FINE GAEL Senator Frank Feighan has sent Shamrock Poppy pins to over 1,000 local and national politicians to be distributed to members of the public for the centenary of the Armistice on November 11.
The pin, which commemorates Irish soldiers who died fighting in World War I, is similar to one worn by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Dáil last year.
Feighan, who is based in Co. Roscommon, has come under fire for using official Oireachtas postage to distribute the poppies.
But the senator has justified the move by pointing out the huge numbers of Irish people who died fighting in the Great War — including 598 from Co. Sligo alone.
— Senator Frank Feighan (@FrankFeighan) September 9, 2018
In a letter sent with the pins, Senator Feighan wrote:
"On November 11th 2018 we are marking a very significant centenary - the end of the First World War.
Last year, I presented Taoiseach Leo Varadkar with a Shamrock Poppy pin which he wore in the Dáil to commemorate and remember the sacrifices of Irish men and women of all backgrounds - both nationalist and unionist- across the island of Ireland who fought and died in WW1.
Thankfully, there is a new political dawn in this country where our shared histories on this island allow us to remember all those Irish men and women killed in the Great War - especially those from the 26 counties whose sacrifices up until the last number of years were neglected and ignored.
The exact figure of Irish men who died in World War 1 has yet to be determined but historian Tom Burnell has done extensive research which estimates that almost 30,000 Irishmen and women were killed from our State including 585 from your own county.
I enclose a Shamrock Poppy pin and I am inviting you to mark the centenary of the Armistice in your own way either by wearing one of these or some other gesture.
Irrespective of your feelings about the war, I believe the centenary of the Armistice should be marked this year and I hope you will partake in whatever way you feel appropriate."
The wearing or non-wearing of the poppy continues to be a source of controversy in Ireland and beyond - emphasised in recent years by footballer James McClean's objection to wearing the symbol during matches in England.
A number of people have taken to social media angry with Mr Feighan's use of Dáil postage paid envelopes to send out the pins.
598 died in WW1 from County Sligo. https://t.co/8QfZmwwNTD
— Senator Frank Feighan (@FrankFeighan) September 11, 2018
However, the undetered local politician urged recipients to celebrate the Shamrock Poppy, telling Ocean FM: "We have airbrushed these young men [who died] out of history.
"I think in more mature times the poppy no longer carries the connotations it once did."