That was an interesting news item on BBC TV last night, wasn’t it? A young woman who’d worn a small poppy-emblem on her shirt was told to remove it as, presumably, her employers wanted a political-emblems-free zone. She refused and won. Now all the Poundland (is that what they’re called?) stores throughout the UK have given the OK to wearing poppies.
Fair play. The young woman clearly feels something for the poppy, which represents those who gave their lives fighting in the British Army down the years. Some people think that deserves honouring, which is why Maggie Ritchie, briefly the SDLP leader, will be wearing one. Myself, I won’t be. Never have and probably never will. But that’s because I have a different view of the British Army from Maggie Ritchie and the young woman from Poundland. Different folks, different strokes. A question of tolerance, really.
But then you think about it and you start to see how far tolerance stretches. In the BBC in Belfast, except things take a dramatic turn this year, all presenters appearing on the TV screen will be wearing a poppy. A few years ago Donna Traynor, I believe, expressed reluctance to wear one but after a short sharp chat with management, normal service was resumed and she appeared wearing it.
So to sum up, everyone in Poundland has the right to wear a poppy, everybody appearing on the BBC Belfast screen must wear a poppy.
And then there’s the question of the Easter Lily. It honours those who died in the cause of Irish freedom. That’s freedom from domination by Britain. And this is the point where I offer a bet. I’ll give you 10-1 that no presenter in the BBC this Eastertime will wear an Easter Lily. You can, you must wear a poppy, which honours all those who served in the British Army for decades and centuries; you cannot and you must not wear an Easter Lily (or any similar emblem), which honours those who fought and died in the search for Irish freedom.
I hate to say it, boys and girls, but if you think it’s a long, long way to Tipperary, it’s a damned sight longer way to equality in this sad little north-east corner.