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The Somme - a bloody waste!

The year 1991 is giving us all a heavy crop of significant anniversaries. We have already seen the 75th anniversary of the republican Easter Rising and the tenth anniversary of the H-Block hunger strike campaign. This year will also give us the 200th anniversary of the foundation of the United Irishmen and the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Aughrim, the Treaty of Limerick and the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme which began on July 1st 1916.

Ulsterfolk  had pledged themselves to resist `Home Rule' f or Ireland by all means necessary. In 1912 they had formed an Ulster Volunteer Force and set up a Provisional Government of Ulster. Ulsterfolk then believed that their liberties and identity could be best l preserved within the British  Empire. Then war intervened  in 1914.The leadership of the UVF,  who had earlier planned rebellion against the British government, declared that they would fight for `King and Country'

One more astute volunteer wrote, "The volunteers are to be asked tomorrow if they are willing to serve abroad. It may be assumed that those who will agree to do so will be the youngest and most efficient men. It is highly probable that many of them will never return. When the war is finished, and the Home Rule situation has to be faced again, the UVF will be without many of its most useful members, and as a fighting force it will be less formidable. Therefore I ask you, is :r desirable that any volunteer' should offer himself for foreign s service? "

Nevertheless, when war broke out between the British Empire and the European Central Powers, the UVF enlisted masse and became the British Army's 36th (Ulster) Division.

The Great War was one of the greatest tragedies ever to befall Europe. It was ostensibly fought to defend the rights of small nations against larger bullying neighbours. In fact it was a squabble between imperialist powers.

On the first day of the Somme offensive, 21,000 British soldiers died or were fatally wounded. Over 35,000 were injured. At Thiepval the Ulster Division lost 5,500 men in two days. They fought courageously, but gained practically nothing.

We should remember proudly the sacrifice of the Somme but we must remember t hat  the Volunteers were of no use to Ulster lying dead on a foreign battlefield. Ulsterfolk today must resist getting entangled in Britain's foreign wars. Ulster must be independent and neutral. Let's fight only for the defence of our own Motherland - Ulster!

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