March 01, 2016

The poppy question

Conor McGregor, as other resolute Irish republicans have done, wears a poppy in 2013
Historian Niall Ferguson reminded us that Remembrance Day and the poppy, while a British tradition, is not just done by Britain. This brings a difficulty to the table of unbending republicans. Ferguson wrote:
"Every November 11, mysterious public rituals take place in a remarkably large number of countries to mark the anniversary of events that happened nearly 90 years ago. All told, fewer than two dozen veterans of the first world war are still living. The number of people with first-hand memories of the war’s end cannot be vastly larger. Yet this week, millions of people born long after the guns fell silent will pin paper poppies in their lapels, observe two-minute silences, lay wreaths and attend church services in honour of the war dead. Such observances will occur not only in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, but also in Australia, Bermuda, Canada, the Cayman Islands, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, South Africa and St Lucia. For a day – or at least for two minutes – the British Empire will reconstitute itself in “remembrance” of “the fallen”.
True, Anzac Day (April 25, the anniversary of the Gallipoli landings) has to some extent eclipsed Remembrance Day in the Antipodes. And, of course, it is not just the British and the inhabitants of their former colonies who commemorate the end of the first world war. The French, too, have their Armistice Day holiday, as do the Belgians. The Americans have Veterans’ Day, although few of them now recall that it originated with the war of 1917-1918. In Poland, November 11 is Independence Day, despite the fact that the independence the Poles won in 1918 was lost again just 21 years later. Yet it is the durability of Remembrance – a distinctly British set of rites and symbols – that is most impressive. Although the victims of other conflicts are now honoured, too, including civilians, the focus remains on the 750,000 servicemen who lost their lives between 1914 and 1918."
Ronan McGreevy wrote:
"Conor McGregor wears a poppy. In Ireland you can’t wear a poppy without attracting ire; in UK you can’t not wear one without attracting ire."
The difficulty I mentioned above is that being against the poppy means that the Irish republican is against not only Britain but against also Australia, New Zealand and many other European and English speaking countries.

Conor McGregor said:
"I am an Irishman. My people have been oppressed our entire existence. And still very much are. I understand the feeling of prejudice. It is a feeling that is deep in my blood."

Jim McAuley wrote in August 2014 in the Irish Post:
"In the South, after Partition there is what is generally referred to as the Great Collective Amnesia. Military service for Britain is completely written out of the history of the nation both at the official level and at the populist, localised level — there are lots of tales of poppy sellers being attacked on the streets. 
It was only when the Queen visited the Irish Republic in May 2011 that attitudes began to change and Ireland’s part in World War One is now openly acknowledged in the South."
Gusty Spence said:
"You weren’t allowed to mention Haig’s name in our home. And you weren’t allowed to buy a poppy. And that struck me as very strange, but my da said, “I don’t know anyone who has ever benefited from the Haig fund.” He hated Haig, the butcher."

James McClean said:
"I have complete respect for those who fought and died in both World Wars - many I know were Irish-born. I mourn their deaths like every other decent person and if the poppy was a symbol only for the lost souls of World War I and II I would wear one. 
But the poppy is used to remember victims of other conflicts since 1945 and this is where the problem starts for me."
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