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BBC insists presenters not required to wear poppy

Relatives for Justice chair Clara Reilly with family members Annmarie McWilliams, Mary Kate Quinn and Tom McWilliams. Picture by Mal McCann
Connla Young

BBC Northern Ireland has insisted presenters are not required to wear a poppy following claims that those who refuse face being kept off screen.

Relatives of people killed by the British army last night said TV journalists in the north should not be compelled to wear the symbol.

A spokesman for the BBC told the Irish News that poppies "may be worn on screen in the period around Remembrance Sunday".

“The decision to wear a poppy is a matter of personal choice for BBC presenters and contributors."

Presenters who wish to wear the poppy, which is promoted by the Royal British Legion and associated mainly with the unionist community, can do so from Saturday October 24 to Wednesday November 11.

However, Relatives for Justice spokeswoman Clara Reilly claimed a whistle-blower had told her group that presenters are effectively forced into the decision.

“A BBC insider revealed that if a decision by a studio-based presenter not to wear a poppy were to arise they’d be asked to take annual leave,” she said.

“This comment, along with the evidence that shows no presenters appearing without a poppy, would seemingly contradict the BBC’s official position.”

Ms Reilly appealed to BBC presenters to consider the views of the whole community, claiming the corporation was failing as a “neutral and acceptable public broadcasting service”

Mary Kate Quinn, whose uncle John Laverty was one of 10 Catholics killed by the British army in Ballymurphy in west Belfast in August 1971, also said: “Will the BBC issue a statement saying that the wearing of a poppy by presenters does not commemorate the RUC, UDR and the British army as part of Operation Banner and the conflict in the north?"

Asked if presenters who choose not to wear the poppy would be reassigned to off-screen duties, a BBC spokesman said only that “no BBC presenter or reporter is required to wear a poppy”.

Derry-born Premier League footballer James McClean recently faced criticism from some English fans after explaining why he would not wear a poppy.

However, West Brom manager Tony Pulis said he respected his player's decision, which the 26-year-old insisted was not intended to cause offence or disrespect but was "because of the history where I come from".

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