Find your ancestors in Ireland, Ulster Covenant 1912

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Hundreds of thousands of people gathered on 28 September 1912 to show their opposition to Home Rule in Ireland. Men signed the “Solemn Covenant”, and women signed a “Declaration” in their support. The majority of signatories were resident in what is now Northern Ireland, but some cam from elsewhere in Ulster or Ireland, as well as abroad in Britain and throughout the Empire.

The information contained includes:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Division, County & Country
  • Archive Reference
  • Link to signature image
  • Link to folder image (this is the folder of signature pages from a district)

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When the third Irish Home Rule Bill was brought to Parliament in Westminster in generated widespread opposition and protest among those in Ireland committed to the Union. Irish Unionists mostly resided in the province of Ulster (the north most of the four Irish provinces). Under the leadership of Sir Edward Carson and Sir James Craig, the Ulster Unionists arranged queues of men and women to sign the document on 28 September 1912. Signatures were gathered from all over Ireland, Britain and further afield, but mostly in the province of Ulster. 237,368 men signed the covenant and 234,046 women signed the declaration, making it one of the most significant political events in Ireland at the time. While it was dismissed as “meaningless nonsense” by Irish nationalists, Ulster Unionists retained significant support at Westminster, especially among the Conservative Party, who arranged their own petition against the Irish Home Rule Bill the following year which attracted over 2 million signatures throughout Britain.

Nonetheless the Home Rule bill made its way through Parliament, and the Ulster Unionists clubs began raising an armed militia of 100,000 men to defend the Union in January 1913 known as the Ulster Volunteer Force. They were the first group to arm themselves in large numbers in Ireland in the 20th century and were joined months later by the Irish Volunteers who pledged to defend Home Rule. While the Home Rule Bill was delayed first in the House of Lords, and then by the outbreak of World War One, it was passed into law as the Home Rule Act 2014. By the time the War was over the political temperature in Ireland had changed utterly, both as a consequence of that conflict where more than 49,000 Irishmen lost their lives, and the 1916 Rising in Dublin which changed political opinion in Nationalist Ireland in favour of outright independence.

The Covenant

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 recognise its authority. In sure confidence that God will defend the right, we hereto subscribe our names.

And further, we individually declare that we have not already signed this Covenant.

The above was signed by me at....................

"Ulster Day", Saturday, 28th September 1912

God Save the King.

The Declaration

We, whose names are underwritten, women of Ulster, and loyal subjects of our gracious King, being firmly persuaded that Home Rule would be disastrous to our Country, desire to associate ourselves with the men of Ulster in their uncompromising opposition to the Home Rule Bill now before Parliament, whereby it is proposed to drive Ulster out of her cherished place in the Constitution of the United Kingdom, and to place her under the domination and control of a Parliament in Ireland.

Praying that from this calamity God will save Ireland, we hereto subscribe our names.