The Blanket

Remembrance Day

Billy Mitchell

Today, Sunday 10th, is Remembrance Sunday and I, like thousands of my fellow citizens, will attend one of the many commemorations that will take place across the country - indeed across Europe and many Commonwealth countries. In the lead-up to Remembrance Day the BBC showed a documentary (Somme Journey) featuring David Ervine and Tom Hartley. Already I have heard negative comments from people within both communities. There are those who feel that, once again, Ervine was seen to be fraternising with a republican - and at a place that is regarded by loyalists as sacred ground. Others have expressed doubts about the wisdom of a republican like Hartley visiting the war graves of British soldiers in the company of a leading loyalist.

I am well aware that the majority of those who contribute to The Blanket will see no redeeming features in the journey taken by Ervine and Hartley just as they saw no redeeming features in Alex Maskey’s gesture last July when he laid a laurel wreath at the cenotaph, or earlier this week when he hosted a visit from the Royal British Legion. In the past I have been as critical of Sinn Fein as many republican contributors to The Blanket, albeit for different reasons, and I remain cynical about Sinn Fein’s motives in relation to the so-called peace process. However I have no problem supporting the gestures made by Maskey and Hartley.

Remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice for what they believed in, or for what they believed was their duty, is nothing to be ashamed of. Rehabilitating the memory of those fellow Irishmen so cruelly airbrushed out of history and out of the Irish national psyche is most certainly nothing for a modern-day republican to be ashamed of. Remembering those who paid the supreme sacrifice is not a specifically British thing, and it is certainly not a specifically protestant or Unionist thing (though you will find a few rednecks who will think the contrary). In the aftermath of the Great War, memorials were erected in many towns and cities across Europe.

To remember the dead is a human reaction, not a political or sectarian one. It is international rather than national. Remembrance Day is not (for me, at least) intended to reinforce my sense of Britishness and the poppy is not intended to be a symbol of my British identity. I regard Remembrance Day simply as a day to remember those who gave their lives in the service of their country. For many of us, it is a personal thing. We remember those of our own loved ones who answered the call of their country. This is a natural thing to do and need not be regarded as either political or sectarian. Nor should it be done in a selective way. The 10th and 16th Irish, as well as the 36th Ulster, divisions are equally deserving of our remembrance.

Remembrance Day in relation to the Great War obviously has a special meaning and significance for loyalists. In a small Province of some 1.5million people the loss of thousands of young lives was deeply felt throughout the country. Even if there had been no constitutional and political reasons for the formation of the UVF and the 36th (Ulster) Division, the sense of loss would have been just as great. This sense of loss was felt as much in England where the young men of the shires joined their local regiments - many of which suffered a similar fate to that of the Ulster Division. It was felt as much in West Belfast as on the Shankill or East Belfast, In Dublin as well as Belfast or Ballymena. The late Vera Brittain summarised the period of the Great War as the period of “the lost generation”.

As I said at the beginning of my article, the poppy for me is about remembering people. It is not about victory or defeat. It is not about sides or causes and it is certainly not about glorifying war. It is about ordinary people for whom war was an intrusion into their lives. It is about remembering the courage and the sacrifice made by ordinary men and women for doing what they believed was their patriotic duty.





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It is better to be defeated on principle than to win on lies.
- Arthur Calwell
Index: Current Articles

10 November 2002


Other Articles From This Issue:


Managing the Strategy
Breandán ó Muirthile


Remembrance Day
Billy Mitchell


Going Back To The Start
Eamonn McCann


Suffer Little Children

Anthony McIntyre


Exposing Adams' Secrets To The Light Of Day
Jim Cusack


Pinnocchio, Oh, Oh!

Brian Mór


98th Death on Hunger Strike in Turkish Prisons


The Letters page has been updated.


7 November 2002


Our Community
Liam O Ruairc


Billy Mitchell


To The Beat of a Different Drum
Anthony McIntyre


Bring Back Stormont and Political Status

Brian Mór



Brian Mór


Pinnocchio Redux

Brian Mór




The Blanket



Latest News & Views
Index: Current Articles
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The Blanket Magazine Winter 2002
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