“THE suggestion that a small contingent of the Ulster Volunteers should go to Dublin for the 1916 celebrations next Easter and lead a procession through the city was made by Mr. Ernest Blythe, managing director of the Abbey Theatre, when presiding over a debate held by the Law Society of University College, Dublin.
“Mr. Blythe is an Ulster-born Presbyterian, who was vice- President and Minister for finance in the first Cabinet of the Irish Free State.
“They should be realistic, Mr. Blythe said, and acknowledge that if they were angry with Edward Carson and with the Northern people in 1914, the development of agitation in Ulster then proved to be a good thing for the country, because had it not been for the Ulster Volunteers and Carson they would not have had any Irish Volunteers in the South and no rising of 1916.”
The event was the planned 50th anniversary of the Easter 1916 rising which took place in Dublin on 10 April, 1966.
As History Ireland writes, “In contrast to the Republic, the commemoration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising in Northern Ireland was not an official state-sponsored event.
“Instead, the fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of the Somme enjoyed official status there in the summer of 1966. Only the nationalist community celebrated the anniversary of the Rising, and the decision by the Northern Ireland government not to place a blanket ban on the Easter celebrations met with some opposition from within unionism.
“The nationalist community appeared to be at one in viewing the message of 1916 in terms of reunification. The conflict instead lay in the contrasting interpretations of the Rising within the nationalist and unionist communities.”
The UVF, as it was in this iteration, ceased to be a force some decades before.
Little did Mr. Blythe know that in the month following celebrations in Dublin, the UVF would be reborn with Gusty Spence as their new leader.
In their new form, they would go on to kill more than any other loyalist paramilitary group during the course of the Troubles.
In total, “Malcolm Sutton’s Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland, part of the Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN), states that the UVF and RHC was responsible for at least 485 killings during the Troubles, and lists a further 256 loyalist killings that have not yet been attributed to a particular group.”