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The British Poppy is an insult to Ireland's Dead
Veteran Irish Republican and Human Rights Activist, Bill O'Brien (Dublin and Donegal), takes on Former Fine Gael TD, Paddy Harte over the latter's promotion of the wearing of the British Poppy and the glorification of war. Bill will also be on Ocean Fm Radio on Monday 14th November 2011, on the Niall Delaney show at 9.05am. Paddy Harte has been requested to come on and discuss the issues - no doubt the arch imperialist will avoid the opportunity to debate.
Wear a white poppy
It is getting near the time of remembrance again and we will once again be asked by Paddy Harte to remember those who died in a WW1 fighting for England. Please let us have a balanced and honest discussion this year for the first time. I want to remember all those who died, not only those who died for British imperialism, I have looked at Paddy's article of last year in the Donegal Democrat and used it as a template of what he will most likely say on this occasion also.
On Tuesday the 9th of November 2010, Donegal Democrat, Paddy Harte was making his annual tribute to those who died in the First World War, I don't doubt he means well, but it is clearly time for a more balanced view. What comes across from Paddy is a glorification of war and of course he's going to deny it but, I'm sorry, that is how I see it.
First, let me address the way he deals with the history; he takes men who clearly fought for different ideas and tries to put them all in the one camp, this is a disservice to all of them. In the case of Tom Barry, he points out that Tom Barry was in the British Army since 1913, this is so; however, it was from his experiences and treatment by the officer board of that army that Tom Barry became disillusioned, came back to Ireland and fought the British Army for the rest of his life. In his autobiography Barry deals with his disillusionment, his youthfulness and the misguided politicians who sent them to war, that should be accepted by all, Tom Barry knew he was duped and he gave himself no credits for being so.
Paddy then tries to unite two brothers in death, William Kent and Eamonn Kent, Eamonn was executed by those wearing British Army uniforms, he signed a document that gave thanks to our gallant allies in Europe, the same people that his brother William was fighting against. To put these two men together in this way is a disservice to the two of them. William Kent was killed for the King a year after his brother was executed by the King's men. Get off the stage Paddy and get real.
Paddy goes to Flanders every year, did he ever lay a wreath to our gallant allies in Europe? No. Did he ever lay a wreath to the of the 601 men executed at dawn, especially the young Irish killed for insubordination, one for not putting on his hat. If you were Irish you had a 25% more chance of being executed for insubordination, desertion, ect, than a man from England, Scotland or Wales. Men from the two traditions were executed by a cruel officer class, for very little indeed. Anyone who was executed, was put in an unmarked grave and their families at home got no pensions, they where left destitute. What does Paddy Harte have to say about that?
Paddy Harte said if Kevin Barry had been four years older he would have been in Khaki, how dare you Paddy Harte, he would have been in the 1916 rising. This young man, a student Doctor, was captured as a Prisoner of War, badly treated and then executed. You cannot insult our glorious dead in this way, those who died in Flanders, could not lick his boots; that is no disrespect to those who died in Flanders, only to you Paddy Harte for the distortions. It is time to put a bit of respect, decency, balance and truthfulness into the whole topic. Those who went to Flanders were not answering Ireland's call; they were answering England's call and that of the King. The poor lads were duped.
Should we remember them, of course we should. We must also though never forget the perpetrators of that war, the British, the German, the Russian monarchists and capitalists. They sent a whole generation of European youth to their graves needlessly. The Germans and the Russians have no monarchies now, good, but the British have and still send young men to die in needless war. Thankfully to the men and women of 1916 Ireland no longer has to do that.
The wearing of a white poppy would be a fitting tribute to these people, the Red poppy is the poppy of the British Legion and is worn to remember all British soldiers who died anywhere in the world, including Ireland, should we honour the Black and Tans? Ofcourse we should not, nor should we honour those who came after them, up to the present-day.
Finally I would like to deal with another aspect of the war; it was not a war for the freedom of small nations. In 1915 Turkey, a peaceful country was invaded, by two of the monarchists’ countries, Britain and Russia. Thousands died in Gallipoli, included in that battle were 1000 Dublin Fusiliers, of whom only 12 survived. One of the survivors I knew, I worked with three of his sons, his name was John Whelan, he was a corporal and was credited with saving the other 11 lives, he was promoted on the battlefields to the rank of major, but when it came to him being demobbed he was reduced to a sergeant, as he wasn't a commissioned officer in the first place. This is the class nature of the British Army to this day. They treat all working people shamefully.