Poppies spring up over European fields in summertime. Their bright red hue a vibrant reminder of the blood spilled on Flanders fields – the young male blood of Frenchmen, Englishmen, Irishmen, Scots, Welsh, Americans, Germans, Russians and countless other nations who volunteered their youth for the carnage of trench warfare.
Remembrance Sunday in the U.K. is associated with the British Legion, a charity that offers support to those who serve in the British Armed Forces, veterans and their families. To raise money for that charity red poppies are sold.
There are people in Ireland, North and South, who are not comfortable with the red poppy and its links with the British army.
White poppies symbolising peace are sometimes available and are sold to support pacifist organisations.
Students in Belfast may be voting on a motion to prohibit the selling of red poppies in their Students’ Union shop. The BBC has spoken to some of the students at Queen’s University Belfast, and those interviewed regarded the subject as a non-issue or a retrograde step.
What about the permanent memorial in front of the main building to the students from Queen’s who died in two world wars? Do war memorials glorify battle and validate armed conflict? Or are they a stark warning of the consequences if we fail to resolve differences peacefully and democratically?
Remembrance Sunday is not an easy option for the families of those civilians shot on the streets of Derry/Londonderry and Belfast by the British army during the Troubles. Those same families may wish to honour their ancestors, the Irishmen/Ulstermen who fought in the British army for the rights of small nations, or as combatants against Nazi aggression.
The Students’ Union shop could offer both white and red poppies for sale.White, red or no poppy – can’t we all spare a moment to pause and reflect on all who have died in bloody conflict the world over?