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UVF Centenary

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Hi,

I'd imagine this is the most appropriate location to raise this but suspect that this is a difficult topic for some. We are in a decade of commemorations in Ireland, of which the Government of Ireland Bill 1912 (the "Home Rule" legislation) was celebrated last year. This week marks the centenary of the foundation of the UVF.

For many Irish nationalists (in what was later to become both the North and the South) the UVF's formation - together with the 'Curragh Mutiny' represents the point at which the exhaustion of the parliamentary process was reached and that a military threat to support a political position became necessary. However, for some nationalists, e.g. MacNeill's "The North Began" article, they seemed to quite positively embrace the formation of a counterbalancing Irish Volunteer force, rather than it being seen as one of grim necessity.

Hindsight is of course a great asset and it is really quite difficult to imagine what the beliefs of those in 1913 would have been had they foreseen what would emerge by 1923, but it's strange at this point in time to see the UVF's formation being effectively disowned by a large chunk of mainstream unionism, (e.g. the rallies largely involved loyalists who censored any media in attendance). Given that so much has been written by mainstream unionists on the 36th (Ulster) Division and the origins of so many of its battalions in the UVF, it's a little curious that the current centenary has the character of watching the embarrassing uncle at the wedding.

I'm not saying any of the foregoing in a "trolling" manner, I'm just wondering why so much ground on the UVF's centenary (and indeed the embryonic basis of the 36th Ulster) has been ceded to a fringe element.

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rob elliott

Hi,

Unfortunately I think there is a little misunderstanding with what's going on. The BBC appeared to have been stopped from entering the grounds of Craigavon and I can only assume this is a result of their previous attitude towards parades of this sort when they were not interested.

UTV were in the grounds filmed and interviewed people and this can be seen on their webiste together with some nice pics of the parade on the Newtonards Rd.

Not sure what you mean by 'fringe'. Do you mean more 'working class'? Then yes to some degree it is being driven by those who live in These areas as opposed to politicians who do not.

Apathy of the Unionist hierarchy is nothing new. When they recovered the Clyde Valley in the 1960's, which ran the guns into Larne, they let it rot to the point it was towed away for scrap.

It has been decided by a number of individuals from across Belfast to form the committees in conjunction with the Grand Lodge of Ireland to carry out commemorations of the various anniversaries.

But in addition to this there are lectures and displays going on weekly throughout the North of Ireland, including Donegal.

The Belfast Newsletter has been running regular articles on the various County formations for the past few months.

The DUP being the largest Unionist party at the moment had no direct connections to the events of 1912-14 so as an organisation there is no reason for them to take part.

Possibly another reason is it community based and not politically based commemorations.

As was stated in a number of television vision interviews given over the weekend, the idea is to educate people by getting them involved.

Very few people really understand the way the UVF worked and how it actually stabilised the situation, MacNeill did understand.

Had there been no UVF or similar structure there would have been large scale disorder.

Considering the number of armed men in Province over the two years it is a testament to the discipline of both UVF and INV organisations that NO ONE was Killed by the opposite side.

Can you explain the embarrassing uncle bit please, or aren't working class people allowed to organise their own historical parades?

I take it you were there?

Rob

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KGB

It is certainly a divisive topic - whereas hopefully we are adult about 1914 the flags put up in parts of Northern Ireland link to paramilitaries. I trust that by next year (and up until 1916 another divisive Irish date) that we can have joint commemorations in the Republic and north!

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rob elliott

In my opinion it has been made divisive, rather than it was divisive. There were no political murders in 1912-14, the situation was basically a difference of opinion on what was best for the country. Unionists believed that staying tied to England would be the best for all, Irish Nationalists believed differently.

Economically the Unionists were proved right. Migration increased in the south after partition. The economy never could grow under it's own devices and they remained financially tied to the UK, dependent on trade with us.

They could have had that with the amended Home Rule bill without the bitterness of a war of independence and more than likely over time a united Ireland could have developed. The hand of friendship was never offered to the North.

Joint commemoration of which events were you thinking of.

You are right about being sensible enough to talk about things now, it is more than just hindsight though, it is knowledge of what actually went on due to information now available and being able to look at things from the oppositions point of view. But also accepting the facts.

This is where most people have a problem!

Rob

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Alan Tucker

Rob wrote "Unionists believed that staying tied to England would be the best for all, Irish Nationalists believed differently"

The Irish Nationalists i.e. supporter of a party of that name believed in Home Rule i.e. devolved powers within an all-Britain context and also within the Empire. The Ulster Unionists thought that Home Rule was a first step towards the breakup of the Empire and totally exaggerated its implications with their fears of 'Rome rule'.

From this side of the Irish Sea the foundation of the UVF is nothing to commemorate as it was defying the will of a democratically elected Parliament by the threat of force. Although we can appreciate the work of the 36th Ulster Division later it was also wrong to simply change the UVF military structure and command into the 36th Division for reasons of expediency.

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Airshipped

Rob,

I don't have a problem with working-class loyalists celebrating their identity. I'm just curious as to why the Ulster Covenant Centenary attracted large numbers from a broad range of backgrounds while the UVF Centenary was a much more narrowly-based affair.

On the issue of working class demonization, (e.g. the tendency for media to use phrases such "unionist protestors" but "loyalist violence") I do feel they don't get fair coverage, but on the other hand there are many former prisoners who spent more time on tattoos and body-building than on political development. (And on the point re 'embarrassing uncle' and whether I was there well I am alas one of those who gets much of their Belfast news via sources who quite patronizingly look down on the 'Kick the Pope' type bands from some areas as being the ones they avoid like the plague, notwithstanding their occasional token muttering re giving young men an opportunity to participate, i.e. as if it were something to be granted or withheld by a certain type of unionist).

Back to 1913, my hope is that the decade of commemorations that's currently unfolding will prove to be workable. So far the centenary of the events of 1912 have passed off well, but I'm not as hopeful as I was for the coming years.

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KGB

In my opinion it has been made divisive, rather than it was divisive. There were no political murders in 1912-14, the situation was basically a difference of opinion on what was best for the country. Unionists believed that staying tied to England would be the best for all, Irish Nationalists believed differently.

Economically the Unionists were proved right. Migration increased in the south after partition. The economy never could grow under it's own devices and they remained financially tied to the UK, dependent on trade with us.

They could have had that with the amended Home Rule bill without the bitterness of a war of independence and more than likely over time a united Ireland could have developed. The hand of friendship was never offered to the North.

Joint commemoration of which events were you thinking of.

You are right about being sensible enough to talk about things now, it is more than just hindsight though, it is knowledge of what actually went on due to information now available and being able to look at things from the oppositions point of view. But also accepting the facts.

This is where most people have a problem!

Rob

Mass migration due to de Valera economic war with England.

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rob elliott

Alan,

Didn't realise the Irish sea ran between Wolverhampton and Brum, but from this side I fully understand that if a government wants to change the constitution of a country it should be put to the people in a vote. The Liberal government were called on to do this and refused, because they would have lost as they were a coalition with the Irish Nationalists, who based on population had a disproportionate number of MPs at Westminster which was only going to be addressed as part of the Home Rule Bill. Go and have a read. Interestingly it was the MP for Wolverhampton South, Col Tom Hickman who was I believe Inspector General of the UVF.

Support for the UVF was massive, money was provided by many leading lights of the country including Kipling.

There was nothing democratic about Home Rule.

Airship,

Again I think misunderstanding of things. That was not a central Province wide commemoration but an East Belfast initiative in conjunction with a new organisation set to promote James Craig, using his old house of Craigavon as a showpiece due to it's roll in the 1912-14 'crisis'. Craig's grand daughter came over from Scotland and a few weeks ago brought over rare family artefacts that were exhibited in the house over a weekend.

There were no 'batter bands' present. I would recommend people go and have a look at these events, because to be honest the whole point of them is to educate, both working class Protestants and visitors alike.

KGB,

If England had wanted to wage an economic war with the Republic in the same way that Dublin tried the Belfast boycott in the 20's I think Ireland would have collapsed and never recovered. Dev took the country backwards, blaming England for that doesn't wash.

I have an honest question- what benefits would there have been to encourage the industrial North to go into a Home Rule united Ireland in 1912 that would be dominated from the agricultural south. Redmond had requested an amendment to the bill in 1914 asking that the new Dublin government could have the power to raise and lower local taxes. Even the Liberal government could see what that was for and rejected it.

Home Rule was the first step to an independent Ireland and that is why it was rejected by Unionists, the religious aspect was just the bogeyman to pull out the cupboard every so often.

Rob

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rob elliott

Murrough,

Which bits of history have been interpreted strangely!

I think it's rather strange to compare the old UVF with the old IRA. The IRA murdered people, the UVF did not, there is no parity in that.

One organisation had the support of the vast majority of it's people, the other never did or even come close, they relied on terror to gain control.

I suggest you do some reading on the support the 'old IRA' had in the North in 20/21, not a lot. They continually complain about tshe Hibernians being the favoured party of the Nationalists.

As I said above, to the best of my knowledge there is no instance of the UVF and INV killing each other. In fact I have record of the opposite.

The comparison should only be the UVF and INV as they were similar structured organisations around at the same time.

I see you have Emmet Dalton on your list. RTE interview he gave in the 60s, he said ' we gained nothing more than was on the

table in 1914'. He was nearly right except in addition they gained the hatred and mistrust of the unionist community.

I have read Mr Bowman's articles and also his book 'Carson's army' and took the liberty to point out directly to him a number of factually incorrect statements in the latter,which he acknowledged. He does write interesting articles though.

Interesting observation in a new book on the Belfast IRA of the period says basically that in view of Unionisms reaction to the simple form of Home Rule on offer whereby they were prepared to take up arms what did Sinn Fein think they would do in the face of an organisation trying to force a republic on them. Mr Collins really was naive or stupid if he thought he could beat them into submission, but then he would never be able to understand the North.

Rob

Rob

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Alan Tucker

Alan,

Didn't realise the Irish sea ran between Wolverhampton and Brum, but from this side I fully understand that if a government wants to change the constitution of a country it should be put to the people in a vote. The Liberal government were called on to do this and refused, because they would have lost as they were a coalition with the Irish Nationalists, who based on population had a disproportionate number of MPs at Westminster which was only going to be addressed as part of the Home Rule Bill. Go and have a read. Interestingly it was the MP for Wolverhampton South, Col Tom Hickman who was I believe Inspector General of the UVF.

Support for the UVF was massive, money was provided by many leading lights of the country including Kipling.

There was nothing democratic about Home Rule.

Not so. The Ulster Unionists had the support of the Conservatives, particularly under Bonar Law. They had lost three elections in a row so Asquith's government had a democratic mandate. So are you suggesting that Asquith should have held a general election on the issue or a referendum for which there was no precedent? Ulster Unionists would have been in a stronger bargaining position as a minority within a Dublin-based Home Rule Parliament than by threatening the use of force by raising a private army.

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Desmond7

To cut to the chase ... if the question is about levels of discomfiture in the broad 'unionist' community about the actual parade, it is undeniable that a susbtantial (if not an overwhelming) section of that community felt a measure of unease.

More importantly, a vast number of people falling into that latter category have only the vaguest interest in what happened last week, never mind 100 years ago. For every history buff there are 10,000 punters who watch 'The Voice'. This is a UK wide fact.

Similarly in the context of the parade ... while thousands took part in the Belfast gathering, tens of thousands were golfing, shopping, painting walls or watching the football.

There is no doubt that the centenary parade in Belfast was essentially organised and influenced by the 'modern day UVF' ... huge numbers of people with ancestral and historical links to the original Ulster Volunteers would find 'difficulties' in that scenario. And in that you do have a class issue per se ... if you are a small u 'unionist' living in your own home with a car, a foreign holiday and a dual income and in a non-conflict area it is statistically more likely that you will be among the golfers. If you are living in an area where there is inter community division, on low income and steeped in the traditions of that area then you will be more likely to be marching. Simples. But it's not really that simple ....

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Murrough

Murrough,

Which bits of history have been interpreted strangely!

I think it's rather strange to compare the old UVF with the old IRA. The IRA murdered people, the UVF did not, there is no parity in that.

One organisation had the support of the vast majority of it's people, the other never did or even come close, they relied on terror to gain control

Hardly strange,I think you should be able to celebrate your heritage.The "old IRA"had wide support and were the de facto army of Sinn Fein and aided the quest for self determination for the Irish people.They had the support of the majority of the people in the present day Republic of Ireland, by 1918-1921 they did have a majority of support in the south.The UVF did not and never faced an election.Are you sure the UVF never murdered, did some of its members not carry out sectarian murders,usually under the guise of the Ulster Special Constabulary,take your pick from the either of the 3 classes (A,B,C1, all had UVF men within their ranks)the uniform they wore does not really matter, they terrorised the catholic population when they got the chance.The UVF and Unionism did gain control of northern Ireland firstly by the threat of force1912-14, then the implementation of a campaign to suppress Nationalist opinion(1918-1923) and then the establishment of a discriminatory regime in the period 1923-1972,hardly periods of enlightenment and tolerance for their non unionist neighbours.

No need to reply Rob, I have my position as you have yours and neither of us will be easily convinced to change our respective stance.Desmond7's has given me more insight into the parade, but there was one telling observation for me,in that a catholic was probably more welcome at an UVF march 100 years ago than he would have been last Saturday.

Regards,

M.

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rob elliott

Murrough,

Sorry, have to reply to that. Exactly which election did the IRA win to give them clearance to murder policemen and soldiers?

You flip to suit your argument by comparing political Sinn Fein to the UVF to give credence to the fact they (IRA) were the voice of the people.

In the 1918 election Sinn Fein entered a pact with the Nationalist Party to not stand against each other. SF won I think it was 73 seats with 400k votes, the Nationalists got 6 seats with around 200k votes, some pact that was. Even then SF did not take a majority of the votes cast, but then they argue they had 25 byes (free seats) and they would have polled more, definitely, but would they have had a majority we will not know. The electorate was about 1.3 million.

So it wasn't that election they had the backing of the majority of the country.

How about 1923. When it was just the south and you say they had the majority backing here. I'm afraid not.

Cumman na Gael 410,721 39 per cent

Republican 288,610 27.4 per cent

The remainder had 33.1 per cent

So by a long way republicans were not the favourites of the Southern population.

Regarding the Specials, had the IRA not continued their campaign in the North after the treaty, where by Collins tried to supply them with weapons via Donegal, but the IRA commander up there, Sweeney, blocked it as he knew full well the consequences. At least one guy with a sensible head. The Specials would not have existed but for the threat of attacks.

Now we have access to the IRA papers you can see just how poor support was for republicans in places like Donegal and the 6 counties. In the war of independence Collins had to send up men from Cork to get the Donegal IRA active and they still were not interested.

In the majority of the 32 counties, excepting Cork, Kerry and Dublin, very little activity occurred, that is a fact bourne out by the statistics

of attacks on security forces.

The Free State army supplemented by ex-servicemen went after them far more vigorously than ever did the Specials, or was tying them

to land mines just being friendly toward old comrades?

Regarding the UVF and voting. I can only quote figures I have researched. Londonderry had a population of around 40,000 in 1913, of which about 18,000 were Protestant. Of these approximately half were female. Take out the children and there were around 4500 males between 16-80 yrs of age. I know there was a small percentage of Liberal Protestants in the city, around 100.

The oldest UVF member recorded was 73, so take of another two hundred for those over 73 and we have around 4200 males suitable to join. The UVF in the City was 3740 strong. 89 per cent of the available male population or 83 per cent of the total male population.

Is there any IRA unit of an equivalent strength. I think they voted with their feet.

The other thing was the Ulster Covenant this gave people the opportunity to show their strength of feeling including women.

Something neither Nationalists or republicans ever offered.

Alan,

Yes your right. The Liberals did win three elections on the trot and it seems to endorse their position. Until you have a look at the actual figures.

In 1906 they beat the Conservatives convincingly. What happened to Home Rule then? Did not need the Irish Nationalists so not on their agenda.

January 1910.

Liberals win 274 seats with 43.1 per cent and the conservative/unionist 272 seats with 46.7 per cent and the Labour party 40 seats with 7.6.

However the Irish Parlimentary Party get 71 seats with 1.2 per cent of the popular vote. Democracy at work.

No overall majority the Liberals again (as in 1886 1893) make promises in order to buy seats with the IPP.

The government collapses and a general election is called for December 1910, Liberals lose 2 more seats but again with the IPP keep control.

If the the Liberals think reform of the MP roll for Ireland is required as they promise in the Home Rule bill, why not implement it at any time in the previous 30 years? Simple because it would mean they would lose elections.

So yes I do believe it should have been put to the vote in the same way the forthcoming Scots one will be. And it would fail for the same reason. Economics.

DES,

can I ask. You know for certain that Loyalist PMs organised last weekend. I'm not saying they were not there, as they do live in the area but when I went to Craigavon a few weeks back one of the main organisers is someone we know and I was there on the friday evening and all day Saturday until closing and there were none there that day involved in it.

Unfortunately I think you've just confirmed some prejudices.

I do agree what you say about the small 'u's not being interested, but then who was interested in the Ulster tower in the 70s and 80s.

Ulster has dropped into the position the government would like it to be. And gradually time will erase things so everyone is busy doing something else. That's fine, it would be good.

But there is no reason for anyone with a Unionist background to feel uncomfortable at that sort of event. What do you think they will do to you? Only footballers eat people!

Rob

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Murrough

Here's the results for the 1918 election, spin the results as you see fit http://www.ark.ac.uk...tions/h1918.htm

BTW the 1923 election was really about putting an end to the civil war and accepting the treaty or not , Cumman na Gael were republicans ( albeit pragmatic conservatives as well),which included former Sinn fein members and War of Independence leaders. see link http://generalmichae....G.History.html

The fact that Ireland returned a majority of Home Rule MP's was an indication of the feeling in Ireland,a covenant was not needed but I am sure if one was done in 1914,1918(there was one,the election)or in 1920 the majority of people would have sought self determination.

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clive_hughes

Before we get closed down, and back to the 1913 Centenary,

I'm looking up for a friend her ancestor who did sign the Covenant in 1912, and who joined the (Medical part of) 36th Division in 1914. Is there a source listing members of the UVF, which might indicate that he was a member in 1913-14?

Thanks,

Clive

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