Armistice Day stunt: The sham of shared but unequal remembrance

There was something entirely fitting about unionist politicians breaking into God Save The Queen during the Armistice Day ceremony in Stormont today.

And before this gets landed on the extreme unionist fringe represented by Sammy Morrison of the TUV, it is worth noting the words of DUP MLA Peter Weir and UUP Leader, Mike Nesbitt, who have called for the British national anthem to return formally to the order of service at the 2016 Armistice Day ceremony in Stormont.

The flag protests and parade controversies that cast dark shadows over our political process bear testimony to a unionist leadership that has abjectly failed to ‘lead.’ Why anyone would believe they would find it possible to do so over an issue as sensitive as remembrance is mystifying.

Shared Remembrance? This was nothing of the sort, and all present knew that the moment every shade of political unionism broke into triumphant song in the Great Hall as Craigavon stared approvingly down upon them.

I’m sure the nationalist politicians present must have been smarting, but they laid claim to the moral high ground by remaining dignified throughout.

Sinn Fein will think again before allowing themselves to be nakedly exposed in such a manner.

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

In truth, Armistice Day does have the potential to become a shared form of remembrance in a manner that the British Remembrance Sunday, and the associated Royal British Legion poppy, can never be.

The one-time firebrand loyalist, Glenn Barr, now organises World War I commemorative ceremonies, including this one in Derry earlier this year. Note how the Union Flag is held alongside the Irish Tricolour in a gesture of truly shared remembrance, with the focus being on those who died in the First World War, respectful of the fact that they had fought and died for differing traditions, yet side by side.

Today was not that.

For political unionism, remembrance is a battleground that will be fiercely contested. The ludicrous faux outrage cultivated by The Belfast Telegraph regarding the non-wearing of embroidered poppies by Ulster rugby sits alongside the farcical loyalist protest of a Shore Road branch of the German supermarket chain, Lidl, after supervisors made an entirely logical decision to decline the offer to allow the Royal British Legion to sell poppies in the shop.

Nationalist Ireland has correctly created space within our narrative for those from our tradition who made the unfortunate decision to fight and die in the First World War, and striving to develop a shared form of remembrance around that episode in history is entirely appropriate.

If a truly shared remembrance is not possible with the active participation of unionist politicians, then so be it.

As things stand, expect Stormont’s shared Armistice Day commemoration to be a one and done event.

The croppies don’t do lying down anymore.


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