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James McClean’s Refusal to wear Remembrance Poppy

To the uninformed spectator on the controversy surrounding James McClean and his refusal to wear the poppy, one would be forgiven for questioning McClean’s character in his defiant stance against wearing the poppy to commemorate the fallen in the two world wars.

But, once one informs oneself on the history of the poppy and contextualises it with McClean’s background, his stance becomes more reasonable when put in the context of history.

The poppy is a symbol of remembrance used by the British servicemen and expats which initially was used to remember those who died in the great wars however, in more recent years it has been used to remember British forces who died in all conflicts.

Aside from the negativity McClean has suffered from FA supporters while he plays for Stoke, McClean has often come under fire from those at home in Ireland for not acknowledging some 35,000 Irishmen who died in World War One and the 5,000 who perished in the second world war.

Even the Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has worn the shamrock poppy for a second year in a row to commemorate the sacrifice of Irishmen who died in these wars, with political figures like ex Taoiseach John Bruton Championing the Irishmen who fought in The Great War as greater patriots than those of the 1916 rising as they fought for home rule.

The poppy is a symbol and people like the Taoiseach have a right to interpret it as they see fit. But, perhaps the most important way the poppy is interpreted is by those who have coined the symbol. The British military services.

Its quite clear that when they commemorate with the poppy it is to commemorate those who died in “all British conflicts”. This includes those who died in the colonial pursuit of Ireland and in the recent events of the Troubles.

With this understanding of the poppy, McClean’s stance becomes much, much clearer. As a Northern Irish Catholic and Nationalist, the idea of commemorating those who were complicit in atrocities in the Troubles such as Bloody Sunday and The Battle of the Bogside, McClean would be insulting all he believes in, loves, and stands for.

If the weight of history didn’t entrench McClean’s stance enough then the response to his dignified refusal to wear the poppy didn’t help matters. For years he has been subject to racial and sectarian abuse both from fans of his clubs and opposition teams.

Most recently, following abuse McClean received following his sides 0-0 draw to Middlesbrough, McClean took to Instagram to proclaim that he was “a PROUD FENIAN” and that “no c@$t” would change that.

The FA have since condemned McClean’s use of profanity and are investigating his use of the “C” word. But McClean hit back at the hypocrisy of the organisation saying, “But like in Neil Lennon’s case in Scotland, because we are Irish Catholics, they turn a blind eye and nothing is ever said and done.”

The FA concluded their statement on the McClean investigation by saying that any discriminatory language “that may have been used” is unacceptable.

 

 

Deputy Sports Editor @thecollegeview Freelance sports journalist
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