Conán Doherty: It's the height of ignorance to expect James McClean to wear a poppy 5 years ago

Conán Doherty: It's the height of ignorance to expect James McClean to wear a poppy

This article was written last year. And here we are again...

James McClean is not going to wear a poppy this November.


He didn't wear one last November and he's not going to wear one next November.

Three years ago (now four years ago), he explained why in a considered open letter that should've put an end to the whole saga. It didn't.

Every single year we go through the same rigmarole. McClean doesn't wear a poppy and, rather than the occasion being about remembrance, it's about who remembered best and who didn't remember well enough.

His reasons are simple. If the poppy was a symbol only of the lost souls of World War I and II, he'd have no trouble wearing one but, because it's used to remember victims of other conflicts since 1945, it's a very different matter and a very big problem.


McClean's from Derry and not far from the scene of Bloody Sunday and, for him and for most people in Derry, wearing a poppy is not just uncommon but a slight on victims of past conflicts with Britain.

"For me to wear a poppy would be as much a gesture of disrespect for the innocent people who lost their lives in the Troubles – and Bloody Sunday especially - as I have in the past been accused of disrespecting the victims of WWI and WWII," McClean explained back in 2014.

"It would be seen as an act of disrespect to those people; to my people."

He went out of his way to offer an explanation when he should never have had to but he did it anyway. He never asked anyone to agree with him or convert and he never once suggested that all those people around him wearing poppies should consider his feelings and stop what they're doing. He just asked for understanding of where he was coming from but, by and large, he hasn't gotten anything near that.

Like a lot of Derry men, McClean was brought up in a family and a community affected in conflict and he simply cannot in good conscience wear a symbol that has historically been seen as an antagonist of mourning for his people.


Every person and place has different backgrounds, different triggers and they're each at different stages in their healing and the sensitivities of these tribes and people should be respected - especially when they're thrusting nothing on anyone.

But if respect was too much to expect from the majority, McClean hasn't even been allowed to mind his own business.

These isles are as multicultural as ever with so many people with so many different beliefs living predominantly in peaceful harmony, and yet there's still an archaic mob mentality when it comes to something like the poppy where it's okay to victimise someone for staying true to their own background and their own upbringing because it doesn't fit someone else's tunnel vision.

The narrative goes something like this:


If you want to live in this country, you'd better do what we f**king tell you - that's the gist of it.

If McClean has a problem supporting conflicts that directly affected his people, he can piss off home - that's as far as way too many are concerned and, for some reason, that attitude has been allowed to fester for the seven years he's been playing in England and, worse, it has been allowed to grow.

In an extreme era when Brexit voters on one side are labelled as racists and others are afraid to speak for fear they'll offend an entire community, it's still open season on those who won't fall in line with the conflicts they're told to mourn most for.

James McClean is welcome in Britain - but it would appear that his feelings and his personal experiences and his beliefs and culture certainly are not.

That's the message that's being sent every single November every single time he's allowed to be picked apart by pure ignorance. That's what's being allowed to happen to him and everyone who thinks like him even though all he's doing is keeping his head down and being respectful of the rights of others to remember in peace.


Unfortunately, that understanding is not a two-way street.

McClean can mourn those who lost their lives in war and respect every person's right to remember their past in their own way.

All he's asking for is the same.