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.
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.
Maybe big bird will stand beside him next year though, in the cause of gender equality of course.
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 BlacksMore Dogs
➽Conor Lynam is a Dublin Republican