Today in the Assembly three Sinn Fein members had tabled oral questions about commemorations and of course their focus was on the forthcoming centenary of Easter 1916. I took the opportunity to share with them some of the facts about what happened in Ulster at Easter 1916 because it is helpful to raise awareness of the facts rather than the fiction.
Denis McCullough (1883-1968) was born in Belfast and in 1901, at the age of 17, he was sworn into the Irish Republican Brotherhood. However he was disappointed by the moribund state of the organisation and in 1905 the young activist decided to revitalise the IRB. Along with Bulmer Hobson and Sean MacDermott he formed the Dungannon Clubs as a means of recruiting new people into the IRB.
Late in 1915 McCullough was elected president of the Supreme Council of the IRB but he was not a member of the Military Committee responsible for planning the Easter Rising and he may not even have known of its existence until later. Nevertheless as Easter approached he heard of what was planned and travelled down to Dublin to question Thomas Clarke and Sean MacDermott, the other two members of the IRB executive. They avoided him as long as they could but in the end they informed him of their plans and eventually he supported them.
McCullough was an officer in the Irish Volunteers in Belfast and had two hundred men under his command but it was agreed that there were not enough members in Belfast to stage a rising there. Instead he was to take his men to Dungannon in county Tyrone and then link up with Liam Mellows in Connacht.
McCullough took 150 men and Cumman na mBan women with him on the train from Belfast to Dungannon to meet up with the Irish Volunteers in Tyrone, who were led by Patrick McCartan (1878-1966). However McCartan said that the Tyrone volunteers would not rise until they received confirmation that the Pope had received word that a Rising was due to take place and that the German guns had landed in County Kerry. In the end McCartan and his men refused to move.
The abortive rising petered out with McCullough returning home to Belfast but he managed to shoot himself accidentally in the hand. That was the extent of the bloodshed in Ulster!
Is that what Sinn Fein want to commemorate - a futile trip by train to Dungannon and a leader who managed to shoot himself?