John Coulter with his regular Irish Daily Star column from 1 December 2014
If Shinners really want to suck up to the pro-Union community after Gerry Adams’ disastrous ‘b’ word gaffe, then the party should encourage Unionists to commemorate Protestant nationalists associated with the Easter Rising.
Many events, such as St Paddy’s Day and the Somme battle, have been claimed by both sides in the sectarian conflict as ‘our wee commemoration’.
It has taken almost a century for republicans to recognise the thousands of nationalists who fought and died for the Crown in World War One.
But with the centenary of the doomed Dublin Rising in 2016, there is an urgent need for Unionists to honour the historic role of Protestant nationalists.
Unionists need to follow the example of Queen Bess when she laid a wreath at Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance which honours those who fought against Britain.
Republicans should not try to rewrite Irish history to give the impression that only fundamentalist Catholics and diehard socialists fought in the Rising.
The bitter medicine which republicans must swallow is that the Rising failed because of the inept military strategy of Catholic hardliners and fantasy communists.
If they had listened to leading Protestant nationalists – many of whom wanted the Rising postponed until after World War One ended – then the rebellion would have been a success.
Irish rebels should have waited another two years until the war ended and thousands of trained nationalists would have been returning from the trenches.
Essentially, the wrong people were in charge of the Rising. It should have been Co Antrim Anglican Captain Jack White, the founder of the Irish Citizen Army, and Lisburn Presbyterian Ernest Blythe, who was in jail at the time.
Blythe was an expert military strategist who eventually ran the fascist Blueshirt movement.
Another high profile Protestant nationalist, Bulmer Hobson, a founder of Fianna Eireann, strongly advised against a coup in 1916.
Other key members of the unofficial ‘Protestant Nationalist Militia’ were Roger Casement, who attended my old school Ballymena Academy; Sam Maguire who recruited Michael Collins and after whom the famous GAA trophy is named.
There is also the gun-runner Erskine Childers and Constance Markievicz, both from a Protestant heritage.
Had these Protestants been running a Rising in 1918, especially after Sinn Fein’s stunning victory in the Westminster General Election that year, a Christmas Coup would have worked.
Just as it has taken decades for Unionism to acknowledge the vital role which Irish Presbyterians played in the 1798 United Irishmen’s rebellion, Unionists must have the courage to commemorate those Protestant nationalists.
They are just as big a part of Protestant heritage as the Catholic troops who fought for King Billy at the Boyne in 1690.
Republicans have already hijacked many Protestants from history, such as Wolfe Tone, as ‘their own’.
Unionists must be wary that the Rising centenary does not become another republican Trojan horse.