poppy is used to remember victims of the 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, Bradywell 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 part of who we are, ingrained into us from birth.
Mr Whelan, for me to wear the poppy would be such 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.
Yestersay, Canon Peter Campion praised McClean during his sermon at St Patrick’s Cathedral for his decision:
He chooses not to wear a poppy. I admire him for that.
Canon Campion says that he himself wears a poppy to remember his own grandfather who fought in World War I, but doesn't "expect people to admire me for wearing the poppy, but I hope they will respect my choice"
It is for the same reason he expects people to respect his choice that makes him admire McClean and his stance in refusing to wear the Poppy under a huge amount of pressure from the British media.
So why do I admire rather than just respect James McClean? It isn’t for his gritty toughness which makes every member of the opposition team look over their shoulder, wondering where he is on the pitch. No, it is because he chooses not to wear a poppy.
In the last ten years everyone on British television, whether delivering the news, commentating on sports, X Factor judges and contestants, Strictly Come Dancing performers, you name it, are ostentatiously wearing their poppies. It would be hard to find a public figure in England not wearing a poppy; someone not wearing a poppy stands out like a sore thumb.
James McClean falls into that category. Playing for West Bromwich Albion, he came on as a substitute last week only to be booed by visiting Manchester City fans and by some home fans as they were playing in the Hawthornes.
I think that is disgraceful. He has never made an issue of it but others have made it an issue.
The President Michael D Higgins, Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan and Ceann Comhairle Séan Ó Fearghaíl were all also at the service.
Canon Campion in particular pointed out McClean's integrity in dealing with the way he's been treated.
He shows great restraint, strength and integrity in enduring these annual taunts, but it must be very difficult and hurtful for him nonetheless
The furore over McClean's stance is an annual ceremony in its own at this stage, despite his numerous attempts to clarify his position. McClean is currently preparing for Ireland's crucial World Cup qualifer at home to Denmark tomorrow night.