Orange Order parade to mark Ulster Covenant


NORTHERN IRELAND trade unionists have expressed the hope that tomorrow’s massive Orange Order parade marking the centenary of the signing of the anti-Irish Home Rule Ulster Covenant and a related nationalist protest will pass off peacefully.

As unionists today commemorate the date when 100 years ago close to half a million men and women signed the Ulster Covenant, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions appealed for tomorrow’s parade and protest to conclude without trouble or rancour.

There is guarded optimism that the parade involving more than 20,000 Orangemen and women marching behind up to 200 bands from Belfast to Stormont tomorrow will be concluded without major incident.

A commitment by the Orange Order to observe a Parades Commission determination that only sacred music should be played when a feeder parade passes by St Patrick’s Catholic Church in Belfast city centre, and a pledge that a parallel nationalist protest will be peaceful, have raised cautious hopes of a relatively calm day tomorrow.

Peter Bunting, head of the Northern Ireland committee of ICTU, added his voice to the various appeals for a violence-free parade. “Rioting and other forms of public disorder damage our fragile community infrastructure and our embryonic tourist industry, contributing to decreased economic opportunities,” he said.

While the parade takes place tomorrow to facilitate a large attendance, the Ulster Covenant was actually signed 100 years ago today, September 28th, known as Ulster Day.

Led by the so-called Uncrowned King of Ulster, Sir Edward Carson, a total of 237,368 men, some in their own blood, signed the covenant pledging “by all means to defeat Home Rule”, while 234,046 women signed a similar declaration.

Tonight the DUP and the Ulster Unionist Party will jointly host a dinner in the conference room of the Titanic Belfast building to celebrate Ulster Day. The respective leaders, Peter Robinson and Mike Nesbitt, are due to speak at the dinner.

The Orange Order is also instituting a new loyal Orange lodge today formed by existing members of the institution who are graduates, students or employees of the University of Ulster.

People can check whether any of their forebears signed the Ulster Covenant by going to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland website and by following the “Search the Ulster Covenant” link.