No glory for Poppy

It's that time of the year again and the issue of the Poppy once again raises its head. Tom McGuirk has produced a blog on the subject over on Slugger. I have a lot of respect for Tom and normally agree with a lot of his writing; on this occasion he is wrong however.

I have already made my feelings on the Poppy known on previous occasions, no point in rehashing them.

I would like to take Tom's article as it' from an Irish Republican perspective.

"For far too long Irish patriots have cast our patriotism in terms of what we are against – Unionists, Britain, the Loyal orders, the blue side of Glasgow and so on, instead of what we are for."

I have to disagree.

Padraig Pearse said once that Davis preached a love of Ireland while Mitchell preached a hatred of England. I find it a bit simplistic but I can at least see where he was coming from.

Irish Republicanism has always been about Ireland and its people; Protestants included. The founders of Irish Republicanism were Protestant and our National Flag is made up of equal sections of Green, White and Orange.

The Proclamation of 1916 sought to unite the majority and the minority, to "cherish all the children of the nation equally", "oblivious to the differences carefully fostered by an alien government".

Indeed in his polemic Murder Machine, which examined the state of the Irish education system, Pearse was almost overcome with joy at the thought of young Protestant children in the Sandy Row area blasting the Pope "as gaelige".

So Tom is wrong when he suggests that Republicanism has always been cast in terms of what we object to.

After 800 years of theft, rape and murder I think the Irish people are entitled to a mild antagonism towards the British state, more so when you consider that this country is still partitioned.

It was Unionism that opposed "Rome Rule", "Never, Never, Never" and "No Surrender".

Republicanism on the other hand holds that "Our revenge will be the laughter of our children"

A bit of perspective wouldn't go amiss.

"I prefer to define my republicanism in terms of what I support. I’m for liberty, for freedom from the need to fear my Government. I’m for basic, decent equality between people regardless of creed or country or colour. I’m for helping those in need of help. Those values are universal, and I’m proud that they have been adopted by a modern, outward looking Irish Republic.

But there’s an important point to me about those values. They are ideas, and rights, that have been paid for dearly with other men’s blood."

I agree; that's why I wear my Easter lily every year to remember all of Irelands Patriot dead who fought and died for Irish Freedom.

"Others who defend Irish poppy wearers point out that some of the blood spilt in their defence was Irish – and it was – but that’s not the point. I’m sick of having to justify my poppy with the argument that it’s ok to wear it because “Irish men died as well”. They did, and I honour them, but I would wear it anyway even if they did not."

Let's get something straight, WWI had nothing to do with freedom. It was about Imperialism clear and simple. A war in which working class men from around the world died in the trenches for the glory of their Imperialist masters.

All this talk of Irishmen who died needs to be set in context as well.

What exactly did they die for? For small Catholic Belgium? The glory of the British Empire?

My arse!

One section of Irish men, those of the Ulster Covenant section, went to fight in order to continue oppression in Ireland. To uphold the Protestant ascendency and to ensure the voice of the minority continued to rule over the majority. When that failed they threatened Civil War and then created a bastarised state based on a sectarian headcount.

How noble!

The other section went to fight for the British under the sad delusion that it would secure Home Rule. They wished to have the crumbs they were promised from the Butchers table as opposed to their birthright of freedom.

How patriotic!

The last section was perhaps the most honest if not the most loathsome. They are the ones who went to fight for the silver. How noble, patriotic and brave it must be to kill other men for money.

No better than a common mercenary.

These are men raised up for others to admire? I have more respect for the man who stayed at home and starved rather than bloody his soul in that Imperialist poker game.

"I wear the poppy because the battle against Nazism was a battle fought on behalf of humanity, and not just on behalf of Britain. I wear it because I’m glad men of all colours and creeds gave their lives to liberate Belsen, and because I’m happy that Europe is free and democratic for the most part. It could have been so different of those men and women had just decided to sit at home."

If that was the case you would be wearing a hammer and sickle as opposed to a poppy. It was the USSR that defeated Nazism. 4 out of 5 Nazi's killed were killed by soldiers of the Soviet Union. You couldn't honour them though, after all they were Communists and what would the neighbours think.

"Some values are universal. If my poppy shows that I stand with those people, and honour their sacrifice, then I don’t care whether it supports the Royal British Legion financially or not, nor whether it is worn by the Queen, or members of the SAS. They wear it out of loyalty to country. I wear it out of respect for a generation who laid down their lives so that my life is free."

I have no problem wearing a symbol to remember all those who died in both World Wars but it will be a cold day in hell before I wear a symbol that remembers and honours British Crown forces.

An Irish Republican would no more wear a Poppy than a Turkey would lament the passing of Christmas