by Clare Langley-Hawthorne
I've always been drawn to researching Irish history. There's something altogether tragic yet noble; romantic and passionate; mystical and yet violent about Ireland's past - and ever since I was a teenager asking to read Bobbie Sands poetry, it's been a source of fascination for me. When I was mulling over the plot for Unlikely Traitors I knew that Ireland would be pivotal to the story. Set as the story is in 1913, I knew that I wanted to explore this period of social and political turmoil over the issue of Home Rule for Ireland and the crisis over the fate of Ulster. The figure of James Larkin, leader of one of the largest and most militant unions in Ireland at the time, loomed large - as did the specter of war with Germany (and a potential alliance between those seeking independence for Ireland and the Germans).
Once I started researching the period more fully, I knew that I wanted Ireland and the issue of Home Rule to feature in Unlikely Traitors. I also wanted to engage in a bit 'what if' speculation to help mine the undercurrent of fear running through this period of crisis. When I read A.T.Q Stewart's 'The Ulster Crisis, Resistance to Home Rule 1912-1914', I knew I would be delving into a period full of intrigue. I was particularly interested in the 'arms committees' established to raise funds and gather armaments on the pro-Ulster side to resist the move to Home Rule. To what extent, I mused, were Irish republicans also obtaining armaments and how, even in 1913, would they view a possible alliance with Germany? Most of my what if musing was drawn upon what occurred once the First World War broke out and the infamous role Sir Roger Casement played...More on this in Part II.