Tuesday 17 October 2017

Conflict over covenant

Madam -- My own grandparents signed the Ulster Covenant and Declaration, but I must take issue with your correspondent Pierce Martin (Letters, Sunday Independent, October 7, 2012) who argues that the covenant did not contribute "to the cycle of violence that resulted in the Easter Rising, the War of Independence, and the Civil War". Reference to the legitimate fears of unionists (and few can argue with the fact that Home Rule did indeed turn out to be Rome Rule) cannot detract from the clear militant threat in the language of the covenant: "using all means that may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland" -- particularly in the light of the subsequent establishment of the Ulster Volunteers to carry out such a threat.

Nor can the role of the covenant be dismissed through pinning full blame on Irish nationalists. It is clear that the establishment of the Ulster Volunteers and the Larne gun-running were the explicit inspiration for the establishment of the Irish Volunteers and the Howth gun-running which led to the 1916 Rising.

The raising of tensions in Ireland cannot be attributed purely to one party but must take into account the actions of nationalists, unionists, the British government, and, of course, the German authorities who were happy to arm opposite sides in a potential civil war in the backyard of a rival power.

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