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De mortuis nil nisi Bunkum

by Donal Kennedy

THE TIMES (January 3rd 2011) carried an Obituary of the historian A.T.Q. Stewart whom it described as “the foremost historian of Northern Ireland who dismissed its accumulated myths with a scholarly, penetrating rigour and eloquent prose.”

With such an encomium from the TIMES it comes as no surprise that Mr Stewart was appointed a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire “for his contributions to the understanding of Irish history.” Poor Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford of the Parachute Regiment's contribution to that history got Wilford a mere OBE, a lesser Order of Chivalry.

In 1937, when THE TIMES carried the Obituary of James Bruce Ismay, ex-Chairman of the White Star Line, it didn't mention The Titanic, of which Ismay was the most prominent survivor.So its Obituaries sometimes earn the motto “De mortuis nil nisi Bunkum.”.

Long ago I read A.T.Q.Stewart's first book “The Ulster Crisis:Resistance to Home Rule 1912-1914” which THE TIMES describes as cast in the mould of a political thriller with tales of gun-running through Ulster ports to equip militant Unionists with the means of resisting a Dublin government, then in prospect."

It would have been very easy for armed men to resist such a prospective Dublin Government, as that Government,under Home Rule would not have armed men at its disposal. As for the derring-do I think the obituarist didn't read the book I read. Stewart describes how the aristocracy “in one afternoon raised the sum of a quarter of a million pounds” and the “business community of Belfast” underwrote the Ulster Volunteer Force in 1913.The year before, that of the Titanic's launch in Belfast, the total income tax paid by that thriving city was ninety thousand pounds. Stewart reports how Lord Londonderry spoke to Sir Edward Carson – “with tears in his eyes, the peer replied 'my dear Edward, if I was to lose everything in the world, I will go with you to the end'.”

As the armed anti-Home Rulers would not have to confront armed men under a prospective Home Rule parliament in Dublin you might think they'd have to confront the forces of the London Government, but they faced no such peril. Sir Edward Carson could boast in Sept 1913 “We have the pledges and promises from some of the greatest generals in the army that when the time comes, if it is necessary, they will come over to us.”

They kept their promise and the landing of arms for the UVF was not opposed by the Crown Forces. Lord Londonderry gave up nothing and lived to entertain Herr Ribbentrop and Ramsey McDonald in his London palace and his Ulster estate.Both were as charmed as A.T.Q. Stewart was by such rank and wealth. Sir Edward Carson got a Peerage and died in his bed, aged 81, in 1935, but not before W.B. Allen, a former Unionist MP for Belfast, described him, with admiration, as “the leader of the first Fascist movement in Europe.”

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This document was last modified by Mick Carty on 2011-05-12 14:25:49.
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