Remembrance and @newbelfast

Normally I am on here to write about what politicians are doing wrong and why they need to do better. Today, I want to bring you something completely different as there is one politician who deserves real praise and that’s the Mayor of Belfast, Mairtin O Muilleoir.

This time of year is always an emotive one for Irish nationalism. I have my own views about how we need to commemorate this day and those who died. For Sinn Fein it’s an especially difficult decision as many supporters are uncomfortable with symbols like the poppy. However, this year Mayor O Muilleoir has really made a genuine attempt to reach out and commemorate this event in a way that none of his predecessors have. Yesterday, the City Hall was lit up red as a tribute to those who have died in the various wars that the British army has encountered over the years. But today the Belfast Telegraph revealed, he will become the first Sinn Fein Lord Mayor to attend an Armistice Day celebration.

Moves like this are welcome and while I have  no doubt he will have some detractors from both sides I find it refreshing to see a politician making a genuine attempt to reach out to the other community. For this the Mayor deserves praise as it would be all too easy for him to just sit back and ignore the event.

There are times when I genuinely think we are going nowhere as a community, but today seeing acts like this give me hope that we can begin to mend fences and build some lasting bridges for the future. Politicians from whatever party who attempt to do this deserve credit and here’s hoping that the Mayor’s actions today can open the door for more of his party colleagues to similar things.

Mairtin O Muilleoir attending Armistice Day ceremony-picture courtesy of Rebecca Black

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  • son of sam

    David
    Perhaps you could clarify where Mairtin was yesterday and why he is suddenly available today for the Armistice ceremony.Hopefully it’s a lead that his colleagues in other councils can follow.

  • David McCann

    He was in Toronto from what I can find out. That’s why he was not at anything yesterday I think he only got back yesterday.

  • socaire

    Ó Muilleoir, if I remember, had relatives who fought/died in the war to end all wars and if that is correct he has as much incentive to be there as anybody else. Gird your political loins for the coming undignified scramble to take seats in the mother of parliaments. The countdown begins.

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    a positive move, well done him

  • Tir Chonaill Gael

    It’s “Remembrance”, not “Rememberance”.

  • “Moves like this are welcome”

    I’d also like to see Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness accompany David Cameron and Enda Kenny on their visits to Messines and Menin Gate and for the Ulster Tower at Thiepval to be added to the list – a London, Dublin and Belfast commemoration.

  • David McCann

    Tir,

    Good shout-didn’t even realise-fixed.

  • tacapall

    A picture tells a thousand words, the body language says everything, hands in pockets, no kowtowing. This is playing to the gallery and I dont think its the unionists gallery. He just looks like he wished he was somewhere else, but its a step forward however choreographed it looks, like a lot of recent and begrudgingly spoken words and steps from the various parties..

  • Charles_Gould

    Credit where credit is due.

    I had high hopes of Mairtin O Muilleoir when he took over.

    Yesterday I complained about his absence from the Sunday Rememberance event. I was disappointed.

    Today I want to take back and apologise for my words: Mairtin deserves a lot of credit for attending this Armistice Event today. It means a lot – sincerely.

    This is a very heartening thing. Thank you Mairtin.

  • Charles_Gould

    He is a leader.

  • Mc Slaggart

    As a nationalist it has struck me how little the UK remembrance has moved on with the passing of the years. The Royal British Legion have used the day as a marketing and cash raising day to the point at which the white poppy is never seen in “Northern Ireland”

    Its a funny sort of remembrance when even the French are not included.

    or even ones allies who took part are not included in the event.

  • JR

    Fair play to him I suppose. If it is important for Unionists for the mayor to participate in their particular version of comemmoration then so be it. I have visited a number of the battlefields from the first and second world war and am sure I feel as strongly as any Unionist on the victims of those conflicts but I wouldn’t feel comfortable attending a rememberance day event in Northern Ireland.

  • David Crookes

    Thanks, Mr O Muilleoir.

  • willieric

    he is the lord mayor of a UK city for goodness’ sake………where else should he be on Armistice day but at a commemorative event? It is his job.

  • ThomasPaine

    willieric, in a country where we seemed to be heading backwards on a monthly basis, any sort of positive cross community out reach must be jumped on and praised no end in order to encourage such behaviour. And make no mistake, in this part of the world a Republican remembering war dead is a cross community act given how remembrance and the wearing of a poppy has been so grotesquely sectarianized. (by both communities and along with a multitude of other things, like the Gaeilge language)

    I’ve noticed a few people on here and elsewhere sniping at O Muilleoir’s body language, which in fairness could have been better.

    But above all the awkward aesthetics, one thing is clear – despite feeling remarkably uncomfortable, a Sinn Fein Lord Mayor attended an Armistice Day ceremony. Small steps……

  • Mc Slaggart

    ThomasPaine

    “remembrance and the wearing of a poppy has been so grotesquely sectarianized”

    The responsibility for that lies with the British legion. They are a good organisation which I can fully understand do good work. The issue is how they have welded “remembrance” with fund raising for ex service people.

  • Clanky

    Mairtin O Muilleoir has for me been the outstanding politician of the year. His efforts to reach across the sectarian divide have been an example which should be followed by all, on both sides of the divide.

    As for the British Legion being responsible for sectarianising the poppy, I have to disagree McS, the British legion and the Hague fund exist for exactly the purpose of raising money to support British ex service personnel, regardless of one’s feelings towards the British state or the British army as an institution surely you can see the need for the British nation to take care of it’s ex service personnel?

    If you choose not to support them then that is up to you, but that is you sectarianising the event, not them.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Clanky

    The British legion have turned “remembrance” into an event all about the military and British military at that.

    The French for example have for the longest time had the Germans at their Remembrance events.

    “Advertising of the Poppy Appeal has sometimes been controversial, even offensive. In 1989, it featured a photomontage showing German soldiers with Nazi banners marching past the Houses of Parliament. Accompanying slogans told how British forces had stood ‘between us and oblivion’. ‘They gave their all to stop the seemingly unstoppable.’ Rather like terrorism today, the Nazi threat of the 1940s was used to create a sense of fear – and to encourage poppy sales.”

    http://www.ppu.org.uk/whitepoppy/red_legion.html

  • Dixie Elliott

    O’ Muilleoir once again shows that Sinn Fein, the so called peacemakers, are hypocrites by taking part in the British glorification of war.

    Yet his party has for the last two years tried, without success, to prevent people from attending the annual Bloody Sunday March.

  • Charles_Gould

    It is actually quite interesting to see the various responses of people on this thread.

  • sherdy

    To the best of my knowledge none of my forebears have fought or died in either of the two world wars, so I have no natural affinity towards poppies or remembrance.
    But I would have thought, if the government so appreciated the service and sacrifice of so many thousands of soldiers, they would support those who made it home again, or the families of those who didn’t.
    There is a lot of talk about honour and dignity in such remembrance, but what honour and dignity are involved when these veterans have to beg year after year for financial support for as long as they live.

  • Rory Carr

    My grandfather fell during the retreat from Mons in the very early days of WW1. His brother, my grand-uncle lost an eye in that engagement. An adopted brother of my father was also lost in action somewhere in that conflict, his remains never found.

    Last evening I watched a documentary film concerning the heroic actions of Canadian troops who took Juno beach on D-Day 1944. A survivor of that action told how his function was as paymaster and he was there specifically to record the names of the dead in order that their pay might be stopped forthwith. Comment is superfluous.

    I do not wear a poppy. I would not wear a poppy. Nor have I, nor will I attend at any Remembrance Day commemoration. I am not, however, Lord Mayor of Belfast and I do understand the importance of the gesture he has made today. It was brave of him, farsighted and, I trust, will be met by an appropriate response from both communities.

    But I am still hidebound by all that I was and all that I am and I do find it all a wee bit too rich for my blood. So it is probably a very good idea that I am not Lord Mayor of Belfast. There will be, I imagine, few to disagree.

  • HammerTime

    Fair play to him. If only more Shinners were like him they would be more palatable to Unionists.

  • Dixie Elliott

    Rory Carr Sinn Fein have scraped the bottom of the barrel and dragged up the leader of the Irish Parliamentary Party, John Redmond…

    In effect, the Adamsites have become Redmondites.

    Ó’Muilleoir today…..

    “…Remember also the fact that many of those who died, many of the Irishmen who died had joined the British army to fight for the freedom of Belgium, the freedom of small nations. Many for Home Rule and the independence of Ireland as well.

    And we need to make sure that they’re written into the story and we pay respect to those Irishmen as well…”

  • USA

    Well done O’Meuillior. Shame to see some unionists being so petty as to critique his “body language”. He had every reason to be nervous given the way he was disgracefully attacked the last time he tried to reach out to the Unionist community.

    Tacapl, get your facts right. In the pic above his hands are placed behind his back, not in his pockets. Also, he had just got off a plane from North America (Toronto). Those flights leave at 9pm and arrive in Ireland early the next morning. He may not even have slept on the plane. If there is no direct flight to Belfast from Toronto them he would also have travelled North by car from Dublin. Planes, trains and automobiles so cut the fella a bit of slack. You just want to be offended. Or is your “ceremony” only for unionists? What about making your rituals more inclusive or are Catholics still not welcome? “Body language says it all”….. wise up, the fact that he arrived and personally participated in the ceremony “says it all”. He didn’t delegate it to anyone and travelled thousands of miles to make this gesture to the Unionist community. I’m sure when he finally got home he went straight to bed.

  • USA

    BTW, my grandfather was evacuated from Dunkirk but died and was buried in England. His father (my great-grandfather) fell at the 3rd battle of Passhendale on the Ypres Salient, Nov 1917. I have visited both their grave sites and left poppies. I also keep poppies in the house beside their pictures. However at this time of year i find myself uncomfortable with the British “obsession” with the poppy. Every tv personality, sports figure etc is practically forced to wear one for weeks prior to remembrance Sunday. In the end i did not wear my poppy as I felt bullied into it, and this demeaned and devalued the gesture.

  • Droch_Bhuachaill

    I’ll just throw it out there: what are the odds of a DUP Mayor wearing an Easter Lily as a sign of ‘outreach’ to the nationalist population of Belfast?

    Answers on a postcard…

  • Chinook

    As always with SF,we need to read between the lines.There is ALWAYS an ulterior motive behind their front.It doesn’t come as any great surprise to me,especially when one is quite aware that the commemoration of the 1916 Rising is creeping closer.Indeed,SF inbuilt hatred of anything British was proven in the most childish of ways when their previous Lord Mayor refused to give an award to an Army cadet.MO’s attendance would have been given more credence if he had donned a poppy, or at least laid a wreath.I have more respect for Enda Kenny than SF.

  • Greenflag

    The Lord Mayor did the right thing . He should be commended for that much at least . Personally and having several relatives who fought in both word wars I have a tough time in particular re WW1 which imo was fought by Europe’s imperial powers because they could’nt think of not having war .We forget that Europe had enjoyed 44 years of peace and huge progress had been made in those forty four years in many areas of science and technology . Yet 20 million were to die needlessly because the power mad imperialists could’nt do otherwise 🙁 And even worse WW1 set the stage for WW2 .

    To those who saved Ireland and Britain and the rest of the world from the nazis -nobody from these islands should have any problem in at least standing for minute or two’s silence in their memory even if they can’t bring themselves to wear a poppy .And just because one supports a UI politically should be immaterial to these events imo.

  • Greenflag

    Apologies for the typo above ‘Word Wars ” should have been World Wars . The ‘word wars ” as we all know is probably a freudian slip /reference to sluggers trenches 😉

  • Reader

    Droch_Bhuachaill: I’ll just throw it out there: what are the odds of a DUP Mayor wearing an Easter Lily as a sign of ‘outreach’ to the nationalist population of Belfast?
    Very bad analogy. The poppy commemorates both Nationalists and Unionists, whereas the Easter Lily only commemorates Nationalists (or maybe only Republicans?)
    So for comparison you need a symbol important to nationalists and which respects both nationalism and unionism. The Easter Lily doesn’t qualify.

  • Mc Slaggart

    ” The poppy commemorates both Nationalists and Unionists”

    The poppy only commemorates people who was/are members of the British military.

  • Reader

    McSlaggart: The poppy only commemorates people who was/are members of the British military.
    Which includes tens of thousands of Irish nationalists, including very many right now.
    They may not be your sort of Irish nationalists, obviously; and very few who came from, or went into, the armed struggle. But none of those are the deciding factor.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Reader

    “Which includes tens of thousands of Irish nationalists”

    True, you will find Irish Nationalists also joined other European armies. I see fellow Tyrone peoples names on the Boer War Memorials this does not make the Boer war a “Nationalist” event.

    You do give me the impression that you agree that “The poppy only commemorates people who was/are members of the British military.”

  • carl marks

    Can I bring up another wreath laying ceremony at the City Hall.
    The UVF turned dressed as soldiers (when I say the UVF I mean those running it at the moment) and give a show in which a group of criminals and convicted sectarian murderers compared themselves to those like my father and my uncles who fought the Nazis.
    I personally found the comparison offensive (please no” it was the Somme” nonsense both my Grandfathers fought in WW1 one at the Somme) it is surprising that nobody else seems to have noticed this.

  • Reader

    McSlaggart: You do give me the impression that you agree that “The poppy only commemorates people who was/are members of the British military.”
    I hope that’s not a problem. Ireland and the UK are allies in Afghanistan, and good neighbours to each other.
    For clarity, the Poppy appeal *supports* ex-service members and their families, but I don’t think the commemoration is so limited, though it’s difficult to spot the boundaries between RBL outreach and Government outreach.

  • Mc Slaggart

    Reader

    Firstly I think Irish political leaders should pay respect on poppy day as one part of their job is to represent all the people of their elected region.

    RBL in Tyrone do not reach a lot of people who fought in the British military. I know/knew people who earned shinny medals greater than the campaign ones who never when near the poppy day event as they found the whole thing held in such a way that they would be extremely uncomfortable attending.

    That is not my objection. I find the whole event militaristic and “nationalistic”. The very things that the world wars are a lesson against.

  • carl marks

    Reader,
    Any comment on Drug Dealers and pimps dressing up as soldiers and laying a wreath.
    Surely if about respect for those who defended freedom then these people are an insult to the whole thing.
    It’s wonderful how unionists can get uptight about marches and memorials and somehow seem quite happy with the UVF parading!