Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny and sports stars Brian O’Driscoll and James McClean are in the firing line after refusing to wear a poppy on Remembrance Day.

Kenny made history as the first Irish leader to attend a Remembrance Sunday event in Northern Ireland in Enniskillen.

But, like his deputy Eamon Gilmore at an event in Belfast, Kenny did not wear the traditional red poppy salute to fallen British soldiers.

Derry born McClean has been criticised after refusing for ‘personal’ reasons to wear a special jersey with a poppy inscribed as his club Sunderland lost to Everton in the English Premier League.

And O’Driscoll has been attacked for not wearing a poppy while working for the BBC at the Ireland-South Africa rugby game.

The Irish government has defended Kenny’s position after he attended a memorial service which also remembered those who died in the Enniskillen bombing.

Kenny’s spokesman said, “Normal protocol when attending official ceremonies does not involve wearing the poppy. It is official Government policy stretching back decades not to wear any commemorative symbol at official events.”

Ireland soccer team boss Giovanni Trapattoni has backed McClean’s decision after a string of abuse was directed at the Derry player on social media sites.
He told the Irish Sun: “It’s his own choice, every country is different. Obviously I’ll defend him if people are criticising him and asking why he didn’t do it.

“He chose and I can only say ‘I respect your choice.’”

A statement from Sunderland defended the actions of McClean who comes from the Creggan estate in Derry where so many died on Bloody Sunday.

The club statement said: “As a club, SAFC wholeheartedly supports the Remembrance commemorations. It was James’ personal choice not to wear a shirt on this occasion.”

McClean is to auction his match jersey to benefit a leukaemia charity.

Ireland rugby team captain Brian O’Driscoll has yet to comment on his decision not to wear a poppy.