Bertie Ahern on his visit to the Somme Heritage Centre at Conlig in North Down earlier in the week said that the sacrifices of all traditions need to be remembered.While south of the border, the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Day Appeal has traditionally met with mixed reactions, with many seeing the National Day of Commemoration as the event to used to remember those Irish who have died in British uniform in WWI and WWII, not surprisingly, Poppy Day remains the Day of Remembrance of choice north of the border.
However, Philipp Orr of the Green Party, aware of the divisive feelings towards the Poppy, believes a small sprig or bouquet of thyme and rosemary is capable of being worn in the lapels of relatives, descendants and political representatives on both sides of the border, not to transcend the poppy but to “offer another and equally valuable way of signifying grief and respect”.
According to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association, “over the years, in the Irish consciousness, the poppy and Remembrance Day have become associated less with respect for those who died in war and wrongly confused with a statement of political allegiance. Recently, some commentators and historians have begun to examine and evaluate the part played by Irish soldiers in the Great War. Some attention is now being given to the sacrifice of the 35,500 Irish people who died during the War, the suffering of the 200,000 who watched their comrades die and the grief of the loved ones who mourned for the lives lost.”
Mark Crum described his experience of a controversial Remembrance Day march in Bellaghy as “one of the most tragically ridiculous things I’d ever seen in my life”.
If the Poppy is too hot a symbol for all traditions, it was too hot for Sinn Féin and Westlife when their record company supported it, and the rosemary doesn’t suffice, how about about the Irish government sending a wreath of orange flowers and white lilies to the London Cenotaph with the incription “in memory of the brave” as Eamon De Valera’s Fianna Fáil government did in 1938?
Or is all we need more gestures along the lines of Alex Maskey’s, when he laid a laurel wreath for those who fell at the Somme.
Whatever happens, something has to be done to stop the National Day of Remembrance going the same way as Christmas, in that it seems to get celebrated earlier every year.
The Match of the Day team were wearing theirs a full two weeks early, after they were handed out by the production team (do you have to wear one if you work for the BBC?).