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Republican: Why I’m happy to wear poppy with pride

By Lisa Smyth

A self-proclaimed republican has told of his frustration that he must defend his decision to wear a poppy.

John McGurk has written on a political blog to defend the right of all republicans and nationalists to wear a poppy with pride — despite the opinion that the distinctive emblem celebrates the actions of the British Army and its controversial presence in Northern Ireland over the years.

Writing on the Slugger O’Toole political blog, he argued that supporting the Poppy Appeal goes further than commemorating Irish dead and that people who want to recognise the victory over the Nazis should be able to wear a poppy without fear of reprisal.

“I’m a Republican. I believe in a 32 County Irish Sovereign Republic. I want the tricolour to fly over Stormont, one day, with broad consent. And I’m proud to wear the poppy. For far too long Irish patriots have cast our patriotism in terms of what we are against — unionists, Britain, the loyal orders, the blue side of Glasgow and so on, instead of what we are for,” he said.

“I prefer to define my republicanism in terms of what I support. I’m for liberty, for freedom from the need to fear my Government.

“I’m for basic, decent equality between people regardless of creed or country or colour. I’m for helping those in need of help.

“Those values are universal and I’m proud that they have been adopted by a modern, outward-looking Irish Republic.

“But there’s an important point to me about those values. They are ideas, and rights, that have been paid for dearly with other men’s blood.

“I’m sick of having to justify my poppy with the argument that it’s ok to wear it because Irish men died as well. They did, and I honour them, but I would wear it anyway even if they did not.

“I wear the poppy because the battle against Nazism was a battle fought on behalf of humanity and not just on behalf of Britain.

“I wear it because I’m glad men of all colours and creeds gave their lives to liberate Belsen and because I’m happy that Europe is free and democratic for the most part. It could have been so different of those men and women had just decided to sit at home.

“If my poppy shows that I stand with those people, and honour their sacrifice, then I don’t care whether it supports the Royal British Legion financially or not, nor whether it is worn by the Queen or members of the SAS.

“They wear it out of loyalty to country. I wear it out of respect for a generation who laid down their lives so that my life is free.”

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