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Let's understand the past, not celebrate it

Ahead of this Saturday's commemoration march in east Belfast, it is worth considering that Northern Ireland might not even exist were it not for the UVF.

By this, I do not mean the loathsome, modern UVF which was involved in the Shankill Butcher murders during the Troubles.

The old UVF was created to oppose the government's decision to grant Home Rule to Ireland in 1913 and, in April of the following year, it successfully smuggled 25,000 rifles from Germany with which to fight the Army.

Of course, it never came to that and many of the UVF men ended up dying as part of the Army at the Somme.

Within my Protestant/unionist culture, many feel that we should be proud of the UVF and their role in opposing Home Rule.

But when I hear politicians celebrating the importation of guns to oppose an elected government with the threat of violence, it sounds very much like the support for an 'armed struggle' that came from a different set of politicians a few years ago.

In three years' time, we will see the Republic and, perhaps, parts of Northern Ireland remember the IRA of 1916.

How will we feel if IRA flags are flown across Belfast – even if the date 1916 is added to the flag to emphasis that it is the old IRA being remembered?

It is better to understand the past than to celebrate it, especially as it led to so many deaths and such misery.



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