Margaret Ritchie is offering real leadership


 While one nationalist leader may be fading out from the northern scene, another is exhibiting real poise and growing self confidence. This image and this underrated leader’s speech deserve an imaginative, constructive and magnanimous response.

 SDLP Progressive nationalism is more confident, more optimistic, and more ready to engage wholeheartedly across the divide. We are not afraid to say ‘Northern Ireland’ or to encounter a member of the British Royal family at a function. How ridiculous was it for Martin McGuinness to refuse to go to a function celebrating the grand slam success of our all-island Rugby team – because the Queen was also in attendance! I was happy to go and congratulate our team and I had a very pleasant chat with the Queen. Honestly she’s not the least bit threatening. Well I didn’t think so.

Just as progressive nationalists can accept where we are today, so also can we accept the realities of our history while others keep attempting to rewrite it. We therefore do not feel the need to airbrush out of history the sacrifice of many thousands of Irish Nationalists who fought in the two world wars. We accept the realities of our journey and we want to improve on the past.

I know also that some people in our Party have reservations about some of the language we use around a ‘Shared Future’. Its not that they don’t believe in reconciliation and the two traditions building a better future in the North together – its that they are worried, well,… that its sounds a bit alliancey….

Indeed one particular commentator – himself stuck in the past – remarked that the SDLP’s response to Sinn Fein moving on to SDLP ground was to jump onto Alliance Party ground. Utter Utter Rubbish.


Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London

  • John Greene

    Mrs Ritchie needs to take one more step and recognise that a United Ireland makes one sense WHATSOEVER in the current economic situation.
    NI needs GB to reconstruct its economy over 25 yrs.
    The Republic needs 25 yrs to reconstruct its own economy
    Talk of a UI is an unwelcome distraction

  • Cahir O’Doherty

    I’m not a huge fan of Margaret Ritchie, her speeches, manner of talking and her demeanour I think are just not suited to real, modern politics. There is a time and place for colloquial conversation, and that isn’t in your first speech as party leader.

    But I have to give her credit for wearing a poppy. It may not make her a lot of friends in republican circles, but it’s about time Irish Nationalists (especially in the North as it has begun in earnest in the South) recognised the Irish lives lost in British wars.

    Wearing a lily at Easter doesn’t preclude you from wearing a poppy in November.

  • Rory Carr

    What is it then I wonder that precludes Margaret and her colleagues from wearing a lily at Eadter?

  • alanmaskey

    Cahir: 0/5 for advocating the divisive poppy hate symbol. The poppy’s theme this year is “our boys” who got their desserts in Afghanistan. Prince William, in full GI Joe gear, went out and laid a wreathe/ he is exempt from service as his German bblood line makes him next in line to the throne (the British throne that is, not next in line to use the latrine the squaddies use)
    Dancing to the tune of your master does not make you a leader. It is a two fingers to all the two legged minorities in England; crown Catholics use four legs.

  • Driftwood

    She seemed perfectly at ease at the Downpatrick war memorial. No-one seemed ruffled or unruffled at her presence. Though it’s a town that never really did the sectarian gig. The catholic priest seems happy to be there also. There was a Fianna Fail representative at the Killyleagh ceremony wearing a poppy-as there has been for many years- alongside Sir John Gorman. No big deal really.

  • Rory Carr

    Typo: “Easter”. Apologies.

    Tired after a long day composing and writing.

    G’night all.

  • alanmaskey

    John Greene: If ypou had a profile, you would get 0/5 for this “effort”.
    Any idea of reconstructing any economy in 25 years is tosh. That is too long a time span for today.
    If the Six Occupied Cos is part of Britian, it is an irrelevant part. It would have to get behind a list of bleak places which are more deserving of reconstruction.
    Perhaps when Gerry A sorts out the South with his Bat plan, he and Boy Wonder will wing it back into Felon City and sort it out.

  • alanmaskey

    Do you think all Irish and Africans and whoever should enlist in the British Armed Forces or just cheer them on when they kill Arabs?
    I was actually at a Remembrance gig today. Out of respect for the daft old codgers, one of whom could stil stand to attention, I kept my views to myself til afterwards. Plenty of Irish RCs wore Poppies but other (non Irish two legged types) were fuming that killers were being honoured.

    Richie is not a leader. She is a corgi.

  • Fearglic

    Ritchie and Poppy? they demean each other. She will be knighted soon. for me most poppy wearers are dignified people who understand(in their own way) the stupid sacrifices made by many who were fooled into killing and dying for the KING and GOD. but its the blanket media that persuades the wearers to wear the red dyed paper badges.

  • Driftwood

    John Gorman destroyed 2 Tiger tanks of Michael Wittman’s unit. I do not think he was a fool or a misled deviant. He was actually under the command of a certain Captain Terence O Neill in Normandy.
    I cannot seem to find Ian Paisley’s war record in the fight against Hitler, though he was of the age to enrol. Maybe he thought there were softer targets in the future where he could practise being an armchair General.
    The pop/docu on BBC tonight about 1974 showed his ‘leadership’ skills along with Andy Tyrie, what a bunch of spongers, as Harold Wilson so rightly condemned.

  • Alias

    Typical self-contradicting SDLP twaddle.

    Like PSF, the SDLP is not an Irish nationalist party but is busy promoting the British state’s propaganda that Irish nationalism should be redefined as the rejection of Irish national rights and the acceptance of the legitimacy of British nationalism, specifically the constitutional legitimacy of that state’s claim to the territory of Northern Ireland as the means by which the British nation in it should determine its own affairs and the constitutional illegitimacy of the Irish state’s former claim to that territory as the means by which the Irish nation in it should determine its own affairs.

    You cannot be a nationalist unless you claim that your nation has a right to self-determination, since that condition is central to the definition. The SDLP formally ceased to be an Irish nationalist party when it formally renounced the right to self-determination of the nation it purports to politically represent and formally renounced that nation’s claim to the territory wherein they live.

    Like PSF, they are now a British nationalist party since both of those parties have formally declared that the right to self-determination in the formerly disputed territory of Northern Ireland property belongs to the British nation to whom that territory was granted for the express purpose of self-determination by the British state. They both, of course, claim to be Irish nationalist parties for propaganda purposes but neither actually is.

    The non-sovereign Irish nation supply cannon fodder for the sovereign British state in which it lives is a practice that the SDLP, unsurprisingly, celebrate. PSF have yet to reach that position due to the nature of the particular constituency that they have been designated to represent.

  • White Horse


    Surely you bore us with arguments taken from law books.

    The SDLP is the natural opponent of British imperialism, having a value system that systematically undermines the basis of the ideology.

    Sinn Fein is a different matter having once endorsed the ideological nationhood you define. Their ideological position was traded for a unionist version in 1998, and now we have an SDLP framework in Stormont.

    Irish unity is a matter for the people of Ireland, not the lawyers, and can only be achieved through the extension of the hand of friendship and understanding that Margaret Ritchie is engaged in. It will certianly not be got in the courts.

    There are anxieties that need to be dealt with, and those anxieties prevent real unity rather than any willingness on the part of the SDLP to embrace Britishness.

    Social democracy has the necessary dynamic to achieve unity by dealing with the underlying fears that prevent it.

  • bemused

    JC, Alias, no matter how much you or I might want a UI, it is not a realistic possibility in the medium term future. The IRA tried to get a UI by force of arms and lost. There is no likelihood of nationalists winning a border referendum in the next generation, and it’s a fool’s game to try to predict politics farther out than that. We can’t get UI by war, and for the time being we can’t get it by politics either. It might make sense at some time in the future for a rational political party to again focus all its effort on achieving UI. Until then, there is only one game going, and that is trying to make NI better. You can either join reality or you can bash your head against it for the sake of the sound.

  • Cahir O’Doherty

    It seems to me that you are proposing that the Irish nation within the geographical territory of Northern Ireland should have precedence over the British nation within the same geographical territory when it comes to the right to self-determination. At present, a majority of people in Northern Ireland vote for the maintenance of the Union with Britain (a majority of 40,332 at the 2007 Assembly election and of 13,965 at the 2010 Westminster elections).

    One cannot accept the legitimacy of Irish nationalism within Northern Ireland without accepting the legitimacy of British nationalism within Northern Ireland. To deny the unionist community their nationalist rights is a big a travesty as the denial of those same rights to Irish nationalists.

    I’m not sure where you get the idea of the SDLP declaring ‘that the right to self-determination in the formerly disputed territory of Northern Ireland property [properly?] belongs to the British nation’ (don’t worry, I’m not a stooper or an apologist for them!). Perhaps it is because of the GFA changes to Bunreacht na hEireann’s territorial claim to this part of the world or perhaps it is because the British nation within the six counties currently outnumbers the Irish nation? As said above, they have as much right to self-determination as anyone does.

  • Pete Baker

    “when it formally renounced the right to self-determination of the nation”

    Isn’t that a reference to the Irish referendum in favour of changing the constitutional articles 2 and 3 claim that the whole island formed one “national territory”?

    Can’t really blame the SDLP, or SF, for that result.

  • alley cat

    Time to drop the politics of 1916 and enter inti mainstream

  • Seymour Major

    Margaret Ritchie’s speech and some of the speeches made at the recent SDLP conference do give an impression of a Party that has started to turn the tide that has ebbed away support from her party towards Sinn Fein in recent years.

    The wearing of the poppy by the SDLP leader is another milestone amongst a number, in recent years, on the road to reconciliation by Irish people towards rememembrance of their war dead. In all probability, most Irish people would probably have continuously commemorated remembrance day for the last 85 years, had it not been for the intolerance of extremist Republicans which led directly to the bomb on Remembrance Day in Phoenix Park 1925. The bomb attack in Enniskillen in 1987 was a direct descendant of that incident.

    I am delighted to see that the SDLP have ditched green bigotry. In that respect, Sinn Fein are now looking rather isolated.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Applauding Margaret Ritchies “Poppy” decision but I do have reservations.As with so many things, I blame John Major. In the early 1990s he breathed new life into the dying Remembrance tradition by instituting the 11am Silence on the 11th November. In the first year (which was I believe a Saturday) I was working on assignment in London and travelled by Tube to Covent Garden to see just how it was observed. Some slightly embarrassed English people, some bewildered foreigners.I distrust the way that English politicians have re-invented Patriotism….and even Jingoism for the 21st Century. There is something very sinister about the way the ad hoc remembrance at Wootton Bassett has been manipulated. Almost impossible to attend a football match in England without “our heroes” being hailed. Seemingly every soldier who died in Afghanistan or Iraq was not only a hero, a great soldier he was a loving son, husband and father. Statistically soldiers can be quite brutish in and out of uniform.Some loose cannons such as the Scottish lady Mrs Gentle and the families of the “Redcaps” gave the media quotes that Bliars government did not like. This led to the MOD people making sure they got to grieving families before the media. Making sure they were onside. I find that cynical. And of course politicians are hiding behind the soldiers. To criticise a politician is to criticise “our heroes”. A bit like “don’t hit me… I have a baby in my arms”.
    Having attended the SDLP Conference in Belfast last week, it was evident that the “Poppy” issue would be addressed this week. Speakers lined up to parade their British military connexions. I felt almost embarrassed …I could point out my RIC great grandfather. While many “nationalists” have British uniforms in the family tree…I think that most don’t.Recently wearing a poppy seems compulsory on BBC and UTV. I don’t like that. In applauding Ms Ritchies decision to wear one, I think I am entitled to call for the freedom of those working at our local TV stations NOT to wear them.
    Undoubtedly the same people from the “unionist” side who endorse Ms Ritchies courageous stance would be the first to denounce any newsreader, reporter or weather person who exercised his/her right NOT to do so.It is generational. I am an old fogey. I won’t be wearing one. It is an individual decision. I have no familial connexion to the British military. And just as proud of that as others may be of THEIR connexion…and while I recognise the complexity of pre-independence Ireland and British regiments (indeed my lifetime interest is Irish military history but there is no connexion between British military and the ethos of the Irish nation.
    In electoral terms (and yes it MUST be a factor) its a risk free strategy.
    Nobody will suddenly vote SF as a protest….its not until May after all and SF-IRA record on Remembrance Sunday is not a proud one.
    Typically some republicans will denounce this as “Stoopery”
    Conceivably as with SDLP engagement in civic society it might convince unionist moderates to vote SDLP. But I doubt it.
    But I would dearly love to see a party spokesperson emphasise the voluntary nature of the gesture……and even if interviewed by Noel Humphreys or Paul Clark……point out that they had no such “choice”.
    I am sure that Mr Brian Walker in welcoming Ms Ritchies “leadership” on this issue would readily applaud any of his former BBC colleagues who decided NOT to wear a poppy.

  • pippakin

    I think she represented all of the people and recognised the undeniable fact that many Irish people fought and died in two world wars, most of them would have been in British uniforms.

    I don’t care either way about the poppy, wear it or not as you please, but I do think anyone who believes that wearing or commemorating the fallen of two world wars is somehow un Irish is showing a lack of confidence and a bigotry that is very un Irish.

  • Coll Ciotach

    it does if you do not wish to support those who murdered here

  • Alias

    “Can’t really blame the SDLP, or SF, for that result.” – Pete Baker

    It isn’t a case of blame but a case of positioning political parties on the nationalist spectrum by the policies that they promote. My contention is that neither of those two parties can properly be referred to as Irish nationalist parties based on (a) the meaning of nationalism and (b) the policies they promote, but that they are, in fact, British nationalist.

    Let’s look at Articles 2 & 3 and how they impact on this. A territory is simply a place where a state is located and a state is simply the means by which a nation can exercise its right to national self-determination. The four (territory, state, nation, and self-determination) are inextricably interlinked. If you give up your claim to any one of the four then you give up your claim to all of them.

    In that regard, it doesn’t matter to Ireland that it gave up its claim to the territory of Northern Ireland because it still has a territory where a sovereign nation can exercise self-determination via a sovereign state. It is, of course, only the Irish nation in the territory of Northern Ireland that is unsupported in its (former) claim to self-determination by the act of the Irish state giving up that claim.

    That essentially pulls the rug out from under them and thereby undermines the legitimacy of their (former) claim to self-determination. What makes the claim former in regard to the Irish nation in Northern Ireland is its acceptance that the right to self-determination properly belongs to the British nation for whom the territory was created for the express purpose of allowing that nation self-determination.

    They have now accepted formally that they have no right to self-determination, and this former right is further repudiated by the Irish state removing its former claim to the territory for the express purpose of allowing the Irish nation within to exercise self-determination.

    It was not in any way necessary for the SDLP and PSF to trade their former right to self-determination for self-serving concessions within the British state since they were not deprived of political office or civil rights before they chose to give up their former right and would not have been so deprived had they not done so.

    But now that they have given up that right to self-determination they can no longer claim that they are being deprived of it by partition, and, indeed, no longer make that claim. A right, by definition and by law, is not subject to the discretion of others. When you make it subject to a veto then it is no longer a right but becomes an aspiration.

    So what is the purpose of unity when it is no longer to extend the right to self-determination into the formerly disputed territory? It has no purpose other than removing the right to self-determination from the rest of the Irish nation by extending the veto that another nation holds over the Irish nation from Northern Ireland to Ireland.

    This veto can either take the proposed form of an internalised veto (where ‘parity of esteem’ is granted to the British nation) or some variant of its present external form where the British nation’s state exercises it on behalf of the British nation since the treaty leaves the form of the veto open. For example, the EU isn’t the only supranational agency that governs Ireland. The treaty created another supranational agency where Irish sovereignty is surrendered to it and Irish nation can no longer determine its own affairs in Ireland without the veto of the British state. It is presented as a bi-national body but it is actually supranational. That serves the purpose of normalising British rule and extending it from Northern Ireland into Ireland, creating the principle that the Irish nation should not determine its own affairs without the veto of the British state.

    The SDLP were always “constitutional nationalists” but it was always overlooked that the constitution they supported was the British constitution which claimed the Irish nation in its sovereign territory had no right to self-determination and not the Irish constitution which declared the opposite, so they were always British nationalists. That’s not unusual since the majority of the other three non-sovereign nations that comprise the UK also support its constitution.

    It’s just a case of calling it a duck because it waddles and quacks…

  • slappymcgroundout

    Margaret Ritchie Shocker: Machine Gun Marty Skips All Ireland Rugby Award; Afraid Of Old Lady.

    If that’s what passes for “real leadership” then you all are in more trouble than even I had previously imagined.

    Lastly, Margaret, I wouldn’t be in such a rush to bandy about the word, “progressive”:

  • Seymour Major

    The SDLP were always “constitutional nationalists” but it was always overlooked that the constitution they supported was the British constitution

    “Constitutional Nationalits” is a misdescriptive piece of labelling. They dont “support” the constitution. They are a political party that operates within it and represents their constituents.

  • Cynic

    Sorry but you lost me at the point where I saw ‘Ritchie’ and ‘leadership’

  • “SDLP progressive nationalism says we want a Shared Society. That means a society that is not only non-violent but which welcomes and embraces different traditions and actively sets out to end segregation and division.” MH

    It’s still not dawned on Margaret that there are two competing nationalism’s here, two opposing constitutional aspirations. When will she or the SDLP ever learn?

  • alanmaskey

    Actually, in Republican lore, the attacks by Frank Ryan et al on Poppy wearers in Dublin’s Dame St in the 1930s are much better known.

  • Seymour Major


    You have a very good point which I prefer to express slightly differently.

    There is a difference between Non-Sectarian politics and Non-Communal politics. You can be totally non-sectarian as a party. The trouble is, if you remain communal, you encourage segregation and that re-inforces, directly and indirectly, the sectarian loop.

    That is why the SDLP has a credibility problem when it suggests that it can contribute to a shared future while practising Nationalist politics.

  • Neil

    I don’t care either way about the poppy, wear it or not as you please, but I do think anyone who believes that wearing or commemorating the fallen of two world wars is somehow un Irish is showing a lack of confidence and a bigotry that is very un Irish.

    The poppy isn’t specific to the two world wars, but to the British armed forces. So supporting it is supporting every action by the British armed forces.

    Sure the British would like you to see it through the prism of the 2nd world war (the 1st one wasn’t something to be proud of) but unfortunately it’s about every British army action since day dot, including the wholesale butchery of people from all four corners of the globe, a proud tradition of murder that continues to this day.

  • Neil

    While one nationalist leader may be fading out from the northern scene, another is exhibiting real poise and growing self confidence.

    Web definition of poise:
    1. A state of balance or equilibrium; stability.
    2. Freedom from affectation or embarrassment; composure.
    3. The bearing or deportment of the head or body; mien.
    4. A state or condition of hovering or being suspended.

    So presumably we can dispose of options one and four, and given the subject’s stature, probably three as well.

    So we have freedom from affectation or embarrasment and composure. It would be difficult to describe the shrill and exciteable woman as ‘composed’, and she does seem to be free of embarrasment and as you say, more confident.

    I would point out that quite regularly those people that are free from embarrasment and confident are regularly the wrong people. We all know some people who should be more embarrassed and less confident. I would imagine that description fits Worzel well.

    Finally I appreciate the fact that you mention her freedom from embarrasment as it acknowledges the fact that she should be embarrassed. Nationalist? With her poppy on her lapel, and doing her best to ensure no Nationalist gets elected in F&ST she seems more Unionist to me.

  • Anon

    Hnnngh. “Self confident”? No, bloody stupid and completely without understanding. If you wear the poppy, then you are implictly endorsing what it stands for — all military fetishism that goes with it. By all means, give a donation that’ll go to old soldiers– easily justified on the Christian grounds of loving one’s enemies but don’t associate yourself with a set of principles that you are against, and your electorate is against.

    Simialrly with the Queen. Did she bend the knee? Courtesy? Call her “Her Majesty” and not look her in the eye and the rest? The problem isn’t MMG can’t meet the Queen. the problem is the Queen can’t meet MMG on an equal footing. He was at least elected.

  • Brian Walker

    fitz.. Since you ask, I think Poppy wearing on TV is now overdone and too long. I rather approve of Jon Snow’s absention (up to Armistice Day when he did wear it), and attack on ” poppy fascism.” I acquit the British Legion of responsibility. They want a good few weeks to gather funds, now targeted at £36m this year.

    But of course there is a special resonance in NI. Throughout Ireland as a whole this is an aspect of coming to terms with the whole past and evolving new and better relationships. It’s a crab-like untidy business but on the whole a healthy one.

    The nearest if inexact equivalent for unionism would be wearing the shamrock as part of the all Ireland identity
    ( which I was brought up to do ). Not the Easter lilly. There was little or no identifcatiion with 1916 ( yes I know Ernest Blythe and Garret’s mum.. but very little. I did approve of the PSNI recruit who was allowed to wear his grandad’s Easter Rising medal at passing out parade. )

    On poppy wearing itself, the trouble is, once a precedent is set it, it’s almost impossible to change it. The one consolation is that although the subject has been rehearsed on Slugger it seems to have dropped out of serious controversy. So be grateful for small mercies.

    btw I also think the live coverage an highlights of Remembrance Sunday are now overproduced and oversentimentalised.

  • SM, I invited Conall McDevitt to elaborate on his NI is a region portrayal. He described it as a region of (the island of) Ireland and as a region of Europe. He left out region of the UK whereas the 1998 Agreement embraces all of these regions – and IMO should the Shared Society.

    The 50%+1 arrangement also runs counter to a Shared Society, hence my suggestion of Shared Sovereignty. The latter already exists to a considerable degree but IMO it should have been part of the Agreement.

    Instead, Unionists and Nationalists have cherry-picked the Agreement and the 50%+1 thingy remains a virility test that the UUP-SDLP spectrum loses out on.

  • pippakin


    Ireland does not have to endorse anything. In commemorating Irish deaths there is no reason to go beyond that. Personally I don’t care, nor do I see any reason why Ireland has to use the Poppy if they choose not to, they could choose the Cornflower as the French do, or the Shamrock which might be more fitting here, but it is right to recognise those Irish people who died in the two world wars.

    Margaret Ritchie is in a different position in that she is meant to be representing all the people of her constituency and her party.

  • Neil

    Sorry pippakin but I can’t see the reply, or about half the comments on the threads, must be a bug of some kind.

  • Chris

    “…to jump onto Alliance Party ground. Utter Utter Rubbish.”

    I agree. Utter Rubbish. Surely they are pushing hard into UUP ground?

  • Nunoftheabove

    I’m not yet over the inclusion of the oxymoronic reference to “Progressive nationalism”, myself…

  • Nunoftheabove


    Correct; she could, after all, make the prospect of a more progressive form of ‘sharing’ (which, after all, in essence we have no choice over anyway since we all live here) become real by abandoning centre-right catholic nationalism altogether.

  • Turgon

    I I think that it is sad that Ritchie wearing a poppy is worth of comment at all.

    I can understand the arguments that it is progressive or whatever; that it is a symbol of reaching out or whatever. I also understand those who regard the poppy as unacceptable.

    I would be irritated if Ritchie wore it to reach out to me and indeed would reject any such reaching out. I am also irritated that Brian Walker proclaims it as an advance.

    The reason I wear a poppy is to remember those who died. I remember those whom I knew and indeed all those who died: including soldiers of the German army etc. I googled Michael Wittman (mentioned by Driftwood above) and the most telling thing in the Wikipedia bit for me was not the details of his military career but that he was married only a year before he died at the age of 30. That was a sad loss of life. Now he was an SS officer and I am pleased that his tank was stopped from killing any more Allied soldiers. However, it is still sad that that young man and his comrades died.

    The abuse of the poppy: be it by its use in jingoism in Britain or its use as a badge of Proddishness here is inappropriate. Wearing it to reach out to unionists is also inappropriate.

    Wear it to remember those who died. Do not trumpet it. I have detailed why I wear mine before. I do not want need or desire anyone’s praise, censure or permission for so doing; I ask no one else to wear or not to wear it. If Ritchie wishes to wear a poppy then she should do so. I do not comment on her motives one way or the other and those who speculate on them seem to demean both her decision and the deaths of those we remember.

    In actual fact of course those who speculate on her motives merely demean themselves.

  • Conall McDevitt
    About to go on @wendytalksback to debate whether the South could afford a united Ireland and what unity means.

  • Anon

    Is he wearing a poppy?

  • Nunoftheabove

    It’s a matter of individual conscience, of course. I do think that a lot more people could comfortably and spontaneously adopt it as a more natural humanist gesture of ‘pure’ dead remembrance were it not so needlessly explicitly patriotic and so militaristic in nature.

    It can, from a British point of view, be entirely justified to ‘celebrate’ as part of that commemoration some of what was fought for and which prevailed as a consequence of victory in WW2. It was a necessary but appalling war that had to be fought and a lot of political rights and freedoms were killed for and died for. That’s worth remembering, if you’re British. Important, even. It should be more important than it is to those who aren’t British though too which is why it’s regrettable that the poppy business is currently exclusionist.

    Nothing of the sort however can be said in relation to WW1, which should be commemorated more appropriately with rage by the relatives of those who died vis-a-vis the ruling classes who sent the hungry working (and workless) poor to their deaths in their millions for the defence of trade routes.

    The inclusion of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are a matter of debate. I would personally see the war on Afghanistan as a necessary one and the Iraq one as probably inevitable at some point – regime change was necessary, the means of securing support for it and conducting it another matter entirely.

    The fact however that charitable appeals appears to continue to be needed at all in order to support the injured, survivors etc following these conflicts has always seemed to me to be a disgrace though.

  • Seymour Major


    In fairness to Ritchie, she is not suggesting that she is “reaching out” to you or unionists at all. In fact, nobody before you on this thread has used the words “reach” or “reaching.” Ritchie makes it quite clear that she has chosen to remember the war dead.

    However, when somebody or some group is able to move forward from a previous position of intolerance, I do not see why it should be not be acknowledged as a good thing.

  • Anon

    The nearest if inexact equivalent for unionism would be wearing the shamrock as part of the all Ireland identity
    ( which I was brought up to do ). Not the Easter lilly.

    So the equivalent of the Irish Nationalist pay their respects to the Black and Tans, the soldiers on Bloody Sunday et al, not to mention the fetishism of the British Armed forces in geneeral and the ackowledgement of WW1 as anything other than a imperial bloodbath is for Unionists to acknowledge they are maybe, possibly a bit Irish and that the Shamrock is accoiated with this rock.

    Unionists have some pretty strange ideas on what’s reasonable. The depressing thing is that teh

  • Anon

    The nearest if inexact equivalent for unionism would be wearing the shamrock as part of the all Ireland identity
    ( which I was brought up to do ). Not the Easter lilly.

    So the equivalent of the Irish Nationalist pay their respects to the Black and Tans, the soldiers on Bloody Sunday et al, not to mention the fetishism of the British Armed forces in geneeral and the ackowledgement of WW1 as anything other than a imperial bloodbath is for Unionists to acknowledge they are maybe, possibly a bit Irish and that the Shamrock is accoiated with this rock.

    Unionists have some pretty strange ideas on what’s reasonable. The depressing thing is that constant pressur eis applied here towards middle ground fallacies, and the SDLP don’t have the wit to resist it.

  • Turgon

    That is fine. However, I do not really want anyone reaching out to me over the poppy. I regard wearing it or not wearing it as a personal issue. Any attempt to go beyond that starts down the road of politicising it and making of it something different which of course brings us back to the initial problem which lea to the pppy being a problem.

    I do not think Ritchie not wearing a poppy was intolerant. I would not be so arrogant as to presume to comment on her motives for not wearing one. Furthermore I would not regard her decision to wear one as tolerant: again I am not so arrogant as to comment.

    It is this second guessing of the reasons to start to, stop or continue to wear the poppy which have helped cause the problem over it in the first place.

  • Sam

    5/5 for petty comments and small minded bigotry Alan.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Mr Walker ……thank you for nearly clarifying your stance on BBC/UTV poppy wearing. You didnt quite bring yourself to say that you would back a (former) colleague who decided he didnt want to wear one…….which would be of course the same right that Ms Ritchie exercises. Quite properly.
    And much more maturely than me…..
    but the little local compromise here was to banish non-wearers to the radio. Surely no NUJ policy would condone that discrimination.

    the problem for me is that it CAN give the right kind of re-assurance to unionists……and it CAN give the wrong kind. Ms Ritchie is mature enough to just do the right thing….for herself.
    People across the spectrum perhaps you and I included….well certainly I ………attribute more to it than there actually is. And thats the problem with this god-forsaken place and old fogeys like me.
    Some of us cant see past the whole “UK” bit on the city of culture thing. Some of us need the comfort. Some of us need the comfort of ignoring it. Pathetic.
    The SDLP is doing rather well with the whole outreach thing. But I seriously doubt that the admiration of “moderate unionists” over for example Ms Ritchies gesture would actually translate into a vote.
    Ms Ritchie won her leadership election either narrowly or “reasonably ” comfortably but certainly not by an overwhelming majority. In fairness those SDLP people who voted against her leadership have lined up behind her.
    But it is reasonable to ask if Alastair McDonnell would have initiated this……or indeed the several SDLP warhorses….Hume, Mallon, McGrady, Farren, Logue, Feely, Gallagher, Byrne, Dallat…………..all men who have served their times in the trenches confronting Sinn Féin.
    Yet I readily acknowledge that I made such a bad job of the Past that I have no right to claim the Future as mine.
    But the outreach IS challenging. For me the presence of Davey Adams was “challenging”.
    The presence of Dr Norman Hamilton the Moderator was not challenging. His assertion that he would like to see the Catholics of Ardoyne openly welcome the “loyal orders” (of which he had never been a member) was perhaps over-optimistic but something the SDLP Conference wanted to hear.
    But the first person to speak from the floor was a SDLP veteran concillor and local leader of the Ancient Order of Hibernians who pointed out that his organisation did not go to places where they were not wanted.
    Now that councillor was also engaging in “outreach”. He certainly has a valid point. “Outreach” has to be about Truth.
    And “splitting the difference” is a bad form of compromise.

    And this is the problem Ms Ritchies SDLP face. Her gesture is welcomed by unionists who see the “shamrock” as having an equal status with the “poppy”. She is dealing with people who see no equality in tradition.

  • Jean Meslier

    Anyone who believes poppy wearing is just about remembering British soldiers dying in two world wars is naive and ignorant in equal measures.

    The red poppy symbol “Haig Fund” (Remember him?) was launched as a money raising tool in 1926. The No More War Movement suggested the British Legion should print “No More War” in the centre of the red poppies instead of “Haig Fund” as an indication of genuine non-jingoistic remembrance.
    This request was rejected and the “Haig Fund” logo was incredibly continued until 1994!!! -Talk about foxes guarding the hen houses!!! – You couldn’t make it up. Haig was the man who, amongst others, sent thousands of young British soldiers to their doom on a weekly basis!!! OK but what does the BL do? They only go and put the name of the chief “donkey” as the head of the appeal. So by 1926 – it was still lions being lead by donkeys. You would think the British working people (ie the cannon fodder) suffered from long term collective amnesia!!!
    This is clear evidence, if evidence were needed, that the red poppy is inextricably linked with Britain’s war mongering past – and present as portrayed by her illegal second invasion of Afghanistan.
    Just as a matter of interest re: the 1st invasion.- In 1837 the British invaded Afghanistan on the basis of intelligence about a non-existent threat: information about a single Russian envoy to Kabul was manipulated to create a scare about a phantom Russian invasion. (Now where have we heard this before?).
    170 odd years later the Rule Britannia jingo sounds out as strong as ever. But, worse than that, they then have the audacity to tell us to endorse it by wearing THEIR symbol to support an invasion that nobody in these islands voted for.
    In Afghanistan last night a British soldier from County Derry was killed in this futile example of post-colonialism in a place no-one knows neither the name of nor (outside his mourning family) really cares. Crocodile tears will be shed on News at Ten, but no justification for this young mans death will be given because no justification is possible.

    The red poppy –from its inception- was and still is the symbol of British, imperialistic ascendancy.

    If Ms Ritchie GENUINELY wanted to honour the Irish people who died in the British forces she could have chosen to wear the white poppy, which has been available since 1934, in response to the imperialistic red poppy, and originally distributed by the Peace Pledge Union.
    I would suggest Maggie’s red poppy wearing was more of a cynical ploy to court the unionist vote, previously and unquestionally available to her predecessor in the south Down constituency for Westminster elections, than any effort at commemoration.
    The red poppy is not neutral. The remembrance day march past in London recognizes ALL British wars, including their involvement in their murder campaigns from India, Kenya, Palestine, Aden, Cyprus, Ireland, Malvinas, Iraq and Afghanistan. When an individual wears the red poppy she associates with these campaigns.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Can I ask whether you are a supporter of:

    (i) the racist, sexist, homophobic, totalitarian and racist taliban;

    (ii) their pro-imperialist fascist ‘comrdaes’ in Iraq;

    (iii) a supporter of the La última Dictadura in Argentina,

    to name but three.

  • The Haig connection has always been contraversial some ex soldiers refused to have anything to do with the BL because of it others said it was because the sdistic bastard felt guilty, regardless the poppy has outlived the man.

    All countries commemorate the members of their armed services and the British are no different. Ireland does not have to recognise the poppy, the French don’t and nor do the Americans, Its the British way and up to them, why should we care.

    I see it as about ireland commemorating those Irish people who died in the WWs. It is not necessary to wear a poppy to do that, perhaps Ireland should choose an emblem and use that on Armistice day.

    Note the meaning of Armistice = truce, not surrender.

  • fathomline

    What should preclude any democrat from wearing an Easter Lily is if it is purveyed by defenders of Provo atrocities and the money collected goes into Provo coffers. It has by default become a purely Provo symbol. If a genuinely neutral commemorative body or perhaps the Irish government were to promote the Easter Lily that would be a different matter.

  • firbolg

    My son attends an integrated school. I was shocked at the extent to which the poppy is re-packaged for cross community consumption. There is no discussion in an educational conetxt, as to the original meaning and the contrversy around this symbol, certainly none of the history cited by Meslier. This year – rather bizarrely – the poppy was linked to Hiroshima and packaged as a peace symbol! (Haig – would be turning in his grave). How ironic that the combattants who dropped the bomb where commerated at the same time as the thousands of men women and children they slaughterd. Indeed it is odd that there is no similar commemeration for the millions of civilians who died in conflicts since WW1. But of course that would lead to recognition of the fact that these millions of civilians from Dresden to Nagasaki were killed almost exclusively by…..well… combatants.
    Good photo of Mags Ritchie – will pull the votes in

  • Rory Carr

    I rather think, Neil that perhaps definition No. 4 is even more suitable:

    4. A state or condition of hovering or being suspended.

    It is so easy to envision the Blessed Margaret (II) as the Christmas Fairy in a school pantomime, suspended above the stage as though hovering and declaiming in an unearthly voice sugary platitudes of peace and love for all.

  • gearoid

    The SDLP leader cannot simply cherry-pick which parts of the British army she supports by wearing the poppy. Ohh if only it were that simple Margaret.

    By wearing the poppy she is commemorating British imperialism across the world. And If Ritchie wants to act as a cheerleader for such expansionism then good luck to her – just don’t try to dress it up as brave politics

  • firbolg

    So ..Mags Ritchies justifies wearing the poppy in terms of ‘engaging accross the divide’ . Admirable intentions – and maybe a few votes in it …Will we see her wear a lilly at Easter?. After all if she can commemerate those from this island who fought in the service of the crown in WW1, WW2 and subsequent conflicts ( from Redmond to James Magennis alongside ‘Bomber Harris’ and .the ex-servicemen of the Paras) – can she not also commemorate those who died in the two wars on THIS island – the War of Independence and the Civil War? Is she as willing to show respect for the ‘fallen’ from her own nationalist heritage as she is in respect of all of the above. I won’t hold my breath….

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    I have to some extent agree with FirBolg.
    When my sons were 10 and 8 they attended a “state school” of just 50 kids in a rural setting. The reason I must add was entirely because of Geography..we were renting for about nine months while this house was being built. And kept them there afterwards as a gesture of gratitude to the teachers who were struggling against being closed.
    We had absolutely no problem with teachers.
    Parents were a different story. It was after all a school where “Parents Night” fitted a single classroom. Some parents went out of their way to make us welcome while the stern “saved” types avoided us.
    Likewise the young Minister (Church of Ireland) and his wife who had three kids there were very good to us. But curiously listening to the school governora local UUP Councillor it was pretty evident that the Haedmistress or the Minister had not warned him that thered be a couple of Fenians among them.
    WE did send #1 son to a newly integrated secondary school. This was a deliberate choice on our part as we actually believed in it. And unfortunately it was a bad choice. We withdrew #1 son after about 2 years and #2 son never went there.
    Watching them dealing with “cross community” issues was amusing as much as interesting. Like the special meeting given over to a choice of sports where we were visited by Hockey and GAA types from the House of Sports.
    But ultimately the biggest test of ANY school is. …..simple. Is it a good school?
    This one wasnt.
    There is no divine right that says a bad integrated school is a better choice than an excellent “state” or “Catholic school”.
    The lesson we learned was that we have no right to experiment with our childrens education for ideological reasons….no matter how noble.
    I think there was a “poppy” issue. But I dont recall the details.
    Could parents legitimately object to a teacher or pupil wearing a poppy? Its all about “in loco parentis” and a neutral environment surely. Or does the poppy get special dispensation.
    I cant actually recall anyone wearing a shamrock other than on one day but as Mr Walker points out the poppy is worn longer and longer in advance of the day.
    But in a school setting with a bank/public holiday ……are shamrocks actually worn IN school. I suspect that those who see the shamrock balancing the poppy would object if a large number of staff and pupils decided to wear the shamrock for weeks on end.

    But I go back to the words of Dr Norman Hamilton at the SDLP Conference. He said that there is no such thing as “value free education”. He is right.
    As far as possible I want the ethos of a school to reflect MY ethos. Im sure thats clear for a lot of parents. And not necessarily a bad thing. Id want my kids at a school which was broadly neutral. Wearing a poppy would breach that for me.
    Actually I envisage this as the next cause celebre in the News Letter and maybe even Slugger. What happens when a Head Teacher tells a kid at St Marys in Ballygobackwards that a poppy breaches neutrality ethos.
    What happens when the News Letter gets hold of that.
    What happens when parents withold their children because of the poppy.
    What happens when Easter lilies start to appear in neutral schools.
    Unionist commentators might try and say “ah the poppy isnt political……and if it is its a mis-use” but in real politick it wont work.
    In areas of competing rights, whose “right” does the SDLP politician uphold?
    This one will… they say…… and run.
    An Easter lily?

  • Nunoftheabove

    How do you know what her heritage is ? Not everyone from Ireland who fought and died in WW1 and WW2 was unionist, still less protestant.

    And do you call into question the need for or legitimacy of the fight against Nazism in WW2 incidentally ?

  • redhugh78

    There’s only one ‘nationalist’ leader fading out of Irish politics and it aint Gerry Adams.

  • socaire

    When you look at Miss Ritchie’s composed and solemn face, do you wonder what is going through her mind? Does she wonder if any of the money gathered goes to Black and Tans, RUC A,B and C Specials, the likes of Nairac, the UDR, the RUCR or the well meaning squaddies who populated this island, in one form or another, for hundreds of years? The people who see her and who have had relatives murdered by the above are allowed a dry boke.

  • joeCanuck

    No, no, no. I can’t imagine that many who wear it do it in celebration. They, and me, do it in mourning for all soldier’s useless deaths. War is necessary sometimes but WW1, which inspired the poppy, was senseless in the extreme.

  • Jack

    Northern Ireland is different from the rest of Britain

    No where else in Britain was there troops on the streets shoot to kill or interment without trial smashed up your house or beat you up just for the fun of it

    The money from the sale of the poppy goes towards those soldiers who did and go away with those brutal crimes

    Remember what David Camroon said about Bloody Sunday that it was “unjustifed and unjustifable”

    The money from the sale of those poppies goes towards those very soldiers
    Is that right?

    By Margaret Richie is “forgetting” what the soldiers did to her very own people

    How would she feel if they did that to her or her family or friends??

    What about all those soldiers who rape pliggage and murder in the ILLEGAL invasion of Iraq and the war in Afganistan??
    Are they hereos??
    Rapeist?? Murders Killing Children??

    Wearing the poppy is a very politically charged thing to do in Nothern Ireland it is nailing your colours to the mast.
    And Margret Richie knows that

    We do have a day to commerate all Irish men and women who fought in ALL wars/conflicts and who serve for Ireland (for peaceful reason under UN mandate)
    Not just to remember the Paddies who were lead to their deaths in droves for King/Queen and Country

    Its called the National Day of Commeration and it’s on the nearest Sunday to July 11th the day the truce was signed
    That is not a controversional day at all
    What about Irish men who served in US army Why not remember them too?
    Why just are former/ imperialist ruler?
    This means that we are subservant to britian and ashamed of our idenity
    Any Irish man who served in a british army when he could serve in the irish army is a traitor and deserves to be forrgotten

    People in the former Soviet Republic wouldn’t dare “commerate” there people who fought with the red army so why should we?
    Irish men were cannon fodder for britain

    WW1 ended a hell of a long time ago forget it get over it
    Live goes on no other country goes on about WW1 like Britain does its pathetic most people in Europe forgotten about it

    Finally Britain has gone poppy mad like a festival for remeberence are you mad? a festival how screw up is that
    No other country in the world goes so OTT with its commerations its really physio it was never this bad

    Britain declares wars on poppies to fight for poppies to die for poppies to wear a poppies it’s all about the poppies

  • mike scott

    I’d wager that Margaret is preparing the way for her old mentor Eddie McGrady to take a seat in the Lords. That’ll be the next move.

  • Republic of Connaught

    I think that’s the most fair minded and sensible post I have ever read from Turgon.

  • Kevin Barry

    As a nationalist, come election day I have a problem when deciding who to vote for: on the one hand you have SF who are incredibly tarnished and on matters such as economics I think they are incoherent, but when it comes to cultural matters that I are important to me (Irish Medium schools, for example) they will fight for the requisite resources.

    On the other you have the SDLP who are willing to compromise and try and create a consensus which is needed in NI, however, the problem is, in my opinion, they seem to be willing to compromise on that which is important to nationalists, and in this instance it is with regard to something that is a symbol for those that have directly effected many adversely.

    Margaret said

    “We therefore do not feel the need to airbrush out of history the sacrifice of many thousands of Irish Nationalists who fought in the two world wars. We accept the realities of our journey and we want to improve on the past.”

    Yes, but she seems to forget the deaths of many at the hands of the British forces here in Ireland or abroad in incidents I shall not list but are well documented. I have said that I have no problem with people remembering the dead, it is the symbol I have a problem with.

    I stated, in detail, on a separate thread my opposition to the poppy in its current guise celebrating all of those who have fought for the Crown and I shall not get drawn here.

    Unfortunately, come election day my vote is usually decided upon by a process of elimination and it won’t be going to her

  • Kevin Barry

    Apologies, but lots of grammatical errors and spelling errors above

  • Jean Meslier

    (i) The Taliban are all of the above. But they are also freedom fighters.

    (ii) Is this the same “fascist” Iraq which was armed and backed by the Yanks
    and Brits in the 80’s to fight Iran?

    (iii) I don’t recall the British Government sending any gunboats, aircraft
    carriers etc to the South China Sea in 1997.

  • alanmaskey

    Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was civis Romanus sum. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Wee County man!’… All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Louth, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words ‘Ich bin ein Louthman!’

    So let Ritchie come to Cox’ Demense and Cooley, Duleek, Drogheda and Dundalk. Sure they’ll all be great places after Gerry saves them.
    I’d go a bit easy on the Poppies there though. Bitter weeds and all that.

  • alanmaskey

    It might be the same one Churchill used poison gas on.

  • firbolg

    How do you know what her heritage is ?

    What is your point? I refer to her ‘nationalist heritage’ – she is leader of a nationalist party..with a declared aim of re-unification by peaceful means!

    Not everyone from Ireland who fought and died in WW1 and WW2 was unionist, still less protestant.

    Again your point? Did you read the post? – James Magennis -( RC) from the Falls Rd winner of VC, WW2, Willie Redmond (RC) brother of leader of Irish Nationalist party, killed WW1

    And do you call into question the need for or legitimacy of the fight against Nazism in WW2 incidentally ?

    No- not at all.- just the legitimacy of the poppy

  • firbolg

    How do you know what her heritage is ?

    What is your point? I refer to her ‘nationalist heritage’ – she is leader of a nationalist party..with a declared aim of re-unification by peaceful means!

    Not everyone from Ireland who fought and died in WW1 and WW2 was unionist, still less protestant.

    Again your point? Did you read the post? – James Magennis -( RC) from the Falls Rd winner of VC, WW2, Willie Redmond (RC) brother of leader of Irish Nationalist party, killed WW1

    And do you call into question the need for or legitimacy of the fight against Nazism in WW2 incidentally ?

    No- not at all.