Belfast Telegraph

Remembrance: The poppy should not offend anyone

Editor's Viewpoint

The improving relationship between Britain and Ireland was symbolised at a number of Remembrance Services yesterday. In London, the Irish Ambassador was present at the Remembrance Service in Whitehall, the first time this has happened since 1946.

In Enniskillen, the Taoiseach Enda Kenny attended the Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph for the third time in recent years, and this also symbolised the growing understanding between the two nations.

His presence at Enniskillen was also a reminder of the revulsion felt by people all over Ireland at the 1987 Provisional IRA no-warning bomb at the Cenotaph which killed 11 people and injured many more.

In Belfast, the Irish Foreign Minister Charlie Flanagan was present at the Remembrance Service at the Cenotaph where the Lord Mayor, Nichola Mallon of the SDLP, laid a wreath.

There was also a government representation at the highest level in Dublin when Tanaiste Joan Burton attended a Remembrance Service in St Patrick's Cathedral.

These shared acts of commemoration were a welcome change from the situation not so long ago, when many nationalists refused to participate in such ceremonies.

These commemorations paid tribute to the many brave men and women from all parts of Ireland who fought side by side in the First and Second World Wars, and in many conflicts since then.

However, the passage of time has helped people from all backgrounds to realise that narrow nationalism had no place in world conflicts where the freedom of whole nations was at stake. Consequently, the war service of all the participants from this island began to be seen in context, and the visit of the Queen to the Irish Republic, as well as the recent visit of the President of Ireland to Britain, were watersheds in the improving relations between both countries.

Progress, until quite recently, was distressingly slow, but it is important to recognise that the situation has improved, and quite dramatically so in the past few years.

There is progress still to be made, and some people from the nationalist community still regard the poppy as a "British" military symbol, rather than as a reminder of the sacrifice and suffering of war on all sides.

With time, hopefully, the poppy can become a shared symbol for almost everyone on this island, which has known so many horrors of war.

At the very least, it should be a symbol that offends no one.

Belfast Telegraph

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