Oh dear. It’s that time of year again. Poppy time. When those who don’t wear the poppy are depicted as backward-looking anti-Brit bigots, stuffed with spleen and blind to the sacrifice of their fellow-countrymen. When politicians like Fine Gael’s Frank Feighan can wear their poppy with pride in the Dail, to show how open-minded and progressive he is. “We have well and truly moved on from that dark, bloody era in the North before the evolution of the peace process” Frank says. “Thankfully, the peace dividend has delivered a new politics which has allowed us to publicly respect all traditions on this island”. And that’s why Frank’s wearing a poppy.
And why not? I expect at Easter, Frank will sport an Easter lily, to commemorate the courage of the men who gave their lives so that ‘this island’ could govern itself. I shouldn’t be surprised if Frank doesn’t call for all RTÉ presenters to copy his example and wear an Easter lily on air... And pigs might what, you say? Fly?
Ah. Now I get it. “All traditions on this island” ( go on, Frank - go mad and call it ‘Ireland’) really means “certain traditions on this island”. That’d explain why Frank and other southern politicians were so quiet when a BBC presenter in Belfast a few years ago was, um, persuaded that her non-poppy-wearing thinking was part of a false consciousness and if she wanted to go on presenting she’d be well advised to make that false consciousness true. So she did. Saw her wearing on the other evening.
Of course, Frank may not have heard about the white poppy campaign in England, where a lot of people want to distance themselves from the militaristic nature of Remembrance ceremonies. He almost certainly hasn’t heard Channel 4’s Jon Snow who talks of ‘poppy fascism’, such is the pressure on presenters to toe the poppy line.
Here’s the thing, Frank If you want to make public your views and loyalties to the rest of us (and your colleagues in the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly), that’s fine. But if you do, you should be ready to speak out with equal boldness in defence of those who, for whatever reason, choose not to wear a poppy. And speak out even more boldly for those who choose to wear an Easter lily on any part of' this island.‘ And, as with the poppy, maybe lead by example. Get your Easter lily in place, take a stroll down Sandy Row or the main street of Aghohill, and you'll almost certainly learn something about respect for all traditions on this island.