Thousands recreate signing of Covenant

Published Saturday, 29 September 2012
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Thousands of people have taken part in a recreation of the signing of the Ulster Covenant at Belfast City Hall, before marching to Stormont during centenary celebrations.

Thousands recreate signing of Covenant
Sir Edward Carson signs the Ulster Covenant at Belfast City Hall. (© Pacemaker)

Around half a million signed the document back in 1912 in protest against Home Rule. On Saturday men and women dressed in period costume gathered to re-enact the event.

Inside the City Hall, as 100 years ago, Sir Edward Carson stood before the document which was placed on a table draped with the Union flag, and said: "This is the moment when we pledge ourselves to the defence of Ulster. I will be first to sign."

First Minister Peter Robinson, Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt and Belfast's Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson were among those who symbolically put their name to the Covenant.

Representatives from Belfast City Council also penned their names, and many others who had gathered at City Hall filed through the doors to add their signatures.

Mr Robinson said: "It was a solemn occasion. The men and women who signed the Covenant and the Declaration were facing into very difficult and dangerous times."

This was something that bound them together to take whatever steps were necessary to defend the Union and here we are, one hundred years later, and the Union is stronger than ever.

Peter Robinson

The great-grandson of Unionist leader James Craig was in Belfast on Saturday to watch the parades through the city and to sign the Covenant.

"For the family it's an important moment, 100 years on, to revisit and find all the activities that are going on, and get a feeling of how it was back then for our family," explained Max Coleman.

Lord Mayor Gavin Robinson reflected on the significance of signing the Ulster Covenant - both 100 years ago and now, adding that he hoped it would be a "peaceful and enjoyable day".

"One hundred years ago today the Lord Mayor of Belfast, Sir RJ McMordie, stood on this marble with the leaders of Unionism and affirmed themselves to ensure a rightful and a just future for this province of ours.

"I hope we reignite that flame of passion that people had 100 years ago for this place," he said.

Outside City Hall, PUP leader Billy Hutchinson stood in front of the crowds that filled Royal Avenue and read the Ulster Covenant, in which people vowed they would not recognise the legitimacy of a Home Rule Parliament.

It is estimated 30,000 marchers - including 100 bands - then took part in the main parade from the City Hall to the grounds at Stormont to celebrate the centenary.

Ulster Unionist peer Lord Laird explained his family had taken part in the original event.

"All my family at the time of the Covenant, they all signed the Covenant without exception," he said.

"This is making our stand for liberal values, for equality, for the sense of identity."

Historical displays and a cultural village were among the attractions on display at Stormont, where amusement rides and a children's play area were also set up. People of all ages gathered in the grounds, including visitors from England and Scotland.

We must maintain the steadfastness and loyalty of our forefathers as we look forward to the next one hundred years of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom.

Grand Master Edward Stevenson

Some of those attending the event at Stormont recalled the 1962 commemorations, marking 50 years since the Covenant was signed.

Former Ulster Unionist MLA Ken Robinson told UTV both of his grandparents signed the Covenant.

"It's right and centre of the family history. It's actually very emotional," he said.

"To see their signatures and be able to show my grandchildren my grandfather's signature is fantastic.

"I was here for the 1962 parade and I never thought I would see this one, but it's great to be here."

Orange Lodge chaplain Mervyn Gibson said the day had surpassed all expectations.

"We've had a great day as we always intended we would," he said.

Monaghan Grandmaster Robert Sturgeon came to the city with his lodge to celebrate those from the southern counties who travelled by train to Belfast to sign the Covenant.

He said they had enjoyed the walk from the city centre to Stormont.

"Every mile we did the crowds were applauding and it's something that we are not really used to. With a good band and the crowds applauding you were at Stormont before you knew."

© UTV News
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31 Comments
James in Enniskillen wrote (787 days ago):
My wife & I travelled from Enniskillen to Belfast early on Sat morning arriving at 08.30 approx. Got parked up & were just in time for the first parade heading to City Hall. We watched the proceedings that were taking place inside on the 'big screen'. After that we moved through the gathering crowds, bumping into people we knew & generally having a great time. Once the main parade started moving of for Stormont we walked along side, yes we walked the complete parade route, arriving at Stormont to vast crowds. We signed the covenant at the steps of Stormont & took part in a great service, beautiful message of God's saving grace for mankind. This has been for both of us a most fantastic & historic day, one that we won't forget ever. Thankyou to all who worked behind the scenes to make this such a brilliant success. Our culture is alive and well, God save our Queen.
peter in derry wrote (787 days ago):
Nationalists and republicans could very easily sign get their own covenent...couple of books from easons a few pens and an ad on facebook....simples
Nick Kent in Belfast wrote (787 days ago):
Déaglán, you should research a wee bit more. The UK's debt to the USA alone is more than all of Ireland's foreign debt combined. The UK also owes more to Ireland (113.5 bill Euro) than Ireland owes to the UK 104.5bill Euro).
CONNIE in NORTHERN IRELAND wrote (788 days ago):
IN REPONSE TO THE BITTER AND DELUDED SEAN IN ARMAGH, FACE FACTS,REGARDLESS OF THE PEOPLE WHO VISITED NORTHERN IRELAND FROM SCOTLAND AND ELSEWHERE FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE SIGNING OF THE COVENANT, THE NUMBERS THAT TOOK TO THE STREETS OF BELFAST WOULD STILL HAVE BEEN HUGE,MADE UP BY THE SHEER NUMBER OF NORTHERN IRELAND PEOPLE WHO ARE TOTALLY FED UP WITH BEING DICTATED TO BY PEOPLE WHO WANT NOTHING TO DO WITH BRITAIN UNLESS IT COMES IN THE FORM OF A BENEFIT CHEQUE! IF YOU DONT LIKE IT, TAKE YOURSELF OFF THE "IRELAND" AND SEE HOW THAT WORKS OUT FOR YOU!
Iseult in NI wrote (788 days ago):
I watched the programme about the Ulster Covenant last night (on BBC, if it's ok to mention that here.) Very interesting, and I'm glad they mentioned how people with differing views and from all parts of Ireland fought so bravely alongside one another in the First World War (as they also did in WW2). When the chips are down we recognise we have more in common than we thought, whether we think of ourselves as Irish or British or a mixture of both. I love N Ireland and its people, but I also have great affection for the Irish Republic where my grandparents came from and where I still have relatives, and for the rest of the UK where I also have many relatives and friends. Living in NI we're in a unique position and IMO that's a blessing we should make the most of.
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