On Sham Fights, the Poppy & the Lily

As October passes and November’s lengthening nights are upon us, we enter once again into one of the many groundhog phases of our political calendar in Northern Ireland: the annual poppy spat.

Each year, without fail, our politics is temporarily dominated by squabbles and episodes of faux outrage resulting from decisions by political and community leaders in a divided society to refrain from participating actively in remembering the war dead of one set of combatants.

No, I’m not talking about the issue of the non-attendance of unionist politicians at Arbour Hill, Bodenstown or Milltown annually. Nor am I talking about the gross offence caused by unionist politicians not laying wreaths nor wearing Easter Lilies to such gatherings (see what I did there?)

Rather, I’m referring to the decision taken by republicans annually to decline attending British Remembrance events- though republicans have, for more than a decade now, notably laid  wreaths at the British Cenotaph at Belfast City Hall in a gesture of respect for Irishmen who died in World War I in British uniforms.

I wrote this piece five years ago on the very topic of Nationalism and the poppy. Little has changed in the time that has since passed.

In Craigavon, they’re not used to having non-unionists hold high political office and therefore opinions deviating from the unionist norm have historically not featured in the mainstream Council narrative. Keeping Craigavon British has long meant denying legitimacy to The Other through refusing to support the rotation of civic posts amongst non-unionists- not least the lead party within nationalism, Sinn Fein.

Consequently, the decision of the first ever Sinn Fein deputy mayor of Craigavon (not mayor, for that would be going too far for loyal Craigavon), Catherine Seeley, to decline attending the British Legion’s Remembrance Day service has prompted an “emotional” response from DUP Cllr Carla Lockhart.

Let me help Cllr Lockhart out.

The attendance of nationalists and republicans at Remembrance services for deceased British combatants is as logical- or more appropriately, illogical- as unionists attending Irish republican commemorations at Easter time.

Ah, but what about all those Irishmen who fought in World War I, I hear you say? Shouldn’t they be remembered?

Short answer? Of course. And they are, and indeed have been for close on two decades in one form or another across nationalist Ireland. And that is entirely appropriate, for airbrushing history is no basis for a settled, shared and just society at peace with itself.

The life and tragic death of Francis Ledwidge during World War I, war poet/Irish patriot/British soldier, personifies the somewhat contradictory story of Nationalist Ireland during that period which has been told and retold many times in the past decade and beyond.

But it remains as utterly absurd to expect Nationalist Ireland to don poppies and embrace British Remembrance services aimed at remembering all those who died militarily in pursuit of Britain’s interests- including those in Ireland wearing the regimental colours of the Parachute Regiment, Black Watch or indeed UDR- as it would be to demand unionists don Easter lilies and remember all those who died fighting for Irish independence just because many Irish protestants were amongst the ranks of the rebel Irish in both 1798 and during the 1916-23 period.

So let’s put an end to the annual sham fight.

Those wishing to don poppies and attend British Remembrance ceremonies are entitled to expect to be respected in remembering their dead just as much as those who will- or won’t – don Easter lilies to recall Ireland’s Patriot dead at different times of the year.

In time, I would hope our newly amalgamated district councils and the political leaders at Stormont could adopt protocols requiring those holding civic or Executive office to attend at least one remembrance ceremony/event dedicated to remembering those who fell in pursuit of both Britain and Ireland’s causes throughout a calendar year, in November and at Easter, as a means of very publicly demonstrating respect for our differing traditions.

We’re not there yet, but this road has only one destination.

  • Ian James Parsley

    Respectfully (and relatively unusually!) I disagree fundamentally with Chris here.

    The commemoration of the Easter Rising is an entirely one-sided event. Yes, for Chris and others it is the founding myth of a nation. For others, including frankly anyone objective, it’s a bunch of renegades hijacking a train (a good reason they shouldn’t have been executed, admittedly). Nations celebrate their founding myths, I have no problem with that, but it’s a one-sided thing.

    Fighting in the two World Wars was not a one-sided thing. Many in “British” uniform in WW1 fought for the rights of small countries – the British Empire entered, after all, in defence of Belgium. In WW2, ultimately, the fight was to save the world from fascist fanaticism including the attempted extermination of entire peoples. A few people claiming independence on behalf of a Nationalist movement doesn’t remotely bear comparison – objectively.

    That is not to say I insist on people attending Remembrance services, particularly not when these bear the trappings of the British military and even the old Unionist establishment.

    But the comparison between global conflict and a minor proclamation is, objectively, entirely bogus. The focus should in fact be on whether Remembrance can be made more genuinely inclusive – the way the Commemoration of the outbreak of WW1 at the Belfast Cenotaph in August was.

  • carl marks

    the poppy is used inappropriately as a political statement by Unionists, It appears regularly on murals painted in support of loyalists to commemorate their dead (many killed in internal disputes over drugs and other criminal activity’s) i suspect that both the British legion and serving members of the military disapprove of this misuse of the poppy.
    The latest example of this misuse is he mural to David Irvine (before anybody starts jumping up and down, i am not accusing David of being a drug dealer merely pointing out the misuse of the symbol) David to the best of my knowledge David was not a serving soldier so why is he surrounded by poppy’s ?
    when i hear Unionist’s protesting against this misuse and disrespect of the poppy then i will take their complaining about nationalists not wearing or attending poppy laying events seriously, until then it really just mopery!

  • Alan N/Ards

    carl, I have to agree with you regarding this mural. I haven’t seen it and have no interest in seeing it. I’m sure many fallen soldiers (including members of my family) who are buried in foreign fields must be spinning in their graves when these pretend soldiers are remembered in this way. Shameful.

  • Fobhristi

    Ian, I don’t think you read the entirety of Chris’ post. If the poppy was a symbol purely for WW1 and/or WW2 then there simply wouldn’t be an issue. The poppy is used as a symbol to glorify the british army en masse and this includes the individuals who came to this island, murdered irish civilians and then walked away i.e. the poppy is used/misused to be as much about loyalist paramilitaries and the paratroop regiment as it is about the brave soldiers who fought fascism in 2 world wars. Also I don’t think Chris is suggesting that Unionists attending Easter rising events or wearing commemorative symbols as unreasonable, again you missed his point that Unionists not attending such events is entirely reasonable but that this logic doesn’t extend into the unionist mindset

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I’m old enough to remember a time when people who had actually fought in the two world wars pretty much dominated the commemorations. Certainly, Unionist politicians would make a showing, but everyone knew who had fought, and who was simply there for “form” or votes.

    The commemorations have been taken over by those who have no direct links to the services or to either war. Accordingly, we have become all too used to seeing something quite different to the earlier commemorations centred around those who suffered or fell, and accordingly the current celebrations of Britishnes are, as such, abusing the memory of anyone who actually fought in either war in my estimation. When I was young my grandfather (107th Mortars, Thiepval, Messines/Wytschaete, St Quinten) used to point out those carrying wreaths whom he knew had shirked service, using the concession of “neutrality” in WWII and others who had pulled strings to stay out of WWI. Such insincerity does no one any credit, and I cannot see what such men were, or their successors are, commemorating. And if that is unacceptable, no one should be driven for pure political expediency to “honour” those they do not in their hearts truly honour.

    My grandfather was also an Irish speaker, equally proud of the men of 1916, several of whom he had met. We will only ever come of age politically when people can honestly go to either commemoration, not driven by political necessity, but because they can recognise the positive contributions our divergent histories have made to our shared Irishness. This is still a long way off.

  • chrisjones2

    the poppy is used inappropriately as a political statement by Unionists

    He may not have been a drug dealer but the UVF was financed by drug dealing as well as robbery and extortion

  • chrisjones2

    In the same way that the lily is used to glorify child killers and pederasts?

  • chrisjones2

    It all cuts two ways

  • barnshee

    The usual claptrap —amazing how high you can pile sH*t

    The poppy remembers SOLDIERS -people who were often CONSCRIPTED against their wishes- wore a UNIFORM which clearly identified them, were SENT places no sane person would go voluntarily (Afghanistan, the middle of a road in West Belfast Iraq,the bogside in Derry) and paid the price for political incompetence and vacillation

    The lily remembers “volunteers” who (amongst others) deliberately blew up children in cars because their parents happened to be part time soldiers or shot policemen in the back -and then most importantly denied doing it

    Indeed ” let’s put an end to the annual sham fight.” before the UVF join the remembrance game and SF mayors are invited to don Orange lilies and attend a remembrance ceremony in honour of the UVF/UDA “patriot dead”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Crisjones2, we live in highly polarised times, with bitter recriminations obscuring possibilities of the proper recognition of moral value. Many of those who fought in WWI admired the courage of the men of 1916, after all, they fought in the open and in uniform, and should have been honoured by full recognition as combatants. They, also, are recognised by the lily, just as the poppy does not simply refer to those engaged in Bloody Sunday.

  • Michael-Henry Mcivor

    Gregory Campbell stood in the Assembly yesterday wearing a Poppy which he should respect and made fun of the Irish Language which he also does not respect –

    I will wait till we hear those that are over selling Poppy’s and want to respect the British war dead to call on Gregory Campbell to stop making anti Irish statements when he has the gall to wear a Poppy-Gregory disrespected the Poppy and all the war fallen- who is going to stand up for the Fallen and ask Gregory to show respect and stop bluffing by wearing a Poppy-

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Before WWI both communities learnt Irish at Gaelic League classes. P.T. McGinley used to tutor many from Protestant east Belfast in the “good” front room of his home on the Beersbridge Road. My grandfather told me that hardly a platoon of the Ulster Division was without Irish speakers who taught their mates as much Irish as they could.

    Campbell, in wearing a poppy while he ignorantly mocks what he does not understand, dishonours these men who were just as proud of their Irishness, and the great language they have inherited from it, as their desire for a continuing link with Britain. Shame on him.

  • Fobhristi

    hmm I don’t people adorning the poppy would be doing so in memory of the soldier who murdered, for example, the child Kevin Heatley in Newry in the 70s i.e. the whole british army arent labelled as child killers by the Nationalist community. By the same token I don’t think people wearing the lily do so to ‘glorify’ the killing of children by republicans. Similarly pedophile British soldiers who abused kids in Afghanistan (see news from 4th June 2013) are probably not who people are commemorating when they wear a poppy. So if you want to drag the conversation down to this level im pretty sure I can find equivalence for whatever mud you are slinging

  • chrisjones2

    “the whole british army arent labelled as child killers by the Nationalist community”

    have you met Michael our resident SF Troll?

  • chrisjones2

    I agree that is as perhaps it SHOULD be

    The reality on both sides is somewhat different from those who seek to justify their own dirty deeds on the principle that you cannot polish a t*rd but you can roll it in glitter

  • chrisjones2

    was he making fun of the Irish language or SF members who struggle to say a few words in it like children’s robot toys

    Mar shampla , mar ardent Náisiúnach Éireannach cé mhéad Gaeilge féidir leat labhairt Mícheál ?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Yes, chrisjones2, but reality has ever been a relative term. Whose reality? Most of the world can see what we all have in common, another reality that we turn our backs to in endless recrimination. There are rather more pasts available to us than those we choose to get bogged down in all too easily.

    “If you are in a hole stop digging”, and begin to clamber up the sides to find some open ground! After all “an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind……”

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Ach fós ar an bhfíric go bhfuil sé ag magadh fós Gaeilge, agus ann na saighdiúirí marbha WWI, chrisjones2!

  • Reader

    Chris Donnelly: as it would be to demand unionists don Easter lilies and remember all those who died fighting for Irish independence just because many Irish protestants were amongst the ranks of the rebel Irish in both 1798 and during the 1916-23 period.
    The Poppy commemorates both Unionists and Nationalists.
    The Easter Lily commemorates only Nationalists.
    There’s the fundamental distinction.
    Are you really basing your argument on religion? This is the 21st Century, you know.

  • Toaster

    The poppy is a division causing symbol of hate and war crimes. That’s why QUB Sinn Fein quite correctly tried to remove it from campus last year. Let’s hope it is expunged soon.

  • Fobhristi

    Being from the Nationalist community myself I think that the vast majority of nationalists have a nuanced view of the British Army, there are good and bad people in any organisation. For anyone to label british soldiers as child killers en masse is just stupid. Back to the point tho, the fact that the poppy is misused is the reason I wouldn’t wear one, if it was used specifically regarding WW1 and WW2 I would wear one. If it is perceived in the Unionist community that the lily is misused i.e. used to represent events other than 1916, then I dont wear a lily either

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I entirely agree Fobhristi! Despite my high regard for those who suffered in both great wars, I would not wish decent people to see me lining up alongside many of those who wear it for political reasons here, although I have worn it in England when visiting at this time of year.

    The joke is I see those whose fathers and grandfathers shirked military service sporting them. A while back I asked on Slugger if any DUP representative had family in WWI or WWII? I was met with a total silence of no replies, although membership of the the UDR came up, not quite the same thing. I’m sure some one of them has service medals in the attic.

    I remember my grandfather distinctly mentioning in the 1950s that the recently deceased Lord Bannside had been of an age towards the end of the war……..

  • Fobhristi

    “The Poppy commemorates both Unionists and Nationalists.” – nonsense

    If that statement were true I very much doubt loyalists would paint it all over their neighborhoods with such fervor. As anything that even remotely commemorating nationalist is promptly ripped down and stuck atop the nearest bonfire e.g. catholic religious figures etc etc.

    Maybe someone should tell the loyalists they’ve surrounded David Irvine’s silhouette with an Irish Nationalist symbol. They would probably disagree.

  • Neil

    The Poppy commemorates both Unionists and Nationalists.

    The Easter Lily commemorates only Nationalists.

    There’s the fundamental distinction.

    Are you really basing your argument on religion?

    Nationalism isn’t a religion. Nor is Unionism. They both commemorate Catholics and Protestants. I don’t see how it’s difficult to understand why Nationalists (even those who served in the BA, few as they are) wouldn’t be keen to donate money to soldiers past and present, who were involved in Bloody Sunday, Ballymurphy and an undetermined number of other killings here.

    Hell, some English people object due to their present wars, far and wide. These are reasons for Nationalists not to participate, fundraise or donate, however it’s not a reason to object to other people doing so. Live and let live. A reciprocal attitude to the lily would be nice.

  • Zeno3

    C’mon Seaan, lighten up, it was funny. The Irish language is surely strong enough to withstand a few jokes. There’s no need to get all insulted. ” dishonours these men who were just as proud of their Irishness, and the great language they have inherited from it,”
    Really????

  • Reader

    Well, I don’t agree with loyalists, I don’t rate them as thinkers, and I am not inclined to allow them to dictate my thinking on this issue.
    However, your remark (“nonsense”) suggests that you do agree with them, on this topic at least.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Yeah, really! That’s how they thought. I grew up with a couple of ex-WWI officers thinking like that, speaking a rather Kerry version of Irish, and being scathing about those of their fellow protestants (especially the Fermanagh Mafia who ran the country then) who “ignorantly mocked a language they had never learnt” (I quote).

    And its him (“Greg”) wearing that poppy that I object to when he is effectively insulting men whom it actually represents! And, hey! did he have anyone from his family in either war?

  • Fobhristi

    My
    ‘nonsense’ comment is purely objective observation. For a symbol to be seen as
    inclusive there needs to be consensus on this inclusiveness. A large contingent
    of Northern Ireland’s population who wear the poppy would not agree that it is
    a symbol for Nationalists, rather it is seen as ‘their’ symbol, even further
    than this its seen as a symbol as an affront to the perceived Nationalist ‘enemy’.
    Your inclusive view of the poppy doesn’t reflect reality. If all Nationalists
    began wearing poppies tomorrow there would no doubt be some form of outrage
    from loyalists, ‘taking away OUR culture’. In Britain the poppy doesn’t have
    all this baggage. I’d happily wear a poppy walking through Manchester or
    London, but definitely wouldn’t walking through Belfast or Ballymena. When I
    get off the plane do my views change about the Great Wars? No.

  • Kevin Bell

    The poppy also remembers people who dropped bombs from thousands of feet in the air and deliberately blew up and incinerated tens of thousands of women, and children – Dresden anyone?

    War is murder, sheer bloody murder. The sheen of the medals and the plumed hats gently fluttering in the wind beside the cenotaph should not mask that. Your self righteousness is nauseating.

  • benny black

    it always seems sad when people die for a political purpose..surely life on earth is betterer than that ?

  • Michael-Henry Mcivor

    I am one person- I am not the Nationalist community- I just speak for myself and no one else-

  • chrisjones2

    Pointe Aonach ar an Poppy

    Is í an cheist a bhí magadh air an Ghaeilge nó an tAire

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Go maith, an fear, ach bhí sé an teanga a luaitear sé!

  • Morpheus

    This again?????

    If you want to wear a Poppy then wear a Poppy.
    If you don’t want to wear a Poppy then don’t.

    If you want to wear a Lilly then wear a Lilly.
    If you don’t want to wear a Lilly then don’t.

    It’s not difficult

    Why do we go through this every fecking year?

  • Reader

    Neil: Nationalism isn’t a religion. Nor is Unionism.
    It was Chris Donnelly, not I, who introduced religion into the discussion, not just in passing, but as a part of his constructed argument over the claimed equivalence of the Easter Lily and the Poppy.
    I think my own point that they are not equivalent in political terms has not been coherently challenged so far.
    As for your argument over undeserving recipients: (1) That’s a distraction from Chris’s original point [equivalence], and (2) isn’t that also an argument against the NHS, which also treats people according to need and eligibility, and not by an assessment of worth?

  • mac tire

    What an absolute load of nonsense about Britain’s participation in the two World Wars!

    Britain did not fight for the rights of small countries. “Plucky little Belgium”? Those hand hackers in the Congo, you mean? Britain fought for its own interests, no-one else’s.

    When Britain and France invaded and occupied parts of neutral Greece in 1915 they mirrored the German violation of Belgian neutrality. I’m sure you will find some excuse to justify it.

    Ireland got no truck from those who “fought for the rights of small countries.” Your attempt to neatly package the causes/aims of WW1 are silly.

    I noticed you also put in “ultimately” in an attempt to negate the next point – namely Britain did not enter WW2 to save the world from “fascism including the attempted extermination of entire peoples.” Again, it entered to protect its own interests. Britain done nothing about the attempted extermination of entire peoples in Europe during/after WW1 or even before WW2.

    So, in mythology, off they went to the aid of Poland to save it from one dictator – only to hand it on a plate to another (arguably worse) dictator at the end.

    Most of those who fought (or were forced to fight) in these wars had no idea what they were really fighting for nor did they want to be there.

    However, you are correct – the comparison between global conflict and a minor proclamation is, objectively, entirely bogus. But not for the reasons you suspect.

    Let all honour their dead.

  • carl marks

    the International brigades (family connection there) went off to fight fascism, they volunteered to fight Franco and his type, the British ,french, Americans all tried to stop them. many unionist politicians of the period were supporters of Hitler, Britain only declared war on Germany when it became obvious that Adolf was a threat to Britain.
    today we see the most verbal and Jingoistic poppy wearers are to say the least admirers of the Nazis (BNP etc) groups with links to the UVF/UDA and need i point out which political parties are in a alliance with those groupings, I wonder what the men and women who fought Hitler and his evil would think of that.

  • carl marks

    I should also mention that many Nationalist politicians and many leaders of the Catholic church also were supporters of Fascism.
    The Blueshirts were blessed by senior Catholic clergy before they went off to Spain to fight for Franco.

  • Ian James Parsley

    I don’t entirely disagree with you. The two World Wars are indeed part of Britain’s current “national myth”. To some degree, like 1916 and 1690 but on a global scale, they have taken on a history which is not reflected in what actually happened. I guess that underlies my own discomfort at some aspects of Remembrance – but that is for a separate thread!

    Nevertheless, you are applying current standards to 100 years ago, where they don’t really belong. Actually, Belgium was just about the smallest country in Europe at the time (there were only a third as many, remember). My particular point was that *Irish* soldiers saw themselves as going off and fighting for the rights of smaller countries [ahem, in Europe] not to be trampled over.

    You are correct that the British Empire did not enter WW2 to save the world from the horrors of the Holocaust. Nevertheless, as it happens, it did.

    The old line about “Most of those who fought had no idea why they were there” is oft used but doesn’t stand up to historical scrutiny. Actually, most – including on the Nazi side – had a pretty good idea why they were fighting.

    For all that, I suspect if you and I sat down, as you say, we’d reach a compromise on the fundamental point of the bogus comparison, upon which we essentially agree.

  • barnshee

    “War is murder, sheer bloody murder”

    Perhaps you can remind me when the IRA “declared war ” I seem to have missed that .
    If they did –well surely any deaths are “casualties” or “collateral damage” ? and nothing to whinge about,

    PS I don`t think the nasty Brits ever denied bombing Dresden etc

  • Kevin Bell

    “I have the honour to inform you that the Government of the Irish Republic, having as its first duty towards its people the establishment and maintenance of peace and order here, demand the withdrawal of all British armed forces stationed in Ireland. The occupation of our territory by troops of another nation and the persistent subvention here of activities directly against the expressed national will and in the interests of a foreign power, prevent the expansion and development of our institution in consonance with our social needs and purposes, and must cease.

    The Government of the Irish Republic believe that a period of four days is sufficient notice for your Government to signify its intentions in the matter of the military evacuation and for the issue of your Declaration of Abdication in respect of our country. Our Government reserves the right of appropriate action without further notice if upon the expiration of this period of grace, these conditions remain unfulfilled.

    Oglaigh na h-Éireann (Irish Republican Army).General Headquarters, Dublin, January 12th,1939, to His Excellency the Rt. Hon. Viscount Halifax, C.G.B.”

    On Sunday, 15 January, with no reply from the British Government, a proclamation was posted in public places throughout Ireland announcing the IRA’s declaration of war on Britain. This proclamation was written by Joseph McGarrity, leader of Clan na Gael in the United States, and was signed by six members of the Army Council: Stephen Hayes, Patrick Fleming, Peadar O’Flaherty, George Oliver Plunkett, Larry Grogan and Seán Russell.

    Thank goodness those gallant British soldiers referred to in your original post never did anything as unpleasant as killing innocents deliberately. The irony of you stating that casualties of war are “nothing to whinge about” is startling.

  • carl marks

    as regards Chris bringing up religion,i cant seem to find it, could you point it out please!

  • carl marks

    sorry found it, my bad.

  • mac tire

    I’m sure we could sit down and reach a compromise, Ian. But not “on the fundamental point of the bogus comparison, upon which we essentially agree.”
    We don’t agree here.

    I understand why people choose to wear poppies. I have no problem at all with it. I just wouldn’t wear one. I simply can’t see how Remembrance can be made more inclusive. When you see the poppy you obviously think of the big “set pieces”. Be aware Ian, that many others see something else entirely.

  • Niall Chapman

    Ian, as Chris said the Poppy Appeal is not just about remembering WW1 and WW2, it is about honoring all members of the British Army (for instance; the proceeds of most of the plastic poppies sold go to the British Legion, who provide services to soldiers who served in NI, Las Malvinas, Iraq, Afghanistan,), soldiers who served in wars that many were not happy about and committed some horrendous acts, so until the distinction is made, why should anyone who is a Nationalist, or Republican, or pacifist, or simply against illegal wars but still respects those who sacrificed their lives in WW1/2 be compelled to wear a poppy or attend a remembrance service where the distinction is not made and where the charitable donations of said ceremony may go to people who committed crimes against the people of Derry, victims of the Belgrano sinking, victims of drone strikes and murders in Afghanistan and Iraq, the list goes on

  • chrisjones2

    Your statement is a division causing symbol of hate and war crimes.

    When do you wish to be ”expunged’?

  • Ian James Parsley

    Fobhristi – I am rejecting the basic premise that Easter lilies can remotely be compared to poppies. One is a few rebel volunteers of interest to one side; the other is a global conflict of interest to all. The underlying idea that Republicans not attending Remembrance equates to Unionists not attending their one-sided commemorations is ludicrous.

    There is a case for Republicans not attending Remembrance, but that’s not it!

    Various – I am keenly aware that the poppy commemorates other conflicts and the Appeal goes well beyond two World Wars. Nevertheless, the Memorials refer to the two World Wars and the poppy originates from the aftermath of the first. Fundamentally, that is what we are commemorating – and I say that as one whose father joined up in 1946!

  • eireanne

    “The poppy is used as a symbol to glorify the british army en masse” – as long as the Army officer or trooper in northern ireland is not a catholic

    http://eurofree3.wordpress.com/2013/11/14/catholic-ex-servicemen-dont-count/

  • Neil

    I think my own point that they are not equivalent in political terms has not been coherently challenged so far.

    In some ways they are equivalent to each other. In other ways they are not. There’s nothing more political than honouring the war dead of your country. I’m sure even the Germans do it. The lily represents the people who fought and died to establish the Irish state, and is in common with the symbols of war dead across the globe. The Brits don’t own the whole honouring your war dead thing.

    So what we’re talking about is a matter of scale perhaps – in that they are not equivalent. Ireland didn’t colonise over 100 countries so clearly the British have a more “illustrious” and greater record on the military front. There are half a million dead Iraqis to attest to that.

    As for your argument over undeserving recipients: (1) That’s a distraction from Chris’s original point [equivalence], and (2) isn’t that also an argument against the NHS, which also treats people according to need and eligibility, and not by an assessment of worth?

    (1) If you look closely you’ll see that equivalence is the basis of half of the post, so not much of a distraction. (2) It could be, if we were talking about the NHS, but we’re not. Apples and oranges as they say – one organisation provides medical care to everyone in the UK and the other drives up demand for medical care to people outside the UK. Realistically if you asked me to throw out a word that was the opposite of the word Army, I might pick the NHS.

    What I find fascinating is that some Unionists seem to see Irish people honouring their dead as beyond the pale and incomprehensible because some of the war dead killed Unionists; but then fail to see why a Nationalist might not want to be involved in honouring your war dead who killed Nationalists. There is a very obvious political equivalence there if you think about it.

  • Brian O’Neill
  • barnshee

    “If they did –well surely any deaths are “casualties” or “collateral damage” ? and nothing to whinge about,”

    If as– you highlight the IRA declared” war” then in your words “War is murder, sheer bloody murder” and straight out of the IRA recipe book any deaths are “casualties” or “collateral damage”

    PS I can`t find any reference in the Dail to the “declaration of war”

  • Alan N/Ards

    Nail on head. Well said. I wear my poppy on Remembrance Sunday and not a day before. I wear out of respect for the fallen and no other reason.

  • babyface finlayson

    I pretty much agree, but it does get a bit tricky if your employer doesn’t want you to wear a lily, or a doorman won’t let you in a bar wearing a poppy.
    By the way I spell lily with one ‘l’ in the middle myself but you sir can go 2’l’ for all I care.

  • Mike the First

    As a unionist, I’m happy to offer equality of respect to the legitimate armed forces of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland who have died serving their country and/or in the line of duty.

    I’m also prepared to offer equality of contempt for the terrorists of the illegal republican and loyalist paramilitary gangs.

    Sound fair enough, Chris?

  • LordSummerisle

    That is the best comment I have read thus far.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you, my Lord. During my long years in teh British Film business I occasionally met your “companion” in the movie, Diane Cliento, before she dragged poor Anthony Shaffer (wonderful script!) away to a (Sufi) life without electricity in the outback.
    Keep up the good work in the Isles……..

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Thank you Brian, I wonder what David himself would have thought about it. From my admittedly distant aquaintence I took away the impression that he took the issues of the Great war rather more seriously.

    Its all “nuance” in the end, is it not?

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Suddenly everyone has gone all “Final Solution”!!!!!

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Conscious “war” against civilians has always been (and remains) a war crime. This is why those involved attempt to claim that bombs placed where they MUST almost certainly kill civilians are actually aimed at military targets. Even this insincere ploy was waived by Bomber Harris in WWII and he made it perfectly clear, backed by Churchill, that he was carpet bombing German towns by night in order to create “Terror” in order to kill civilians and threrby demoralise the German war effort.

    However, although Kevin’s description of Dresden as a war crime is entirely correct, and many WWII officers, in my experience, would have fully agreed, the IRA waged war itself against civilians both in the War of Independence, the Civil War and the subsequent periods of conflict. Not that atrocity was not also something their opponents did not also resort to. I have always thought partition a cultural and political disaster, but there were always other ways to approach a United Ireland. The murder of civilians can never, never be justified for any cause, no matter how all important it is believed to be.

    This in no way diminishes my profound respect for the airmen sent by cynical men to die bombing these German cities or for those such as the hunger strikers who couragiously attempted to use their own lives to make important political points.

    And one slight clarification from Wikipedia:

    “Since 1924, Óglaigh na hÉireann has remained the official Irish-language title for the Defence Forces, which are recognised by the Irish Government as the only legitimate armed forces of the independent state on the island of Ireland”.

    Now, I can call myself Rí Uladh, but I need to enforce that claim against anyone making the claim before me if I am not to look like someone posturing foolishly.

  • LordSummerisle

    Ah yes the sublime Miss Rose.. . “reproduction without sexual union. ” I have to say that considering the few films in the “Folk Horror” genre, The Wicker Man is the best. Ghastly sequel made in the 2000’s. Back on topic, I am genuinely interested in that anecdote re: The Beersbridge Road. I hail from that area.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I was introduced to WMII at a showing of WMI ( a Halloween event, “Sing-a-long-a Wicker Man”) at the Black Box a few years back. But Anthony Shaffer was not on hand for a sequel script, so nowhere near the first…….

    Ah, the anecdote: Peter Toner MacGinley was one of the founders of the Belfast Gaelic League. My grandfather and his brother were interested in learning Irish during their teens before WWI and their friend, the poet Joseph Campbell, whose family lived at Loreto Cottage in the Castlereagh Road introduced them to P.T. His classes averaged about ten who were packed into the front room at “Bothan-an-Eidhim”, 32 Beersbridge Road. When they had conversational Irish, they were passed on to more public branches in central Belfast at Queen Street. Most of his intake was protestant, although the “villages” of Belfast were more mixed at that time.