Lack of poppy was in­sult to war dead

Irish Examiner - - Opinion -

An­other me­mo­rial ser­vice at­tended by our Gov­ern­ment and still no sign of a poppy on the Ir­ish Gov­ern­ment’s wreath. Re­mem­brance Sun­day was marked by a ster­ile, bare, green wreath by Leo Varad­kar in rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the Ir­ish state at the En­niskillen mas­sacre site. What ig­no­rance, what jin­go­ism, what re­tar­da­tion, in a place where unity is called for in re­mem­ber­ing the dead.

The poppy-sham­rock worn by the Taoiseach was not on the wreath, just the usual bland wreath with noth­ing on it. Far from be­ing a trib­ute to the fallen, it is close to be­ing an in­sult to oth­ers who recog­nise the in­ter­na­tional war sym­bol. The fact that not one sin­gle poppy ap­peared on the Ir­ish Gov­ern­ment’s En­niskillen wreath is all the proof any­one needs of how far there is to go with Bri­tish-Ir­ish re­la­tions. De­spite the pas­sage of the Good Fri­day/Belfast Agree­ment and its two-decade age, it was too much trouble for the Ir­ish del­e­ga­tion to place a sin­gle poppy on their wreath. It sym­bol­ises too why power-shar­ing talks are in deep trouble and enor­mous di­vi­sion on this is­land — marked by the usual green wreath when all other wreaths were adorned with pop­pies. Pop­pies are not a Bri­tish sym­bol. They grew in the fields of Flan­ders dur­ing the WW2 where heavy fight­ing had taken place.

The poppy is a sim­ple touch and a bit of colour to what would oth­er­wise be a fairly dull wreath. Ob­vi­ously, Re­mem­brance Sun­day in En­niskillen is twofold in re­mem­ber­ing the war dead of WW2 and the mas­sa­cred peo­ple in En­niskillen when they were mur­dered by paramil­i­taries. But as al­ways, the Ir­ish wreath stands out for what now could be re­garded as a lack of unity on re­mem­ber­ing the dead. Even at the Ceno­taph in London, an Ir­ish min­is­ter at times has laid a green wreath, with hun­dreds of pop­pied wreaths all around it.

The Bri­tish have made it a sym­bol to their war dead, but the best we can do is a bare, green, wreath and a sham­rock-poppy which can barely be seen on our Taoiseach’s lapel. Putting a poppy on the Ir­ish wreath may en­hance Bri­tish/Ir­ish re­la­tions in these dif­fi­cult Euro­pean times? How strange in­deed it is that a sim­ple flower has ended up be­ing a ma­jor source of di­vi­sion on these is­lands, even though it is used to re­mem­ber the dead. Not even in death can na­tions be one for a me­mo­rial ser­vice, prov­ing that much more work needs to be done to heal old wounds and old an­i­mosi­ties be­tween Bri­tish and Ir­ish. The poppy is also a valu­able char­i­ta­ble tool for col­lect­ing fund­ing for the veter­ans to keep their le­gions and clubs go­ing. Ir­ish and Bri­tish ser­vice­men and women who fought in wars have ben­e­fit­ted from such do­na­tions. A poppy or two on the Ir­ish wreath is not ask­ing the world and is sym­bolic of the great suf­fer­ing in con­flict. Some Ir­ish veter­ans also wear the poppy. Re­mem­brance Sun­day should be called “ig­no­rance Sun­day” when the Ir­ish Gov­ern­ment at­tend. Mau­rice Fitzger­ald

Shan­bally Co Cork

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