Sunday, 13 November 2016



I DO NOT WEAR THE POPPY and I do not wear it for a number of what I regard as valid reasons.

For me the poppy is a symbol of Britishness and and while I live in the Northern Six Counties of Ireland - and while THEY tell me that I am a BRITISH SUBJECT - I am not British. I am Irish.

Having lived in "The North" for nearly 40 years I have experienced the poppy being used as a sectarian / political symbol by the Unionist / Loyalist communities and I cannot buy into that propaganda.

For four years I was an independent nondenominational councillor on Larne Borough Council - from 1989 - 1993. 

As my large vote came from both the Catholic and the Protestant communities I always attended the Remembrance Ceremonies at the cenotaph in my councillors uniform to represent the whole population of our borough area. 

But each year after the Cenotaph Ceremony there was a church service.

That service ALWAYS took place in a Protestant church and went around the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Methodist churches but NEVER - not even ONCE - took place in the Catholic church.

That was because a lot of the poppy wearers were either staunch Protestants or Orange Order members and it was against their "rules" or "principles" to enter a Roman Catholic place of worship.

This was IN SPITE OF THE FACT that many many thousands of Catholics and Irish men and women lost their lives in the great wars.

What was wrong with going to a Protestant Church every year for three years and to a Catholic church on the fourth year where a nondenominational service could have been held for the fallen.

But I saw that the poppy was being used in a sectarian manner and I was not willing to but into that sectarianism.

Having said that in my 32 years in Larne I have often attended church services in the churches of all denominations - even the Free Presbyterian church of Ian Paisley.

In Larne there is a Royal British Legion Club - and the British Legion is the charity who sponsors the poppy.

Very few Catholics go to the Legion Club and I have never been in it and at least in the early days I do not think I would have been welcome there.

On several occasions I was asked, in the past, to leave various premises in Larne because I was a Catholic and a Catholic priest.

I always refused to leave and when necessary sent for the police to help me.

Larne has been / is about 83% Protestant and 17% Catholic. The famous Bernadette Devlin used to say: "Keep your head as low as a Larne Catholic". 

I do think that the poppy is more sectarian in Northern Ireland than it is in England, Scotland or Wales.

But it still has overtones of first class Britishness and British militarism. 

At this stage I do not know if the poppy can be de-sectarian-ised or depoliticised I doubt it.

And it would be nice if all citizens of the UK and Ireland could have a symbol in common to commemorate all the dead of all wars.

What do the Blog readers think?


  1. It strikes me that the glorious dead is a kind of Anglican/secular substitution for the communion of saints.War is an ugly thing and though purporting to remember the self sacrifice and heroism of those who died, do these kinds of ceremonies end up only glorifying war itself? Most wars are based on selfish economic and political motives and feed off the tribalsim as you described in Larne and ends up only consolidating it? A lot of mythologising tries to cover the barbarism of war. We're obsessed by war and violence, especially men. Look at all the Discovery channels full of programmes about both world wars, as well as the many crime channels on tv. A lot of the poor men were just pawns of the self serving higher ups of society. Though many of the men showed extraordinary courage, should we also remember the often less than noble motives which lead to them losing their lives? It's time for humanity to move on from the primitive brain behaviour which leads to and glorifies violence. Even the Church is having a rethink of the just war theory.

    1. And while it "rethinks" that theory it embraces people like Tony Blair!

    2. I concur with everything said above re/the 10.16 poster.
      Violence begets more violence.
      If you don't learn from history,you are doomed to repeat it.
      Tbe only way tha countries can ever attempt to excuse and explain away the sending out of thousands of unprepared men--some still merely teenagers--to sure and certain slaughter is to wrap it up in phrases like "our glorious dead" and "--were it not for them, we wouldn't be where we are today" etc etc---Well- actually that last bit might be true - -but where ARE we today then? Any further on towards world peace?

  2. There are - regrettably - 'Just Wars.'
    However, the is no justification for war.
    If humanity has any intelligence left - and it seems to perpetually lacking in our politicians (Bush & Blair especially) problems should be resolved by a MINIMUM of wit!
    Armagh Sam

  3. My only poppy remembrance is that November Sunday in 1987 when innocent people gathered to pray in Enniskillen were blown up in the name of Ireland. I happened to be in a certain Irish seminary that day and had difficulty finding anyone to share my revulsion.

    1. Very sad.

      I had a similar experience when the 18 young soldiers were blown up in Warrenpoint.

      I was in a flat in Divis Flats and when the news broke everyone cheered and hugged.

      I left quietly and quickly with a heavy heart and tears in my eyes.

  4. Bernadette Devlin once came to the public hall in Preston. There was a group of orange men outside who shouted "Bring out the Pope's whore". It was quite medieval.

    1. At Larne Borough Council meetings (89 - 93) loyalist protesters used to shout at me - "Go back to the bog Paddy" and "Keep Rome out of Larne chamber".

      That was 3 years after "Rome" had divorced me :-)

    2. My mother Anne O'Kane came from Larne and was Catholic. Her birthday was orange man's day and it was a day she was never allowed to play out. My husbands grandma came from Large and she had an orange sash from the orange lodge. When some cazy catholic comes on the telly, he always so this is your cultural heritage. When Ian came on I used to say and this is yours. It is real that there is so much pain between the denominations.

  5. I know of several papist churches in the republic where they display a poppy wreath in November.

    1. Good for them.

      I think the poppy is less controversial in Eire than in the Six Counties.

      Senator Dr John Robb ( an N Ireland "Protestant" did try and launch a WHITE POPPY.

  6. Once your attention is diverted away from important issues,you end up squabbling about trivia----just as happens in many a workplace and in everyday life!

    1. I would not have thought that war and human suffering as a result of war were "trivia".

  7. I remember in the 80s, your friend, Cahal Daly and others going on about Ireland and the armed struggle and constantly repeating that Ireland was not worth the taking of one human life. Aside from the flaws in its philosophy and practicality, I always found such a statement repugnant considering the tens/hundreds of thousands the Catholic Church murdered in the name of God, in the name of uniformity, with accusations of heresy, atheism, witchcraft and whatever else they could smear a person with, giving themselves just cause to tear men and women apart on scaffolds or burn them alive to please the invisible man in the sky. Of course, all religions do it, have done it or will do it in the future, as with any ideology of power. I just could never reconcile the smug logic of the Church when talking about killing in the cause of Irish nationalism and its own record throughout history for killing or destroying lives. But again, it's like winding oneself up over the issue of where bears defecate i.e. the bloody obvious.

    1. Daly was never away from Stormont Castle, The RUC HQ and Buckingham Palace.

      A proper little Brit :-)

  8. No no! - they are certainly not trivia! You are absolutely right.
    But that is precisely the point I was making - once the attention is diverted on to the minutiae of who should or shouldn't wear what symbol or disputes over flags and parades etc, then the important issues can be sidelined. (It saps the emotional energy that we need in order to feel refreshed for bigger decisions - -)

  9. Jane..not any more, I worked with lots who were not Catholic
    We had no problem, they wanted their holiday around the 12 none of us catholic
    I think most of so called sectarian behaviour was over stated.
    My non Catholic friend used to wear A miraculous Medal and I used to sport a union flag biro ....we worked too hard let our differences be of importance.

    Pat, since when did you start calling the R of I Eire......a bit ancient that


    1. Respect the mans opinion as I respect yours. The Poppy is a divisionism emblem and has been for many years in the occupied 6 counties of Ireland. I don't need to wear a Poppy to remember those who died in wars, I quietly say a prayer for all who lost life's through war.


  11. Why do the vast majority of correspondents wish to remain "anonymous".? Some of them express the most virulent views, naming other people but hiding behind the shield of "Anonymous".
    Iggy O Donovan

  12. A poppy worn for a soldier who defended his nation is perhaps a nobel thing. Those who make it sectarian ought to remember that bullets do not discriminate - 'Killed in action' applies to Catholics, Protestants and non-Christains equally.

    But a poppy worn for a soldier who left his land to bring war to another man's nation is a poppy worn for a terrorist.

  13. In the interests of balance, I would like to make one brief reminder.
    If a person posts anonymously this is an important indication that it is primarily his point of view that he wishes to draw attention to.
    He is not interested in drawing attention to himself in the process. If he feels strongly enough about his viewpoint,he will do whatever it takes to get his idea across. It would be very wrong to assume that those who post under the cloak of anonymity must therefore be cowards.
    So we should be very grateful to Pat for allowing posters the freedom of choice. By giving equal respect to anonymous readers,he leaves open an important channel to him if any person was in distress but desperately needed to draw help and attention to some situation.
    (Please note carefully that nothing in the above in any way implies that a person who does prefer to give his/her identity is on an ego trip! That would be very unfair and untrue - - just, as I say,a matter of balance.)

    1. I think the main reason one posts as anonymous is the engine on the blog itself. I know bugger all about computers but it would be nice if it could be linked somehow to other internet accounts specifically set up for making comments in newspapers,etc. A FB page probably wouldn't work as it would be closed down too often by the administrators and FB encourages one word comments such as 'wankers' rather than more thought out answers.

    2. Like Iggy, I've wondered why so many anon comments. I immediately thought of three, and now added the thoughtful Anon post @ 01:15 above.
      My initial thoughts:
      A) difficulty using the blog way of posting a name or pseudonym.
      B) concerned to give no ID clue.
      C) Too lazy to be bothered.
      There may well be others. But I've noted that the majority of perjorative, small minded, intolerant usually very brief one liner comments fall in the last category, albeit there are a few insightful wise Anons as regulars whose writing style is sometimes recognisable. I suspect these are from serving clerics wishing to preserve anonymity.
      Just for info: after suggesting contributers adopt a pseudonym about 4/5 months ago to assist us knowing who was replying to whom, I've note over 200 different pseudonyms, with a lovely mix of names. Very helpful. Could we have more please?

  14. I believe the poppy is not so much about being British anymore as remembering the dead due to war. Our church had a service at the cenotaph over the road and members of the nearby Roman Catholic Church joined in and came back to ours for a meal afterwards