Belfast Telegraph

How UTV broadcaster dodged wearing poppy on screen for years

But he learned valuable lesson when he wore symbol

A former UTV journalist has revealed how he employed a "ruse" to dodge wearing the poppy on screen for years.

But when Jamie Delargy finally took the decision to wear the symbol it taught him a lesson in how to influence people without using a "battering ram" technique,  something he argues Northern Ireland politicians can learn from.

The broadcaster reflecting on the current political impasse and writing on the Slugger O'Toole blog, revealed that “as an off screen producer and editor, I wasn’t asked or expected to wear a poppy”.

But when he started to appear on camera, “reporters and presenters were left to choose whether to wear poppies or not.”

"That freedom left me with a bit of a dilemma. I could wear the emblem and alienate one section of the audience or not wear it and annoy another group," he wrote.

"So with no personal or family reason for wearing a poppy and anxious not offend anyone, I tried to sidestep the problem by the simple ruse of trying, as far as possible, not to appear in vision on TV during periods when poppies were due to be worn.”

He said this tactic came to a head one November while preparing to appear on screen a colleague asked if he realised he was not wearing a poppy.

"Fundamentally I had nothing against this fund raising campaign even if I had some questions over whether poppies were about commemorating or glorifying war.

"But my instinct was to stick to my guns and pass on the poppy wearing and then for whatever reason, it just dawned on me that these workmates, that I could see out of the corner of my eye, would like me to make a concession.

"And so, not as a some grand gesture but simply because I wanted to oblige those who over decades had obliged me with small acts of generosity, I asked to be supplied with a poppy, versions of which I would continue to wear until I retired from the company."

He added: "The silence of my colleagues had proved more eloquent and effective than anything, anyone might have said to me."

He suggested that political leaders could achieve more by having their opponents see their argument through the eyes of someone they know. For example in the Republic's referendum on same-sex marriage, campaigners asked if people knew a gay person and if they deserved the same rights as them.

"Currently if unionists want something from nationalists or vice versa, the formula is: announce the demand by foghorn, gulder about tradition or rights or both and then get on to the phone in programmes to row about it.

"It doesn’t work and will never work."

Mr Delargy stressed he was not dismissing the importance of rights or tradition, but "it surely would make sense to change tack and abandon the battering ram tactics" and that progress could be made if they invited opponents to view matters through the eyes of a third party - preferably one their adversaries had more time for.

"If they can’t bring themselves to do that, at the very least they should dispense with the political equivalent of the boxing ring trash talk which many of us find less than amusing even if it wins the headlines," he wrote.

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