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Best button it on battledress wars

(John Coulter, Irish Daily Star)

Republicans need to button their lips and wind in their necks over the big Unionist Covenant shindig in Belfast next month.

The loyalist 'do' will mark the centenary of Ulster Volunteers' founder Edward Carson's Balmoral Review in 1912.

That year, an estimated 100,000 UVF members turned up suited, booted and armed to let Westminster and Irish nationalists know that Unionists would never tolerate Home Rule for the island.

The Shinners and Stoops have got their green pants in a real twist over gossip that Unionists will be on parade dressed in 1912-UVF uniforms with mock weapons.

The republican rumour is really in hyper-drive with allegations modern-day loyalist paramilitary groups, such as the UDA, will also be on the march suited and booted.

Loyalist organisers may try to lower temperatures by getting the Carsonites to parade in 1916-style 36th Ulster Division Army uniforms instead of original 1912 UVF battle dress.

The Famous 36th, along with many nationalists who joined Irish regiments to fight for the Crown against Kaiser Bill, lost tens of thousands at the Somme and during World War One.

Republicans have a lot more to lose long-term if they try to back Unionists into a corner over a contentious Prod parade with some marchers in Carsonite UVF battledress.

Republicans outnumber Unionists by about five to one when it comes to commemorating armed groups who played key roles in the Home Rule crisis, Easter Rising, War of Independence and Irish Civil War.

If Adams and McGuinness are smart, they will tell nationalist residents' groups and junior Shinners to 'button it' when it comes to winding the Prods up over their Balmoral Review commemorations.

As Shinner President and Sinn Féin Dáil group boss, Adams is perfectly placed to lead a parade along Dublin's O'Connell Street with republicans in full period costumes to mark the centenaries of the Irish Volunteers (IV) and Irish Citizen Army (ICA).

Adams can take the high moral ground with: "We let the Unionists mark their early 20th century armed groups, so we want equal rights.

And I'm sure over the next couple of years until the Dublin Rising centenary, some eagle-eyed republicans can dream up anniversary commemorations for other organisations, such as the Irish Republican Brotherhood, Fenian Brotherhood, Cumann na mBann, and Fianna na hEireann.

Dissident republican terror groups are already trying to crank up the political temperature by using the recent Easter Rising commemorations to unveil a batch of hooded members making blunt threats.

What happens if republicans make such a fuss over loyalists in UVF period costume and those same loyalists retaliate by organising a parade to commemorate the around 8,000 Black and Tans who served in Ireland?

Likewise, Shinner or Stoop slabbering over the Balmoral Review parade could provoke paramilitary groups, such as the UDA, Red Hand Commando, Loyalist Volunteer Force, and Orange Volunteers – none of which were around in 1912 – to organise contentious parades.

Republicans should look the other way when Unionists march past in their old UVF regalia as it could greatly hamper Sinn Féin's campaign to persuade the Dáil to give its blessing to a host of IRB, IV and ICA commemorative ceremonies and parades across Ireland.

Mind you, there's also the danger that a massive upsurge in such republican commemorations, will be used by Unionists to invent commemorations to mark anniversaries for more recent vigilante groups, like the Ulster Protestant Volunteers, Third Force, Ulster Resistance, and Vanguard Services Corps.

Forget the shouting match over flags and emblems. What happens if we get a uniforms debacle?

April 24, 2012

This article appeared in the April 23, 2012 edition of the Irish Daily Star.



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