Friday 20 April 2018

Why is the poppy like a red rag to so many of our bullish little islanders?

One of the ironies of the Irish is that for a people who are genetically incapable of forgetting the past, we have a poor grasp of history.

That's certainly the case when it comes to the poppy.

Worn by those of us who choose to remember and pay tribute to those who died in the senseless slaughter of the Great War, it is still, incredibly, a divisive symbol in this country.

When I, and anyone else who wears it, go out into the street, it's always interesting to see the reactions.

Most people, obviously, don't care. But those who do seem to care a lot. I've been called a West Brit, a royalist and numerous other things that you wouldn't put into a family newspaper.

Like many, if not most, people who come from a working class home in Dublin, there were people on my great grandfather's side who fought in that hellish war.

A mate of mine had a great uncle who returned home after suffering a mustard gas attack and never recovered.

When the topic comes up, I'm amazed at just how many people had someone from their family who fought. Indeed, many families have people who fought in 1916 as well as other members who slogged through the Somme.

The sacrifice these young men made at the behest of the incompetent generals still leaves a scar today, and I believe that to lose the tradition of the poppy and Remembrance Sunday would be a disgrace.

The arguments against wearing the poppy all seem to stem from either a belligerent political obstinacy or simple historical ignorance and bigotry.

The Irish who fought and died in their thousands were not British imperialists. Some were looking for adventure, undoubtedly -- after all, that is what young men do.

But the vast majority of combatants were men who wanted to get out of the disease-ridden ghetto that was Dublin, and this was a way of earning a few quid for their families.

So they went. And they fought. And they died. But they fought so bravely and were commanded so poorly that the Germans used to say they were "lions led by donkeys".

Today, I'm proudly wearing my poppy for those lions.

The donkeys?

They can rot in hell.

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