In the months leading up the the outbreak of War in Europe in the Summer
of 1914, Ireland was facing the prospect of a war of its own. That of
a Civil War.
The problem centred around the third Home Rule bill which was promoted by the Liberal Government and which would establish a separate Irish Parliment in Dublin and give Ireland a measure of Independence within the Empire. The Unionists of Ulster refused to accept Home Rule and were prepared to resist any attempt to implement it. Support for Home Rule was unanimous in the three Southern provinces of Ireland and in the nine counties of Ulster, of which almost half the population was Catholic, support for the bill was growing at an alarming rate. At this time the Protestants formed almost a quarter of Ireland’s population with the majority in the north-east and they feared that if Home Rule was implemented that their civil and religious freedom would be endangered, that the Dublin parliment would ruin the industrial north-east by heavy taxation and restrictive tariffs, and that Home Rule was merely the first step towards casting out loyal contented citizens from a community to which by birth they belong[ed] in a bid to take Ireland out of the Empire forever. Throughout its history, Ulster had been riddled with sectarian warfare, with some of the worst violence being seen in the 1790’s at the Battle of the Diamond and then in the early nineteenth century at Dolly’s Brae and Garvagh, but now a new controversy raged through Ulster over the issue of Home Rule, so under the leadership of the distinguished Dublin Barrister and MP Sir Edward Carson, Unionists prepared to prevent the implementation of Home Rule by extra-parliamentary means. This was to take the form of a massive movement of resistance of which the military wing was to be the Ulster Volunteer Force.