20 November 2008 Edition
Dublin 4 darlings, the poppy – and Lisbon 2
HOW about a competition to come up with a floral or other visual response to the poppy, that symbol of “financial, social and emotional support to millions who have served and are currently serving in the armed forces and their dependants”. That’s how the Royal British Legion, purveyors of the poppy, describes the emblem that Kevin Myers et al brandish every November.
By “the armed forces”, of course, they mean British armed forces which are “currently serving” in Iraq, Afghanistan and anywhere else that British and western interests are threatened. And they “have served” in former British colonies and other parts of the world - like Ireland - putting down rebellions against empire, be they British, American or other European countries: the same war-mongering, imperialist countries – including ‘poor little Belgium’ – that conquered nations and then fell on each other in a genocidal war over the spoils nearly a century ago.
The media, print and broadcasting, has recently indulged in a nauseating commemoration of those who were butchered in the service of the British Army in various wars. Relying on the sensitivities of relations of the victims, the same media that has lectured Irish people about political violence for decades is suddenly gripped by a hysterical compulsion to uncritically commemorate those who fell in the cause of empire.
A deluge of newsprint and air-time has been devoted to the poppy celebrations in the last few weeks, coupled with sermons about our great shame in ignoring the fallen Irish servicemen who fought for the British Army over the decades. Prize for the most magnificent act of hypocrisy in trying to have it both ways at once must go to long-time Irish Times journalist and man of the cloth, Canon Patrick Comerford, director of spiritual formation at the Church of Ireland Theological College.
Comerford described last week how his Dublin grandfather joined the British Army the year before the Rising and returned home just afterwards with three British Army medals for service rendered, dying shortly after from illness incurred in that service.
Deploying all his theological skills, Comerford described his happiness in wearing the poppy and in the same sentence claimed to be “a pacifist”. It is likely that Comerford learned such theological, double-jointed dexterity in The Irish Times newsroom rather than any theological college.
How refreshing then to read Irish Star columnist Terry McGeehan lambaste the “trendy historians... wannabee West Brits and Dublin 4 darlings” for moralising with the Irish for not properly commemorating what he accurately describes as “slaughter in the trenches”.
Describing the same darlings as possessing “a desire to bend over backwards and embrace all things British and be all things fashionably European”, McGeehan also accused them of forgetting that the freedom they now take for granted was won by Irish citizens who fought in Irish ditches, not European trenches.
McGeehan and his editor know well, that the Star, unlike The Irish Times, is read by Irish working people most of whom place a higher value on the sacrifices made for Irish freedom than on the genocide perpetrated in the name of empire.
We should commemorate the victims of this latter obscenity but only in the context of severe and unrelenting condemnation of such barbarism and not by the paradoxical flaunting of a symbol glorifying the British Army.
THERE are two media campaigns currently being waged by the media in the South. One is for a second Lisbon referendum to overturn the ‘No’ vote; the other is for an onslaught against wages and conditions in the public service.
All four broadsheet Sunday newspapers last weekend screeched for ‘reform of the public service’, describing it in various ways as the central problem in the economy.
The reality is that this is just another way of saying that the public service is the easiest target. There is no employer in the country that is remotely the size of the Government and no workforce that is the size of the public service. An attack on public service workers is seen as the simplest way to squeeze millions out of ordinary workers to pay for the avarice of the banks, speculators and investors – that caused the current crisis.
That low-paid public servants are paid more than low-paid Latvian cleaners, for example, leads to outraged claims that public servants are on average paid much more than their counterparts in the private sector and helps to gull non-unionised workers into believing that their enemies are ordinary civil servants.