It’s nearly “Poppy Season” again, the time of year when everyone is defined by their wearing, or not as the case may be, of this symbol of remembrance of those who died in the cause of the British State.
Of course, in this part of the world it is another opportunity to define identity. I will never wear a poppy due to members of my own family being victims of Crown Forces back in the 1920’s. As my Mother would say, I would be “haunted” by them. Nevertheless I fully respect the right of others to remember their fallen in whatever manner they see fit with the proviso that it causes no offence. The difficulty here is that the British Army and their supporters live cheek by jowl with many who suffered at their well armed, well financed and well equipped hands. Memories are long in this part of the world.
There is also the awkward fact that Unionists are still to acknowledge that their fellow countrymen have a right to remember our own fallen. That point has never once been conceded by an Ulster Unionist to my knowledge although the Queen of England did just this on her visit to Dublin with her visit to the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square.
Despite all the talk of “shared futures” and “equality” etc, Unionism still appears to be in a state of imagined siege. I worry what certain Unionists would do without it. It must be clear that the South is unlikely to invade in the near future yet a narrative of “Cultural invasion” is being pushed. This is insecurity of the highest order. Micháel Martin made an interesting speech yesterday accusing the current Government of neglecting the national question. While this is undoubtedly a ploy to counter SF south of the border he does have a point regarding Enda.
My idea of equality is simple. When I can wear my Easter Lily walking along Main St Bangor, When I can go see a game in my local with my national flag flying outside without annoying anyone. When I can help organise a St Patricks Day parade through the town. Then I’ll start believing in the shared future agenda.
In the meantime, the whole Poppy thing, which will extend for weeks, is just Déja vu for us all.