Sammy Morrison hits back at his Stormont poppy row critics Brian Spencer and Mike Nesbitt

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In a recent article Brian Spencer makes a number of observations about this “loutish Calvinist“.

I am grateful that Eamonn has allowed this “rural unionist oaf” a right of reply.Clearly Brian believes that my faith and my rural roots are matters which deserve public comment.

I am disappointed that Brian doesn’t mention the elements of my background which motivated my actions on Wednesday because my childhood, and specifically one day in my childhood, where what I was thinking of when I acted as I did.

In November 1987, a few days after I turned five, my father brought my sister and I to Enniskillen to view the site of an IRA bomb which had detonated the previous day on Remembrance Sunday.

As we viewed the devastation beyond the police cordon Daddy told us never to forget what had taken place there and the people who were responsible for it.

The Sunday after the bombing my father spoke at a service in a church (a Calvinistic, Free Presbyterian Church as it happens) about the bombing. I listened to a recording of what he said before writing this article.

He recalled that the pervious Sunday the door of the Sunday schoolroom in which he was teaching was knocked and he emerged to find a gentleman from the Free Presbyterian Church in Enniskillen who advised him that there had been a bomb and his sister was involved. When asked how bad it was he shook his head and said, “It’s very bad”.

He told him that while my uncle had been recused from the rubble my aunt was completely buried.

My father then asked if she was dead. The reply was, “We don’t know”.

Dad, my grandfather and another aunt left church and headed to the Erne Hospital where, after waiting for an hour among the horrific sights of the aftermath of the explosion, they discovered that Aunty Daphne was alive.

A few days later, while calling to visit Uncle Alan and Aunty Daphne, Dad telling in the recording of meeting Richard Needham, a Minister in the Northern Ireland Office. Moments before he met Daddy Needham had stood in the ward and made a speech to the injured on how the government would ensure those responsible were brought to justice.

Even back then, so soon after the bombing, my father was sceptical to say the least – a sentiment which he expressed to Mr (now Sir) Needham rather vocally.

28 years later and with still not a single arrest, never mind a conviction, for the Enniskillen Bombing it would appear that his attitude to Needham’s speech was justified.

While my aunt survived the bombing she still carries the scars, physical and mental.

When I spoke to her earlier this week she told me that the Remembrance Sunday Bombing was not something that happened 28 years ago but something she lives with every day.

When I wear my Poppy I don’t think of the Somme where a family member paid the supreme sacrifice or the battle field in France (I don’t know which) where another was injured.

When I wear my Poppy I don’t think of the deserts of North Africa where a family member was decorated for his services with the Desert Rats.

When I wear my Poppy I think of Enniskillen.

That’s not a choice I made.

That’s a choice which the IRA made when they bombed a Remembrance service.

As I stood in the Great Hall on Wednesday, therefore, I was thinking of Enniskillen. Frankly, I never think of anything else during the the two minute silence which I’ve always observed for as long as I can remember.

So when Mitchel McLaughlin, at the two minute silence said, “At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them” I didn’t, as is traditional, repeat “We will remember them”.

I couldn’t. Why? Because I don’t have any earthly idea who Mitchel McLaughlin was remembering but I’m quite sure it wasn’t the victims of Enniskillen.

For me it would have been rank hypocrisy to repeat those words after McLaughlin, the man who said the murder of a mother of 10 wasn’t a crime.

I didn’t know that the National Anthem was to be excluded from the order of service. At all the previous events I had attended at Stormont it had been included and I only learned of its absence when I was handed an order of service around 10:40am on Wednesday morning. Between then and the close of the act of Remembrance I made the decision that I was going to sing it anyway.

Why? Because I believed that the only reason for its exclusion was the presence of Sinn Fein/IRA members. The presence of members of an organisation which continue to justify and defend the 1987 bombing of a Remembrance Service.

What I did last Wednesday was not, as Mike Nesbitt claimed and others have repeated, a stunt. If it was a stunt to promote my party it was a foolish one because I will not be a candidate in the upcoming Assembly election.

TUV has a number of passes to get into Parliament Buildings. Surely, from a TUV point of view, it would have made sense to use one of them to get someone to do it who will stand at the next election.

Surely it would have made more sense to get someone who had, unlike myself, experience of doing live TV interviews and experience of dealing with calls on a phone-in.

If it was a stunt why wasn’t Jim Allister in Stormont on Wednesday rather than in Ballymena?

I’ve also been accused by Mr Nesbitt of “ambushing” people because people only agree to attend things if they know what will be on the order of service. On the basis of that information they can then, Mr Nesbitt says, make a choice as to whether to attend or not.

Ambushing someone, according to the dictionary, means “to launch a sudden attack from a place of concealment.” I have never ambushed any one.

Can Martin McGuinness say the same?

I didn’t know what was included or excluded from the order of service before attending. How, in Mr Nesbitt’s mind, therefore was I supposed to make my judgement as to whether or not I should attend?

Frankly, I was distinctly uncomfortable on Wednesday throughout the service because of the stench of hypocrisy.

So when it came to the end of the service I took a deep breath and (being a “loutish Calvinist”) said a prayer. I then started to sing the National Anthem.


Because I didn’t see why the National Anthem – which had been sung at every Remembrance Service I’ve attended at Stormont in the past – should be excluded at the behest of those who blew up people for the crime of remembering in 1987.

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    • I don’t see Sammy as a bigot as a lot of others how is he a bigot singing OUR national anthem maybe look closer to home maybe its you that’s the bigot

      • It’s the British national anthem, not the Irish national anthem. So it only belongs to a section of the NI community – a dwindling section who identify as ‘British’ according to most polls.

        • The problem Alan is the changing of the normal format of a Service of Remembrance to suit those who were the murderers of many of those we remember on Armistice Day. It’s not just WW 1 and 2, but all conflicts since. Whilst it’s a big change that Sinn Fein/IRA members attend such events, they cannot yet bring themselves to lay a Poppy wreath, rather they use a Laurel Leaf wreath that is more normally draped around the neck of a F1 car race winner or a successful motorcycle rider at the North-West 200.

  1. Ashlene Kennedy on

    If the inhabitants of this beautiful country, be it; Northern Ireland, Ireland, Eire. Are to share the wealth, beauty and future prosperity of this amazing land, and celebrating it’s troubled past in a move towards future and respect ( “Love Thy Neighbour” ), as the bible tells US CHRISTIANS. Why are we not singing Amhrán Na bhFiann in Stormont and wearing the Easter Lilly?
    Equality and diplomatic leaders is what we need.

    • If people want to wear an Easter Lily and sing the Soldier Song in memory of IRA actions that is up to them, just so long it is clearly marked on the order of service so Unionists know not to attend or get caught out in an awkward situation. Nobody likes awkward situations as they make people feel, awkward. Even people not directly exposed to the awkward situation can still sense the awkwardness because of universal consciousness and it’s not a comfortable feeling for anyone.

    • What an unfeeling response! In the years after the bomb I used to give talks on the impact of emotional trauma at seminars throughout the UK for people responding to disasters and trying to establish victims needs. One of the things I talked about was the dreadful lack of empathy people can experience re the that impact.

      This example would feed quite nicely into the issue about the total lack of understanding of the effects of trauma and how this adds to the difficulties that people can have in relating back to the world again when comfort in the world has already been so shattered by the initial event.

      Forgetting all about the context of Northern Ireland how can an (presumably adult) be so devoid of all empathy that he can be so dismissive of the trauma clearly outlined and clear to anyone with more than one brain cell to rub together, that things associated with the bomb e.g. poppy, acts of Remembrance etc bring back elements of that trauma. So you are basically getting a sanctimonious dig in because of an instinctive emotional response (not even action as the focus of your comment was about what Sammy thinks of when these triggers present.) to a childhood traumatic event.

      • Gordon Wilson, among others, is one of my personal heros of the troubles, he was a light in a very dark time and my post, if that is what you are referring to, was not a “sanctimonious dig” at anyone. What exactly is Sammy’s way out of the pain of the past and does empathy have a religion or a political point of view. The people at that remembrance ceremony were there as people, including Mitchel McLaughlin and Martin McGuinness and I am sure their motives for being there were a lot more conciliatory than Sammy appears to allow.

    • Well said Dominic. I remember that man myself and even though I’m a Republican I remember thinking at the time if I could be so forgiving but I also saw him as a truely remarkable man who lived by what his god taught by example. We need more Gordon Wilsons. I’m really sorry Sammy hasn’t moved on from the past. We all had experiences that still haunt us….those of us who lived through the Troubles. When the cease fire was announced in 1994 I was confused and asked myself ‘what was it all for when at the stroke of a pen it is all over’? However, I respect those who are trying to lead us to a better future no matter what pary they are in and I sincerley wish that Sammy could join us… in the past, keeps you in a place that will only bring pain and you will never see ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’……I have no religion but I’m a good woman who only wishes the best for everyone and my way of ‘praying’ is to think of Sammy and those who think/feel like him and wish with all my heart that they can think of the future, for the sake of those who will have to live in it when we are under the clay.

    • Dominic…not all people remember their deceased or seriously injured family in the way the late Mr. Wilson did. Some people still demand justice, whilst the authorities give letters of comfort to the killers, two of which were given to the murderers of the people killed at Enniskillen Cenotaph in November 1987.

  2. Armistice Day, first held in 1919, is a moment each year when we pause to remember the armistice signed between the allies of the Great War & Germany. During the 2 minutes silence we were asked to recall the dead, the injured and the suffering that the Great War bestowed on the then world when whole generations were lost. It’s memorial is relevant to the signing of the armistice i.e. 11 a.m on the 11th of November (the eleventh month).

    During 1939-45 (the years of World War 2) Armistice Day was moved to the nearest Sunday so that war production output was no effected by workers leaving factories to attend Armistice Day Memorials during the working day.

    Post World War 2 and the reality that many more had been butchered and damned in that War, 2 events emerged: the Annual Service of Remembrance (which takes place on the nearest Sunday to Armistice Day) and Armistice Day itself. The Annual Service of Remembrance has been developed by successive HMGs largely as a military showpiece in which remembering ‘the fallen’ of the Great War, World War 2 and Subsequent Conflicts is a factor with flag waving, anthems & poppy fascism becoming an increasing factor.

    Armistice Day memorials, largely lack military pomp, and maintain the original sentiment i.e. a moments silence to reflect on all the dead of war after a short inter-denominational religious service.

    On 11/11/2015, I was in Rajasthan, where I participated in Armistice Day commemoration with members of the Indian Army. A poignant moment of silence which apart from the uniforms worn was devoid of militarism. Across the World, peoples of the allied Nations were participating in similar services of reflection on that 11th hour of the 11th day.

    On 11/11/2015, Sammy Morrison in Stormont, hijacked Armistice Day. Based on his self justification essay above we now know it wasn’t a TUV political stunt but purely out of an irrational selfishness. To hell with what Armistice Day actually means and be damned everyone else across the world quietly reflecting: Sammy was offended and was doing Armistice Day, his way.

    Footnote: I served either with the FRB (Fermanagh Roulement Battalion) or in it’s TAOR during my time in the Regular Army. I was there in 1987, 1988 & 1989 at different periods. Yes, the attack on the Annual Service of Remembrance in Enniskillen was horrific, and symbolized a new low in PIRA tactics but that singular attack is no justification to discredit any Armistice Day commemoration.

  3. If Sammy Morrison were to follow the lead of Her Majesty, for whose well-being he claims to have been singing the words of our National Anthem, he would stayed silent in reflection on the difficulties of dealing with the range of painful memories being recalled by those present in the Great Hall in Stormont. Instead he chose to ignore the pain of others, and their reflections on how to deal with the past and create a better future, and, as he points out above, focussed only on his own difficulties in dealing with the pain of the past. It was a stunt, because it was the intentional use of a service of worship to make a political point of protest. No serious Christian, Calvinist or otherwise, should abuse a religious service in that way.

    • Sammy Morrison on

      Lord Alderdice,

      Any serious Christian would surely tell Sinn Fein that they need to repent of actions like Enniskillen rather than changing Rememberance Services to accommodate them.

      • In other words, Sammy, as I said, you were engaging in a political action – not worship or reflection. If you want to tell Sinn Fein or any other political party something, go and do it. That is not what you did. You dragged a hymn of worship into a political stunt, showing neither respect for Her Majesty and the forgiving actions she has undertaken, nor respect to others who suffered and died. As you made clear, you were completely preoccupied with your own concerns. Your actions did not result in Sinn Fein feeling a sense of conviction for the Enniskillen bomb – on the contrary.

        • Lord Alderdice,

          Could you please address the question rather than seeking to twist what I said?

          I’ll repeat it for the sake of clarity – from a Christian point of view is the most Christian thing which one could do for Sinn Fein/IRA members to remind them of their need of repentance? Yes or no. I’ll be happy to address your comments if I have clarity on your position in relation to that.

          • You make up a question and then demand others to address it – an old trick. Did your action remind Sinn Fein (or anyone else) of a need for repentance? It did not. It never could. It did not even raise the issue. I am sticking with the original question of whether you abused the singing of the National Anthem and whether it was respectful to Her Majesty or the context of worship. You are trying to wriggle away from the question of whether you did the right thing. Attempting to justify it in religious language merely deepens the abuse of faith. Your answers suggest that you have no interest in exploring whether or not you did the right thing, but merely trying to justify it.

        • Lord Alderdice,

          Apologies but I cannot comment at the end of the thread so I will have to say what I want to say here.

          I engaged with your comment because you accused me of unchristian conduct yet you refuse to say if you agree on what the most Christian thing to do for a member of Sinn Fein/IRA would be. Why? Because you know enough about Christianity – Calvinistic or otherwise – to know the things I could quote back to you if you gave a straight answer.

          I not trying to avoid questions about whether what I did was right. I have absolutely no doubt that what I did was right.

          My actions DID remind Sinn Fein/IRA of the need to repent because in every interview I have given about this and in every piece I have written I have talked about Enniskillen.

          I have thought about what I would say if anyone questioned the Christian nature of what I did. It just so happens that you are the first person to do so.

          • I’m not entirely certain how you can consider yourself as “foing the right thing”? This was supposed to be a moment of reflection and remembrance; and for the first time a SF leader, a former IRA gunman was there to reflect and remember members of British forces who lost their lives. The christian thing to do would be to have thanked God that we’re not physically at each others throats any longer.

            I fully understand and empathize with your views on justice being denied, it is a common story; however justice is in the hands of God and the courts. “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

        • John, how do you define ‘worship’? And who was being worshipped at Stormont on 11th November 2015? An act of remembrance it was, and an act of reflection. But in what sense was it an act of worship?

    • Totally agree they seem to give in to the terrorists and the victims forgot about but we all face judgement some day and i know which path i will take as Sammy

  4. my grandfather died in a British uniform at the somme 1916 he was a irish nationalist written out of history by the unionist parties because he believed that by going to war with the British we /he would get the promised home rule does that mean that i cant remember him like all the others
    a large number of nationalist were murdered by your terrorist in British and ruc /udr uniforms so there is pain on all sides a pain that needs to be respected as should my grandfather

  5. Philip Kelly….It may interest you to know that more Roman Catholics/Republicans were killed by the IRA and other Republican terrorist groups than all other organisations numbers together. RUC/UDR soldiers didn’t go out to murder anyone and it’s wrong to assume that all shot by them were innocent bystanders. Republicans have always been good at propaganda….wasn’t Hitler and Goebbels among many of the World’s greatest despots brought up in ‘Mother Church.’

  6. Yeah, the British State ‘Security Forces’ colluded with terrorists, killed innocent men, woemn and children, practiced torture, continued to abuse catholics. They let Le Mon blow up so not to reveal their IRA spy. Now they got Prince Charles shaking hands with a politican who tried to justify blowing up his uncle and his underage help. Come on!

  7. RUC/UDR soldiers didn’t go out to murder anyone and it’s wrong to assume that all shot by them were innocent bystanders – they still did it though, you could apply this logic to your own agenda. Go say ‘the IRA didn’t set out to murder balh balh blah ‘wasn’t Hitler and Goebbels among many of the World’s greatest despots brought up in ‘Mother Church.’ – and the protestant despots (the majority of which have sat on the throne of britian?) no mention?Numbers? Security Forces killed more civilains than terrorists. They didn’t try and keep the peace, they went there and failed to crush republicanism and wound up making things a billion times worse.Your point is not wrong, but there are other points that bring it into grave perspective. The IRA, INLA, RUC, UVF, UDR, UDA British Army – they all murdered and destroyed people’s lives trying to pump their idiotic dogma. NI, like all of Eire, should try and lose these losers rather than try and claw back some miserly moral high ground based on idiotic delusions.

  8. Have you got the same opinion about Miami Showband Massacre, Bloody Sunday (both of them), Ballymurphy Massacre, the Black and Tans, Dublin Monaghan Bombs?

    Christianity is another term of entitlement.

  9. While it is a tragic story, it isn’t exactly a rebuttal to the BJS story; in fact I didn’t really see any rebuttal at all. Furthermore – again, not to undermine the man’s loss, but for years I have been hearing that the poppy is a symbol for fallen soldiers in the first and second war; however to Mr. Morris it seems to be more of an up-ye to nationalists.

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