By Fionnbharr Rodgers
I remember two years ago while I was in the second year of my undergraduate degree, the Student Union held a motion which had it passed would have banned the sale of remembrance poppies during the month of November.
The motion was supported by members of QUB Sinn Féin who were also on the SU Council, in what was a flagrant demonstration of hypocrisy: this is symptomatic of the wider contingent within contemporary nationalism which refuses to recognize those Irishmen and Irishwomen who acknowledged and made the best of their legal status as British citizens as full members of the Irish nation. These people are undermined as ‘West Brits.’
I come from strongly nationalist background on both sides of my family; I attended this year’s commemorations of the centenary of the Easter Rising in Dublin. Yet on remembrance Sunday I also wear a poppy because I have an appreciation for the full scope of Irish history and so I recognize that, of the 200,000 Irishmen who fought as British soldiers during the First World War, 57% were nationalists. They were fighting as Redmond’s volunteers, who fought for Home Rule and the rights of small nations against large empires. The remaining 43% would also have held an Irish identity as well due to the fact that sectarian divisions and exclusions had not been cemented by partition at this stage; Edward Carson undoubtedly saw himself as an Irishman.
These men were Irishmen long before they were British soldiers. The uniform they wore on their backs did in no meaningful way negate nor undermine the spirit they held in their hearts. As Thomas Davies believed, a person is a part of the Irish nation if they simply allow themselves to be; being a British citizen does not make a person any less of an Irishman or an Irishwoman.
In conclusion, if you wear a lily on Easter Sunday then you should also wear a poppy on Remembrance Sunday. Any excuse is disingenuous. If you remember the sacrifice of some who fought for Ireland, then you must also acknowledge and remember the sacrifice of all who fought for Ireland.