Remembering the Poppy

I spent much of remembrance Sunday watching the many poignant ceremonies in Britain and elsewhere that commemorate the staggeringly high loss of life suffered by British and commonwealth forces during the the two world wars. During this time of year the commemorations, and the symbol of the poppy itself always sparks a debate in Ireland about why we do so little to participate in remembrance activities despite the fact that 35,000 Irishmen were killed during the First World War. I have blogged here in the past on why I believe we should participate more actively in these ceremonies and personally I was delighted to see the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and the Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore travel north last Sunday to represent the Republic. The Tanaiste went to Belfast where as the Taoiseach was in Enniskillen to mark not just remembrance day but the 25th anniversary of the outrageous IRA bomb that killed 11 people in that town. So these are my views on the poppy and on remembrance Sunday.

The Taoiseach lays a wreath in Enniskillen on Remembrance Sunday

However I do want to add the following. I am not in agreement with some people who are highly critical of the Irish state and its cold history toward commemorations. There are some on the revisionist side who I believe use the poppy issue, or lack of, to unfairly demonise the Irish state. They do this by portraying a picture of persecution of those who did not and do not share the nationalist ethos of the Irish state. Revisionists such as kevin Myers would have us believe that the thousands of Irish that returned from the western front after WW1 were harassed and persecuted by the new nationalist majority on the grounds that they may be loyal to the crown. In my view this is one aspect of a sinister campaign by certain individuals who have been intent, particularly since the EU/IMF bailout of 2010, on deligitimising the Irish State. For them, Irish independence was a disaster and the brutal recessions is vindication of this. And part of their narrative is that the Irish state since its birth has been a sectarian entity that punished those loyal to the former administration. Myers and his followers are perfectly comfortable illustrating the history of Irish Independence as being like that of the angry natives keen to exact revenge on their oppressors similar to the ANC in South Africa. This is of course completely untrue and the commemoration issue demonstrates this. All that happened in 1922 was that Southern Ireland changed jurisdiction from British to Irish rule. It was natural that people who had served in the army of a different nation would not subsequently be in a position to participate in public or state commemorations under the new administration. This would be true anywhere but particularly in a situation where there was enmity between the two countries. This is why it is sad. It is very sad. But it is not an example of persecution or oppression. The same happened all over Europe after WW1. Millions, literally millions of soldiers from the European continent found themselves living in different jurisdictions than the ones they had fought under during the war due to the collapse of the Russian, Turkish and Austro Hungarian empires. As I made clear in my first paragraph, and as I think regular readers of Gubu World will be aware, I greatly honour all those who fought and died in the British Armed forces during the world wars. I personally have worn a poppy and will wear one in the future. I hope to see more widespread commemorations in Ireland in the coming years. I think they are long overdue. But I do reject the notion that persecution or bigotry, historically lie at the heart of Ireland's failure to enthusiastically commemorate our war dead.