Tuesday 12 December 2017

Rare unionist artefacts go on show

Personal items of the first prime minister of Northern Ireland, rare artefacts and military memorabilia have gone on show in the Republic of Ireland for the first time.

Collections from the James Craig Trust, historic uniforms worn by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and literature were part of an exhibition launched on Armistice Day at the Glasnevin Museum in Dublin.

Entitled Third Home Rule Crisis - The Unionist Response, the event focuses on the unionist reaction to events during 1912-1913, particularly the Ulster Covenant and formation of the UVF.

Unionist politicians Jim Shannon and Tom Elliot attended the launch and a wreath-laying ceremony at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cenotaph at Glasnevin cemetery.

Earlier, a Remembrance Day service was held in St. Ann's Church and The Green Fields of France, a historical book produced by four pupils of St. Paul's School, Finglas, was published.

Jimmy Deenihan, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, said the exhibition was a symbol of the length of the road travelled since those tumultuous days.

"Within a very short time of the founding of the opposed Volunteer movements in Ireland, the men who had joined the Ulster Volunteers were fighting and dying in the World War just as those were who had joined the Irish Volunteers - founded 100 years ago next week," Mr Deenihan said.

"It is deeply saddening to think of the many thousands of lives lost in the World War.

"As our commemorative programme continues, I hope that the Unionist Centenary Council (UCC) will bring forward further accounts of their community experience and the next chapters of their history.

"It is right that the men of the 36th (Ulster) Division should be remembered throughout Ireland with the same respect that is due to the 10th and 16th (Irish) Divisions."

Organisers said the exhibition - organised by the UCC with support from the Department of Foreign Affairs Reconciliation Fund - gives an insight into the thinking of Unionists from Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connacht and tell the history of the Signing of the Ulster Covenant, the Ulster Volunteers and lesser-known Unionist organisations such as the Loyal Dublin Volunteers.

It features the Covenant signed by James Craig, his military memorabilia and items from his home Craigavon House, such as Christmas ornaments and tableware. Weaponry, uniforms, badges and Unionist propaganda material from the time will also be on display from private collectors.

The UCC was created to oversee the decade of centenaries between 2012/21.

David Hagan, chairman, said the committee has been given unprecedented access to material of major historical significance relating to this period in Ireland's history, including descendants of James Craig, who was pivotal to political and social developments of the time and later became Northern Ireland's first prime minister.

"The majority of artefacts contained in the exhibition will never have been on view to the public before in the Republic of Ireland," he added.

The exhibition will run until November 24, when a second event focusing on the Irish Volunteers will open.

Press Association

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