It has always been frowned upon by Irish Republicans to wear a Red Poppy to remember Irish Citizens that fought in the Great War of 1914-18.
It was common belief by Irish Republicans that wearing a Red Poppy commemorated the British soldiers that inflicted so much misery on our blighted history in Ireland, and I, as a life-long Irish Republican always stood by that principle.
Recently, however, I questioned this principle and decided to wear a Red Poppy. I wore the Red Poppy not to commemorate any war or any British soldier that played a role in the cruel deeds inflicted on Ireland but rather to remember the thousands of Irish citizens that died on Flanders fields. It is my opinion that for far too long we have held a bigoted view that these Irish citizens were traitors to Ireland’s cause at the time of our struggle for independence.
Those that went to the trenches in Ypres did so for many reasons. Some went because they believed it would lead to Irish Independence as promised by Redmond. Others went in order to feed their families, having had gone through the great lockout of 1913 and left with nothing to feed their loved ones. Then there were many who fought for the right of small nations to be free.
Whatever their reason,it is all fine and easy for us to judge from our comfortable surroundings which could never have been imagined by those who fought in Ypres.
The Poppy is an International symbol of remembrance instigated by an American woman called Monica Micheal who was inspired by the poem “On Flanders fields” by a Canadian lieutenant colonel John McCrae. It is worn by citizens of Canada, Australia, New Zeland, South Africa, France and Belgium to remember their dead and has been a symbol of rememberance since the Napoleonic wars. It it not time that we as Irish Republicans cast aside the fallacy that the Poppy is a British inspired symbol and only represents British Soldiers that died in war?
I am comfortable with my Republicanism and can now cast aside all else and just wear the Red Poppy to remember Irish Citizens that were victims of the time in history in which they lived and the decisions they had to make.
Ciaran Bolger is a member of Fianna Fail.