Two wars in which Irish Catholics fought but choose not to remember…

It’s getting close to Remembrance Day, and if it’s not exactly a political hot potato the discussion of remembrance opens up significantly differing narratives for unionists and nationalists (and even northerners and southerners)… Fionnuala O’Connor notes that regardless of their personal views on the matter, the BBC requires all its presenters to wear a red poppy. In our house it is – and it always was – a matter for individual conscience. I’ve known English ex servicemen who’d served in WWII who refused to wear anything but the white Poppy. But in general terms in Northern Ireland, the Poppy has become as alien to Catholics as it is reassuring to Protestants. As it happens, I was on an early plane out of Belfast this morning, catching up with a year’s downloads from the Beeb, RTE and few great podcasters. I spent most of the flight and after listening to Our War, as series of three live lectures RTE convened last year for the 90th anniversary of the ending of the First World War. It’s a fascinating multifarious look at just one major line in history…

Two of the contributions in the Belfast event stuck out for me. Phil Orr (author of the Road to the Somme): argues that “the cultural impact on the both communities was immense”. He gave as an example the Catholic community in Carrickfergus, who he stated had given a tremendous amount in sacrifice to the effort in what was known then as the Great War. Yet, he noted that until the early sixties, the only monuments to the fallen in that war were in Protestant churches in that town. In the Republic Free State most towns with large populations of ex soldiers had some kind of cenotaph by November 1926.

Danny Morrison noted in his contribution that the history of Irish nationalism has been informed by British militarism for centuries. His grandfather, Jimmy Morrison lied about his age to join up in the first war, then when back in Belfast at least flirted with joining the IRA in the 20s, and then joined up with RAF in 1939. Yet he never wore a poppy.

After Morrison himself had spent time in the Maze, his father asked him about the Nissen huts, had it been cold. Morrison asked whether he had been interned? But no his father had stayed there when he joined the RAF towards the end of the second war.

His view was that it was ‘easier celebrate victories than defeats’, and politically at home, the cause Nationalists north and south had joined in promise of Home Rule for the island had ended in partition. Besides, he noted, ‘one community had abrogated the war’. And the use of the poppy. Remembrance Day he claimed had been used by successive Unionist government as a litmus test of loyalty its Catholic citizens would largely always fail.

More telling though was the line from his colleague, Frank Quigley, who had told Morrison that in paying for a poppy he would be contributing to welfare of people who had shot the people he served with in the IRA. No problem remembering the people who died.

There’s a lot more in there besides that. In the first programme, it is Prof David Fitzpatrick, I think, who describes the Irish condition over it’s considerable number of Irish war dead in the first war as a form of collective aphasia (inability to speak on such matters), more than Roy Foster’s preferred term, amnesia (an inability to remember as such).

Perhaps it is best, as Niall Ferguson has argued, to let Remembrance gently slip as each successive generation passes away… But with the Poppies sold today going to help the wounded veterans of the UK’s ongoing foreign wars that seems unlikely for the foreseeable future…

In the meantime, Northern Irish Catholics and Protestants continue to be divided by their history even when shared through that mad apotheosis of Carl von Clausewitz’s Total War; otherwise known as World War I.

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  • Guest
  • cut_the_bull

    What action would the BBC take if a preenter refused to wear apoppy.
    If any action was taken by the BBC.
    Could a presenter take a fair employment court action against the BBC in relation to being discriminated against because of their refusal to wear a poppy.

  • John East Belfast


    “But in general terms in Northern Ireland, the Poppy has become as alien to Catholics as it is reassuring to Protestants”

    I cant speak for Catholic alienation but for Protestants we dont wear the poppy to be “reassured”.

    It isnt any more complex than what is going on throughout the rest of the UK – ie one day per year UK citizens wear an emblem to show they give a damn about those who wear a uniform and take orders from our democratically elected Govt that could cost them their lives.

    It is especially true at the minute considering we are getting a coffin per week on average coming back from Afghanistan.

    As far as I can see it the whole Poppy thing is an Irish “nationalist/republican” problem – please dont bring those of us who wear it – for the reasons I have said above – into the mix.

  • Garza

    Yeah I don wear it for assurance either. My grandfathers fought in WW2 against fascism and my great grandfathers fought in WW1. Wearing the poppy is my nod to them.

  • Mick Fealty

    Reaffirming is probably the word I would use on reflection.

  • John East Belfast


    I wouldnt use that word either.

    The point I am making is the Poppy isnt a problem for “protestants” – we are simply doing what is considered totally normal throughout the UK.

    Some(maybe most)Catholics/Nationalists/republicans
    Have an issue with it – but that is something within their psyche not mine

    Not every issue in NI has to be a two sided problem.

  • Dave

    If you were to remember the wars in which Irish people fought, you’d be remembering a lot of them – including a few involving the Israel Defence Forces.

    The British army is part of the British state, being naturally celebrated by the British nation. It is disingenuous to try to make a case for an ‘ecumenical’ or ‘non-sectarian’ army in the NI context as if it was a cross-community project, but that doesn’t stop attempts such a pretending that it is a symbol of the ideals that soldiers died for (usually no more than the monthly wage) and focusing on that and similar aspects as opposed to an army being the means by which a state defends its territorial integrity or colonises the territory of other state (or puts down quasi-uprisings from uppity taigs).

    The British army remains as a symbol of the British state, and wouldn’t be embraced by those who do not embrace that state. In the NI context, it remains ‘sectarian’ as it belongs to the state of one nation only – notwithstanding that the Shinners will be obliged in due course to bring the nation that elects to endorse the army of the state that they have brought that nation to endorse, but they’ll have to use better propaganda than Morrison is capable of.

  • joeCanuck

    It wasn’t always thus, at least in some nationalist areas. I grew up in Strabane, a mainly Catholic town. There were 20 houses in our street with 3 protestant and 17 Catholic families.
    We all wore poppies and all went to the Remembrance Service. Most of the veterans were Catholic.
    The only problem with the poppy, then as now, was that you always lost it within a few hours of pinning it on.

  • “as alien to Catholics as it is reassuring to Protestants”

    Mick and JEB, perhaps ‘akin’ is more appropriate than ‘reassuring’.

  • Garza

    Dave, that doesn’t stop foreign football managers from wearing poppies.

    If you want to politicise it, go ahead, but its nothing to do with politics.

    Reminds me of this time last year with Eoghan Quigg from xfactor. Poor lad that was only a toddler when the troubles ended being abused by his own community for doing charity work for British soldiers missing limbs for christ sake.

  • Ruairi Og

    The posters above who are able to categorically state the motivations behind an entire community’s attitude to the poppy either have a depth of insight that could be usefully employed in all manner of ways, or are perhaps being more than a little disingenuous.

    There’s a debate to be had about the significance of the poppy and I’d prefer that we didn’t pretend not to see it.

    It would be suprising if the poppy hadn’t taken on some degree of significance as a symbol of Britishness. FFS the BNP even try to get in on the act with it and they shouldn’t really be reminding people about WW2!

  • Comrade Stalin

    cut the bull:

    Could a presenter take a fair employment court action against the BBC in relation to being discriminated against because of their refusal to wear a poppy.

    I suspect that the only person who could decide that is a judge. It is legal for employers to place certain requirements and restrictions on their employees, eg the need to wear a uniform or adhere to a reasonable dress code. It comes down to whether or not a poppy would be part of that dress code.

    John EB:

    The point I am making is the Poppy isnt a problem for “protestants” – we are simply doing what is considered totally normal throughout the UK.

    What doesn’t help is the association that the poppy has with unionism, or even loyalism. The army commanders have a similar problem with the BNP, which is daft considering how conscription wasn’t applied here, and the Unionist government practically assisted the Nazi effort through their failure to adequately prepare to defend Belfast.

    I would like to wear a poppy to commemorate the lives of those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we would avoid inslavement under nazism (and indirectly, communism). Unfortunately it would be too much of a political symbol to do so.

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Maybe I can raise again the observation that I made about the PSNI roadblock near Dún Geanainn where some wore poppies and some didn’t. Is this significant? Will the promotion prospects of the non-wearers be affected? Will they have to cut and run like Donna Trainor? Let people who want to recognize their ancestors wear them and those who want to antagonize their neighbours piss off.

  • Sean


    If I am allowed to ask the great one

    Would the headline be more accurate if it read

    Two wars in which Irish Catholics fought but choose not to commemorate…

    could just be my Canadian english

  • Dave

    “If you want to politicise it, go ahead, but its nothing to do with politics.”

    Pardon? A state’s army is not a political matter? It is a matter of state, and therefore a political matter. It certainly isn’t an ecumenical/non-sectarian matter (to misquote a certain priest) as it is organised by the Royal British Legion to serve the interests of those who served in the army of a specific state.

  • Framer

    It seems the mission is not just to deracinate Protestants but make them ashamed of what their forefathers did in the 2nd World War and the 1st.

    I had an uncle killed in North Africe in 1942 and a cousin, a conscientious objector in a Quaker Ambulance unit, killed a few months later, in the same area.

    Is it anti-Catholic/nationalist to remember them?

  • michael

    My Grandfather fought in WWII, was at Dunkirk, Italy (where he fought with partisans) and 2 years as a PoW watching Russians PoWs slowly starve to death whilst picking scabies from his skin.

    Got liberated by mongolians (who apparently buggered/raped rings round them), then spent a year in Berlin guarding Nazis.

    He got home and within a year, was in his own words ‘no longer welcome in the Army because of his religion’. So he left.

    In Febuary 1972 he burned his army pension book and medals in the Diamond in Derry with others.
    I’ve never seen him wear a poppy.

  • JohnEB has it right.

  • Belfast Greyhound

    I find this recurring noise about the poppy and wearing it, or not, extremely sad.
    WW1 was the biggest industrial attempt to kill soldiers that the world had seen up to that time.
    The extension into bombing civilians in Europe recreated the horrors of previous conflicts for civilians in a way that had not been generally expected – war was thought of as something soldiers did and left civilians reasonably unaffected.
    WW2 was different as civilians were again intimately involved but now as direct targets.
    The same is true of all conflicts since.
    For Northern Ireland people it is important to remember waht ran as writ in this part of the UK – no conscription.
    In other words every one who went to join the Army went as a volunteer while in the rest of the Uk where conscription ran they had to go when called.
    We should be proud to wear some badge of recognition for the efforts of those volunteers of the past as we should be for the volunteers of the present day.
    Soldiers, and despite what the politically blind who have said about the essential nature of the peaceful and peace loving Irish people who just happen to flock to join the British army from all parts of the island as a financial lifeline rather than because they rally like the idea of being a soldier since the Irish are like their neighbours across the water rally very warlike and loving it, choose the career and by dint of that life choice demit the ability to choose the conflict.
    They were and are ours and it is only proper we should remember them as the dead and support those serving as the living.
    We just don’t have this essentially sectarian response to remembering the dead from the Services and the sacrifice made and being made by those who have opted for a service career here in Scotland and while there are those who disagree with any remembering of any kind it is not an issue that splits an SNP led Scotland in any sense at all.
    Some people just seem to really get happy as each significant date in the Calendar approaches knowing they can vent all their frustrations or sense of self-satisfaction as righteous indignation yet again.
    When I was a teacher I used to tell children that the Poppy represented how the peaceful dead appeared after they were shot, a small black hole and a small amount of blood (after all the heart stops beating and no beats no blood) and the vast numbers of them we saw were only representing a fraction of the dead and injured.
    Yes we should wear it with pride throughout Ireland.

  • john

    the poppy comemorates members of the british army that used artillery on dublin city during 1916. and the British Army veterans that served in the black and tans. the poppy is a loyalist system in ireland. is it any surprise that some irish people have a problem with the poppy

  • Pancho’s Horse

    Yeah, this poppy wearing business is a British thing. Ireland was neutral in BOTH wars and it’s not really relevant to us. I mean, we didn’t force them to globalise their arrogance and aggression so why should we be interested in supporting their injured terrorists?

  • Bigot

    send UDR and RUC families on holiday to Portrush and Scotland. U must be joking.


    This topic comes up on Slugger every year and the answers are always the same. There is NO doubt that many Protestants have politicised the poppy as an exclusively Unionist/Loyalist symbol and that is at total odds with those in Britain who wear it for it’s true meaning i.e. remembrance and respect. I am not saying that some Unionists don’t wear it for the right reasons but they are very much in the minority. We see on an annual basis the competition, usually among females, to see who can wear the biggest, fluffiest, most expansive poppy in their lapels and they take great delight in flaunting it as an expression of ‘their Unionist identity’ and rubbing Taigs noses in it. Many of these have never worn a British military uniform in their lives and disgrace the core intentions of it.
    To hole this unionist arguement below the water line I will relate two stories. A relative of mine, Catholic of course, was in the Royal Navy in the 50’s & 60’s and was in a few campaigns in Cyprus and Aden. He did patrol duty and was shot at on many occasions. He always makes a donation every year to the British Legion as to be fair they are a very good organisation who helped and advised him on several occasions. He NEVER wears a poppy as he says it has been tainted here by extreme Unionist bigots. There was also a well known SDLP councillor who sat on Newtownabbey Borough Council, he is now dead. This man served in the Far East in WWII and was a holder of the Burma Star. I remember talking to him a few times and he was quite a character. He sat in on Council meetings and had to listen and watch certain Unionist bigots whoop, cheer and flaunt their sectarianism with disgust. Every Remembrance Sunday he proudly wore his medals to the Council commemorations and stood right beside the same bigots who were the cheerleaders of the bigotry. He said the look on their faces when they seen his campaign medals were worth an admission fee on their own. They didn’t know where to look and he always made a point of asking those he knew never served a day in a uniform what servive they had been in. Their coughing, spluttering and embarrassment were hilarious he said.

  • susan

    Belfast Greyhound, is it sectarian to choose not to wear a poppy in remembrance for a grandfather who was decorated for his service and sacrifice in the second World War, who remembered fallen comrades every day for the rest of his life, yet returning home never for the rest of his long life himself felt comfortable or correct or even welcome to wearing a poppy?

    Hint: The answer is “no,” it is not sectarian.
    And while you used to tell children how peaceful the dead appeared after they were shot, there were — and no doubt still are — veterans who chose to share with their children and grandchildren the sounds, the smells, and agonies of the actual business of killing and dying. In the name of any cause, be it just, necessary, heroic, criminal or a mindless waste of life.

    The choice to wear a poppy deserves tolerance and respect. The choice not to wear a poppy deserves no less.

  • foreign correspondent

    I can understand the rationale behind WWII and fighting Nazism but no-one has ever satisfactorially explained what was the point of World War One apart from being a fightoff between the colonial powers. And I don’t believe Iraq and Afghanistan are justifiable wars either. So I couldn’t ever wear a poppy if in someway it justifies or shows support for all these wars. It’s wrong for soldiers to die or lose limbs, but if the war they are in shouldn’t be happening then we’ve got to get over this ‘Our boys, right or wrong’ mentality.
    People should be allowed to wear peace and antiwar symbols instead of symbols of blood, anyway. We must put an end to war sooner or later or with all the weapons piled up round the world mankind doesn’t have a longterm future.

  • Mick Fealty

    Sean, Pancho,

    Take some time to listen to the podcasts. They’re very good. But they are curated from a southern nationalist point of view.


    I’d be happy to take individual blogs from people from several angles on this, but particularly from those with relatives who served with the British army, and who feel strongly about Remembrance, one way or the other.

  • Chris Donnelly


    Not sure the byline holds true, at least not since the 1990s.

    Nationalist Ireland has made significant strides with regard to remembering those from Ireland who fought in both world wars.

    However, as you properly note, donning a poppy involves- for many- much more than remembering a relative’s sacrifice in a now distant conflict.

    It can be interpreted as supporting British soldiers’ engagement in conflicts before and since the wars, and in our own local context, unionism has long clung to Remembrance Day as a signature calendar date to reaffirm their British identity.

    Sinn Fein’s decision to remember those involved in both world wars was a mature development. I know a number of fascinating stories about the wartime exploits of Irishmen in British uniforms in the Second World War, men who would later be involved in the campaign against the British army in the 1970s (and many more whose sons and daughters would be so involved.) Of course, that’s nothing new- many of those who fought from 1918 had not long returned from the trenches themselves.

    There is plenty of room to further develop opportunities for joint remembrance. I can recall Glen Barr being involved in organising a ceremony some months ago in which the Irish and British national flags were jointly carried in recognition of the conflicting political motivations (and allegiances) which encouraged many to fight in World War I.

    Here’s a thought: perhaps a more relevant question might relate to protestant/ unionist reluctance to remember their Irish republican ancestors of ’98?

  • Mrsta

    remembering our dead is an honorable thing – lest we forget.

    however, seeing the poppy worn by known loyalist terrorists or BNP members does, unfortunately, taint it.

    surely these men died for all of us? seeing it misappropriated by Neanderthals is beneath contempt.

    i hope that all irish people, like I, are proud of what was done in service to the British Army during both wars*

    *let’s not talk about any British Army atrocities before, during or after either war

  • John East Belfast


    “Here’s a thought: perhaps a more relevant question might relate to protestant/ unionist reluctance to remember their Irish republican ancestors of ‘98? ”

    Why would 21st century unionists “remember” 18th century republicans ?

    Are you implying just because they were Protestants – political allegiance is more important to unionism than religion

  • I don’t wear a poppy, simply because I feel that I would be responding to a moral onus if I did, that it would always mean more than it should.
    But I donate, because I think the British Legion is a good cause.

    Incidentally, the BBC does not require me to wear one when I appear as a commentator, as on Hearts and Minds tonight.
    But then, when I appear it is not as a representative of the bbc.

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed Malachi.

    JEB and Chris, I’m not sure you are completely accurate in that shared assumption. Gonzo might be better up on this than me, but weren’t there some Orange lodges involved in some the bicentennial commemorations in 1998?

  • Dave

    The emerging definition of sectarianism in NI (particularly in the context of the Tory/UUP link) is that it is when one nation acts in its own interests rather than furthering the interests of the two nations. Essentially, it means that the control of the state by one nation should not be a valid dynamic. That is a dodgy definition since it is self-contradicting: the reason that one nation is advocating that control of the state by one nation should not be a valid dynamic is because that nation controls the state, and seeks to maintain its control at the direct expense of the other nation. By their own definition, their actions are sectarian.

    Separating the Irish nation from control of the state is the primary goal of unionism – and unionism extends beyond the NI fraternity to others who would like to see Ireland rejoin the UK. Maintaining that separation is the primary goal of NU unionism. There is no aim of self-government within an Irish nation-state but an Irish nation that has renounced the right to self-determination and live instead as happy colonised natives within a British state, happily joining the army of that state in order to defend it and to further its selfish, strategic interests by violent means.

    An army exists to defend (and if it is formed prior to the claim, to assert) the right of a nation to national self-determination (with the state being the sovereign territorial entity by which a nation exercises that claim). The British army maintains the claim of the UK to the territory of NI (since, rather obviously, the Irish would have bid British sovereignty adieu if the army did not exist and therefore would not be able to resist said faredewell). In celebrating that army, the Irish are celebrating the “physical force” tradition had denies them their right to national self-determination. That is just pitiful Uncle Tom-ism.

    The British should celebrate their state’s army, but there is no reason for Irish to do so and plenty of reasons why they should not. If they want to remember Irish people who have died in foreign armies, then they should form their own national prganisation for that purpose rather than be suckered into an organisation whose purpose is remembering British state military dead and not remembering errant Irish people. It is a British matter, and it should stay that way.

  • Chris Donnelly

    I’d say political allegiance is also considerably more important for Irish catholics as well. My question was posed precisely because Mick’s article was premised on Irish ‘catholics’ fighting in wars but choosing not to remember them.

    Oh, and the reference to the passing of centuries is hardly relevant, JEB. Wasn’t there a late seventeenth century battle down Drogheda way that still gets many unionists/ protestants excited…..

    You may be right in relation to Orange commemorations of the United Irishmen. I doubt, however, if they participated in commemorations alongside Irish republicans, donning Easter lilies, with the political setting that republicans would bring to the event.

    Why that would be like asking republicans/ nationalists to remember those killed in the two World Wars in a manner which embraced the Poppy and official ceremonies…..

  • mark

    I think some of the hostility to Rememberance events might emanate from the very partial way in which the British Legion has traditionally operated. For example, does anyone ever recall them holding their services in a Catholic Church in Northern Ireland? Or including non-Protestant clergy in their rememberance events in NI when they also include prayers from Protestant ministers….granted the latter has happened in a few instances, but in general, they seem to be an all-Protestant affair.

  • Brit

    Interesting stuff above.

    My father always tells, when we discuss the “Irish Question” that more Catholic Irismen fought for the British Army than the IRA (or maybe it was died fighting for?). I think that those who fought, certaintly in WW2, represent the best traditions of irish nationalism. In contrast to the neutral position adopted by the Republic and the even worse position adopted by some other representatives of Irish nationalism.

    In mainland Britain wearing of the Poppy is seen merely as remembering and honouring those who lost their lives or who suffered fighting for the country. It doesnt imply a nationalist or Right wing perspective nor support for any particular war (certainly not the Iraq war). It is worn by Brits of all ages and social and ethnic backgrounds.

    If it has become a symbol of loyalism/unionism, or a sybol for supporting the British State or British Army in NI then clearly I can understand and respect why Catholics/Nationalists wouldnt wear it. I was, however touched by the comments above by someone talking about the time when his Catholic neihbours wore it, and its sad to see this cross-community support has waned. Perhaps the Catholics/Nationalist leadership could try to wrestle the symbol back? Perhaps they could invent (if they havent already) some symbol which commemorates the Irish dead without endorsing the British state or army?

    It should be a matter of choice and nationalist choosing not to wear it have nothing to be ashamed of.

    Final point on the Poppy is that, whilst I will be wearing it, I do think that some people, particulary the City types, adopt it because there is a social expectation – ie that any respectable banker, lawyer, insurance broker, financier etc wears one at this time of year. I also have a personal gripe (somewhat Victor Meldrewish) about how early people start wearing it, as if it shows how great they are. Poppies are everywhere in London now, many wearing them and others selling them. I wouldnt think of wearing one ’till November.

    The BBC thing is stupid and presenters shouldnt be forced to wear them. The Beeb just knows that people will go mental. My late Grandmother (Scots Prod and Unionist though married to an English Catholic) never ever forgave Michael Foot for wearning a donkey jacket to the Cenotaph – and that just shows you how irrationally people can behave on this issue.

  • Brit

    “The British army maintains the claim of the UK to the territory of NI (since, rather obviously, the Irish would have bid British sovereignty adieu if the army did not exist and therefore would not be able to resist said faredewell)”

    Dave – Are you suggesting here that the British status of NI was something resulting solely or principally from the presence of the British Army? If so it is the worst sort of ‘vulgar’ Republicanism rendering the existence and views of the Unionists/Protestants invisible.

    NI remained (and remains) British ultimately because that is what the Unionists/Prods want, and because they are the majority community. The British Army being there was not the cause of NI’s British status but a result of its British status. Had the British Army withdrawn, very hypothetically, do you think the Unionists would have said “OK far dos” and signed up for a UI. No there would have been a horrible civil war which (if the British Army and others had not got involved) would probably have resulted in re-partition and some horrible massacres.

  • Brit

    “I can understand the rationale behind WWII and fighting Nazism but no-one has ever satisfactorially explained what was the point of World War One apart from being a fightoff between the colonial powers. And I don’t believe Iraq and Afghanistan are justifiable wars either. So I couldn’t ever wear a poppy if in someway it justifies or shows support for all these wars. It’s wrong for soldiers to die or lose limbs, but if the war they are in shouldn’t be happening then we’ve got to get over this ‘Our boys, right or wrong’ mentality.
    People should be allowed to wear peace and antiwar symbols instead of symbols of blood, anyway. We must put an end to war sooner or later or with all the weapons piled up round the world mankind doesn’t have a longterm future.”

    1. Whilst I would, of course, have supported Britain and the allies in WWII, as a just war that we had to win, the objectives were by no means all about fighting Nazism.

    2. WWI was a fight between colonial powers and in many ways seems sensless. But remember that in WWII many (and arguably all) of the protagonists were colonial powers. Whilst the war time anti German propaganda and the contemporary British case for war is rightly subject to intense revisionist criticism, I think that the received wisdom – that it was a pointless imperialist war – is grossly oversimplified. In fact Germany was an expansionist, militarist, power and a confrontation to prevent German aggression and conquest can arguably be justified.

    3. As for putting an end to war the problem is that even if 99% of the world followed your lead (don’t hold your breath) it would only take that 1% to take up arms and start invading and murderding for the “peace” to end. In truth an absence of war is not peace and sometimes war is necessary to create peace. When it comes down to it you have to choose between “no more war” and “no more genocide”, and I choose the latter.

  • foreign correspondent

    ”sometimes war is necessary to create peace”
    That statement’s Orwellian, and in my opinion, wrong.

  • Brit

    “Here’s a thought: perhaps a more relevant question might relate to protestant/ unionist reluctance to remember their Irish republican ancestors of ‘98?”

    Whilst there was, of course, a significant Ulster Presbyterian involvment in the United Irishmen and the uprising in the north, dont lets oversimplify matters in our sentimentalism.

    Northern Catholics largely held back from supporting their Prod brothers, whilst down south much of the uprising had a distinctly sectarian celtic and murderously anti-Protestant character (such as in Wexford).

  • Brit

    ‘‘sometimes war is necessary to create peace’‘
    That statement’s Orwellian, and in my opinion, wrong.

    No its not Orwellian it is counter-intuitive. Look at the second world war. It took a huge war, millions of deaths, to crush the violent Nazi occupation and to re-establish peace in Europe.

    It took the intervention of the British Army by war/invasion to create peace in Sierra Leone.

    The the horrific genocide/civil war in Rwanda could only have been ended, and peace, etablished by military intervention.

    Look at how Pol Pot was removed and peace of a sort establishe din Cambodia?

  • Belfast Greyhound

    This is a deeply sad correspondence in many ways with the sectarian nature of the question being write large in the strapline by umbilically attaching Irish and Catholic together.
    The fact that ‘whataboutery’ seems to inform much of the comments allows a measured look at things to fall at the first logical hurdle.
    That the debate is initiated on the same day that Bishop Joe Devine, (we can be sure that there is no Irish and Catholic in a name like that) held a service for the dead and injured service men and women in the continuing conflicts in Motherwell.
    For those unsure of the geography of Scotland this is the West of Scotland where the sectarian writ runs wide and deep in many communities but you can also be sure that the church was a sea of red breasted men and women wearing poppies for British Service men and women.
    And this in SNP led Scotland!!
    One of most reassuring things about the Normandy Landings Celebrations earlier this year was the way in which ALL the participating nations celebrated together, Allied and German.
    If France and Germany, two of the most chauvinistic nations in Europe can agree to remember their shared loss together what is so wrong with the mindset of the Irish and especially the Northern Irish that they cannot learn to move on beyond picking ancient scabs to make them continue to bleed.
    When we think about France and Germany and about the Second World War especially the French suffered manifestly more from the occupation of their country than many other nations, with war crimes and outrages like the elimination of almost the entire population of the town of Oradour-sur-Glane with a large number of innocent women and children being burned alive in the overcrowded church.
    Yet they are willing to work closely with the Germans at an official level in remembrance celebrations.
    Even the Russians are more friendly with the Germans that could ever have been believed likely to happen now , and remember what they did to each others populations and countries during the war.
    What happens to the Northern Irish especially when they cross that short sea journey from Scotland and revert to comfortable and well trod ways of thinking and moral bankruptcy of purpose.
    The most striking thing however is the actual relations between the two armies in Ireland where a growing closer has developed between soldiers in the Irish and soldiers in the British with mutual shared visits being quite normal.
    As an ex-British soldier and a now frequent visitor to reunion days with an Irish Army Battalion I can say for sure if civilians were were as willing to extend their friendships as soldiers do and have, actual progress out of the certainties of sectarianism might begin.

  • Brit

    “France and Germany, two of the most chauvinistic nations in Europe”

    Thats only half right. The Germans sorted themselves out after ’45

  • greagoir o frainclin

    Perhaps folk should wear it all year round. Maybe it should be made compulsory too. People should be shot on site for not wearing one. The death penalty should be introduced as Greg Cambell said for such heinous crimes, and this heinous crime of disloyalty.

    However, it was somewhat amusing last year when I watched Gardner’s World to see the gardeners hard at work, digging etc.. out in the rain and having this sad looking battered paper poppy pinned to their jumpers.

    Myers is correct, the day to wear the poppy is on the Armistice Sunday with your Sunday best attire!,50&cmd=all&Id=1415

  • greagoir o frainclin

    BTW, Irish Nationalists should not let WWI commerations be hijacked by the NI British Protestants. It is very much our history too.

  • fin

    “Look at how Pol Pot was removed and peace of a sort establishe din Cambodia? ”

    stick “Khmer Rouge thatcher” into Google

    “The lawyer Benson Samay said he would subpoena Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Henry Kissinger and several others to testify on their role in allowing the Khmer Rouge to come to power in 1975, and in supporting it throughout its bloody rule, during which between one and two million Cambodians were killed or starved to death.”

    As for fighting Facism, MI5 (or 6) funded Mussolini, Time Magazine had Hitler on its front page, Hitler was nominated for the Nobel peace prize, the Daily Mail was his only cheer leader and several Western countries turned back boatloads of Jews prior to WWII.

    Gandhi was a bigger problem to Britain than Hitler.

    I think you also mentioned the Cable St. riots a few days ago that was the Facists & Met Police V Jews, Irish and Socialists.

    As for the Wexford rising been anti-Protestant Bagenal Harvey, Cornelius Grogan, Mathew Keogh and Anthony Perry where the Protestant commanders.

    It was wasn’t just the Catholics who didn’t rise in the North, the Council was arrested and the Northern rising became a shambles.

    I know its off-topic but lets stick to the facts to support arguements

  • Brit


    My point was that war is sometimes right, sometimes the lesser of two evil and sometimes the only route to peace. Pol Pot was put down by an intervention by the Vietnamese in 1978. A bit of good ‘ol regime change that I have no problem supporting.

    I’m not sure what point you are seeking to make or underline by your other historical references. That the UK was on the wrong side in WW2 or that it should have stayed neutral, or that the Irish are the only true anti-fascists in the anglophone world??

    Of course the leadership was Prod but the mobs rampaging were sometimes motivated by base sectarianism and 100s of innocent Prods were put to death, burned or executed mainly in Wexford.

  • foreign correspondent

    On WWI again, maybe Germany was an aggressive expansionist power at that time, I don’t know, but was Britain not then the aggressive expansionist power par excellence , as the Empire covered a quarter (?) of the world’s surface at the time. So in what way were they morally justified in attacking another aggressive power?

  • fin

    Brit, if you mean Scullabogue Barn, than thats my point, the victor writes the history books.

    The UK fought against invasion in WW2, how could it be on the wrong side. Its the sanitised version of WW2 I disagree with, Orwell’s collected essays tell it as it is, guess what, as well as many brave well-intentioned people fighting the Nazis’ there were were plenty who sold their souls for money and added the Nazi war machine.

    And lets not forget the behaviour of Britain and France during the Spanish Civil war

    Same as Pol Pot, for political reasons the British and Americans supported him.

    And sometimes war is the right option, however only a fraction of the times that it is claimed.

    For instance, the EU report found Georgia to be the aggressor in the recent conflict, yet British and American troops trained the Georgian armed forces prior to the conflict and Tory and Government leaders supported Georgia.

    So I suppose the question is, should we support without question the wars we are involved in or do we have a right to say we are doing wrong.

    Lets not forget, during WW2 Germans mostly thought they were in the right.

    On the actual topic. The poppy and rememberance should be copyrighted and organisations should have to apply to lay wreaths. Than it would be possible to ensure unsavoury organisations cannot hijack the event.

    I just had a quick look but I can’t find them. However I recall seeing photos of the UUP laying Poppy Wreaths at the graves/monuments of its founders during its centenary year, why Poppy wreaths?

    Finally in knowing many people who wear poppies I know its to remember individuals, whereas the arguements against tend to be a blanket arguement relating to the who conduct of the British army.

  • Brit

    Fin re Wexford – not just Scullabogue. Seventy Protestants were executed in Wexford town.

    “So I suppose the question is, should we support without question the wars we are involved in or do we have a right to say we are doing wrong.”

    No we should not. The Boer, Suez and Vietnam are three that I, personally, wouldnt have supported.

  • fin

    Brit, and WW1?

  • Intelligence Insider

    I counted eight people that I know are roman catholic in my local yesterday and every one of them was wearing a poppy, two were also ex-servicemen and members of the local Royal British Legion.

  • Brit


    Frankly I dont know enough about WW1 to answer the WW1 question.

    I’m certainly not saying that WWI was a paradigm case just war, nor that it was fought in a way which reflects on the morals or cababilities of the British ruling class. Just that the simplistic “pointless imperialist war” analysis fails to differentiate between the very different types of imperialist power that Britain and Germany were. And Britain did not “attack” Germany, it responded to Germany’s attack on Belgium (with whom it had a mutual defence treaty hence the war was arguably a ‘just’ war of ‘self’ defence)

  • Brian MacAodh

    “Choose not to remember”

    My grandfather, a free stater who found work in ny, joined up and fought under Pattons 3rd army. He got 2 purple hearts and was half deaf in one ear by the time he was put out of action for good. He had nightmares to the day he died. (RIP)

    He, and the 100s of thousands of Irish who fought in both wars, certainly remembered their sacrifices and services. There was no choice involved.

  • joeCanuck

    Do I have to remind everyone every year that when I wear a poppy and go to the Remembrance Service, I am not paying homage to any war. I’m simply remembering the sacrifice, needless in the case of WW1, of so many men and, increasingly, women who have died in conflicts not of their making.

  • Prionsa Eoghann

    I’d follow Jon Snow’s example and wear a white poppy. My Granda fought for Britain even though he had a reserved job in the Lanarkshire mines, but the Nazi’s attacking the Soviets was too much for the silly bugger(rip) and so he ended up dodging kamakaze attacks in the far east whilst serving as an ack ack gunner.

  • Republic of Connaught

    Interesting to see foreign football managers like Wenger or Benitez wearing the Poppy in England. I wonder if any German players in England like Didi Hamann wears a Poppy?

    The Irish nationalist community should respect our war dead in whatever way we choose to respect our war dead. It is for the Irish nationalist populace across the 32 counties of Ireland to decide how we should do that. We are not British so Irish people should not be wearing a British Poppy. That is their way of remembering their citizens who died in the wars, not ours for our people.

    Whether our war dead fought in British or American forces doesn’t matter; some form of Irish remembrance devised by Irish people for the Irish dead is what is needed.

  • Gram C 14Sep09-shirt_1662

    This kinda showed that the whole poppy festival of organised mourning was getting out of hand. Poppy wearing is getting earlier every season. One day is enough. Other charities exist.

  • Gerry Mander

    John East Belfast spelled it out. We weqr poppies to support the criminal invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and to tell our boys we support them when they beat up Muslims and sexually assualt their women.

    Has anyone looked into the governance of the RBL? Where does them oney go? Who steals it?The armless, the legless, the blind and inane of Forces get little of it. Who robs the Poppy day pennies.

    FYI: Danny Morrisson’s uncle was Harry White, a notorious IRA leader. His sisters married Brit soldiers.

  • Tommy Docherty MBCS

    I’m fairly confused as follows:

    1. You’ll probably note from the name that my family came from Donegal.

    2. My missus is a Donohoe from County Wexford.

    3. We’re both Catholic.

    4. We’re both Christians.

    5. Protestants are also Christians.

    6. If both Catholics and Protestants are Christians, why do they speak of and behave so inhumanely and un-Christian about the dead.

    7. Perhaps I’m too innocent to understand the Irish Problem?

    8. Or……………….perhaps I’m human.

    I’m also an ex-soldier, 14 years, who never served in Northern Ireland, but it didnt stop me getting blown up by the IRA whilst I was serving in Germany. I hold no anger towards the incident, or, the perpetrators. War is war.

    I was proud as punch to wear my poppy for all the mates I have lost, not only in Northern Ireland, but also Iraq and Afghanistan. In the First World War, the war to end all wars as it was called, the British and Germans stopped fighting during Christmas and played football together. Perhaps we could all learn a lesson from this.

  • Tommy Docherty MBCS

    Knew I forgot something. After all the kerfuffle in the news about the Falkirk Vs Celtic match, and, the behaviour of a small section of the Celtic fans, may I refer you to this:

  • rachel

    my family are from belfast so was made that i should not wear a poppy??????i dnt understand i bought one and im a catholic, im looking at the bigger picture her i buy and wear it to remember the people who died in the war????? plz cud some one explain to me why catholics dnt celebrate r buy them?????? i want to no, it was my partner whos a protestant and from scotland which told me catholics and prodestants died in that war????? why do we live in a bitter world why cnt we all reunite wise up and worry about the bigger problems in the world its a disgrace and im not proud to be in the human race, a disgrace ……….

  • Kelly

    Oh Please!! This Poppy has nothing to do with it Being British!! This is just another cop out!!!!
    You should be absolutely ashamed of yourself, And one day when the world fall’s into world war 3, Which will happen may I add, with mankinds record, are you going to ask the person beside you if they are catholic or prod, and if they say british then you wont allow them to help you or possibly your family???
    Get a Grip. Poppy’s are not British they are a way of saying THANKYOU to the Human beings who fought in the wars to allow us freedom!! regradless of Religion!