Poppy power

Screen Shot 2015-11-06 at 12.10.39

Picture by Carolyn Eaton


I really don’t mind if people choose to wear a poppy. I might wonder how those who do can justify giving their approval and respect to all the things British armed forces have done since the First World War, not least in Ireland. But it would be the individual’s choice in the end and they should be free to display where their loyalties lie, without fear of attack or intimidation, physical or verbal.

That said,  I look at my TV screen these days, especially the BBC, and I’m struck by the unfailing presence of the poppy on breast after breast. One of two possibilities must be the case: either  every presenter on TV is a genuine and uncritical supporter of the British armed forces (and it is support for the actions of British service men – and women – throughout the many decades and in many places, not just during the First World War); or else some people appearing on my screen have been instructed /feel pressured to wear the poppy. If the first of these options is the case, that’s fair enough , although I’m somewhat taken aback that  support for British armed forces is so unambiguously unanimous throughout the institution. If the second of these options is the case, then it is outrageous that an extremely powerful public institution – which we own –  has pressured/bullied some of its employees to display loyalties they don’t feel and  that we who own said institution stand back and allow it to happen.

It’d be good if we could hear from those running the BBC – even the BBC here in Belfast – which of the two it is.


34 Responses to Poppy power

  1. jessica November 6, 2015 at 12:25 pm #

    Has any presenter ever wore an Easter lily?

    Will any wear them next year during the centenary commemorations?

    Would they be allowed to, or would it be considered a bad career move?

    • Jude Collins November 6, 2015 at 12:36 pm #

      I think you know the answer to those questions, Jessica, if you’re talking about the BBC. Maybe even if you’re talking about RTÉ…

  2. paul November 6, 2015 at 12:37 pm #

    From my observation at least two BBC ni presenters have the backbone to stand up against poppy fascism. Fair play to them and shame on the uncle toms

    • Jude Collins November 6, 2015 at 12:38 pm #

      Really, Paul? That’s hugely interesting. Can you name names?

      • Paul November 6, 2015 at 2:28 pm #

        Kieran tourish and John Campbell

  3. fiosrach November 6, 2015 at 12:48 pm #

    Remember when Poppy Treanor made her stand? Allegedly she was told that she could not appear on camera without one. So there you go. Were the shoe on the other foot I think a campaign to withold licences would soon be afoot.

  4. Cushy Glen November 6, 2015 at 12:58 pm #

    As the child of a disabled war veteran (British forces – now deceased) who wore his poppy to remember all his comrades who didn’t come back & also worked tirelessly for the British legion to look after old soldiers who the state had abandoned – of all religions & backgrounds, I have come to see the poppy as the mark of the hypocrite.

    That may seem harsh, but I am old enough to remember as a child watching the massed ranks on remembrance Sunday of the old soldiers of BOTH world wars. They knew what war was like. They weren’t posers. None of them wanted another war of any kind. We all believed these ceremonies were not just to remember for the sake of it or to celebrate Britishness (many of them were nationalist including my father), but to to remember so it never happened again.Otherwise what’s the point?

    Sadly a new generation has come up who are ambivalent about war. They’ll go to war – as long as it’s somebody else’s sons & daughters doing the dying. People like Blair & Cameron & BBC celebrities & many more. Yet they will still wear the poppy every year & stand in mournful silence for the young they have helped to go to the slaughter & will do so again & again after each war they have supported.

    The poppy is now a meaningless symbol. It’s like saying ‘Sorry’ for something you keep doing.

    So last year i stopped wearing it. I won’t insult the old soldiers any more.

    • Jude Collins November 6, 2015 at 2:26 pm #

      Well and movingly put, CG…

  5. paddykool November 6, 2015 at 1:28 pm #

    Hi Jude . I’ve noticed the poppies too. I’ve no real problem with them and it’s not something I’d even consider.The poppy has now so much more to say than it might have in more simplistic …jingoistic times of Britain’s place in the world.It is not a neat little simple statement nowadays .It carries a lot of baggage and is far -removed from Flanders’ fields. Symbolism like this should never be used in a divided society on a public broadcasting forum which we all fund. That should be a neutral space . There was much hue and cry a few weeks back about someone wearing a football top while attempting to visit Funderland or somesuch. Rules are rules and that’s fine.Are the presenters being pressurised or are they simply all of an armed -forces inclined lot? The poppy supports the military after all. Surey there have to be some anti-military minds who do not willingly support these things or a militaristic outlook ….and no I don’t want to see Easter Lillies or bluebells either….If we all pay for it it should be a neutral political space . It obviously is not. We’re back to football tops in workplaces again ….and very evidently this year it seems.

  6. john Patton November 6, 2015 at 1:28 pm #


    I think it has already been well documented that it is BBC policy that not just employees but studio guests must wear poppies on camera for a period before Remembrance Sunday. Apparently former chairman, Marmaduke Hussey, a Tory stooge of Thatcher.I doubt if there is a more politicised emblem with so much malice swirling around a symbol of bereavement. It is unlikely that there is a separate contractual clause about wearing it but is probably covered in some generalisation such as service protoculs which allows BBC management to implement this autocracy unchallenged.

    • Jude Collins November 6, 2015 at 2:24 pm #

      WOW – guests too, John? I’d really like to test that. But now that I’ve done this blog I’ll probably have the dogs set on me if I approach within 100 metres of the Beeb….

      • Sarah November 6, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

        There is a story on the Guardian website about actress Sienna Miller appearing on Graham Norton and she wasn’t wearing a poppy and getting criticized. Her costar Bradley Cooper was on the show too. Since he is American I figured he’d get a pass yet looking at the picture it is obvious he is wearing a poppy. So maybe been does impose the poppy on everyone?

    • john Patton November 6, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

      Firstly the piece should read ‘Marmaduke Hussey, a Tory stooge of Thatcher, used to get particularly incensed.

      As to guests’ position, Jude, it is a form of gentle blackmail. A trade union colleague was told that failure to wear a poppy might provoke complaint and that failure to comply would probably be injudicious as it would make programme producers think twice about future invites. You will appreciate that Tus don’t get much exposure anyway and so it was a cleft stick. Poppy wearing does not create so much controversy in a country where there is a strong military tradition.

      • Jude Collins November 6, 2015 at 6:18 pm #

        That’s true, John. Black Watch and all that…

  7. ANOTHER JUDE November 6, 2015 at 2:01 pm #

    The amazing thing about the BBC is that some commentators have accused them of being biased, that is, biased against the establishment! Poppy cock .Every year we see their presenters, news readers, guests, all wearing these accursed emblems, our politicians here in the colony vie with each other to see who can display the biggest plumage. Look out for the actual remembrance day coverage and the Queen will have THE biggest poppy, a massive beast of a thing, woe betide any inferior being who dares to wear a larger one. The British fetishize their military, they indulge it and anyone who criticises it is given short shrift. They must be putting something in the water in order to brainwash people.And the British actually condemn us for being blinkered and dogmatic.

  8. billy November 6, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

    wonder does sky sport have the same policy,seen that mcguigan and framton on sporting theirs,

  9. Patrick November 6, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

    I bet Neill”s is bigger than the queen’s 🙂

    My thoughts on the matter would be pretty similar to Jude”s on this issue. Each to their own and all that.

    I do wonder sometimes though if those who wear them are conscious of all the atrocities carried out by members of the British armed forces over the years. I mean, building and attempting to maintain an empire is a dirty, bloody business. I wonder if British history ever bothers British people or is it a source of pride for them?

    That said, I myself wear an easter Lillie on easter Sunday as a symbol of remembrance and respect for those who gave their life to the cause of Irish freedom and I’m not ignorant of the fact that some terrible actions were committed by people in the name of that noble cause.

    The media certainty are doing the poppy reputation no good though by ramming it down all our throats.

  10. Jim.hunter November 6, 2015 at 4:42 pm #


  11. Sherdy November 6, 2015 at 5:38 pm #

    Jude, you indicate that we, if only theoretically, actually own the BBC, just because we are forced by law to pay for it.
    Nationalists/republicans make up about 40% of the NI population, but during our years of troubles, did you ever see or hear an anti-British story broadcast by any of the media?
    No, they are totally controlled by Westminster.
    Some years ago I was being admonished (that’s the polite version) by work colleagues for refusing to buy this British/unionist war token.
    I gave the opinion that, if all these soldiers did actually voluntarily lay down their lives for queen and country, was it not very demeaning that they should have to beg every year for funds necessary to their welfare. I opined that the government should show their appreciation by financially supporting them.
    Somehow nobody agreed with my theory!

    • Jude Collins November 6, 2015 at 6:15 pm #

      Why am I not surprised, Sherdy? And yes, the ownership is strictly theoretical…

  12. Perkin Warbeck November 6, 2015 at 6:53 pm #

    At the Web Plummet the other day, Esteemed Blogmeister, cult sports figure Brian O’Driscoll filled the big, ambiguous boots of another cult sports figure, Martin O’Neill.

    In the sense that he had the somewhat less than difficult task of deciding whether to wear the Poppy in his lapel in the Royal Dublin Society. Or, not. He chose the latter. As MON makes fish of Ireland and flesh of the UK in this matter wad conscious BOD did ditto.

    This dissing of the local heroes who participated in the Great Donkey Derby 14-18 is something that the Irish hacketariat who hero-worship the GDD for (gulp) whatever reason,insist on missing.


    Can’t really brand which is the blander
    And which is more deficient in candour
    MON or BOD
    Peas is a pod
    Mustard Gas, alas, is but for the gander.

    PS Patrick Cosgrave, onlie begetter of the Webb Summit which has plummeted, is not to be confused with another Patrick Cosgrave. That latter was the old CBS boy who boasted that his prison warder grandpop beat up Kevin Barry in Mountjoy.

    In a dazzling career he went on to fillet his Finglas accent, marry the ruthless yet charmingly deadly Dudley Edwards, divorce her, become an advisor to Mag Thatcher, become her hagiographer and eventually puke all over The Iron Duke, oops, Lady in the back seat of a London taxi.

    • Donal Kennedy November 7, 2015 at 10:34 am #

      Re the late Patrick Cosgrave

      Try googling


      Inspired by a piece I stumbled across on the web by Ruth Dudley Edwards.

      Patrick Cosgrave was like the renegade Irishman in Churchill’s circle,
      Brendan Bracken.

  13. Belfastdan November 6, 2015 at 7:02 pm #

    They try to promote the poppy as a symbol of remembrance yet I well remember the British Legion campaigning vigorously on behalf of murders Para Lee Clegg and the two Scots Guards who murdered young Peter McBride. Let the British support their own and as for those in the media from a nationalist back ground who wear the poppy shame on them.

    • Perkin Warbeck November 8, 2015 at 3:54 pm #

      GRMMA, DK.

  14. jessica November 6, 2015 at 7:23 pm #

    They were handy for getting through army checkpoints.
    Just pop one on the car window and you got waved on through.
    I don’t know what would the IRA would have done without the good old poppy.

  15. Iolar November 6, 2015 at 7:30 pm #

    The war to end wars, remains a phrase with a high level of use and a low level of meaning, when questions remain about the role of some politicians, some members of the security forces and other ‘agents’ in perpetuating death and destruction in Ireland. British forces did not occupy Ireland in order to defend a small nation and all the rhetoric about the poppy will not absolve the British state from creating and fostering sectarian divisions which persist to the present day. The fig leaf is a more potent symbol at the present time in Ireland given the determination of a range of state ‘agents’ to hide behind interests of national security.

    • jessica November 6, 2015 at 11:51 pm #

      “British forces did not occupy Ireland in order to defend a small nation and all the rhetoric about the poppy will not absolve the British state from creating and fostering sectarian divisions which persist to the present day.”

      I heard Bob Geldof on the radio 1 the other day, ray darcy i think it was interviewing if anyone else heard it.

      He came out with an incredible statement I thought. He was expressing how wonderful he thought the english were, especially in london which is fine. But he then said something like they were so inventive and vibrant they had to travel the world and share their experience or words to that effect.

      I thought it was an incredible way of explaining the creation of an empire that involved the butchering of so many peoples.

      Having said that, he did say he thought Ireland should be independent from the UK but wasn’t asked to follow up on his thoughts on that which I would have been interested in hearing.

  16. caoimhin November 6, 2015 at 9:34 pm #

    These reporters and journalists are supposed to be neutral yet every year they wear a symbol which celebrates an army that slaughtered thousands of innocent people in this country.you need to get onto Nolan on Monday Jude.

  17. neill November 6, 2015 at 10:57 pm #

    Fair enough dislike and denigrate the Poppy all you wish however don’t get annoyed when people have a go at the Easter Lilly and the degenerates that it represents after all what is sauce for the goose obviously has to be sauce for the gander doesn’t it?

  18. michael c November 6, 2015 at 11:20 pm #

    I remember this time last year,I was watching BBC1 and heard that the actor Colm Meaney was to be on the “one show”.I kept watching to see if Colm would sport a poppy.I need not have worried because Colm appeared “poppyless” and gave a really good’interesting interview.I can just imagine the scene where he told someone pre broadcast what they could do with the poppy!

  19. Ryan November 6, 2015 at 11:57 pm #

    I was having a discussion yesterday with a Unionist on Twitter about the poppy. He said the usual “I wear it to remember the British dead of WW1, they fought for OUR (yep, the our was in caps) freedom, if it wasn’t for them we’d be speaking German”. Well I pointed out it was due to the English that we speak English in the first place and that English isn’t our native language, Irish is. Even if your a direct descendant (which most Unionists aren’t, most are a mix of Irish/Scottish) from the Scottish planters placed here in the 1600’s your native tongue still isn’t English, its most likely Scottish Gaelic. Of course all this didn’t go down well with the Unionist poppy wearer who was of the opinion his blood was red, white and blue. I wont repeat all he said but essentially his logic was that the British Army could do no wrong. Of course the facts of murder and genocide in places like Ireland, India, Kenya, etc were just inconvenient facts which he tried to stray away from at every opportunity because, put simply: You cant justify the unjustifiable. His favourite way of deflection was to bring up “SF/IRA murderers”.

    If people want to wear the poppy then fine. The same goes for the Easter Lily. But my issue is with the media and in places of employment, etc. Places that are meant to be neutral, no sectarian symbols or anything perceived to be sectarian are allowed to be worn. Such places include the BBC, UTV, etc The Poppy is seen by a large chunk of our community as sectarian, so why is it allowed to be worn at the likes of the BBC/UTV, which is also a place of employment? In the case of the BBC and UTV, I’m specifically referring to TV presenters/newsreaders. Would the same presenters be allowed to wear an Easter Lily? I doubt it very much, so why should they be allowed to wear a poppy?

  20. Donal Kennedy November 7, 2015 at 9:54 am #

    In 1931 the Dublin Branch of the British Union of Fascists marched with the British Legion
    on Remembrance Sunday.
    It was not thought incongruous at the time.
    In 1933 THE IRISH TIMES in an Editorial welcomed the accession to power of Hitler and
    excused his party’s onslaught on Communists on the grounds that one cannot make omelettes without breaking eggs. When Lord Carson died the paper said he’d been born
    40 years too early, otherwise he might have been a Mussolini or even a Hitler. I’d be
    surprised if the paper ever welcomed de Valera’s victories in various elections. Will
    someone enlighten me.
    Winston Churchill approved of Mussolini’s Rape of Abyssinia, as did William Cosgrave.

    In Britain most people who wear Poppies wear them as a tribute to dead servicemen.

    But it seems to me the mass media and governments use them to garner support for
    current and future wars. There’s been celebration of the 5th Centenary of Agincourt,
    the 2nd Centenary of Waterloo, the 1st Centenary of the Great War and a current build
    up for wars for regime change which infringe United Nations conditions.###

    Perhaps some lyricist could put words to the tune of “THE GOOD SHIP LOLLIPOP”

    The title of the Ditty would be “OH THE BULL-SHIT POPPYCOCK>”