On Wednesday 6th April 2016, approximately 50 members of the Ulster Unionist Party met in the Royal Irish Academy Dublin to attended a seminar hosted by the Party to mark the events of Easter 1916, examining events from an unapologetic Unionist perspective.
The Speakers were Prof. Walker Q.U.B. Steve Aiken OBE U.U.P. Geoff Sloan Univ. Reading and Jason Burke Postgraduate Q.U.B.
The content covered the politics of the period. These included
- How Unionists viewed the rebellion at a time when the First World War was not going well for Britain and Irish rebels were inviting Germany in by the back door.
- An insurrection fostered by a foreign power at war with us was viewed as detrimental to our Unionist way of life.
- The Home Rule Bill was on the statute book and politics should have been permitted to take its course.
- The S.F. conspiracy should have been dealt with much sooner and perhaps the loss of lives could have been avoided.
On reflecting back on the day itself, I was proud to be part of a group who went to Dublin with a story that needed to be told, who are are confident in their party and who were able to put the unionist perspective across to those members of the Dail and Dublin City Council who were in attendance.
Mike Nesbitt organised an extremely successful event where the Ulster Unionist Party had the courage to travel to Dublin and present the Unionist view on the events which took place in that city between 24th – 29th April Easter 1916.
Many people, unionists and nationalists, may be unaware that on 3rd May 1916 as the first round of executions began, Lord Carson made a speech to the House of Commons in which he said :- “It will be a matter requiring the greatest wisdom and the greatest coolness, may I say in dealing with these men. Whatever is done, let it not be done in a moment of temporary excitement, but with due deliberation in regard both to the past and to the future.”
Carson recognised that due to the Defence of the Realm Act 1914, the leaders of the rebellion would be charged with offences against the Realm, including Treason. He was alluding to a spirit of generosity that could lead to justice with mercy.
In 2016 it is recognised by all but a small rump of violent republicans that force of arms and physical force republicanism has no place in a modern Ireland. This does then beg the question as to why are Sinn Fein are still talking about ” unfinished business.” They really need to explain fully just what exactly they mean by that phrase.
If we truly desire to work together for a peaceful future between our two countries and normalise relationships then we need to recognise that we have a shared past as we try to build a shared future. We cannot ignore the events of Easter 1916 and the impact they had. It was the catalyst for Partition, the Civil War and the creation of Northern Ireland. I for one was pleased to see the Unionist perspective on display in Dublin, 100 years on from the Easter Rebellion