The Northern Ireland Poppy Appeal was launched by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Rt Hon Owen Paterson MP and local Afghan Widow Brenda Hale, and her daughter Alexandra at Hillsborough Castle. Picture by Brian Thompson/ Presseye.com
LAGAN Valley MLA Brenda Hale, whose husband Mark was killed whilst on duty in Afghanistan, helped to launch this year's Northern Ireland Poppy Appeal.
Mrs. Hale joined the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Owen Paterson MP for the launch at Hillsborough Castle last week.
"I was incredibly humbled to be asked to launch the 90th Anniversary Poppy Appeal in Northern Ireland," said Mrs. Hale. "So many from Northern Ireland have been affected by the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. For 'us', Remembrance is more than a 2 minute silence at the cenotaph, or a 2 minute sound bite on TV. It is a way of life, the empty chair at the dinner table, the daddy who will never again be there at school sport day, the son who will never send another Mother's Day card. Freedom has never been, and I fear, never will be cheap."
Mrs Hale continued: "The Poppy is a National symbol of the lives given for us. It is red, not green or orange. It is inclusive, recognising that men and women from all walks of life, and from every community, who serve in our Armed Forces in some of the most dangerous places on earth. They do an extraordinarily difficult job and with the utmost professionalism and humility. They don't want laud and honour, the fragility of the poppy is enough.
"The RBL has been supporting our soldiers and their families every day of every year since 1921 with donations that come from the public.
"When someone pins a poppy to their chest they are telling the bereaved and the injured that they recognise the loss and the pain, and are saying 'Thank you' to those who stepped out in courage, for them, from the First War 'til the last."
Secretary of State Mr Patterson added: "We're urging everyone to throw their support behind the Poppy Appeal 2011, as money raised will go towards providing vital care for injured Service people," said Mr Patterson.
"The Personnel Recovery and Battle Back Centres will help our injured Armed Forces build confidence, motivation and independence and then either return to duty, or re-skill and make a successful transition to civilian life."
The Northern Ireland Poppy Appeal Launch was held in the gardens of Hillsborough Castle where Brenda Hale and Secretary of State, Owen Paterson released 90 poppy red balloons to represent 90 years of the appeal in Northern Ireland.
More than £1.4 million a week or over £200,000 a day is spent by the Legion on its work helping over 160,000 members of the Armed Forces Family — serving, ex-Service and their dependants.
LAGAN Valley MLA Basil McCrea has urged members of the public to support the Poppy Appeal in the run up to Remembrance Sunday.
"Ninety years after it was first established the Royal British Legion still plays a vital role in the support aftercare of former and serving soldiers and their families," said Mr McCrea. "Wearing a poppy in the run up to Remembrance Sunday is the best way of supporting the Poppy Appeal and those it helps.
"The current war in Afghanistan is a daily reminder of the sacrifice still being made by servicemen and women from across the United Kingdom and Commonwealth.
"Almost every week we hear of another soldier who has been injured or killed so it is extremely important that they and their families have access to all the help and support their need.
"Wear your poppy with pride and pay tribute to those who have so bravely served their country," he concluded.