Mary Kenny

Mary Kenny explains her attitude to wearing a poppy in an article in today’s Times that may be more upsetting for Nationalists than Unionists.

As an Irishwoman, I am not at all hostile, either, to the poppy-wearing Ulster Unionists. Indeed, if asked to name the most decent politician in all Ireland, I would probably cite David Trimble, whom I like, and who I truly believe is honest. Objectively and logically, I also like and admire the legacy of the British Empire. I have done some research on Catholic missionaries in Africa and Asia and I’ve been impressed by the enlightened attitudes that the Empire often helped to promote in these parts of the world. I thought Benjamin Zephaniah showed ignorance of history when he refused an honour because it was associated with the British Empire, denouncing imperial rule as cruel and oppressive: if he had read certain accounts of missionaries trying to stop little girls of 9 being sold into a dubious marriage or widows being saved from the funeral pyre by the intervention of the Imperial Crown, surely he would not take such an ill-informed view.The British Empire was often a force for good. This is the analysis of my rational mind.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Mary Kenny is Niall Ferguson and I claim my £5.

  • Fraggle

    a force for good in the opium wars and during the indian mutiny I suppose.

  • ShayPaul

    That lady sounds like a total fruitcake.

    I however have no problem paying for and wearing a poppy.

  • David Vance

    A fruitcake indeed. And crumbling around the edges!

  • Pat Mc Larnon

    I’ve read the article a few times and cannot find anything that would be remotely upsetting to anyone.

  • Davros

    Good for you Pat. I don’t think there’s anything there that should upset anyone.

  • maca

    Who is Mary Kenny, if ya don’t mind me asking? I presume she is from the North? I don’t see any problem with wearing the poppy in the North, even if you are Irish. But of course symbolism always causes problems.

  • Davros
  • maca

    Thanks Dav. I was too lazy to search 😉

  • Davros

    I’m not sure, I think she’s a Dub ….

  • Moderate Unionist

    I think she misunderstands the real meaning of the poppy. It is not about nationality. By way of example in the Northern Ireland context, it is not just about the 36th, it is also about the 10th and the 16th.

    The poppy reminds us of the huge loss of life, the horror of war, and of man’s inhumanity to man. The poppy is about remembrance not celebration.

    Everybody has the right to self defense, and sometimes the need to exercise the right to defend life and liberties, but the taking of human life raises profound moral issues. Do the ends, justify the means?

    We do well to remember the realities of war, so that we are less likely to engage in it.

    This is the real message of the poppy and the fact that Mary Kenny doesn’t see it that way (ascribing no fault to her) is the real tragedy.

  • willowfield


  • North Antrim Realist

    It is a an apparent disgrace that UTV seem to have decided to politicise the poppy.

    Their news presenters have not been wearing any poppies is it because they have more viewers in the RoI and for commercial reasons have banned it?

  • willowfield

    UTV news presenters are wearing poppies. Their policy is to wear them in the week preceding Remembrance Sunday, but not before.

    Seems quite reasonable to me.

  • North Antrim Realist

    For those of you who would like to submit a comment to UTV see link below

    UTV Comments

  • North Antrim Realist

    They weren’t wearing them on Friday the 5th which is less than a week before the 11th!

    If they do start now so much the better.

  • willowfield

    Remembrance Sunday is on 14 November. They were wearing them yesterday, one week prior.

    Quite a reasonable policy, in my view.

  • North Antrim Realist

    Why are they different from ITN GB Stations?

    They were all wearing them last week.

  • willowfield

    Didn’t know that.

    In that case, I agree the policy should be the same throughout the UK.

    I withdraw my support for the policy. I still think it would be reasonable as a UK-wide policy, but it is not reasonable for NI to be treated any differently than the rest of the UK.

  • Cahal

    “Why are they different from ITN GB Stations?”

    UTV to ITV is not like BBCNI is to BBC.

    They have a lot more independence.

  • D’Oracle

    Wearing stuff like this has got to be optional

    Its strange that guests on British tv are actually pressed to wear this ; surely thats its a personal freedom item.

    I used to think Mary Kenny was a frayed round the edge fruit cake but ..hey -after this -shes still got a bit of bottle !

  • Liam

    The poppy reminds us of the huge loss of life, the horror of war, and of man’s inhumanity to man. The poppy is about remembrance not celebration……We do well to remember the realities of war, so that we are less likely to engage in it.

    Would that it were so, but remember that britain is engaged in a brutal war right now. So all of the rememberance and mans inhumanity to man has been forgotten by the political and military leaders of britain.

    This is the real message of the poppy and the fact that Mary Kenny doesn’t see it that way (ascribing no fault to her) is the real tragedy

    Unfortunately it’s not the real message of the poppy – if it was then it’s obviously an abject failure. The real function of the poppy is as a fundraising exercise for british ex-servicemen. The british govt sends them off to fight wars and then relies on charity for their welfare?

    Let’s face it, the reality is that the poppy is a political and divisive symbol in our society.

  • North Antrim Realist


    ‘Let’s face it, the reality is that the poppy is a political and divisive symbol in our society.’

    It may be in your head but it is not in mine – it represents those who died in the British Army without reference to their Religion or Nationality – i.e. it does not say this does not apply to Irish Catholics of whom many served

  • Moderate Unionist

    Informed discussion overcomes prejudice

    The poppy, an international symbol for those who died in war, also had international origins .

    A writer first made the connection between the poppy and battlefield deaths during the Napoleonic wars of the early 19th century, remarking that fields that were barren before battle exploded with the blood-red flowers after the fighting ended.

    Prior to the First World War few poppies grew in Flanders. During the tremendous bombardments of that war the chalk soils became rich in lime from rubble, allowing ‘popaver rhoeas’ to thrive. When the war ended the lime was quickly absorbed, and the poppy began to disappear again.

    Lieut-Col. John McCrae, the Canadian doctor who wrote the poem IN FLANDERS FIELDS, made the same connection 100 years later, during the First World War, and the scarlet poppy quickly became the symbol for soldiers who died in battle.

    Three years later an American, Moina Michael, was working in a New York City YMCA canteen when she started wearing a poppy in memory of the millions who died on the battlefield. During a 1920 visit to the United States a French woman, Madame Guerin, learned of the custom. On her return to France she decided to use handmade poppies to raise money for the destitute children in war-torn areas of the country. In November 1921, the first poppies were distributed in Canada.

    Thanks to the millions of Canadians who wear the flowers each November, the little red plant has never died. And neither have Canadian’s memories for 117,000 of their countrymen who died in battle.

  • Davros

    Another sacred cow bites the dust!

  • Panda

    “The real function of the poppy is as a fundraising exercise for british ex-servicemen”
    Your entitled to your opinion, but for me the wearing of the poppy is a personal decision to remember the 4 members of my family who fought in the Eighth Army against nazism.
    Particuliarly today(9th Nov) which is the 66th anniversary of Kristallnacht, it is a kind of personal thank you for all(and I don’t give a toss about their nationality, religion, colour) who prevented the spread of this evil .
    If others interpret it as an insult to their political beliefs, once again I don’t give atoss.

  • idunnomeself

    So when are Nationalists Politicians going to take a big, deep breath and depoliticise the poppy by starting to wear them?

  • Alan2

    The poppy is worn in Canada, Australia, the Caribean, India, New Zealand, the UK and increasingly the US and indeed the Republic of Ireland. It is NOT a political or religious symbol.

  • cg


    The poppy isn’t just for the 2 world war’s it’s for every Brit soldier that died. The same Brit soldiers that colluded and killed members from my part of the six counties and beyond. To say the poppy isn’t a political symbol is gullible at best.

  • Alan2

    ……And what about every Canadian and every american and every Australian and New Zealander and every Irishman all the rest.
    The Dublin Grenadiers, 10 and 16th Irish Divisions, 36th Ulster Division, Inniskillen Fusiliers and the County Down Militia and other Irish Regiments fought side by side alongside other allied troops. If you do not wish to commemorate the brave deeds of those people then that is your perogative but to claim it is somehow political is plain ridiculous. The RBL is a charity for ex service men and women and does good work throughout the UK and the WHOLE of Ireland.

  • willowfield

    Is cg implying that soldiers killed in NI were all guilty of “collusion”? Has he any evidence of this?

  • Nicholas Whyte

    My personal position on this has changed over the years.

    I still believe, and always have, that it should be broadcasters’ own individual decision to wear or not to wear poppies at this time of year. To force your employees to wear them, let alone to buy them, surely stirkes at the principle of free speech for which the second world war was fought.

    I used to have the personal position that I would not myself buy a poppy. While I am all in favour of commemoration of the dead, and aid for the survivors, I found it difficult to disentangle from uncritical loyalty to the state for which they fought, a loyalty which I did not (and to a large extent still do not) feel.

    I’ve shifted on this now, partly because of a better appreciation of Irish Catholic participation in the two world wars (including my own grandfather, who fought at Gallipoli, Lake Dojran and Palestine), and realising that to give in to the “poppy wearer = Brit” argument allows the sacrifice of Irish troops to be hijacked by people who would rather forget they existed.

    So I would now buy a poppy. Of course I live in Belgium where they are not sold…

  • Davros

    “I still believe, and always have, that it should be broadcasters’ own individual decision to wear or not to wear poppies at this time of year. To force your employees to wear them, let alone to buy them, surely stirkes at the principle of free speech for which the second world war was fought.”

    How do you stand on UTV banning their presenters from wearing them except for a limited period of time – and apparently telling fibs about having taken advice from the RBL ( which the RBL deny) on this decision ?

  • Nicholas Whyte

    If UTV’s policy is that presenters can wear poppies (if they want) in the week before Remembrance Sunday, that seems reasonable to me – what I object to is the view I have sometimes seen expressed that all TV presenters should be obliged to wear them. I have no knowledge of UTV’s public statements on this, let alone their communications with the RBL.

  • Alan2

    The BBC insisted on their presneters wearing poppies last year as it is BBC policy.
    UTV banned staff from wearing poppies last week whilst others channels were wearing theirs. Indeed they made the presenters refilm the news without poppies after it was filmed with them.

  • Davros

    Nicholas – It was all very strange. IF UTV felt that wearing the poppy was offensive, then they should have banned wearing of them, full stop. What was bizarre was that they “allowed” the wearing of them on a defined number of days. Tick, the clock hand goes round one minute and the Poppy suddenly changes from being offensive or provocative to being acceptable ?

  • North Antrim Realist

    Davros is completely correct it is either acceptable to wear them or it isn’t. In my opinion to tell presenters they can’t wear them (within reason) is sectarian discrimination and could be challenged in the courts.

    I wrote the UTV about this matter and they replied as below :-

    ‘In line with previous years, poppies are made available and may be worn by our onscreen presenters during Rememberance Week. UTV’s policy takes account of the different attitudes in Northern Ireland towards remembrance poppies and we respect the decision of our on-screen presenters to wear or not to wear a remembrance poppy.’

    Draw your own conclusions………..they are out of step with the other ITN companies on this and BBC NI.

  • queens_unionist

    I think the BBC ‘forcing’ there presentrer to wear poppies was also a gesture for the whole corporation as well.
    Surely it is up to personal choice to wear or not to wear?
    UTV have damaged there reputation.
    I am of the opion it is indeed nationalists that are politicising poppy wearing by not wearing it.
    After all sinn fein IRA would probably not be in existance [would not be a bad thing] if it were not for the bravery and sacrifice of those in the Great War and WWII.
    As for the British Army and the alleged collusion issue. If for a minute accepting there was any at all did the soldiers that died have anything to do the the colluding or were they merely following orders?
    These men risked and lost there lives for what some higher authority thought was ‘for the greater good’.
    All who served and lost there life should be remembered whether officially or unofficially. including organisations such as UDR RUC PSNI and the like

  • chunkyguy

    bbc is a state owned organistaion hence it insists on wearing a poppy however utv is a commercial organisation which does not have to insist- im sure it thinks it is reaching a compromise on this issue

  • Davros

    Does the BBC insist on Poppy Wearing ? Is it official BBC policy ?

  • willowfield


  • Davros

    That’s as wrong as the UTV policy IMO

  • Davros

    Worth reading:

    Be proud to wear a poppy

    Tuesday November 16th 2004

    Sir – I refer to the article by Mary Kenny headed ‘Why I am refusing to wear their poppy’ (Features). She offered the view that “in Ireland, it is a signal that you are an Ulster Unionist”, and later that “the wearer (of the poppy) asserts that she is primarily British”.
    I do not dispute that in Ireland, sadly, the poppy has become a political issue. This is compounded by the history of those Irishmen who fought in the First World War whose memory was swept under the carpet after the formation of the Irish State in the early 1920s. Happily, largely following on from the Good Friday Agreement, that memory is being removed from under the carpet and those Irish people who were the casualties of that war are being remembered and honoured in various ways. Books of honour are being prepared by counties, North and South, and official Government representatives are joining remembrance and reconciliation functions.
    Last year the Poppy Appeal, launched annually by The Royal British Legion in the Republic, totalled over €150,000. Those who wear the poppy do not do so to assert that they are “primarily British” nor that they are “an Ulster Unionist”. They do so because they may have had a relation in the First World War, in which over 300,000 Irishmen served; and there can be few Irish people alive today who did not have a relation in that war. Or, more personally, they may be related to one or more of the 49,400 Irishmen who died as a result of that war and who are commemorated at the Irish National War Memorial at Islandbridge in Dublin.
    At the inauguration of Mary McAleese as President in Dublin on November 11 this year, a previous president, Mary Robinson, wore a poppy. Does Mary Kenny really think, for example, that she did so because she was “primarily British” or “an Ulster Unionist”?
    That Irishmen served in that war, and previous and subsequent service in the British Forces, remains a contentious issue in this country. But it happened – and important and noble efforts are being made today to achieve understanding and reconciliation among those of us who live on the islands of Britain and Ireland. In that cause, let us all try to avoid giving impressions that are not accurate.

    David O’Morchoe,
    The Royal British Legion,
    Republic of Ireland District,

    © Irish Independent

  • Davros

    Sad story. I was through the Village this morning and the Wreaths were still absent.

    DUP Councillor Hits Out Over Wreaths Removal

    Monday 22nd November 2004

    The Royal British Legion has been asked to remove poppy wreaths over the weekend to stop them being vandalised.
    Police in Coleraine were concerned that the wreaths, laid at the Diamond in Kilrea during a Remembrance Sunday service, were likely to be damaged over the weekend, and advised the Legion to take them away for safekeeping.
    The mixed village has seen a rise in tit-for-tat sectarian attacks in recent months.
    DUP councillor for the area Adrian McQuillan said that he initially thought that the wreaths had been stolen.
    He said he was “angry” when he found out the real reason behind their removal.
    “I am angry that the potential risk to the poppies is so much that the police have recommended their complete removal,” he said.
    “Poppies were laid to remember people of all faiths and the thugs who vandalise them need to realise this.”
    SDLP councillor and East Londonderry MLA John Dallat called the removal of the poppies “sad” and added that poppies “should not be a political issue”.
    “I refute that poppies would cause so-called community tension,” he said. “There has been a lot of work done by schools and other organisations in the area to promote the history and importance of displaying poppies.
    “Sadly, although they have sat all week without being touched, the wreaths have been damaged before, causing hurt to both communities.
    “Remembrance should be apolitical and I look forward to a day when the issue is not so divisive.”
    A police spokeswoman said: “In response to criminal damage at the cenotaph in Kilrea last year, PSNI officers offered advice to the British Legion to prevent similar incidents.”
    Sources said the decision was taken after discussions between the PSNI and the British Legion and that the Legion was happy with the precautionary plans. It is believed that the organisation intends to replace the wreaths today.