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James McClean targeted by the “Poppy Police” November 10, 2012

Posted by irishelectionliterature in Uncategorized.

It’s that time of year again and the Poppy Police are out in force in the British media. Today’s target Sunderland winger James McClean who refused to wear a poppy on his Jersey in today’s game against Everton.
Astonishing that anyone would be surprised that McClean wouldn’t wear a poppy on his jersey given the particular role of the British Army in Derry.


1. que - November 10, 2012

“Support for the troops past and present before game today is great! We should be proud of our troops!’

Thats what one Sunderland player wrote. didnt anyone tell him its not about supporting the British army of today is exclusively about fighting in WW1 and WW2.


Kilsally (@Kilsally) - November 10, 2012

No it isn’t , it is for all troops past and present and funds the Royal British Legion who support veterans particularly injured troops


que - November 11, 2012

Yeah thats the point. Most people not from a British background who advocate the poppy try to represent it as a memorial to those who fought in ww1/ww2 when as you rightfully point out its more about supporting the British army soldiers of today


2. que - November 11, 2012

the retard fest on James McClean’s fb page is some sight. Remember it is the internet so make allowances but jeez what a bunch


3. david taylor - November 11, 2012

James McClean was born in the UK, like it or not, that makes him British. He plays football for an English football team and gets very well paid in pounds sterling. if he wants to make a stand against all things British, he should move to the republic of ireland and see how he gets on there. Hypocrite or what ?


Roasted Snow - November 11, 2012

Does anyone know his stated position on this? If it was politically progressive that would be something to defend!


Logan - November 11, 2012

David, regarding the issue of McClean being duty bound to support Poppy Day because he is paid in pounds sterling…for the sake if consistency, I presume you think that any British person employed in Ireland and paid in euro is duty bound to support any commemorations of say,1916, that are around? And bow to a picture of Peig every morning for good measure ?
Seems only fair.


smiffy - November 11, 2012

A reluctance to wear a poppy is hardly ‘a stand against all things British’.


Starkadder - November 11, 2012

UK folk could always wear the white poppy instead. The
white poppy is supported by the Peace movement
and elements of the Labour movement (and has the
bonus that Margaret Thatcher has a “deep distaste”
for the White Poppy) :



Jack Jameson - November 11, 2012

And what does David say about Robert Fisk who doesn’t wear a poppy? http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/commentators/fisk/robert-fisk-do-those-who-flaunt-the-poppy-on-their-lapels-know-that-they-mock-the-war-dead-6257416.html

I don’t think this is “a stand against all things British” (McClean is from Derry and you do remember Bloody Sunday, don’t you, David?); my father and uncles served in the British armed forces and I no longer wear a poppy though I do respect the right of those who do.

Seamus Milne in the Guardian


Alan - November 11, 2012

David, you need to read the Good Friday Agreement before spouting dumb nonsense. People in NI can be Irish or British. He is clearly an Irish citizen, not British. Tough luck…


macunfraidh - November 12, 2012

Being born in the UK does not make you British. No more than being born in a barn make you a horse. Northern Ireland is not part of Britain. McClean is a citizen of the Republic of Ireland. No hypocricy from James at all.


Roddy - November 13, 2012

Isn’t it awful that he will not support and honour people who killed people from his home area like they were sheep at the slaughter house.


4. sonofstan - November 11, 2012

James McClean was born in the UK, like it or not, that makes him British.

eh, no. He was born in NI, which is part of the UK, but not of ‘Britain’.


5. Vlad Boru - November 11, 2012

No, the GFA stipulates that anyone born in the Occupied 6 counties of the North, can be Irish or British – it’s of their choice. James McClean comes from Derry, a city besieged and repressed by British army thugs, who murdered and harassed many an innocent Catholic. This poppy fascism has to end. Well done James


6. makedoanmend - November 11, 2012

“We plutocrats have a long and proud history of controlling human societies, and the belief systems that we create about how the world works enable us to do that. “Earth is the centre of the solar system” was a useful one for us in the past. “Lowering taxes on the rich produces growth” is one of our current favorites. You show me an orthodox belief, and I’ll show you plutocrats who benefit from it.

We understand human nature well enough to know that people believe and accept ideas for all sorts of reasons, but rarely because of facts or evidence. Mostly, people believe what suits them, what makes them feel good. And what makes us feel good is a set of beliefs that reinforce our status, privileges and power.”


This quote could really have gone into any of a dozen articles posted on this site recently. It seems appropriate to the overall all theme that is emerging in the new order of austerity and an intense desire to reintroduce class politics back into the mainstream of socio-economic conflict by the new elitists – the new orthodoxy as WBS has highlighted over the years.

When I’ve seen the poppy in Scotland these last couple of days (where the vast majority don’t seem too bothered about wearing one, but every English person I work with seems to wear it as some existential badge) I just see death. Death in Iraq. Death in Afghanistan. Death in Ireland.

What’s more disturbing about this symbol, however, is the Cant that now surrounds it. A simplistic, almost cartoonish set of schizophrenic arguments appealing to base emotion and asking us to disregard to futlity of so many conflicts; none more so than the senseless carnage of WWI from which the symbol is derived. The poppy is becoming nothing more than a symbol emotional blackmail and for many wearers a mere token of base nationalism.

Funny how being born in a particular place and using a particular coinage doesn’t automatically illicit the same response to the same symbol. Maybe I’m not just not orthodox enough. Or maybe humans really do experience life in a wealth of ways – many of which don’t conform. (I often wonder if non-conformity is becoming one of the chief defining features of a post industrial emergent working class?)

Just like I don’t want to engage in the futility of fighting over the few peanuts that fall from the rich person’s table (trickle down economics) I don’t want to cover myself in the symbols of death (orthodox politics).


ejh - November 11, 2012

What’s more disturbing about this symbol, however, is the Cant that now surrounds it. … The poppy is becoming nothing more than a symbol emotional blackmail and for many wearers a mere token of base nationalism.

This is basically why I haven’t worn one in thirty years.


RosencrantzisDead - November 11, 2012

This time last year they were hounding John Snow, the broadcast journalist, for not wearing one. Snow pointed out that he never wore any symbols in support of any cause when presenting the news. His detractors were eventually scared off when the British Legion told people that they did not believe in pressuring anyone to wear the poppy.

A flare-up over wearing or not wearing the poppy has become an annual event.

Also, did FIFA not take against poppy wearing during matches as it would unnecessarily politicize football?


7. EWI - November 11, 2012

Gilmore’s off today to go do his bit for British militarism:



8. Blissett - November 11, 2012

I think the fact that you have to consciously opt out of wearing the poppy on the jersyes in particularly odd. Kind of defeats the point of remembrance if its (effectively) obligatory. Very very hard in those circumstances to break ranks and incur the wrath of the poppy police. I would be surprised if there aren’t many more (of many nationalities) who would be uncomfortable with poppy, but just get on with it to avoid unpleasantness.


9. Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week « The Cedar Lounge Revolution - November 11, 2012

[…] am glad to see IELB has done the anti-poppy thread this year. A quite surprising absence of all this in the Sindo, but there is this tribute to those […]


10. neilcaff - November 11, 2012

I’ve lived in London for about 7 years now and it’s a credit to the inclusive nature of English society that I very rarely feel like a stranger in a strange land. However the annual poppy mania is one of those occasions (the other notable one being the Ashes, when total strangers will ask me how many overs England have batted or something, my brain normally goes to sleep by the time the word ‘overs’ is completed).

It’s not so much the wearing of the poppy itself I find odd, it’s the annual media witch hunt against public figures I find so alien. I honestly can’t think of any parallels with Irish society around symbolic events, although lord knows we do love a good witch hunt as much as the next country.

In many ways the media furore is precisely the same attitude that contributed to landing Britain in the situation where a whole generation was slaughtered. The parallels with women giving out white feathers to me who had not signed up in 1914, backed by a hysterically jingoistic campaign, comes to mind.


Blissett - November 11, 2012

“In many ways the media furore is precisely the same attitude that contributed to landing Britain in the situation where a whole generation was slaughtered. ”

Thats a really interesting point, never thought about it like that before


MIchael Carley - November 11, 2012

For various reasons, I will happily stick a few pound in the Legion tin (though I find Help for Heroes obnoxious), but I won’t
wear a poppy. The Legion collectors get a bit confused when I don’t take a poppy after making a donation, but they don’t make an issue of not wearing one. It seems to be one of those cases where the people doing the work are a lot more decent than their vocal supporters.


11. Paul - November 11, 2012

I lived in London 20years ago and I was always truck how invisible the poppy was on the streets around this time of year, compared to its visibility on TV. Maybe it’s become more common since but I doubt back then if 1 in a 100 was wearing one.
Given that there would still have been a number of ww1 veterans still around back then and virtually none now, it is hard to see how the wearing of it today is a genuine act of remembrance. A perfectly valid statement of support for the military of one’s country, perhaps, but nothing more than that.


fergal - November 11, 2012

but is “support of the military” perfectly valid?You have a problem then in order to solve it you blow off a stranger’s head or blow him to pieces…..the modus operandi of war. Is this valid?


Ramzi Nohra - November 14, 2012

actually i think it has got a lot more popular, over the last ten years + more media attention and the odd witch-hunt as happened to McClean


12. EWI - November 11, 2012

I think it says a lot that the mention of “poppy” means that Google (or whoever) is aggressively ttargetting this post with the latest in Anglophone war porn, “Medal of Honor Warfighter” (see just above the comments).


neilcaff - November 11, 2012

Speaking of Warfighter, here’s one Englishman’s ascerbic view of the game: http://www.escapistmagazine.com/videos/view/zero-punctuation/6492-Medal-of-Honor-Warfighter-Doom-3-BFG-Edition


13. Eugene - November 11, 2012

The whole debate about wearing the poppy or not, has little if anything to do with remember in the dead of WW1 or WW2. This is about the commemorating those who died fighting in a British army uniform, on the battle Fields of Flanders, or those who died suppressing the people resistance against colonialism in place like Kenya, Malaysia, India etc. Or currently those who die in occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. As they say defending an empire where the sun never set and the blood never dried.

It about reinforcing allegiance to the dominant ideology.
The campaign here in Ireland is about bring this state and the Irish people back into line in regards the imperial history and currents strategies. The British establishment cared very little for those that died defending the empire as long as the empire was defended.

Many of those who left to fight in the WW1 did so because many where black listed after 1913 Lockout, others had no choice as many employers directly connected to the British presence in Ireland forced many of their employees to go and fight, while others were certainly persuaded that they where fighting for little catholic Belgium.

Yet Belgium was a colonialist power and its reign of terror in the Congo by King Leopold in which between 10 – 15 million people where butchered.

There is nothing to celebrate and those who feel they need to can always wear the white poppy. Which is not connected nor has it all the imperial baggage and is a genuine expression of commemoration of the dead of WW1 and WW2.


14. gfmurphy101 - November 11, 2012

Reblogged this on gfmurphy101.


15. Chris - November 11, 2012

I didn’t wear a poppy either.


16. James. - November 11, 2012

yep – poppy fascism time again. is it possible to get white poppies – i remember hearing after WWI veterans used to wear them to show that the people should never be made canon-fodder again.


Joe - November 12, 2012

Yep. I wore a white poppy in the university town I was living in in the UK in 1992. You could get them in a café in the town that was run by some old anti-establishment bloke. Don’t know if you can get them in Ireland. Must look up the whole history of them again but I recall that they were intiated by a veteran in the 20s who objected to what he saw as the glorification of slaughter of WW1 in the state’s offical poppy commemoration.


17. Eugene - November 11, 2012

This is a great piece of journalism. Should be compulsory reading for all empire loyalist in this state.

Robert Fisk: Do those who flaunt the poppy on their lapels know that they mock the war dead?



LeftAtTheCross - November 11, 2012

Fisk is always worth reading. His book The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East is a masterpiece of anti-war writing, and covers much of the ground he mentions in that article in terms of his father and their relationship and the formative experience of WWI which defined his father’s subsequent life.


Tomboktu - November 12, 2012


Michael Carley - November 12, 2012

This is begging to have some new images added:


18. Enda Kenneally - November 11, 2012

David Taylor, NI is in the UK but is not British and he can work in England because of the free movement of labour through the EU


19. Brian Hanley - November 11, 2012

Be interesting to see if there are any repercussions for McClean’s career. Poppy wearing (or ‘Poppyganda’ c. Emmet O’Connor) is promoted far more vociferously in Britain now than it was even 20 years ago. About 15 years ago Donna Traynor on BBC NI declined to wear a poppy, on the basis that she would rather not wear any such symbols on TV and she was told it was wear one, or lose her job. If McClean’s decision kicks off a debate on this subject, all the better.


20. Kim - November 11, 2012

James’ Poppyless Jersey is being auctioned off in aid of the Cancer ward in Crumlins Childrens hospital. All bids can be tweeted to @gerramia


21. anarchaeologist - November 12, 2012

I spent a few days in very rural Suffolk last week and was surprised how few people were wearing the poppy, even in the local village which attracts its share of the well-heeled elderly. Even in the local British Legion club (where I sneaked in for a quick one to catch the football) there were only 5 or 6 poppies worn among a crowd of about 40. In fact, the only place we saw even about a 20% uptake was in a motorway services where the BL had a stall up. A bloke I got chatting to was actually from Dundrum and had parachuted into Normandy and Holland in 1944. He hadn’t bothered coming back after the war because of the state of the country then and he certainly isn’t coming back now. He would however consider returning for his last few years ‘under a socialist government’ (but he might well have clocked the James Connolly badge on my lapel)…
When I lived in London in the ’80s you couldn’t avoid poppy sellers, even in the place I was holed up, which was predominantely Asian. Even a few crusty archaeologists wore them on site, leading to several spirited discussions in the tea hut. I believe nowadays they’re virtually extinct in UK universities too.


Joe - November 12, 2012

That bit about universities, Anarky, reminds me of a story about the brother. He works in a university in London. His politics would be provo, or thereabouts. Anyway he got an email inviting him to meet the university Chancellor who was paying a visit. The Chancellor turned out to be some royal or other – Sean Boylan, sorry, no, Princess Anne or someone like that. The brother agonised and then said he’d turn up and shake the royal hand but wouldn’t bow or scrape – just to be polite, what with making his living over there for most of his life. So he did, and he said she seemed to be a nice enough person.
Then he met his boss the next day who said – “Fair play to you for showing up to that, most of the (English) staff didn’t cos they don’t believe in royalty.”


FergusD - November 12, 2012

That’s a good one, really made me chuckle!!!

As others have said, you see very few poppies in public these days. Not sure why. Most people associate them with the World Wars, despite that not really being the purpose, and maybe now so few people alive have much of a connection to the World Wars?

Nevertheless there have been a rash of WW1 documentaries on UK TV lately. The take these days is “wasn’t it terrible”, but there isn’t any meaningful political analysis. I did catch a documentary recently by historian David Reynolds about Churchill’s obsession with the war in the Middle East and North Africa, much to the disgust of the US military. The historian put it down to Churchill’s determination to save the British Empire. Rare to hear that on UK TV.


The media may get agitated about prominent non-poppy wearers but I doubt many of the public notice. McClean, as someone from the nationalist community in NI, would be an obvious target though.


Niall Meehan - November 12, 2012

The poppy phenomenon is largely TV driven. Everyone who appears on the box, including random interviewees, is given one and told, ‘pin this on’ (or in Donna Traynor’s case on BBC NI, ‘pin it on or else’. It gives the impression to impressionable types in this part of the world everyone is wearing one. It is a symbol to which many in Britain are indifferent and which many contest – good point from Joe above.

Mary Holland wrote (Irish Times, 14 Nov 1996) on Donna Traynor, after Traynor’s brave decision to dispense with her obligatory poppy a year previously in 1995:

“This year, BBC Northern Ireland laid down a line that all presenters who appeared on screen reading the news during the 10 days leading up to November 11th would wear a poppy. It seemed as if the whole of Northern Ireland was waiting to see what Ms Traynor would do. When questioned, the BBC Northern Ireland press office told me: “Donna is on the roster to read the news. If she does so, she will be wearing a poppy”. And so she did. Her appearance was duly noted by both sides. Nationalists saw it as the BBC telling one of its employees, who happened to be a Catholic to wear a poppy – or else. Unionists did not have to comment. Ms Traynor’s photograph, showing the poppy, was featured prominently in both the News Letter and the Belfast Telegraph.”

After the signing of the Good Friday Agreement Traynor gave up her opposition. A pity she was successfully bullied in this way. Let us see what happens to James McClean.


WorldbyStorm - November 12, 2012

Agree with an awful lot of what you’re saying there Niall re this now being more TV driven.

What gets me most is the sense (and actuality) of compulsion…in the ROI perhaps least (though some of the usual suspects would clearly love it), in Britain itself more so but still not uniformly or even near it, and in the North most obviously. That compulsion is entirely anti-democratic.


Blissett - November 12, 2012

yes, unfortunately, McClean will have to face this time and time again, and the pressure will likely only intensify with time


22. sonofstan - November 12, 2012

The whole thing is invidious in the extreme and ‘poppy fascism’ is not overstating it too much. There is a tyranny of the display of socially appropriate feeling that turns things that were intended to be voluntary expressions of solidarity into compulsory expressions of conformity that is thoroughly scary. I remember a few years ago, working at a festival where volunteers from Oxfam were distributing ‘Make Poverty History’ armbands at the foot of the stairs leading to the stage and asking everyone – artists and crew – to wear them. I refused to take one, and the wide eyed young woman giving them out asked me if I didn’t support the cause: I said I didn’t see how me wearing an armband would help make poverty history, but offered to explain how it might be achieved, including the removal of neo -colonial ‘charities’. She backed away. The production manager on the gig later ordered me to wear one, and i again refused, and got away with it, due to seniority, but other, younger people were badgered into wearing them.


WorldbyStorm - November 12, 2012

Fair dues – that was a brave response (and completely right too).

BTW, that’s a very important point re seniority. It’s not just that we take less crap from people but that as we get a bit older we’re more confident to do so. That’s a really important dynamic in broader power relations that is fundamentally exploited in workplaces and other contexts like the one you describe.


sonofstan - November 12, 2012

Yeah, although the younger people working on the crew really couldn’t see what I was complaining about: they just think I’m old and weird.

Of course, the branding of this fest, with right-on social concern promoted by someone who has very successfully made his own poverty history, achieved in no small part by using his near monopoly in this country and for a while in the UK, to force down wages in the industry among the employees of contractors. is another story


23. John Meehan - November 12, 2012

Like most contributors above, I agree with James McClean’s decision not to wear a poppy – the current Republic of Ireland Captain John O’Shea did likewise – http://www.irishexaminer.com/ireland/mcclean-decision-not-to-wear-remembrance-poppy-personal-choice-213683.html

maybe more than two players were poppyless last weekend, and that many more discard it in the future.

Let’s promote the positive views of people like Robert Fisk – you do not need to be Irish to refuse to wear a poppy – and it helps if you think that imperialist war waged by powerful well-armed military states is disgusting and reactionary.

It would be good if more Irish more people extended that principle and focused on the actions of imperialist politicians such as the USA “drone bomber” President Barack Obama –



24. Seán O Suilleabhain - November 12, 2012

Congratulations to James. Can you imagine all Irish footballers being asked to wear an Easter Lilly on Easter Sunday to commemorate the brave Irish who tried to get rid of British army thugs out of Ireland while other irish men were duped to fight for England in an unjustified war. It is obscene to expect any Irish man to wear a poppy – a symbol of colonial conflicts long discredited.


25. Starkadder - November 12, 2012

Bloody hell. A man’s been arrested for “posting image of burning poppy” online:



WorldbyStorm - November 12, 2012

Now that is disgraceful.


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