This is a guest post from Mr James FitzjamesHorse (who is related to Mrs FitzjamesHorse and me ….thru being born)
When will James McClean learn? The Republic of Ireland international and son of Derry just loves rubbing unionism up the wrong way. The poppy bullies were out in full force this weekend along with McClean’s no 1 detractor Gregory Campbell to widely condemn his “abuse” of freedom of choice.
In Campbell’s defence the young Sunderland winger has made a habit of making personal choices not popular with the DUP member from East Derry. The vitriol in the aftermath of the incident is something I’m sure McClean was prepared for which makes his decision all the more brave.
The young lad is from Derry where, unless you’ve been living in England (judging by people’s reactions on twitter) for the past 40 years, you will be aware that British paratroopers murdered 14 innocent civilians in 1972. This is not debatable…. it is a historical fact. I think McClean’s association with the city of Derry entitles him more than most to decline to be seen supporting a charity which helps services and ex-services of the British armed forces. Or does the poppy appeal only help the good ones that don’t kill innocent civilians?
And here in lies the problem. The rest of the worlds view of the British army (or indeed of all world powers) may not be the same as the high esteem they are held in at home. In other words they don’t always fight the good fight. For every Kosovo there is an Iraq. For every D-Day there is a Dresden. It seems only non-Britons are able to understand this.
I think great credit has to be given to McClean’s manager Martin O’Neill. Although O’Neill himself wore a poppy after the game, he made McClean’s decision much easier by not dropping him which I’m sure McClean’s detractors would have thought justified. It was good to see. I myself am not inclined to wear a poppy but had I been in McClean’s shoes with a less understanding manager it may have influenced my choice. O’Neill afforded McClean his own choice.
There has been a complete air of inevitability about this situation since Premier League teams were required to wear poppies (2010 I believe it was required or a least convention). And while most teams opt for the simple understated poppy some clubs opt for poppies twice the size with “lest we forget” emblazoned across them. One if those clubs is Rangers(both pre 2012 and current). Now this may well be a coincidence but as club traditionally associated with loyalism this could be said to play on that tradition? The point being, just as the British armed forces have a mixed reputation, the poppies have a mixed meaning to people even within Britain. Some wear it to remember the fallen, some to support those in contemporary wars, some DO wear it as a badge of unionism and some as a pointless fashion accessory(see the oversized sparkly ones on tv). The rest choose not to wear it, again for varying reasons. By not respecting James McClean’s right not to wear one, the poppy doesn’t lose meaning, it just loses the meaning that the very critics who are outraged by McClean’s decision tell you it is.