Gun-running centenary event plan in pipeline

Ulster Volunteers on parade in Larne. INLT 09-604-CON
Ulster Volunteers on parade in Larne. INLT 09-604-CON

Plans are underway for a centennial celebration to be held at Sandy Bay to commemorate the 1914 gun-running event in Larne.

On the night of April 25, 1914, the SS Clyde Valley landed in Larne laden with rifles and ammunition from Germany for the Ulster Volunteer Force.

To mark the 100th anniversary of this historically significant event, a number of Somme societies have joined forces to form the Operation Lion Centenary Committee (the original exercise was carried out under the name Operation Lion).

The committee has asked Larne Borough Council for use of Sandy Bay playing fields on Saturday, April 26 2014, to hold a commemoration event.

It has also requested permission to erect a plaque on the monument at the shore front to mark the centenary. The nature of the wording is to be agreed with the council.

And the committee said that while the commemoration will celebrate an important historical event for Larne and the province as a whole, the intention is to make the occasion a day for all sections of the community to enjoy.

When the application came before the monthly meeting of Larne Council on Monday, Cllr Brian Dunn expressed concerns regarding the organisation of the event.

The independent member added: “I think it is dangerous for us to get involved with a committee we know nothing about.

“I am happy for any legitimate association to organise this, but I don’t want this council to be associated with paramilitaries.

“I don’t think we should allow this event to be lessened by allowing present day paramilitaries to run it.”

SDLP Councillor Martin Wilson said the gun-running was “part of all our history” and felt the centenary should be marked, but he questioned why a UVF flag had been erected on a lamp post outside the council offices.

“Is there any significance to this,” he asked.“Is it there to put councillors under pressure?”

But TUV Alderman Jack McKee said: “This is part of our history and our heritage. We will be put in very bad light if we refused to accept this.”

Councillors resolved to accept the application, subject to the committee providing further information about itself to council.