Royal British Legion 'does not support' poppy picket of stores
THE Royal British Legion has said it does "not support the boycott or naming and shaming of traders" who choose not to stock poppies, following a loyalist protest outside a Lidl store in north Belfast.
Dozens of loyalists picketed the the Shore Road branch on Tuesday evening after it confirmed it would not be selling poppies this year, due to an two-year arrangement by Lidl NI to exclusively support cancer charity CLIC Sargent.
In contrast Lidl UK, which covers England, Scotland and Wales, tweeted that "we welcome all poppy sellers in store" in response to a query about why some stores in Britain were not stocking the poppy.
It is understood that poppy sellers were allowed into the Shore Road outlet until recently, with poppies being sold from a stand in the store on two occasions last week.
However, the Royal British Legion made clear it did not support the actions of the protesters at the Shore Road store.
Brian Maguire, area manager for the Royal British Legion, said the Poppy Appeal is "a time for remembrance, not protest."
He said: "Any attempt to use the poppy as a basis for protest is extremely inappropriate, and demonstrates a misunderstanding of what the poppy stands for."
"The Legion is grateful to Lidl Northern Ireland for its previous support and indeed to all shops, pubs and other commercial enterprises which allow poppies to be distributed and collections to be taken on their private property or inside their trading premises.
"However we never insist upon such permission, and understand there are circumstances, such as in this case, where it won’t be possible due to existing partnerships with other charities."
Mr Maguire added: "Under no circumstances would the Legion support the boycott or public 'naming and shaming' of traders who choose not to or are unable to support the appeal."
DUP Deputy Mayor of Belfast Guy Spence, was among unionists to take to social media to voice their anger at the move.
Mr Spence tweeted: "Disgusting news refusing poppy sellers despite previous agreements at Shore Road."
Victims campaigner Willie Frazer, who was amongst the protesters, tweeted: "Great protest at Lidl Shore Road about selling poppies. Next the Airport."
A Lidl spokeswoman said: "This campaign involves our entire team of staff across our 38 stores in NI and any store-based fundraising activity will be focused on CLIC Sargent during this time."
"We respect and applaud the fantastic work done by the many outstanding charities across NI, however, it is unfortunately not feasible to support all of them as we have chosen to support one charity, CLIC Sargent, at this time."