Saturday, 4 June 2011

Ulster Covenant - 1912 - 2012

I have a keen interest in local history and enjoy writing bits 'n' pieces regarding issues that relate to Newtownards. I am looking back at the period just prior to the Home Rule Crisis that engulfed Ireland (as it was then) - around the period of 1910/12 which eventually - through a lot of bloodshed of The Great War and the Easter Rising, led to the formation of Northern Ireland in 1921.

There are many Orange Banners throughout Northern Ireland that depict these historical events and now - even 100 years later, many of these historical events continue to be commemorated.

Here is a banner that was recently unveiled by an Orange Lodge in Co. Fermanagh featuring the iconic moment, when Sir Edward Carson signed the Ulster Covenant at Belfast City Hall - all those years ago.

I was very taken by a speech that made last year during the platform proceeding at the ‘Newtownards Twelfth' by the then Northern Ireland Minister for Culture Arts and Leisure – Mr. Nelson McCausland MLA, Nelson told the crowd that the Ulster Covenant – seen as the ‘birth certificate for Northern Ireland’ – gave a vision for the province’s future.

He said: “It is a document that was inspired by the old Scottish covenants and it is a document that was written almost 100 years ago but the great principles that are embedded in it are still as relevant today as they were then and they will still be relevant tomorrow.

“The Covenant speaks of Britishness – those who signed the Covenant were ‘loyal subjects of the king’ and citizens of the United Kingdom.

“The Covenant speaks of the benefits of the Union – material wellbeing, civil and religious freedom – we must never forget the benefits of our position within the United Kingdom and we must seek to convince others of those benefits.”

Mr McCausland added: “The Covenant speaks of civil and religious freedom – human rights. This is not, of course, the human rights agenda of Monica McWilliams and the Human Rights Commission.

“It is not the human rights agenda of the far left. That is simply the unelected and the unelectable seeking to impose their aims without the backing of the ballot box.”

The north Belfast MLA said that the covenant spoke of “equal citizenship in the United Kingdom” and of an Ulster identity and culture.

“We should also remember that when it came to signing the Covenant the leaders of the Protestant churches were there to the fore, signing it immediately after Carson,” he said.

“We live in a day when there is an attempt to secularise our society and to sideline religious faith. That is something which we are right to resist.”

Mr McCausland said he believed those principles provided us with an Ulster manifesto.

He said: “As Ulstermen we are loyal to the Crown and to the United Kingdom. We believe in the benefits of the Union for all and the prosperity and the civil and religious liberty that it brings. Are those not the core principles of unionism and are they not principles around which all unionists can unite?

“2012 is only the start of that decade of anniversaries. We will also come to 2016, the centenary of that year when on 1 July so many of the Sons of Ulster fell at the Battle of the Somme. Their sacrifice must never be forgotten.

“That decade from 2012 to 2021, a decade that is only a few years away, is a wonderful opportunity for us to look back and be inspired by the past but it is also an opportunity to prepare ourselves to move into Northern Ireland’s second century.””

Article taken from the The News Letter 13th July 2010.

These stories need to be told, these stories need to put out into the public domain so people can read and understand a little of their history.

Social media such as Facebook, Twitter or through blogger sites such as this, have the power to reach many, many people at home and world wide - we must embrace the new technology to tell our story and our history.


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