To remember or not to remember…

Last year on Remembrance Sunday I called into Joanmount Methodist Church in North Belfast a short time before the service was to start.  The church was filling up with most of the congregation wearing poppies.   After a brief conversation with the minister, I then drove less than a mile to the nearest Catholic Church which is in Sacred Heart Parish where I am the parish priest.  The contrast on that particular day could not have been more startling. The congregation was about its usual size, but I did not see anyone wearing a poppy or any other symbol to acknowledge it was Remembrance Sunday.  The closest in words we came to it was a reference to praying for those killed in warfare during the Prayer of the Faithful; that said the Catholic Church values highly the religious concept of “remembrance”, particularly in a Eucharistic context (“Do this in memory of me”), in which the past becomes present and in each celebration of the Eucharist, our dead are remembered.  My point in describing the contrast between the two churches is to consider if this is as good as it gets or if it is possible to find ways for a more inclusive approach to Remembrance Sunday.

Personally speaking as a Catholic growing up in Northern Ireland, remembering soldiers killed in the world wars was not part of my church tradition and I imagine that this would have been the same for most of those who were brought up here as Catholics.  I purposely mention growing up here in the North to contrast this experience with Catholics in England where in most Catholic churches, Remembrance Sunday would have been observed with large numbers of Catholics wearing a red poppy symbol.

The issue is not a theological one, there is no Catholic Church rule to say we should not wear poppies or remember the military dead.  For Catholics living here I would suggest it is different for historical reasons and because of all the “political baggage” that we attach to wearing a poppy.  I would also suggest there is a moral conundrum for many Catholics wherein many will point to the fact that it is only British soldiers who are remembered and not everyone who was killed in war.  As a consequence, for the most part, Remembrance Sunday for many Catholics here is therefore either forgotten or ignored.

To remember or not to remember?

I would point to signs to suggest some Catholics want to remember those killed in wars.  It is clear, for example, as we move through the decade of centenaries some Catholics living here have been keen to find out about family members who enlisted as soldiers during the First World War.  I keep meeting Catholics who are very interested in the historical facts of the war.   I think for example of the ground breaking work being done to find out about the soldiers from here who enlisted with the 6th Connaught Rangers.  This work which has a strong cross community dimension is about establishing the facts and does not glorify war or make any political points.

In addition, various events organised by a First World War Commemoration committee have been held to recall some of the key moments from one hundred years ago.  I have attended a few of these and have found they have been sensitively organised ensuring an inclusive way of remembering and without glorifying war.    As I look ahead to further significant commemorations to mark the Easter Rising and the Battle of the Somme, I recognise that such events could be extremely divisive if not handled carefully. If, however they are handled with sensitivity these commemorations have the possibility to dispel myths and to help us appreciate more fully how the world in which we live today has been shaped by events 100 years ago. The work of Dr Eamon Phoenix and Dr Johnston McMaster in learning about the past and how we commemorate today deserves a particular mention.

Turning again to Remembrance Sunday and the challenges and opportunities it presents, I would suggest we might evaluate how we have observed or not observed this day in the past.  We need to go beyond the mentality of “this is how we have always done it”.

So for those of us who have who have not observed Remembrance Sunday I would like to suggest a few things for consideration:

  • taking time during the day to reflect on the loss of all human lives in warfare or conflict.
  • attending either a religious or civil event.
  • finding out about the origins of the red poppy symbol, which unlike the Republican Easter Lily, was never intended to be a political symbol.  As an aside, there has been some very good work done in assisting such an understanding by the likes of Philip Orr and Joe Austin whose joint presentations on the “Poppy and the Lily” are well worth attending.
  • wearing a white poppy which is a recognised symbol for peace.   (There is also the question of respect for those who choose to wear the red poppy.  It would be my hope that we build a society where those who wear it would be free to wear it where they like including in Catholic churches here).

For those who observe Remembrance Sunday every year I would like to put forward for consideration:

  • a greater emphasis on developing a culture of peace.   (One of the criticisms of those who object to attending annual Remembrance events has been what they perceive to be the very strong military dimension).
  • ensuring an emphasis during the ceremonies on acknowledging the horrors of war, the mentality of “never again” and a recognition of all the suffering caused by war.
  • welcoming those who wear a white poppy, a symbol which goes back to the 1930s.   Whilst few people here wear it, we accord them respect if they choose to do so.  Some of the hostile comments in social media indicate we have some way to go in this regard.
  • Finding out about the white poppy at http://www.ppu.org.uk/.

Recently on Twitter, David McCann, Deputy Editor of this website, tweeted that he expected there would probably be the same old arguments about the poppy by the same people.  I would hope in writing this article as a new voice on this issue that at least something here might shift the discussion even in a small way.

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  • Most Remembrance Sunday services I have ever been to have been neutral on the subject of war and concentrated entirely on the loss of life. I’m not sure the emphasis you suggest is a fair ask for everyone, and the military element will often seems understandable and relevant in most cases to lives lost from that (geographic) community. But I’m coming from a North/ East Antrim viewpoint in these comments.

    Saying that, I would attend the type of ceremony you describe and the suggestions are valuable, in my humble opinion.

    They do, however, feel like a new movement rather than a change to many existing ceremonies: I don’t see a town like, say, Ballymena changing how they do their Remembrance Services any time soon and I don’t think I can fault them for that.

    A welcome for the White Poppy, for those who chose to wear it, would be very positive although I’m don’t feel that a RBL Poppy or wearer is necessarily pro-war in the first place.

  • Clanky

    I choose not to wear a poppy, not out of any anti-British sentiment, but rather out of an anti-poppy sentiment. I feel that the poppy has become so politicised that wearing one becomes a statement about so much more than simple remembrance of the sacrifice of those who gave their lives during the various conflicts.

    I see friends on Facebook posting garbage about how Facebook are trying to ban the poppy because it offends muslims (quick hint – no-one is trying to ban christmas either), I see people being criticised for not making a public show of remembrance by wearing a poppy on TV or on a football pitch, I see people constantly connecting the poppy with pride.

    Maybe if the RBL were to change their slogan to “Wear your poppy with humility and respect” I might choose to do so, but for me, remembrance and respect for those who gave their lives should not be something in which we take pride, it should not be something about which we make a statement and when it becomes that then it is more about supporting war and about taking a political stance than about remembering the dead, even outside of the historical context of Northern Ireland.

  • murdockp

    Both sides have created their own histories. Many Irish men served in ww1 as they thought this would deliver independence. How these men were turned on when independence came via other means.

    They deserve acknowlegement next year during the 1916 commerations

  • Korhomme

    I don’t wear a poppy either, and for much the same reasons; but I do donate to the RBL.

  • Chris Donnelly

    Fr Martin
    It never helps to ignore elephants.
    Remembrance Day is about ‘remembering’ those who fought and died for Britain, in all conflicts, past and present.
    Pretending it is a commemoration ring-fenced to recall exclusively the dead of two world wars is simply misleading.
    Therefore, the non-engagement of nationalist people in this part of Ireland with British Remembrance ceremonies, in churches or elsewhere, is as logical and rational a position as those of a unionist persuasion who would not consider being involved in services to recall those who fought and died for Ireland- even if the founders of Irish Republicanism, and many of its senior figures throughout history (including the Revolutionary period a century ago) were protestants.
    It’s not about disrespecting the right of ‘The Other’ to remember, nor wilfuly deciding against remembering. It’s the product of very reasonable thinking.
    Indeed, I don’t get caught up in the White Poppy discussion simply because I believe many unionists see that as somehow challenging the right to wear and respect the Red Poppy, though I fully understand the arguments around the White Poppy and see the merits in it in Britain.
    Again, in our local context, it’s about being mindful of The Other.
    Wearing the Red Poppy, like the Easter Lily, can be a personal act. It can be a political act too.
    Whatever the reasons, it’s best to tread carefully in early November and at Easter.
    Of course people should be free to wear either symbols publicly, including I’m assuming an Easter Lily in a protestant church.
    Yet I’m not entirely sure your challenges are either fair nor reasonable.
    Why should those who decide to participate in British Remembrance Day ceremonies today be forced to alter their form of commemoration to accommodate people who clearly don’t share the same opinions regarding the legitimacy of Britain’s many conflicts, including in Ireland over many centuries? Is that not being disrespectful, to make demands on others to alter their service so you/others less personally, emotionally, culturally and politically attached to the deceased might feel more comfortable joining them?
    Clearly that works both ways come Easter time.
    A culture of mutual respect must define our attitudes to Remembrance, in Autumn and Spring, and shared remembrance may be possible throughout the calendar year, particularly as time passes.
    But mutual respect will also entail affording people the right to remember those who died for ‘their’ beliefs, not ‘ours,’ regardless of whether or not that makes you or others less likely to join in.

  • Ernekid

    What better way to remember a stupid pointless, horrible war than by having a stupid pointless, horrible argument about poppies?

  • doopa

    I wear a white poppy. I give money to homeless charities – a shocking percentage of the UK’s homeless are ex-forces.

  • I’d normally agree but I thought the article raised some good questions about remembrance ceremonies themselves.

  • Ben De Hellenbacque

    Great point. Clanky. It’s something despairing that the human condition can’t always cope (at least not in the long term) with remembrance of an episode so ghastly that it necessitates reflection on and ultimately rejection of the decisions made by those who weren’t going to be at the wrong end of any bayonet. There’s something approaching a very ugly vanity in the misappropration of this. I’m reminded of Samuel Johnson’s observation on patriotism.

  • Nevin

    “Remembrance Day is about ‘remembering’ those who fought and died for Britain, in all conflicts, past and present.
    Pretending it is a commemoration ring-fenced to recall exclusively the dead of two world wars is simply misleading.”

    Chris, it is much wider so your comment is also misleading:

    Remembrance Sunday is held in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth as a day “to commemorate the contribution of British and Commonwealth military and civilian servicemen and women in the two World Wars and later conflicts”.

  • Redstar

    When I lived there, I remember the great “dignity” every Remembrance Sunday observing the good people of Lisburn at the towns centre, watching the laying of wreathes to the fallen…….by the UDA

  • Dominic Hendron

    Before the recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan there used to be stories around the military that I liked, one was called, I think, the Black poppy which detailed the experience of Black soldiers and the racism they suffered. There was more stories about the futility of war as well. It’s more jingoistic now

  • Rowdie111

    ” to reflect on the human loss of all human lives in warfare or human conflict”….?

    Does this mean we should reflect on the loss of all those Nazis who we managed to kill who were in charge of the concentration camps or the rest of the holocaust ?

  • Jane2

    I don’t know about the rest of the Commonwealth, but in Canada Remembrance Day is held November 11, not on a Sunday and not in church.

  • barnshee

    “It never helps to ignore elephants.”

    Given the numbers of SF members their support in their community and the likelhood that at least some of them would have been complicit in the deaths of Soldiers — it beggars belief than anyone acknowledge these deaths in an RC church

  • aquifer

    “Remembrance Day is about ‘remembering’ those who fought and died for Britain” In world wars it was about more than one nation, there were also important human values at stake, and we can judge the conduct and character of different nations and the sides they took.

    I admire people who put themselves in harm’s way to defend others, who can conduct themselves in war zones justly and humanely without wanton cruelty, because sometimes this dangerous job has to be done and I would not be queuing up to do it. You can take a different view on those giving the orders.

    Peacekeepers and civilians and public servants living under threat may be braver still, the cold courage needed to serve humanity while exposed to sudden and deadly assault with explosives and bullets.

    I also know that many Catholics served honourably in British forces but could not easily wear a poppy to commemorate their fallen friends due to the potential for abuse from militant Irish separatists.

  • Zig70

    I know, Christians for you. Being Christian, and in this country!

  • Nevin

    Thanks, Jane. The portion in italics comes from Wiki; the portion in quotation marks from the DCMS, the government department which organises the main UK event. The Canadian ambassador is one of the ambassadors who lays a wreath.

  • Lagganeer

    Two Important facts about the Poppy that anyone can check.

    The Canadian military doctor Major John McCrea in the Ypres area during WW1 penned the poem Flanders Fields that was the inspiration of the Poppy then the Frenchwoman Madame Anna Guérin, known as the French Poppy Lady, encouraged people to use the Red Flanders poppy as a way of remembering those who had suffered in war, and how the Flanders Poppy became the symbol of remembrance that we understand today.

    It’s Important that people realize it’s a commonwealth symbol and a European one,
    It is now I accept part of modern British Life its culture and heritage but it’s
    also a lot more to many, it’s a time of private reflection as well as a time of
    country’s coming together, the 11th of November at the 11th Hour is the correct
    moment to remember though many take the nearest Sunday to come together and
    attend services and church services ,Many go round the circle and look at it
    from a Nationality point of view but it so much more ,the story of different
    colors of poppy’s is with in the debate but it’s not where the original poppy
    came from so many see the red poppy as the only one for them

  • MainlandUlsterman

    A lot of sense there from Fr Magill. Interesting looking at the premiership football, at all the people from around the world living in this country – many on the opposing side of wars the UK has fought, including Germany, Argentina, Italy, Japan – all respecting the wearing of poppies and wearing poppies themselves. Then all the countries laying wreaths at the Cenotaph from all corners of the world, without treating the event as some huge crisis of conscience. They see a nation mourning its war dead and show sympathy, simple as that. Everyone except Irish nationalists. I do think Irish nationalism needs to get over itself on this one.

    The problems Irish nationalism has made for itself with the poppy say more to me about a self-regarding exceptionalism and a lack of magnanimity, than about any ethical far-sightedness over the wrongs of the British military over the years. Other people get that too – but they still show respect. Making Remembrance Day into something ‘controversial’ is at best undignified.

    Republicans in particular should be bending over backwards to make amends for Enniskillen. Even if they were unwilling to respect Remembrance Day before Enniskillen, surely since that day they have been morally obliged to show as much respect for it as possible.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    pacifism would not have defeated the Nazis – sorry but that’s kind of the end of the story on pacifism. Sorry. The red poppy is about peace too; it just does it without implying countries were wrong to defend themselves.

  • Roy Reilly-Robertson

    Yesterday I attended two Remembrance Services, one in the County Town and the other in my local (home) town, to lay wreaths for Veterans Scotland organisation.
    My home town service, with its high Catholic population of predominantly Irish descent, was well attended and the service was taken by the local Catholic priest.
    In the County Town parade to the Cenotaph I walked beside a citizen who was going to lay a wreath on behalf of the congregation of the main Catholic Church.
    Having been a soldier from NI who served in an Irish Regiment I wore my RBL Irish Poppy badge in addition to my Scottish poppy reflecting my service in a Scottish Regiment- there are significant differences between RBLS and RBL poppies.
    We were remembering those who have died in wars since 1918 and not just the two World Wars and I have an abiding wish to see the Remembrance event become one where we share the pain of war between the nations who had endured it. That very much means that there should be open involvement of Germany, as a NATO member and as a protagonist in two conflicts, in our Remembrance celebrations. As well as the Italians et al who were not necessarily on our ‘side’ during the conflicts.
    Now that things are so harmonious between the Irish and the UK forces that joint training and active service operations are being carried out, soldiers, and ex-Service personnel from the Republic, should be directly involved as well.
    Of course this is a very sensitive issue to explore in an Irish context considering how much society on the Island likes to keep the hurt smarting and sore, but if the French and the Germans can come together to celebrate jointly Remembrance given just how badly the Germans twice treated the French on their own soil in the past century, it is time that progress was made to normalise things in these Islands.

  • submariner

    I am both an Irsh Nationalist and an ex serviceman who comes from a family with a strong military background in the Irish,British and US forces. I never wear a poppy nor do any members of my family. I am sick to death of this what Jon Snow has so aptly called Poppy fascism which has now become an annual event. Whether people wish to wear it or not is a matter of personal choice. The wearing of poppies on sports shirts a recent trend has caused no end of abuse for those who choose not to wear one,Ulster rugby seems to be the latest victim.As far as you point about Nationalists exceptionalism many Nationalists have still raw memories having had loved ones murdered by the British forces during our recent past,that coupled with the blatant abuse and politicizing of the poppy here has proved a major factor. If you really want to see disrespect for remembrance I suggest you should have taken a trip to Rathcoole yesterday.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Respect for your service of course and I don’t want to be a poppy fascist – it is a personal choice – but this has become something needlessly unpleasant I think and needs to be detoxified. And it is as much, or more, an issue about Irish nationalist beliefs and values than it is about poppies. It’s a serious question as to why people from other countries around the world respect and wear the poppy but Irish nationalists not. Of course you don’t have to. But why are Irish nationalists such an exception?

    As you point out Irish nationalists have had people murdered by British forces; so have British people ourselves for that matter; so have Germans, Indians, many other nationalities in much, much bigger numbers. All armies in the history of the world have murdered people at some point. But remembrance isn’t denying that, it’s just saying lots of people also died serving their country honourably. Their loss is a part of life for many people, including my own family where my grandfather served in WW1, was wounded, and lost two of his brothers in the conflict.

    Why do some Irish nationalists uniquely choose to give no credit to the British military at all? Especially given how many like yourself have served in the forces and must know that their fellow soldiers are not on the whole monsters. I’d have thought too that Irish nationalism’s treatment of the British military in the Troubles would give pause for self-reflection among nationalists. Remember, nationalist terrorists killed way more security force personnel in their “armed struggle” than the army killed Irish Catholics – around 6 times more. It seems odd to me that any nationalist would get on a high horse over the UK’s commemoration of the deaths of members of those forces, though I of course acknowledge wrongs committed by those forces in the process of anti-IRA operations.

    Nationalism should be doing a lot more self-reflection, as Fr Magill has done here, and less finger-pointing when it comes to its interactions with the UK armed forces. Many soldiers needlessly lost their lives in Northern Ireland due to Irish nationalist extremists. I think this needs a little more acknowledgement.

  • Dullahan

    The Nazis emerged out of the aftermath of WWI, which is a pretty compelling argument for pacifism.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Is it? What would you have done then if they had invaded this country, or your country if it’s not this one? What would have been the right thing to do? Let them? As they say, all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I totally agree. We get our own local concerns out of proportion sometimes. The world wars dwarf anything that has happened in Ireland. It would do no harm to look at how other countries around the world deal with it and realise that of all times, remembrance weekend shouldn’t be a time for discord or protest.

  • Dullahan

    Are you attempting to justify militant republicanism?

  • Thomas Barber

    “As they say, all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing”

    Using terrorism and murder against a people or nation to supposedly stop terrorism and murder being inflicted on the same people is regarded in this part of the world as being somehow morally acceptable for some crazy reason by those same people who cry crocodile tears or insist we stop moping when those of us who have suffered from the terrorism and murder dont feel grateful enough to wear a Poppy remembering those who terrorised and murdered us.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    No. I support democracy and I support the idea that the sovereignty of a region is to be decided by its people alone, not outside governments, armies or paramilitaries. I also don’t feel obliged to treat a terrorist’s factually incorrect beliefs about the world as correct (e.g. that the sovereign state in their region, supported by a democratic majority of people living in that region, is a ‘foreign’ ‘force of occupation’). And before you come back, it’s not “in the eye of the beholder”: UK sovereignty in NI is and was a legal fact, internationally recognised and established through treaty law, customary international law and in accordance with the principle of self-determination. Fighting against UK military personnel on UK soil – let alone all the other people Irish Republicans shot and bombed – cannot be equated with fighting against, say, a German military invasion of France.

    So no.

  • Gopher

    Thats the point I’m making. If anyone don’t want to take part in remembrance they are free to do so. Just don’t understand the point of writing pages and pages why you don’t.

  • submariner

    No. I support democracy and I support the idea that the sovereignty of a region is to be decided by its people alone, not outside governments, armies or paramilitaries.

    Its a pity your fellow Unionists did not respect democracy in 1912 if they had NI would not exist,

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Irish Republicans killed quite a few of them though – at least 6 times more than British forces killed. So why the sense of Irish Republican victimhood vis-a-vis British forces?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    NI stayed in the UK by the same logic of regional democracy as the south leaving the UK. You simply can’t force regions out against their will. You have to trust and listen to the people. If only Irish nationalists had been consistently true to their own democratic principles, a better and more accurate border could have been calmly agreed between our countries. As it was, the NI solution left fewer nationals on the wrong side than the 32-county state solution, so was obviously objectively better. As nationalism has now conceded.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    because remembrance has been controversialised by some Irish nationalists – and it’s important to point out that’s not OK.

  • submariner

    Respect for your service of course and I don’t want to be a poppy fascist – it is a personal choice – but this has become something needlessly unpleasant I think and needs to be detoxified. And it is as much, or more, an issue about Irish nationalist beliefs and values than it is about poppies. It’s a serious question as to why people from other countries around the world respect and wear the poppy but Irish nationalists not. Of course you don’t have to. But why are Irish nationalists such an exception?

    I dont need or require any respect for my service i like every other serviceman since WW2 made a career choice to join no one compelled me to do it. Some people from other countries wear it and some dont. Go to Italy ,Germany Ireland or many other countries this time of year and you will struggle to find anyone wearing one so Irish nationalists are not such an exception.

    As you point out Irish nationalists have had people murdered by British forces; so have British people ourselves for that matter; so have Germans, Indians, many other nationalities in much, much bigger numbers. All armies in the history of the world have murdered people at some point. But remembrance isn’t denying that, it’s just saying lots of people also died serving their country honourably. Their loss is a part of life for many people, including my own family where my grandfather served in WW1, was wounded, and lost two of his brothers in the conflict.

    Again you dont need to wear a poppy to remember its a personal choice. Many people do not wish to donate to a charity that gives money to professional killers who have made a free choice to join the forces. Remember the fund was first set up to provide for servicemen
    who were abandoned by the govt after fighting in an imperial war so that the rich could carve up europe for profit. I wish i had a pound for every
    time i have heard the lie peddled ,but they died for your freedom. No they didnt the first world war had nothing to do with freedom. All those who fought in that war are now long dead and there are not may WW2 veterans left so where does all the millions collected go to? It goes to those who took part in all the conflicts that Britan was involved in since of which none can be described as just and all were professionals who volunteered.

    Why do some Irish nationalists uniquely choose to give no credit to the British military at all? Especially given how many like yourself have served in the forces and must know that their fellow soldiers are not on the whole monsters. I’d have thought too that Irish nationalism’s treatment of the British military in the Troubles would give pause for self-reflection among nationalists. Remember, nationalist terrorists killed way more security force personnel in their “armed struggle” than the army killed Irish Catholics – around 6 times more. It seems odd to me that any nationalist would get on a high horse over the UK’s commemoration of the deaths of members of those forces, though I of course acknowledge wrongs committed by those forces in the process of anti-IRA operations.

    Credit for what?

    Nationalism should be doing a lot more self-reflection, as Fr Magill has done here, and less finger-pointing when it comes to its interactions with the UK armed forces. Many soldiers needlessly lost their lives in Northern Ireland due to Irish nationalist extremists. I think this needs a little more acknowledgement.

    Yes a lot of them did lose their lives but they like me chose to join up and knew the risks of doing so. Those civilians killed by soldiers during the troubles had no such choice

  • submariner

    Well done you for justifying the UVF terrorists and gun runners who thwarted the democratically expressed wishes of the Irish people.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    either NI is a valid self-determinative unit or it isn’t. If it is now – and it is – then it was then.

  • mac tire

    More and more British people are being turned off by “remembrance”. Most of the controversies have been caused by those who “remember”.
    Check under your bed, MU. Careful though, there could well be an Irish Nationalist under there.

  • submariner

    Your nonsense barely deserves a reply. NI was not a valid self determinate region when it was set up. It was formed at the point of a gun and a sectarian gerrymandered state was formed , the border was specifically drawn to give the largest geographical area that the Unionists could control. If there had have been a democratic vote within each of the six counties then NI would consist of four counties minus Derry and parts of south down

  • MainlandUlsterman

    there really isn’t much controversy about it though – only in Northern Ireland, and more specifically, only among a section of Irish nationalists. Often the same people who thought attacking British troops in NI was within the boundaries of reasonable behaviour. The poppy protests by that wing of nationalism seems to me of a piece with a more general othering and scapegoating of British people and institutions. We saw the nadir of that at Enniskillen. As I say, some better self-awareness regarding that part of the significance of Remembrance Day in Northern Ireland would be sensitive and fitting.

    I live in a very international part of the UK – a lot of the other school parents are from other countries, including many from Germany – but while the newer arrivals don’t have a culture of wearing poppies, and I don’t expect the Dutch, Brazilian, Spanish or German parents to wear them at all, they generally seem to regard it as a broadly positive thing. It’s just not divisive at all.

    But look, if a section of people wants to make something divisive, they can. And in Northern Ireland, you can bet they will. As I say, that decision reflects only party on their target; it also reflects on them. There are plenty of times for being critical; and some times when marks of respect are appropriate. Respecting the UK’s wearing of poppies for national remembrance, even if you’re not British yourself or even uncomfortable with some British actions of the past, shows an ability to see the world in terms other than black and white.

  • Gopher

    I never feel any controversy, you want to remember you do, you don’t, you don’t. Like I have said before it is unfortunate for controversy merchants that the Somme will dwarf every other event next year except for maybe Jutland in Europe wide commemoration. It must be noted that those commemorations will be free of ideology so anyone who can’t leave it behind has their choice..

  • MainlandUlsterman

    does the presence of guns – in the case of the South, guns actually used to kill people, rather frequently – make the Republic illegitimate then?

    I don’t as it happens approve of the 1912 gun-running. And I think the border should have been better drawn and not included all the territory of all 6 counties. But the border proposed by Irish nationalists would have created an even bigger national minority than NI produced, not a smaller one – so it was obviously a less good solution, if all people are treated equally. But I agree they should have been more sensitive to local views at a district level and been more scientific about the placing of the border.

    So really, complaining about the border then or now, as if a single island solution would have been better democratically, is simply not correct. But it is probably fair to say NI was made a little bigger than it should have been. A larger unionist majority within a slightly smaller area would have been better, clearly.

  • Thomas Barber

    I wouldn’t agree with you on your massaging of the numbers to suit your narrative especially in light of the almost daily revelations coming out about state involvement in 100s upon 100s of murders carried out on their behalf by state agents in the various paramilitary organisations.

    “So why the sense of Irish Republican victimhood vis-a-vis British forces”

    Try almost a thousand years of murdering Irish people, using them as slaves to build your empire, starving over a million of them to death, stealing their land their homes and property. Need we go on but no need to you already said what had to be said.

    “What would you have done then if they had invaded this country, or your country if it’s not this one? What would have been the right thing to do? Let them? As they say, all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing”

    Sounds like your supporting the Irish people’s right to take up arms against foreign invaders who acted no different than the Nazi’s.

  • Tochais Siorai

    Ah…… Premier League footballers. Might be able to kick a ball but they’re not the most cerebral group you’ll come across. Anyway, its not as if they have really a choice. The poppy is printed on the shirt and they’re handed a poppy before any post match interviews. .
    .
    MU, Ireland bore the brunt of a colonial occupation for centuries. This occupation was only possible with the backing of a huge British garrison who upheld the status quo and brutally suppressed any attempt to subvert it. This has left a legacy which you might reflect on before lecturing people to get over themselves.

  • mac tire

    “there really isn’t much controversy about it though – only in Northern
    Ireland, and more specifically, only among a section of Irish
    nationalists.”
    MU, with respect, that is untrue. There are numerous articles in papers, online, in numerous personal discussions etc about British people, in Britain, about this.
    Corbyn is getting vilified by some in Britain for not bowing his head far enough, ffs!

    Those Irish Nationalists in Ulster rugby – you couldn’t be up to them either!

  • My own opinion on this is that many nationalists view the Poppy as a badge of Loyalism.
    Incorrect of course, but this hasn’t been helped the the steady appropriation of the poppy over the years into just such a symbol – so in a way, they aren’t completely wrong.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I’ll just leave that last post of yours to sit there for people to read and make up their own minds. “No different than the Nazis” kind of sums it up.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Not just by Irish nationalists, for the first time since I can remember I didn’t wear a poppy this year.

    It has become politicised to an unacceptable degree. My father served throughout WW2, my uncle and first cousin – who died on the Somme – served in WW1, but the wearing of the poppy has become political and controversial to an unacceptable degree, in my view.

    They fought for freedom, at least that’s what they thought they were fighting for, the truth may be more complicated.

    Freedom means being able to take a viewpoint and adopt an attitude that does not conform with the majority view.

    But the current view is a complete contradiction of freedom of choice,unless you are prepared to conform to the ‘norm’ and wear a poppy you are considered to be unacceptable to the rest of society.

    We should remember, but not in a ‘glorifying’ way, there is nothing glorious about the dead.

    We all get to die, glory is not a part of it. In 2013 I visited the Somme to find the grave of my cousin who died there on 1st July 1916 at the age of 19.

    I found it in Luke copse cemetery outside the village of Serre.

    To me the entire area of First World War Battlefields and cemeteries is a monument to the savagery and inhumanity of our species to one another.

    I have severe reservations as to how we go about remembering.

  • Biftergreenthumb

    I guess people feel the need to write ‘pages and pages’ justifying why they don’t wear poppies or take part in remembrance events because there is quite a lot of public pressure to justify why they don’t.
    For example Sienna Miller recently caused a bit of an upset just because she wasn’t wearing a poppy on TV. She felt she had to explain herself and assure people she wasn’t trying to offend anyone.
    Jeremy Corbyn was also highly criticised because some people didn’t think he bowed low enough while laying a poppy wreath. He was at an official event, laying a wreath but apparently that wasn’t respectful enough.
    Like you I believe that people should be free to wear a poppy or not as they see fit. And like you I certainly don’t think anyone else is owed a justification either way. But some people seem to think that not wearing a poppy must be justified. Hence the ‘pages and pages’ written in defence of not taking part in remembrance.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    yes it’s not just them; but their issue is particular one. Other people uncomfortable with poppies haven’t physically attacked and killed veterans on Remembrance Day, to be fair. Some of the more strident anti-poppy Irish nationalists should surely be more mindful of what Irish Republicans did at Enniskillen and its legacy?

  • MainlandUlsterman

    yes, loyalists using the poppy in that way are playing into Republicans’ hands by helping ethnicise and politicise it. But the disgraceful project is still an Irish Republican one. The people who brought us Enniskillen, remember. Incredible stuff really, the gall of them.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Credit for what? For putting their lives on the line to try and get the paramilitary violence to stop. Over 1,000 were killed. The lives they took were also tragic but much lower, around the 300s. Did you notice how when the IRA stopped, they stopped? Funny that.

    The vast majority of civilians, remember, were killed by terrorists. The troops were in the front line of trying to prevent that. If you care about civilian deaths, your primary focus should be on opposing the IRA, INLA, UVF and UFF campaigns of violence, not the security forces trying to stop them (and who saved tens of thousands of lives in the process). How many lives did the IRA save? The UFF? 0.

  • But not everyone who takes issue with the ( as we’ve agreed ) misappropriated poppy, is a fervent Irish republican.
    Some people just don’t have any truck with the ” Orange Badge “.
    Those who wear a poppy as a genuine act of remembrance & respect I say fair play. Just like I do with the Lily, If it’s a genuine act of respect and memoriam, have at it. If it’s just so everyone knows you’re a super-chuck: wise up.
    I’ve had a few eventful conversations around the Poppy.
    Those who question me as to why I don’t wear one, I’ll have a reasonable discussion.
    Those who berate me, will be responded to in kind.
    The lads at football who told me not wearing one made me look ” like a taig “, didn’t know I was, so I told them.
    The guy I used to work with who berated me for not honouring the people who fought the Nazis in WW1- I just laughed. I kinda pity him.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    fair enough Doug – and I’m sorry you got that abuse. Shouldn’t happen.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Using the same logic, do you think that those taking part on Remembrance day ‘should be mindful’ of what the British army did on Bloody Sunday or what the MRF did over a longer period in NI?

    Perhaps they should ponder on the behaviour of the British Army in Kenya which was even more disgusting and obscene than what they did in NI.

    Attempting to make out that one party is guiltless and cannot be blamed for anything and it’s all the fault of the other side contributes to the ongoing problem.

  • Anglo-Irish

    You really don’t know much about the history of the British Empire do you?

    There is definitely one difference between us and the Nazis, to the best of my knowledge they didn’t design and manufacture a piece of equipment for the specific purpose of crushing a mans testicals before ripping them off.

    Big fans of anal rape with knives and broken bottles also were our brave boys in Kenya, where it took place between 1952 and 1962 years after the Nazis were finished.

    https://www.google.co.uk/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0CDAQFjACahUKEwjOuaOz54XJAhXHmw4KHRIuDpw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.dailymail.co.uk%2Fnews%2Farticle-2336418%2FMau-Mau-fighters-raped-castrated-beaten-Kenyas-uprising-Britain-14million-compensation-apology.html&usg=AFQjCNFtx_gv-lVLWuBgdLjIUwvZkKzrOQ

    You can leave this post to sit there also and let people make up their minds.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I certainly will.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yes people should reflect on that also.
    Not sure where you get the “attempting to make out that one party is guiltless” from. You could only get that from not actually reading my posts.

  • Anglo-Irish

    Well you do tend to give the impression that one sides sins are more noteworthy than the others.

    Anyone not knowing much about the past 93 years of Northern Ireland history would get the impression from your posts – and those of some of your fellow unionist posters – that the place was a wonderful example of a fair and democratic regime.

    A sort of Burl Ives ‘Big Rock Candy Mountain’ until one day those terrible Taigs woke up and said to themselves ” You know what, lets start an armed insurrection against an armed police force and professional Army, it’ll be a bit of a laugh, and things are too lovely around here, it’s boring, lets liven it up! “

  • Anglo-Irish

    Righty ho.

  • Roger

    Poppy fascism – yes that’s it.
    It just like the Americans with all those stupid flag badges. People feel forced to wear them.

  • Roger

    Agreed; it really doesn’t matter much what the poppy thing was intended to be. It’s what it is now that matters. And it’s very political.

  • Roger

    While I think the poppy is understandably a non-starter for many, as it’s so political, I think you are too black and white. A very many Irish families are nationalist but have people in the family tree who died in the British forces. Fr Martin is right that many of those same Irish would like to remember those dead….but not in the political way wearing a poppy involves.