Perspective on the Ulster Covenant

The Institute for British-Irish Studies (IBIS) and the Irish Association for Cultural, Economic and Social Relations invited me to attend THE ULSTER COVENANT AND CONTEMPORARY IRELAND on Saturday, 22nd September 2012 at the Linen Hall Library, Belfast: 10:00am – 3:30pm 

Panel Speakers: Prof John Coakley (University College Dublin), Ed Curran OBE,
Dr Paula Devine (Queen’s University Belfast), Dr Brian Feeney (Irish News), Michael Dowell SC, Dr Margaret O’Callaghan (Queen’s University Belfast), Lord Trimble of Lisnagarvey, Prof Graham Walker (Queen’s University Belfast) 

Organised jointly by the Irish Association and the Institute for British-Irish Studies, University College Dublin, this conference explored the meaning of the Ulster Covenant for broader political life in the island of Ireland. The morning session addressed the historical background to the Covenant and looked at its political significance, concluding with a round-table discussion of the role of the Covenant in the twentieth century. The afternoon session examined the implications of political, social, demographic and attitudinal change for the values expressed in the Covenant in the early twenty-first century.

I was unable to attend because of UCC event on Saturday but attended the excellent lecture by Dr Jonathan Bardon on the same theme on the invitation of the Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Mr William Hay MLA at 6.30pm tonight in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings, Stormont.

This evening’s event was entitled PERSPECTIVE ON THE ULSTER COVENANT . The “Perspective On…” series is the approach agreed by the Assembly Commission to mark events during the decade of centenaries within Parliament Buildings. The Assembly Commission is the corporate body of the Assembly, chaired by the Speaker and with one member from each of the main parties.

Guests for the lecture included MLAs, the Ceann Comhairle Mr. Seán Barrett T.D.; the Shadow Secretary of State, Vernon Coaker MP; Kate Hoey MP; Ian Paisley MP; the Rt Hon Lord Bannside and Baroness Paisley and Mr Frank Feighan TD from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement. I sat with my friend and fellow Conlig man Leslie Cree MLA .

The Speaker said: “I am delighted that I have been able to host this event to mark the centenary of the Ulster Covenant in Parliament Buildings, particularly with Members from a range of parties in attendance. Jonathan Bardon’s lecture provided a basis to reflect on the facts of the Ulster Covenant and the politics of the time, and for Members and guests to give their own reflections on it.

“The whole point of the “Perspectives On…” series is that while for instance the Ulster Covenant is of great significance to me personally as a unionist, it is part of the history which has led us all to where we are today. There is value for all of us in exploring it.”

“It is also significant that we were joined this evening by guests from both Westminster and the Oireachtas. The Covenant and other events we are marking throughout the decade of centenaries had an impact on the UK and Ireland as a whole and it is only right that the interest in them goes beyond Northern Irelandand Mr Frank Feighan TD from the Joint Oireachtas Committee on the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement.

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