Poppy vote a clear defeat for nationalist hypocrisy

Queens Students Union
Queens Students Union

The bid to ban the sale of the poppy from Queen’s University Students’ Union was defeated in a resounding decision on Wednesday night.

The 40 to 15 vote against in the student council was an overwhelming outcome in favour of plurality and sanity.

Yet the very fact that the motion was proposed, and that it garnered the support of more than a quarter of those who voted, is evidence of lingering nationalist intolerance and hypocrisy.

By far the most tribal fact of day-to-day life in and around the student parts of Belfast is the proliferation of GAA tops.

While this of course is largely a legitimate expression of sporting loyalties, most non-nationalists would also feel that it is used as a triumphalist tribal statement by many young people.

If the student world was similarly dominated by any equivalent clothing or symbolism as associated with Protestantism or Britishness, as the GAA is with Irishness and Catholicism, you can be sure that equality and human rights activists would swarm on to campus, monitoring possible oppression.

Student bigotry reached its nadir in 1983 when students at QUB union cheered the murder of the Ulster Unionist Edgar Graham, who was shot by the IRA because they didn’t like his views (ie that paramilitaries should be dealt with robustly by the law).

That slaying of a brilliant young academic stripped away the romantic notion that republicans were other than bloodthirsty sectarian terrorists. Young people today who flirt, en masse, with Sinn Fein on both sides of the border should, if nothing else, remember that deed if they want a true idea of how Sinn Fein-IRA viewed the world in the 1980s.

They should ask republican activists why in the world they would want to ban a symbol of remembrance of those young men, including many Irish Catholic volunteers, who laid down their lives in battle at a stage in their lives when young people are typically out studying, enjoying pastimes or even partying.