“Royal Ulster Rifles” On An Irish Stamp?

The interesting thing (dont laugh!) about collecting Irish stamps is that it tells us as something about an Event AND the time the stamps were issued.
For example, the Easter Rising 1916.
Commemorated in 1941 (25th Anniversary).
Commemorated in 1966 (50th anniversary). Rather spectacularly.
Commemorated in 1991 (75th Anniversary). Low key because of the Northern Troubles.
Commemorated in 2006 (90th Anniversary). Low key.
And in 2016…the nature of the commemoration will depend on the prevailing post-Conflict narrative.

Until 1985, the Post office was run by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs which meant that there was a degree of political interference in issuing stamps. It was maybe odd that no stamp was issued to mark the fiftieth anniversary of The death of Michael Collins. But of course thats explained by the fact there was a Fianna Fáil Minister.
Some years later this was rectified when Collins, Cathal Brugha, Sean T O’Ceallaigh and others were honoured in annual “Statesmen” series.

For nearly forty years, Irish stamp issues have been dominated by…Europe. Stick the word “European” in front of any old rubbish and the Irish Post Office will come up with a stamp issue.
So 1995…fifty years of peace in Europe or fifty years from the end of World War Two. Or even Victory in Europe? How exactly foes a neutral nation celebrate and commemorate? Well basically with Ambiguity.
After all in 1995, we were edging slowly towards Passivity in Norn Iron and the cornerstone of the Good Friday Agreement would be Creative Ambiguity.
In 1995, there was also much talk of the “totality of relations”between Ireland and Britain.
So in 1995, a stamp was issued to commemorate the End of World War Two…note the wording as it is deliberately (and appropriately!!!) neutral. But also note the reference to “The Second World War” rather than “The Emergency”.

All the ingredients are there for a typical 1995 Irish stamp. Internationalism. Peace. Europe…and the inconvenient fact that Ireland did not actually fight in World War Two. Ireland was neutral, just like Belgium, United States of America, Sweden, Norway, Netherlands and most other nations.
But of course people from Ireland DID fight in the Second World War on the Allied side. And that produces another item for the check list of Acceptability in 1995…The North and Northern Unionists.
So a stamp is designed by Q Design.
And the pre-issue bulletins from An Post, publicise the stamp.

IrishStamp 1995

What could possibly go wrong? Spot the difference in the two stamps above?
Well one actually is not a stamp at all. It is cut out from the publicity material. Notice the Piper? Hard to miss, I suppose.
From the Royal Ulster Rifles.
Ooops.
Suddenly this brilliant idea became a very bad idea.
For unfortunately this regiment had links to a previously named regiment who had fought AGAINST the establishment of the Irish Nation.
People with a Republican agenda also claimed it had been absorbed nto the controversial Ulster Defence Regiment…with members of an occasional homicidal tendency towards Northern Caholics. I cant comment on the “family tree” of British regiments…merely point out that it was generally believe.
Rather hastily An Post did a re-think.
“The Piper” actually undermined the intent of the Stamp.
Back to the Drawing Board…literally.

And the Stamp actually issued…airbrushed the Piper out.
Fascinating eh?

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3 Responses to “Royal Ulster Rifles” On An Irish Stamp?

  1. Everything is political. And yes, that actually is fascinating.

  2. Political Tourist says:

    Department of Posts and Telegrams, why does term immediately remind of Conor Cruise O’Brien.

    • Because in the Coalition of mid 1970s, he used the P &T gig to become de facto Minister for Norn Iron.
      He addressed a SDLP Conference as a fraternal delegate….Paddy Devlin and Ivan Cooper walked out during his speech.
      So did I (not that me walking out would bother him).

      Fianna Fáil used to torture him, bombarding him with “when will my constituent get her phone installed?” And “when will the phone box in this wee village get repaired?”
      O’Brien hated that. It was all beneath him.

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