|Sunday World columnist Hugh Jordan|
In his Sunday World column yesterday (27 May 2018) veteran journalist Hugh Jordan wrote: 'Fred Crawford, one of Sir Edward Carson's right-hand men in the original UVF ... became infamous as the man who introduced the gun into Irish politics.'
It is a comment that one hears from time to time from people who should know better. Indeed the last time I heard it was from a Dublin government official as we were walking round a historical exhibition in the centre of Belfast.
There can be no disputing the fact that Fred Crawford armed the original Ulster Volunteer Force and indeed his autobiography was entitled Guns for Ulster, but is it true to say that Carson, Crawford and the other unionist leaders 'introduced the gun into Irish politics'?
It is simply untrue because guns had been introduced into Irish politics long before the third home rule crisis and even before the first home rule crisis.
|Members of the IRB with guns, in the 19th century|
|IRB bomb at Clerkenwell Prison (1867)|
During the incident a police sergeant named Charles Brett was shot and killed by the IRB, some forty-five years before the UVF was formed. The IRB were using guns in the middle of the 19th century so it is not true to say that Carson, Crawford and the unionists 'introduced the gun into Irish politics'.
Irish republicans were using guns in 1867 and they were also using explosives. An IRB attack on Clerkenwell Prison on 13 December 1867 resulted in the deaths of twelve innocent people, including a seven-year-old girl, with many more being injured.
There was another more minor historical error in the article where Hugh Jordan wrote: 'The story goes that Sir Edward Carson and a small coterie of confidants enjoyed lunch in the [Ulster] Reform Club before making their way along Donegall Place to Belfast City Hall where the historic signing [of the Ulster Covenant] took place.'
No there were religious services across Ulster on the morning of Ulster Day. Carson and many other Unionist leaders attended a service in the Ulster Hall before making their way to the City Hall for the signing. It was after this that they made their way to the Ulster Reform Club, not before.
The error about the lunch in the Ulster Reform Club is relatively minor but the other 'error' is much more significant.