The Ulster Covenant Against Home Rule Is Signed
The Battle of Aughrim in 1691 is where the predominantly Irish Catholic Jacobite army was destroyed by Protestant forces led by Dutch nobleman William of Orange. Smoldering resentments left 2 factions : Orange Men – Protestants who supported William and the English Crown and Catholic “Defenders” who supported Irish nationalism. In April 1912 a Irish Home Rule bill was introduced in Parliament. Resistance to the idea of government from Dublin was intense in the Northern part of Ireland. The Ulster Covenant was written by those Orangemen who opposed home rule and called themselves Unionists because the supported an union with Great Britain.
Ireland and Great Britain were merged in January 1801 to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Opposition to this union often became violent. Many politicians in both countries sought to repeal or change the law. There has been prior attempts to allowed Ireland to rule itself – Home Rule but there were also those who fiercely resisted any dilution of the Act of Union. In 1885 Liberals in Great Britain almost passed a Home Rule Bill. This led to bloody riots and galvanized the anti-Home Rule forces. Those who wanted home rule called themselves Nationalists and those against it are Unionists. Another Home Rule Bill failed in 1893.
Centered in the city of Ulster in northern Ireland Unionists have made a stronghold that fights to stay united with the British crown. At the start of 1912, Unionists and members of the Orange Order formed militias called the Ulster Volunteers and imported 25,000 rifles from Germany. 100,00 Ulster Volunteers marched in April 1912.
On 28 September, 1912 the Ulster Covenant was signed by 218, 206 men who pledged to “using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland.” It also contained the signatures of 234,046 women. Sir Edward Carson who fought Home Rule for years was the first person to sign the Covenant at the Belfast City Hall with a silver pen.
“BEING CONVINCED in our consciences that Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as of the whole of Ireland, subversive of our civil and religious freedom, destructive of our citizenship, and perilous to the unity of the Empire, we, whose names are underwritten, men of Ulster, loyal subjects of His Gracious Majesty King George V., humbly relying on the God whom our fathers in days of stress and trial confidently trusted, do hereby pledge ourselves in solemn Covenant, throughout this our time of threatened calamity, to stand by one another in defending, for ourselves and our children, our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom, and in using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland. And in the event of such a Parliament being forced upon us, we further solemnly and mutually pledge ourselves to refuse to recognize its authority. In sure confidence that God will defend the right, we hereto subscribe our names.”