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Leo Varadkar’s Shamrock-And-Poppy Badge Inspired By UVF Terror Symbol

Judging by the adverse reaction on social media, I think it’s safe to say that yesterday’s perplexing decision by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, to wear a small “shamrock poppy” lapel badge in Dáil Éireann has backfired spectacularly. The enamel pin, consisting of a green shamrock with a red poppy at its centre, is sold in Ireland by the Royal British Legion (RBL) to commemorate and raise funds for all those who served in the armed forces of the United Kingdom during the 20th and early 21st centuries. Though the organisation’s public emphasis is on the First and Second World Wars, in fact the conventional poppy badge symbolises all of Britain’s modern overseas’ conflicts. This includes the 1916 Easter Rising, the 1919-21 War of Independence and the so-called Troubles of 1966-2005. Naturally this make the RBL badges a deeply controversial – and for many, offensive – reminder of the UK’s colonial rule and interference in our island nation. Which, of course, the Fine Gael leader is fully aware of.

The Royal British Legion’s supposedly Irish-friendly or neutral Shamrock-And-Poppy Badge

The belief by an Irish head of government that he should honour the deceased soldiers of a foreign power which sought to imprison or kill his ministerial predecessors in times past, has baffled many. Even more so when one considers that the RBL poppy commemorates the British ex-servicemen who filled the ranks of the Black and Tans and Auxies, the UK paramilitary police groupings which gained such infamy during the latter half of the 1916-23 Revolution. The mercenaries who burned Cork City or the town of Balbriggan are no less remembered by the poppy than the men of Irish extraction who died in Britain’s imperial service during the Great War. The honouring of the two classes of “fallen heroes” is inextricably linked and it is disingenuous to argue otherwise.

Interestingly, the shamrock-and-poppy design, which appeared around 2011, bears a marked resemblance to the shamrock-and-red-hand symbol used by several pro-British terrorist factions in the north-east of the country. These include the Young Citizen Volunteers (YCV), the youthful “street riot” wing of the revived Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), an organisation responsible for the murder of over 550 men, women and children during the course of the northern “Troubles”. The group is probably best known for the coordinated Dublin and Monaghan bombings of the 17th of May 1974, which left thirty-four people dead and 300 injured when three car bombs were detonated during the evening rush-hour in the capital; a fourth device exploded in Monaghan town ninety minutes later.

The not so Irish-friendly Shamrock-And-Red-Hand Badge, traditionally associated with British separatist terrorism in Ireland

The sight of Leo Varadkar wearing a Royal British poppy, however contrived with an overlay of “Irishness”, has understandably puzzled or irritated a large chunk of the general public. However it is the sight of An Taoiseach wearing a badge whose design closely resembles that of a well-known symbol of British terrorism in Ireland, terrorism associated with the murders of hundreds of our fellow citizens, which should move us to outrage. Once again the Fine Gael TD has proven himself to be the very definition of intellectual and political shallowness.

The Shamrock-And-Red-Hand symbol of the Young Citizen Volunteers, YCV, part of the Ulster Volunteer Force terror gang

22 comments on “Leo Varadkar’s Shamrock-And-Poppy Badge Inspired By UVF Terror Symbol

  1. Other than it’s something red overlaid on a shamrock, isn’t it a bit of a stretch to link the ‘shamrock poppy’ to symbols of the UVF? Unless you are claiming that the UVF somehow ‘owns’ the shamrock as a symbol.


    • But the two symbols bear a marked resemblance to each other. Are we wrong to point that out? Or to suspect that the former influenced the design of the latter?

      At this moment in time, many county and state administrations in the United States are redesigning various municipal and state banners and emblems because they contain references to the Confederate Flag. Or bear some resemblance to it. New stories are emerging almost weekly along these lines.

      Why should the Shamrock-and-Poppy badge be given a free pass when it bears such an obvious resemblance to the militant symbolism of the UVF and extremist Loyalism in general?

      I or any other republican did not force the RBL to adopt and promote a symbol close to those propagandised by Loyalist terrorists. It did so itself. Perhaps the questions of motivation and intent should be asked of that organisation?


  2. “The honouring of the two classes of “fallen heroes” is inextricably linked and it is disingenuous to argue otherwise.” That statement is a perfect example of “begging the question.”

    My first tour in the province was during a secondment to 244 Signal Squadron, whose badge includes the Red Hand of Ulster. As I remember it, 244 was not a terrorist organization!


    • seamus mallon

      244 was not a terrorist organisation,,,,,,,,there are plenty of nationalists all over ireland but particularly in the 6 counties who would beg to differ with that statement, bye the way your use of the term province gives away your colonial mindset.


    • The Red Hand of Ulster is not a terrorist symbol. Unless you are a terrorist organisation using it as part of your terrorist emblem. Then it becomes a terrorist symbol. Are you saying that the Red Hand iconography of the UVF and UDA-UFF does not represent those terror gangs?

      The Red Hand on the Green Shamrock is indelibly associated with militant Loyalism, with British separatist violence in Ireland. The contemporary shamrock-and-poppy of the Royal British Legion bears a marked resemblance to it. Are we to pretend otherwise?


  3. As an outsider I’m completely baffled by the obvious insensitivity of your elected (?) head of government, your ‘chief’. Who is he and how did he reach his present position?


    • 35,000 Irishmen died in the First World War fighting against Germany and many more fought alongside troops from all over the then British Empire, France, the USA and other allied nations. The Irish state has long ignored the contribution of Irishmen and women in both World Wars. Perhaps now is the time to stop?

      And perhaps now is also the time to stop assuming that the poppy of Flanders fields equates to supporting British imperialism, or the extreme right (however much Britain First might try to hijack the symbol)? Or that the Red Hand of Ulster only belongs to Loyalist terrorists rather than being the ancient symbol of the province?

      The above blog is also inaccurate: the badge is sold by the Royal British Legion (Ireland) and was commissioned to commemorate the centenary of the First World War and has not been around since 2011 as the blog claims. All proceeds go to support families of Irish soldiers in Ireland.


      • The earliest reference I could find to the symbol dated to 2011. And most of the promotion for it locally came from the RBL in Limerick, which is quite active in Munster.

        If the Shamrock-and-Poppy badge was purposefully commissioned by the RBL in Ireland, did no one in that organisation stop to wonder if the obvious resemblance to the iconography of the YCV-UVF was a problem? More worryingly, if they did notice the closeness in design, why did they still go ahead with the production run?


      • here’s some info on how catholic ex-servicemen were treated in Northern ireland from WWI onwards to the recent Troubles


      • All proceeds stay in Ireland, but which part?. Proceeds go to support Irish soldiers in Ireland who served in the British military.

        Notice the difference?


    • This is the same person who swooned as he walked in the door of Number 10 Downing Street, overcome with visiting a place he watched in the movie Love Actually. Varadkar is a facile, free-marketeer in the mould of Emmanuel Macron – minus the latter’s political acumen.


  4. Total and utter nonsense! I was given mine last year, wore it at Passchendaele to commemorate the 16th & 36th Divisions which my paternal Grandfather fought in. I understand McClean et al not wanting to wear one,andr my Muslim pals. There are millions of reasons to wear one, or not. I wear it for family, 1914-18, my Grandfather was in the war of independence. I will also wear an Easter Lily happily.


    • But the Royal British poppy also stands for the British Forces who fought in Ireland throughout the 20th century. I’m not saying don’t commemorate the Irish dead in UK uniform, if people feel they must, but at least use a symbol without the connotations the poppy has. While there is the struggle against the Nazis, there is also countless struggles against colonised peoples. Including the Irish. Let’s not pretend that the symbolism is other than it is in the context of Ireland.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It can be a tautological argument. I wore my poppy on the Falls, a few dirty looks. Years ago I used to have an eloquent and lengthy reason why I wore one. Now I say “If my poppy offends you, **** off”.


  5. Sharon Douglas

    “the youthful “street riot” wing of the revived Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). ” You have a way with words Séamas, you should write a blog…oh wait. 😉 As for the detractors here who suggest this blog is poorly researched or reactionary, you clearly have spent little time reading it on a regular basis. As for the poppy, well…I shall demur.


  6. NI issue aside, why this faux Westbritism on the part of out elected representatives? I am sure many Irishmen died fighting for the Confederacy, for Franco, in Vietnam etc. but are not singled out for honour. This smacks of the British blinkered “Weltblick” that the “allies” were on the side of good (God) in WWI, (unlike against a genuinely evil regime in WWII). Many, including historian Niall Ferguson, have argued that by modern standards, Germany was quite justified in supporting Austria against a terrorist separatist organization in a province about to revert to being a failed state. The British viewpoint of: “The war started because of the vile Hun and his villainous empire-building” is successfully lampooned by Capt. Blackadder: “George, the British Empire at present covers a quarter of the globe, while the German Empire consists of a small sausage factory in Tanganyika. I hardly think that we can be entirely absolved of blame on the imperialistic front. But the real reason for the whole thing was that it was too much effort not to have a war.”


  7. Shocked to see such defences on a Republican blog. This is nothing more than the same revisionism by Fianna Gael with the unveiling of the John Redmond banner as part of the centenery of the Rising, or the idea of having those who fought in the rising being reflected actoss the way by those who fought to put it down with “equal recognition”.

    The poppy is a British symbol. As much as the confederate flag is part of a specific history. If we are to recognise Irish people who fought im the first world war, or any war, we should be doing it in our own way. Not partaking in the jingoism of others. As for the red hand symbol, Id be careful to draw a line between taking down things thst are tangentally similiar, but I agree with his statement that they are, and we should question the motives behind its original design, which though maybe not malicious, could at least have been insensitive.

    But for the taoiseach of Ireland to be wearing it at all is a shame on us. When the free state properly embraces the history of the rising, maybe then this gesture wouldnt be a gross insult. But there is always a narrative here getting advanced that Irish nationalism was narrowminded, even an embaressment and we must embrace the home rule movement even now like good little redmonites. When those same advocates endorse the wearing of the poppy, and at the same time ban republican gatherings, forgive me if I dont see it for the poisonous motive which drives it; collinialism.


    • I’m not defending the wearing of the poppy in the Oireachtas. That is wrong. I was merely pointing out the poor iconography, which apparently passed most people by. More generally, I have no real objection to individuals wearing the poppy. Here or in the UK. When I see it here, it has a more of an eye-rolling effect. Usually it it just worn for contrarian reasons or as a shock effect. Government ministers aside, if people want to wear it, so be it. But they should be aware of what it stands for. Imperialism and all.


  8. George Laverty

    In the early 1900’s the Young Citizen Volunteers were not part of the UVF. They were amalgamated into the 36th Ulster Division at the start of WW1. In fact the YCV organisation was formed before Carson’s UVF. Look at your Irish history.


  9. Come on the haters, this is the same Irish Republic that not so long ago as part of EU gladly accepted billions of pounds from Britain to bail your country out.
    Well, I am a Scottish (British) and ex soldier, be assured I was no loyalist thug as you would gladly portray me but carried my duties without prejudice. I wish I could say more on various issues but what really gets to me, is the amount of my fellow Scots (pseudo Irish) that hate me, and everything British, get it straight, we live in a democracy, no one is holding them in chains to make them stay. As for my poppy, I wear it with pride, my grand father, an Irish man, served in WW1 with Argyle and Southerndown highlanders.
    Grow up, move on and peace just might have chance.


  10. apologies for spellchecker error, Argyle and Sutherland highlanders.


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