UVF gun-running plaque criticised over wording

A row has broken out over the wording of a plaque to commemorate a gun-running operation by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

Councillors agreed to install the plaque at Donaghadee Harbour, where rifles were landed in April 1914.

It was part of a unionist campaign against the expected introduction of Home Rule in Ireland.

The use of the phrases ‘audacious operation’ and ‘vital cargo’ has been criticised.

The plaque – which is understood to have already been manufactured with the wording – was created by the Ulster-Scots Agency and will be installed on Ards and North Down Borough Council property.

Green Party councillor Rachel Woods said that while she was not opposed to the memorial in itself, she believed the wording was not appropriate.

Ms Woods told BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster programme: “It is the use of certain words – ‘audacious’ and ‘vital’ – that implies opinion and alters the tone of the text.

“The glorification of actions taken by a group of people is what we have an issue with.”

The chief executive of the Ulster-Scots Agency, Ian Crozier, said that the issues surrounding the plaque had been “considered carefully” over a four-year period and emphasised that the majority of councillors had backed the plans.

“Really important events in the history of Northern Ireland took place which Ulster-Scots people were central to….the reality is that it was an audacious operation,” he said.

“I don’t think that the use of the word audacious is particularly loaded. The cargo was vital to the mission. There is nothing more to it than that.”

Asked whether the agency would be prepared to amend the wording, Mr Crozier said that if councillors failed to back the text “the plaque will be put up somewhere else”.

Councillors have agreed the plaque will be subject to a full equality assessment before it is installed.

25,000 rifles

The UVF was founded in 1912 to oppose plans by the British government to introduce Home Rule in Ireland. By mid-1914 90,000 men had joined.

The gun-running operation saw almost 25,000 rifles and between three and five million rounds of ammunition from the German Empire landed in Larne, Bangor and Donaghadee in an attempt to arm the force and make it more difficult for the government to introduce Home Rule.

The Home Rule Bill was passed by Parliament but its implementation was delayed by the outbreak of World War One.

It was eventually abandoned after the Easter Rising of 1916 changed the political landscape in Ireland.



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