NEWLY established County Derry Centenaries Group will host their inaugral event, “Reflections on 1912: Solemn League and Covenant” on Wednesday (September 26) at St Colm’s High School, Draperstown, commencing at 7.30pm (Doors open at 7pm).
Speaking to the Mid Ulster Mail, group secretary, Liam Duggan said: “The recent launch of County Derry Centenaries Group comes at the start of what has been described as the “Decade of Centenaries” - a decade of centenary commemorations and celebrations of events that shaped modern Ireland.
“With all the recent events and television coverage commemorating the launch in Belfast of the Titanic, 100 years ago, we need to remember that when as they were building the Titanic, the first Government of Ireland Bill, commonly called the ‘Home Rule Bill’ was also being launched; but that bill became as defunct as the unfortunate ship, wrecked indeed by the arming of the Ulster Volunteers, the ‘No Surrrender’ Covenant, and the Curragh Mutiny by British officers.
“From the early 1870s to the end of the First World War, Home Rule was both the single most dominant issue of Irish political life and a major influence within British politics. The Unionist response was to draft a covenant pledging the signatories to use ‘all means necessary to defeat the conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland’. On 19 September 1912, Edward Carson first read the Ulster Covenant from the steps of Craigavon, the ancestral home of James Craig. On 23 September 1912 the Ulster Unionist Council passed a resolution pledging itself to the Covenant and on 28 September 1912, ‘Ulster Day’ was declared with a huge rally was held at Belfast City Hall.
“In total 237,368 men signed the Covenant, and 234,046 women signed the Declaration. Signatories included civil servants, soldiers and police in uniform. This was to be followed by preparations for armed conflict with the formation of the UVF in January 1913, and the Irish Volunteers following on 25 November 1913, hence Eoin McNeill’s assertion, ‘The North began’”.
Looking forward to rolling out a programme of events during the upcoming ‘Decade of Centenaries’, Liam continued: “In 2013 we will be remembering the Dublin Lock-out and the campaign of Connolly and Larkin to organise the unskilled workers. Following this we will see the build-up to the 2016 events, commemorations of the Tan War and the Civil War, and the foundation of the Free State and the northern statelet.
“Our centenaries group will help develop and assist initiatives which stimulate a conversation which seeks to raise the issue of remembering in public space while dealing with the legacies of the revolutionary period 1912 -1922 and the complexities of our shared history.
“We have already passed the centenary of the founding of the Irish Labour Party, without much public fanfare. Its current leader and former Workers’ Party representative, Eamon Gilmore, being conscious of his government’s austerity progamme and the accusations that the Labour Party has moved far away from the ideals of its founding fathers, Connolly and Larkin.
“We will be ensuring that the proud history of the Irish working class and the women’s movement is firmly placed centre stage in our programme of events over the coming years. We will be asking all of those claiming political lineage to Markievicz, Pearse and Connolly in the run up to the centenary of 1916: ‘What happended to to the concept of cherishing all of the children of the nation equally, and the ownership of the nation’s resources?’
“County Derry Centenaries Group are very pleased to have academic and leading Methodist, Dr. Johnston McMaster as well as Belfast Sinn Féin councillor, Tom Hartley address our public meeting looking back at the Ulster Covenant next Wednesday night in St Colm’s High School, Draperstown.
“Everyone in welcome to attend and we extend a special welcome to all our local sixth formers who are studying history and politics.”