Opposing a motion on providing World War Two veterans with a commemorative poppy to recognise their fight for freedom, a Sinn Féin Councillor has commented that following the war, many people were still denied “liberties” and “rights”.

At Tuesday night’s Council meeting, Democratic Unionist Councillor Deborah Armstrong put forward a motion to provide all surviving World War Two veterans in the Fermanagh and Omagh District Council area with a ‘Silver Poppy of Remembrance’ to mark their service in the fight against Fascism and Nazism.

After reading out the motion in full, which also suggested that these poppies would be presented at a special commemoration event organised by Council on Remembrance Day, Councillor Armstrong said: “I am very privileged to bring this motion forward tonight and I can do so because I have democratic, civil and religious freedom to do so. There are members here tonight whose own families were among regiments who fought alongside all classes and creeds. Religious divides were exempt,” she added. Councillor Paul Robinson seconded the motion.

Stating that Sinn Féin would be opposing this motion, Councillor Sheamus Greene said: “I don’t think the Council is the appropriate body to be dealing with this. I think the British Legion already does this type of thing, I don’t know why we are now bringing this in where the Council would start issuing poppies and such.”

He continued: “Just on what Deborah said there about the freedoms which were given to everyone after World War Two, there is a lot of us here that hadn’t liberties and these rights.”

“There was more than the Germans that denied rights to people and in fact there’s still a lot of people still denying rights to certain groups,” Councillor Greene added.

Noting that he had family members who fought in World War Two, Sinn Féin Councillor Tommy Maguire added: “The only thing that I am reminded of despite the endeavours of those young men from Monaghan who fought in West Africa, in Tunisia, Italy, Austria etcetera, when they returned to this place, they certainly were not regarded as heroes.

“They weren’t even regarded as equals.”

“I do not believe a silver poppy given to those men and women who fought and remain alive at this stage, is any great significance to them,” he added.

Social Democratic and Labour Councillor Adam Gannon commented: “Unfortunately in our society a symbol like the poppy and many other symbols are seen as divisive and cause contention between people. I wish we didn’t live in a society where that is the case but we do.”

Stating that the SDLP believes that the Council should not fund any such symbol that would seem to cause divisions in society, Councillor Gannon noted that he agreed with the sentiment therefore proposed an amendment to the motion, that the Council doesn’t fund the poppies but should alternate funding be found that the Council should still host an event where these can be given out.

Councillor Armstrong did not accept this amendment to the motion. She stated: “We need to recognise these veterans and so I’m proposing that we have a special commemorative event for them, yes, but we need recognise that also with something else in terms of giving them something.”

When the motion went to a vote, 12 councillors voted for the motion, 16 voted against and four councillors abstained from voting.

Speaking after the Council meeting Councillor Armstrong said: “It was disappointing that some Councillors chose to use a proposal to recognise surviving veterans from World War Two as a political football. The poppy is a widely recognised symbol of remembrance.”