Sinn Féin say Easter lily should be equal to the poppy

Poppies are permitted to be worn by government employees whilst at work.

Sinn Féin has called for the Easter Lily to be given equal status to the poppy, allowing Belfast City Council employees to be able to wear the republican symbol of remembrance whilst at work.

Sinn Féin leader on the council Jim McVeigh has also said the lily should be sold at city hall where the poppy is already for sale at certain times of the year.

With the weekend of British military remembrance now over, councillor McVeigh said the Easter lily should be given equal status, government employees are currently not permitted to wear the Easter lily while at work but are permitted to wear the poppy.

The Easter Lily is a recognised symbol of remembrance for Ireland's patriot dead from the 1916 Rising, but is also used in contemporary memorials to IRA members who died during the Troubles.

Money raised from the sale of the lily goes to the upkeep of republican graves and memorials.

The former Flags and Emblems Act, which was criticised by nationalists as favouring unionist symbolism, had the Lily listed as a divisive symbol and therefore not permitted to be worn by government employees.

The Equality Commission, which now provides advice to employers on symbols which have "potential to make those of a different identity feel uncomfortable or unwelcome" include the Easter Lily as among "emblems with the potential to cause disharmony".

However, the commission list the poppy along with the shamrock as a symbol "unlikely to be regarded as creating an intimidating or hostile working environment".

Councillor McVeigh said despite this being recognised employment legislation, the two symbols should now be given equal status.

"This is about equality and parity of esteem."

"Every year the poppy is sold at the reception at City Hall and staff are allowed to wear it. We have over 2,500 staff and some to us asking why they can not wear the lily", he added.

And the west Belfast councillor added that the lily like the poppy "means different things to different people".

However, Ulster Unionist Party councillor Chris McGimpsey said the Sinn Féin proposal was "silly nonsense".

Speaking on the BBC Stephen Nolan show he said while he did not have a problem with people wearing the lily, there was "no equivalence" between it and the poppy.

"The council is very stringent with these sorts of issues and what Sinn Fêin are seeking is to glorify the Provisional IRA campaign.

"Sinn Féin are wanting a formal endorsement of the Easter lily, and that is wrong," he said.

And the veteran unionist councillor added; "I think they (Sinn Féin) sit in a wee dark corner of the Felons and say 'we need to poke the Prods in the eye'".

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