James McClean And Armistice Day – A Personal Perspective

Conor Lynam shares his thoughts on James McClean and the bloody poppy.

I thought that I had seen it all in relation to the annual Poppy hysteria that grips this part of the world in the lead up to Armistice Day on November 11th. Just like the Christmas season I’m used to seeing it arrive earlier and grow more ostentatious by the year. And just like the fattened Christmas turkey I look forward to it with as much enthusiasm as he does December 25th.

What I hadn’t counted on was the sight of the Cookie monster from Sesame St proudly adorning the bright red lapel on his soft blue coat whilst co-hosting a popular TV show.

Nor did I expect to see football mascots with their oversized heads and caricatured characteristics proudly displaying the controversial emblem.

Distinctly disrespectful or a brilliant display of deference for the fallen? I’ll let you decide that one.
What I’d like to try and do for this article is to make a contrast between the masses that do wear the small and divisive badge and the few that refuse to do so.

Particularly with reference to the growing hostility that they encounter for what should be an unopposed personal choice.

When you flick on your TV from the comfort of your home and you trawl through the masses of channels you instantly realise just how big the ritual has become.

A fine tradition it would appear on the surface, a commendable way to honour the poor men and women that fell protecting their freedom.

But dip a little deeper and question marks like the poppy itself begin to grow and multiply in the most unexpected of places.

Allow me to take you back to Derry, North of Ireland, the year is 1972 and the date is January 30th. Human rights protestors have the gall to gather en-masse to demand equal voting rights as their unionist superiors.

One man/woman – One vote, not a complicated or unreasonable demand surely? 

They were also calling for an end to internment which was sweeping the city at the time.

Enter the Parachute regiment with live ammunition and orders to disperse the crowd by any means necessary. An order that came from the top and was filtered down to the rifled pawns below.

We all know what happened that day, I won’t bore you with details of mass murder or tell you tales of cover ups, spin and downright lies in the wake of the atrocity.

You again can draw your own conclusions from the horrors of that day and the fact that it took almost 40 years for any semblance of an apology from the British government.

Now fast forward to the year 2016, the centenary of the 1916 rebellion and a time when a young Irish man from Derry has refused to be complicit in the faux floral folly.

A move which in my opinion took a huge amount of guts and determination to see through considering where James McClean plies his trade.

His right not to wear the poppy has not only been rejected by the mob but it has been the focal point for unmerited, unwelcomed and unnecessary vitriol. Each November James McClean’s name is resurrected by the rule Britannia brigade that cannot accept his decision.

The absolute irony in all of this of course is that the men that they purport to remember by pinning that flower to their clothes were fighting against the fascist ideals that they have so wholeheartedly adopted.

Why should the British demand that an Irish man wear a poppy? Particularly one that was born into a city that has seen such atrocities as mentioned above.

I would not expect any British person plying their trade in Ireland to wear an Easter lily, so why do the bully boys vociferously demand the same from James and the scant few that refuse to bend the knee?

For me the resurgence of the far-right in England and the dissipation of the once omnipotent United Kingdom go hand in hand. The evolution of this poppy fascism has been intertwined with the UK’s demise.

It’s a case of scrambling for the perceived idiosyncrasies that define how to be British, thereby isolating the rest that don’t subscribe. It is for this reason alone that the referendum on “Brexit” was ratified.

Scotland have had their first referendum on their future in the “mighty” kingdom and although she did not gain its independence this time I am sure their time will inevitably come.

Britain rather than settling into a more integrated and open Europe has decided to hit the eject button and has quickly scrambled into the refuge of the impenetrable panic room.

James McClean is the epitome of someone that doesn’t quite conform to the new rules and is almost a pariah as a result.

His decision is his own and should be respected by all on that basis alone. It is courageous for such a young man to stand up like that in the face of such open and unchallenged hostility.

He has been on the receiving end of the feral packs detestation for the last number of years. Just like Aiden McGeady’s years of abuse in Scotland whilst playing for Celtic the outward pouring of hate has been swept silently under the carpet.

I suspect that next year will be similar with only a few minor changes. The “celebrations” will be longer, the abuse that James will get will be louder and the Cookie monster will most probably make another appearance.

Maybe big bird will stand beside him next year though, in the cause of gender equality of course.

Me personally, I’ve no problem with those that wear the poppy, just like I have no problem with those that wear an Easter lily.

My problem lies in the growing intolerance for those that refuse to conform to the annual and over the top charade that the poppy wearing weeks have sadly become.

To the prejudicial, the xenophobic and the intolerant I simply say:

More Blacks
More Dogs
More Irish.

➽Conor Lynam is a Dublin Republican


  1. Conor, agree with everything you say about war poppies, and great respect to James McClean.

    One point: you say independence will inevitably come to Scotland... well, if it does, it will partly be due to people who were less than impressed about Aiden playing against the land of his birth.

    Not exclusively, of course, but to a significant extent.

    How would it go down at the Aviva if a born and bred Dub turned up to play for England against Ireland in the World Cup?

  2. The abuse that James McClean receives every week is vile and disgusting (including "Fenian bastard" calls from supporters of the club that he plays for) and the Professional Footballers Association (PFA) should be standing up for one of its members who is being subjected to treatment in his workplace that would be utterly unacceptable in any other work place.

    The Royal British Legion has stated that wearing of a poppy should always be a personal choice. Stoke City and two previous clubs that James has played for, Wigan and WBA, have respected and accommodated his opting out of the poppy fest. His first club, Sunderland, effectively threw him to the mob by not doing this.

    For the record, I wear the poppy in remembrance of who died in two World Wars including many thousands of Irishmen from all traditions. I do it also to respect the memory, including the mother of my good friend Aileen Quinton, who died in the Remembrance Day massacre at Enniskillen It is certainly not an endorsement of war as a means of resolving international disputes, nationalistic militarism and certainly not of the atrocities that took place in Derry on 30th January 1972 or in Ballymurphy on 9-11 August 1971.

    It is a private decision of mine to wear the poppy; I do not comfortable with the culture of poppy conformity and the co-option of football into it. I wonder what reaction will Vidic of Man Utd get for opting out of this annual ritual.

    Lastly, I would like to say that James is my favourite player on the Republic of Ireland team because of his dedication and skill rather than everything he puts out on Twitter.

  3. Spot on Conor ,what I find disturbing but understandable ,giving the hatred some English have for anything I rish , is the xenophobic outpouring of disgust by a section of "enraged loyalists" and media at James McClean and his stance (rightly so) re wearing a poppy, Not a shout at Nemanja Matic the Man Utd player who refuses to do the same, this Haig fund symbol is a money making venture which we never hear exactly how much they make each year or how this money is spent ,if it is used to help ex service personnel then why are some living on the streets ? A royal row which lead to the deaths of 18 million men and boys which caused so much embarrassment in the establishment that Saxe Coburg Gotha changed their name to Windsor and dickheads shout and abuse a footballer,personally I,d put the fucking royal spongers against the wall.

  4. A P.S, One thing this whole debacle over wearing a Haig fund symbol is that it lets the govt know how malleable and easily led the public are , these works of "commemorative art" which pop up this time of year who commissioned them,as if we didn't know and why , because the dead are a great money spinner(ask quisling $inn £anny),one would think that this modern and educated generation would be questioning the validity of that war rather than glorifying the stupidity of it ,

  5. It’s clear the poppy represents something different to Irish people, but it’s not likely many of the British who wear it do so in defiance of, for example, the Bloody Sunday victims, they must be allowed a perspective that is not automatically classed as xenophobic in origin, even if they try to coerce others for a perceived disrespect in not wearing one.

    Those who chose to live in this country can at least try to explain how the WW1/WW2 dead’s sacrifice isn’t a factor in their decision. Because we want to live in a society where we know and understand our peers , not some grand nursery of mute strangers linked by loose economic desires.

    A couple of years back some group whose members went on to film snuff videos for ISIS in Syria decided to burn poppies on Remembrance Day , it was said then too,the freedom to do this was what those in WW2 died to protect, but what about its effect on the living today though?

  6. Barry,
    Wearing a poppie should be a personal choice. The problem in football is the propaganda is that widespread that anyone who takes a personal choice that doesn't conform is instantly vilified. The poppy does glorify war to many. The fact the premiership is multinational and includes Irish, Argentinians, Serbs, Egyptians and numerous other nationalities that have suffered from the British military shows their staggering arrogance and is the opposite of quiet reserve and solemn rememberance.

  7. As a long standing member of the RBL I think the new poppy facism is a disgrace. The BBC seem to be the worst, everybody that appears seems to be wearing one and it is obvious that some staffer with a box of fresh ones is behind the camara ambushing everybody that comes on. The soldiers that died fighting facism would not be impessed at this enforced reverence.

    As for James McClean, he stated that he would wear one if it symbolised only the soldiers of the two world wars but he can't wear one due to the events of Bloody Sunday. Fair enough. However I have little sympathy for young James and the abuse he gets as he largely invites it by his tweets and actions. His turing his back during the playing of the national anthem before a WBA match and staring at the floor was completely disrespectful. All the other foreigners stood to attention with the British lads. When I go to the Aviva to watch Ireland I always stand to attention, I would never dream of disrespecting my neighbour's anthem. Why did he choose to disrespect the anthem? If he hates England so much why does he live there? And does he think that declaring his love for IRA murderers and quoting Bobby Sands on Twitter will reduce the baying of the crowd? Thank fuck he doesn't play for the north.

  8. Tell a lie long enough and people will swallow it hook, line and sinker- 'the poppy represents all those who died in the Great War'. Reality check- the poppy represents all British armed forces that died in all Brit conflicts they partook in including State terrorist Robert Nairac and others too long to bother mentioning. Lest we forget.

  9. If McClean doesn't want to wear it that's his right. I wish everyone would shut the fuck up about it though, let Planter and Gael remember their dead in respectful silence.

  10. David Higgins

    And then there were the Kosovan Albanians and Sierra Leoneans who were saved from genocide by British and Western interventions.

  11. Peter,
    All soldiers are murders or accomplices to murder so by your logic if a British footballer playing in the Irish league tweeted support for British military history would he bring it on himself? Or would that be ok because Brit violence is justified by msm etc. Where does the invited it on himself argument end? If he's stiffed does he have a hand in his downfall? A lot of people find national anthems insulting, it's your democratic right to show disrespect, whether you would do it is irrelevant. Does colin kapernak deserve to be ostracised?

  12. David

    All soldiers are murders or accomplices to murder - no they are not.

    so by your logic if a British footballer playing in the Irish league tweeted support for British military history would he bring it on himself? - no, but if a loyalist playing for a team in Cork tweeted his admiration of Johnny Adair then he would be foolish.

    it's your democratic right to show disrespect - correct but is it wise in McClean's case? He has the right to disrespect my anthem and I have the right to disrespect him. Then he plays the victim and complains about insults from the stands?

    Does colin kapernak deserve to be ostracised? No, dissent is a right, as is the right to disagree with someone's dissent.

  13. Peter - Bobby Sands is venerated by a wide range of international and national opinion. You might disagree with his armed response to British state terrorism and there is much in the way of critique that can be thrown the IRA's way for having pursued a long war strategy that ended in unmitigated failure, but it is much more acceptable throughout Ireland to quote Bobby Sands than say Thatcher. There is no reason for McClean to feel bad about tweeting Sands. If he tweeted Ted Heath, there would be some cause for alarm.

    I am sure there were many soldiers who tried to do the honourable thing while in Ireland but it is easy to understand why people would view all of them as accomplices in murder. The institution of the British Army committed many atrocities in Ireland which they are still trying to cover up. And the debates goes on as to what degree of complicity should be assigned to a member of an institution that engaged in such things. We see it go on in terms of Catholic priests who are members of a vile institution but who did not behave in a vile manner themselves.

    I don't hold that view or any black and white view of what happened in the North. If people tweet in support of British military history which was in large part murderous, then they draw down some of the flak that is let loose.

    My abhorrence of the bloody poppy is not restricted to Derry or Ballymurphy or other war crimes inflicted by the British military. Bomber Command is being honoured in there too. It perpetrated war crime after war crime for years on the civilian population of Germany - mass murder. Does the red poppy in any way contribute to the memory of the victims of those massacres? It eulogises the killers of a civilian population, burned to death in their homes, schools, hospitals, workplaces for no reason other than to terrorise. Even if there was one black spot on the red poppy that was reserved for those people I would have some sympathy.

    At the same time it honours those young pilots who took off from airfields to prevent the Nazi air operation in the Battle Of Britain and who never returned. It is very hard not to be touched by their bravery or sense of doing something that was both right and necessary.

    I know that many of those who wear it do not feel animosity or anger towards the slaughtered civilians of Germany and might even abhor the war crimes committed; that the range of nuance can never be captured in some small item. But those who cannot bring themselves to wear it should not feel compelled to. That is something you agree with anyway in your opposition to poppy fascism.

    I think there is nothing wrong with McClean standing for the British national anthem while in Britain when the team turns out. I see it in comparative terms of me being at a funeral mass. I never mutter a word throughout but when the mass goers stand up I do the same. It is not deferential but simply acknowledging their culture in their place. If I don't want to stand then I should not go in. At that moment in time I observe their rituals without embracing any of the meaning that they attach to them.

    Why the obsession with the red poppy - why not wear the white in memory of the victims of war including those massacred by the people the red poppy commemorates?

  14. David

    "All soldiers are murderers or accomplices to murder"

    Is abortion murder and are the women undergoing abortions and medical staff involved murderers and pregnancy counsellors accomplices to murder?

    Is meat murder and are butchers and carnivores accomplices to murder.

    There are degrees or murder; that is the point I am trying to make. Best stick to its proper definition: premeditated, unlawful homicide. Soldiers who violate the laws of war are murderers; not so by dint of their occupation.

  15. AM
    I have no problem with him tweeting his love for Machine Gun Marty or quoting Bobby Sands but considering the situation he finds himself in it is just throwing petrol on the fire. Quoting Ghandi may have been more pertinent.

    I have to disagree that all soldiers are murderers or accomplices to murder. Many units were not involved in any killing let alone contentious killings. To label all soldiers that way is absurd.

    I understand your problem with the poppy and share many of your sentiments. As a youth I wanted action and adventure, now I am a pacifist. War is horrendous and should be avoided. As you point out even the heroic allied fight against Nazism has its problematic elements.

    As for McClean, google his actions during the playing of the national anthem. The picture is a classic of petty disrespect. Turning away and staring at the floor is pathetic considering he earns millions playing football in England. I defend his right to dissent but I think it is petty and foolish and have no sympathy for the abuse he receives or respect for him for playing the poor victim.

  16. Peter - it is less absurd than you think and probably not as arguable as your detractors think. It poses the question of the degree of complicity individuals have in a corporate entity. I think that the loyalist campaign was a war crime but do not think the loyalists who carried it out on the ground are war criminals. Sometimes the war crime rests at the level of the strategic. A component part of British state strategy in the North was state terrorism. To what degree is one culpable if they are part of that state terror institution? I guess the further down the chain of command you are the less culpable you are as well.

    I am anti-war but not a pacifist.

    There is etiquette and McClean may not have abided by it but his decision not to wear the poppy has to be strenuously defended.

    There is a war monument down the street from me. If I was passing and the poppies had blown off in the wind I would replace them. But that is being socially urbane, not politically deferential.

  17. Barry - but it just does not work out so smoothly. As we can see from the North there is a battle over who defines what is lawful. All the investigations into British military actions have taken place after previous investigations rendered those killings lawful.

    I think unless it is war crimes the use of the word murder is too loaded. I think homicide is probably better. But it is open to the charge that such usage is to elevate murder on stilts.

  18. AM
    Corporate culpability, yes but to call ALL soldiers murderers is absurd. The language needs to be more accurate.

    Perhaps I should have said 'anti-war' and not 'pacifist'.

  19. Peter if all the IRA can be called murderers it seems all soldiers on the opposite side can also be called the same. I prefer not to label either in such general terms. But as a polemic either way it has its merit, regardless of the factual, legal or ethical drawbacks.

    Pacifist is not a concept I can identify with but many of them have been extraordinary in their courage and opposition to injustice. Think of Sophie Scholl.

  20. Peter,
    Is it wise for kapernak? Does he play the victim? Soldiers whole perogative in war is to kill and terrorise, society might excuse it, even glorify it, but, the deliberate act of killing, whatever you call it, the results are the same. My grandfather who i never knew, was a gunner in a tank in ww2. My father once asked him "did you ever kill civillians?" He replied "no i fired shells at soldiers and roses at civillians"

  21. Barry,
    As i said before when we discussed the ihra definition. Definitions are corruptable. a Russian soldier walks into a concentration camp is engulfed with horror. Executes the camp commander in a pre meditated fashion. Murderer or outraged human?

  22. Barry,
    My point wasn't that people didn't benefit from intervention. My point was some didn't and shouldn't be coerced

  23. Am,
    People with your intellect play with words in a way am not capable of. I struggle to vocalise my thought process. The human ego won't allow us to call murder, murder. If i go out tonight, get in an altercation, beat a man unconscious and he dies, rightly am called a murderer. If a drone pilot takes out his target along with innocent civilians it's collateral damage and he's a hero. Yet the former wouldn't have been premeditated and the latter was

  24. David - your intellect seems alright to me.
    The human ego very much permits us to call murder by its name, murder.
    What do we call the actions of Myra Hindley or Robert Black? Murder plain and simple.
    Many people plead guilty to murder.
    The human ego might lead us to think that we were not all that bad, that there were mitigating circumstances for our acts but they were murder nonetheless.
    I think the use of the term homicide assigns a different meaning to the act without elevating it. In fact political homicide can often be much worse and less excusable than what we call murder. In war a war crime is a specific category which resonates with much more gravitas than murder.
    Murder always denotes criminality. If everybody the IRA killed was murdered, then the IRA was nothing more than murder gang. I don't subscribe to that view.

  25. David,

    "As i said before when we discussed the ihra definition. Definitions are corruptable. a Russian soldier walks into a concentration camp is engulfed with horror. Executes the camp commander in a pre meditated fashion. Murderer or outraged human?"

    That happened to the late UUP leader James Molyneaux, he was one of the first into Belsen. His commanding officer saw what the Nazi's had done and promptly walked up to two SS officers and shot them both in the head. Murderer? Not in my opinion, I would have done the same.

  26. Steve - it was murder. But this is where the god of inconsistency dwells in the heart of many of us. Does it upset us? Not in the slightest.

  27. AM

    From the wiki ..

    "Murder is the unlawful killing of another human without justification or valid excuse, especially the unlawful killing of another human being with malice aforethought."

    One could argue that Molyneaux's CO had justification, or valid excuse. From memory the two Nazi's were mocking a nearly dead inmate, displaying a callous disregard for human life and suffering.

    Justifiable Homicide in my opinion. I am anti-war also, but would be proactive in dealing with Islamic State zealots who clearly cannot be reasoned with and who show no compassion.

  28. Am,
    What i mean is am not an academic, am a stonemason. In a debate scenario you would tie me in knots, as would Barry and yer man tain bo who used to post here. That's not a feel sorry fo me am stupid line am far from it. In the best way i can explain it is if my friends are murders for planting bombs in civilian areas so are they. Uniforms don't give csrte blanche to murder. My point was when you and barry go deep, your well of knowledge surprasses mine. There is nothing wrong with that, we all have our strengths. Could you cut and build stone at my level?

  29. Steve, that's kind of my point. Rules exist for things we find noble. Well the problem is they're are not rules if they apply morally but not in specific scenarios deemed immoral

  30. Am ,
    If freedom of speech is repressed by pc and self censorship is that still oppression?

  31. There are a couple of positives that can be taken out of this controversy and indeed the ritual itself and we have to thank the likes of James McClean for his principled and sincere stand. What he has done is highlight issues around war and violence and indeed personal freedom. Could we not say that his stand is in the spirit of 'Remembrance'. Through it we might yet come to an understanding of the causes and implications of not only the First World Wars but all wars. Now that would be remembrance. I am all for that.

    James McClean controversy is instrumental in bringing up another controversy i.e journalist Aaron Ransani's, the RBL and Labour right wingers https://www.thecanary.co/exclusive/2018/11/08/army-veteran-slams-labour-right-wingers-poppy-appeal-attack-on-journalist-aaron-bastani/

    In my view this gets to the nitty gritty of the problem something like what I would call 'institutionalised propaganda', brainwashing, blackmail and hypocrisy.

    Finally a little pet hate of mind but one that is in keeping with the 'institutionalised propaganda' is the wholesale collaboration of the main stream media in it. Every one on the box has to have a poppy on display. Not only that but come on the sensational news items was 'James McClean is not wearing a poppy'. Not Britain is making a fortune out of the war in Yemen.

  32. David - people exercise caution in what they say for a wide range of reasons: same as they lie. It might be to reduce friction in a social situation, cause nobody embarrassment, avoid awkwardness. I think the term self censorship is one that described a reluctance to speak for political reasons or out of fear of what is likely to happen in the event of speaking. It is something that while on the surface is voluntarist happens to be the product of external pressure. Perhaps the greatest factor in self censorship is what has been described as the anonymous pressure of the group.

    I find PC very intrusive and intellectually oppressive. It is an attempt to suppress freedom of expression and opinion. It is not always the stated objective of the PC mob that is at issue. That can often be right. It is the unstated objective and methodology which is more oppressive. I think the PC mob's unstated objective is reap the pleasures of power over those they try to whip into line. I also feel it is more concerned with being politically correct rather than factually correct: it suppresses discussion as a means of preventing facts on the ground emerging.

  33. David,

    I don't agree with that. It depends on what the debate is about and there are subjects (not just stonemasonry) that you could tie me in knots around. You seem to hold your own pretty well from what I can see.

    I don't think Barry is tying people in knots either nor does he seem determined to press the advantage when things go his way, he makes his point avoids the Ya Boo Ya Boo. Yeah, if people lead with their chin he is going to land one. It is a good exchange between the two of you.

    I get your point fully about murder and the argument you make for being consistent. What I bring in is a query over the usefulness of the term which in my view rarely captures the essence and nuance of war. It is employed less for accurately describing matters and more for labelling them in pejorative fashion. The British for example describes Frank Hughes as a murderer for killing British soldiers but never uses the terms to describe the mass killers of civilians.

    I would rather be a stone mason than an academic. I don't define myself as an academic although some others have taken to doing so. I prefer building sites to universities.

  34. Am,
    What i mean is you have better ways of explaining yourself. Sometimes you'll use words or reference something and i'll think what the fuck's he on about, that's life you're better educated it's no big deal. that's my point i haven't the eloquence to dicuss murder, war and morality to your extent. However i know what i believe and if the men who fought for my people are murders then so are the uniformed killers. Their sycophantic media goes in one ear out the other

  35. David - DaithiD was commenting the other day to Frankie or somebody and it went right above my head. I hope I don't come over as a snob when I write in the way you describe.

    What you basically call for is parity. The way you frame its logic also means that if the men who fought for your people are not murderers then the uniformed killers are not either. I wonder if that symmetry can actually work in all cases.

  36. Am,
    You're far from a snob. At the risk of sounding sycophantic, i find you thought provoking and genuine which means more to me than most. It's just self confidence issues on my side, that's my problem. When you were politely asked to leave school at 14 lol with no proper education then exchange views with people who have a better general inclination to debate, sometimes you ask yourself "did i word that right?". And fear sounding foolish. That's all i meant when i said intellectual people can play with words. It wasn't a dig. I don't know if symmetry can work at all, for the war machine to continue they have to convince their people their violence is just while their enemies is evil. To put it in American term people just need good guys and bad guys, it eases their consciene