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Thursday 17 April 2014

'I forgot I was wearing one when I went up the Falls Road'

Poppies always spell trouble in Northern Ireland. I had no objections to wearing one -- like so many Irish families, we had a Great War casualty -- but Catholics just didn't.

However, Remembrance Day 1970 was my first in the Belfast Telegraph; a liberal, decent place to work but predominantly unionist where poppies abounded. To wear or not to wear?

It seemed to me that it would be making more of a statement not to wear one, and I had no wish to make any statement at all.

That has always been my objective: not to make statements unless you mean to, but you can't win with the poppy. No doubt some of my unionist friends and colleagues thought I was trying to make some point or other by wearing one.

So far as I can recall, they had the decency to say nothing, which may explain why I forgot I was wearing it when an afternoon job took me up the Falls Road. I was soon rudely reminded -- very rudely reminded -- as the offending emblem was snatched from my lapel. It could have been worse. I might have become the last casualty of the Great War.

Brendan Keenan

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