Mervyn Gibson: Senior Orangeman says 1914 UVF gun-running was 'not terrorism'
UVF gun-running in 1914 was "not an act of terrorism", a senior Orangeman has claimed.
Mervyn Gibson, the grand secretary of the Orange Order, was speaking to the BBC yesterday following a high-profile interview with The Irish News.
He said if a united Ireland came about through a referendum, he would support that outcome.
"I would stand by that decision...a democratic decision," he said.
However, he defended the actions of the Ulster Volunteers - formed under Edward Carson and James Craig in 1912 to oppose Home Rule for Ireland.
Asked if he felt the group, which later became the UVF and smuggled 25,000 rifles into Ireland from Germany in 1914, was undemocratic, he said they were "of their period".
He added they did "what they needed to do at that time to defend the position of the United Kingdom", including taking up arms.
"I think it (taking up arms) was justified I have to say," he said.
He added: "I think it was an act of its time".
Asked if he thought UVF gun-running was an "act of terrorism", he replied: "It wasn't an act of terrorism; it was an act of a community prepared to defend themselves".
He added: "It was a community seeking to defend their position within the United Kingdom and they did".
Mr Gibson previously told The Irish News that loyalists considered building bonfires on every street corner in response to a legal challenge on pyres on council land in July.
And he insisted it was "insulting" to try to convince unionists of the merits of a united Ireland.