Remembrance day poppys – a quandary for the Irish and Ireland

remembrance day poppy

The tradition of wearing an artificial red poppy to commemorate soldiers who have died in wartime has existed since 1920 and was inspired by the famous poem ‘In Flanders Field’. The poppy has become an increasingly political symbol in recent years and is especially prominent in the UK where just about every media outlet, political party and sporting occasion promotes its use. So widespread has the use of the poppy become that to not wear one is subtly viewed as somehow being unpatriotic or unwilling to acknowledge the sacrifice of soldiers. Channel 4 television presenter Jon Snow famously labelled the compulsion to wear the poppy as ‘poppy fascism’.

The political correctness surrounding the tradition is so advanced and has accelerated so much in recent years that politicians especially seem to compete with each other to be seen to wear the poppy first. Consequently an event that was intended to raise funds for charity has become an annual photo opportunity in the lead up to November 11th, Armistice day.

The tradition has always caused problems in Ireland and Ulster where the British military are reviled by the Catholic population for their part in ‘The Troubles’ and especially for ‘Bloody Sunday’. In Ulster the poppy is seen as a distinct symbol of Britishness and is used almost exclusively by the Unionist community there.

The quandary for the Irish is that so many of their relatives served in the British army and served in the first world war with distinction. Given that the initial purpose of the wearing of the poppy was to recognise the sacrifice of those who died in the first world war it can be difficult to refuse what has become an increasing pressure to conform.

Not everyone does conform though. Irish soccer player James McClean of Sunderland refused to wear a poppy in a November 2012 Premiership match against Everton. The high-profile event was televised worldwide and regardless of a persons view on the matter it has to be admitted that it took a lot of courage for the 23-year-old McClean not to be bullied into submission. Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny also did not wear a poppy when attending a Remembrance Sunday service in Enniskillen on the same weekend.

What is clear now is that what was intended as an exercise in charity has been taken over by the political and media establishment to the extent that it deeply corrupted. While everyone should be able to celebrate their heritage and history the freedoms that the men and women of the first world war fought for are not at all well served by this turn of events.

About the author

Michael Green Michael Green is Manager of The Information about Ireland Site

6 thoughts on “Remembrance day poppys – a quandary for the Irish and Ireland

  1. It is sometimes lost in the arguments that most soldiers who have died in wartime were paid to do a job. The term Conscription in the United Kingdom has existed for two periods with the first from 1916 to 1919. The first time, The Military Service Act 1916 (27 January 1916) was passed by UK government was on 2nd March 1916 which imposed conscription on all British single men aged 18 to 41 except those in essential wartime occupations, the medically unfit, religious ministers and conscientious objectors.

    Due to political considerations, the Act did not extend to Ireland, which was then part of the United Kingdom. Many Irish volunteered and were left stranded and many cases in unmarked graves. The Poppy charity did not make any distinction between volunteers and conscripted soldiers.

    Its shamefulness that political figureheads claim their allegiance not to those who are dead but the hereditary hypocrites who try to justify forceful coercion, when in 1846 the political figureheads then would not feed their citizens during a biological war / national emergency.

    No poppies symbols in the fields of rotten potatoes, where are the charitable acts to erect the graves stones of all those braves who lost their fight against an Empire and a epidemic easily solved with state support?

    More British force personnel were employed in Ireland alone to protect the food transport out of Ireland during the “Famine” period than the numbers Britain sent to Falklands or Iraq. Over one million Irish died of starvation then at a consequence of UK government policy.

    There needs to be a more appropriate remembrance. The Poppy does not determine which soil is owned by monarch, dictator or country before it grows. It also does not care who owns the land when it dies either.

    1. Great post.
      I believe there should be a day of remembrance for those who died in the Irish Famine and the wearing of a green poppy would be a great symbol. The monies raised could go towards an educational fund, such as the Jews have for their ‘Never Again’ policy.

  2. It seems that the significance of the poppy has been blurred, especially to the majority that were born after the first world war.
    There SHOULD be something to commemorate those that served their countries military with great risk to life and limb with a national day of recognition and thanks!
    I’ve seen a symbol depicting a broken rifle that would fit!

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