CON­STITUENCY: North antrim PARTY: demo­cratic union­ist


What are your ini­tial thoughts on the book?

I think it’s fan­tas­tic be­cause it’s filled this par­tic­u­lar void, es­pe­cially for school­child­ren. Many of them learn that WWI was a disas­ter and could have ended a lot sooner were it not for bad lead­er­ship. But then you ac­tu­ally put your­self in the shoes of the peo­ple who were in those lead­er­ship roles, such as MPS, and you re­alise that they ac­tu­ally played a very ac­tive role. They made a com­mit­ment, gave their ser­vice and 22 of them gave their lives, along with al­most 100 of their chil­dren.

That turns this no­tion on its head and pro­vokes a re­view of the his­tory. A his­to­rian con­stantly has to re­view the ev­i­dence and change views, and I think neil Thorn­ton has very bravely tried to do that.

Were there any bi­ogra­phies that stand out in the book, and for what rea­son?

The story of Arthur O’neill was very poignant to me and the Shee­han fam­ily was fas­ci­nat­ing. I loved the Ir­ish sto­ries be­cause when­ever you look at what hap­pened post-war in Ire­land their sto­ries be­come more poignant and sig­nif­i­cant.

How­ever, the story that touched me the most was that of An­drew Bonar law’s sons. Bonar law was try­ing to do his ser­vice and run the econ­omy while at the same time los­ing two sons in quick suc­ces­sion. That story would shed a tear from a stone just know­ing what he had been through.

As a Union­ist MP, what were your thoughts on the Ir­ish Union­ist and Na­tion­al­ist MPS who fought side by side?

The most mag­nif­i­cent thing re­gard­ing the brav­ery of the men is that they put party po­lit­i­cal dif­fer­ences to one side. even though they had con­sti­tu­tional dif­fer­ences they put ‘king and coun­try’ first. There is a plaque in the House of com­mons to the Union­ist Arthur O’neill and also to Wil­lie red­mond, who was one of the lead­ers of Ir­ish na­tion­al­ism at the time. I think that tells its own story that they could ar­gue po­lit­i­cally but could also fight and de­fend to­gether.

What can the ex­am­ple of lead­er­ship pro­vided by the fallen MPS of WWI teach sit­ting mem­bers of the Com­mons?

As some­one who has sons my­self the thing that speaks to me is that the de­ci­sions you take af­fects peo­ple’s lives. It can also af­fect your life and the life of your chil­dren so you have to make the right de­ci­sion. That was the thing that struck me the most.

RIGHT: Ma­jor Wil­lie Red­mond was an Ir­ish na­tion­al­ist MP who was the brother of John Red­mond, the leader of the Ir­ish Par­lia­men­tary Party. Aged 56, Red­mond be­came the old­est MP to be killed dur­ing the war

LEFT: Cap­tain Arthur O’neill was the first MP to die dur­ing WWI when he was killed at Klein Zille­beke on 6 Novem­ber 1914, while he was serv­ing in the Life Guards

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