The 2009 DUP Conference was the best I have attended and there was a real buoyancy and confidence in the party. I contributed to a late afternoon session as part of a panel and then as a speaker. Among the themes I touched on was the forthcoming centenary of the Ulster Covenant in 2012, which is the start of a decade of centenaries, leading through to the formation of Northern Ireland in 2021.
'I think of 2012 and the 100th anniversary of the Ulster Covenant, the document that has become known as the ‘birth certificate of Northern Ireland’. It is a document that was inspired by the old Scottish covenants and it is a document that was written almost 100 years ago but the great principles that are embedded in it are still as relevant today as they were then and they will still be relevant tomorrow.
The centenary of the Ulster Covenant is just three years away and we are duty bound to prepare for it. It is a time to look back to the faith and fortitude of those who signed it but it is also a time to look at the principles in the Covenant and build on those principles as we look forward to the future.
It speaks of Britishness – those who signed were ‘loyal subjects of the king’ and citizens of the United Kingdom, men who sought to preserve their equal citizenship in the United Kingdom.
It speaks of the benefits of the Union – material wellbeing – we must never forget the benefits of our position within the United Kingdom, benefits that are enjoyed by every citizen of Northern Ireland and we must seek to convince others of those benefits.
It speaks of civil and religious freedom – human rights. This is not, of course, the human rights agenda of Monica McWilliams and the Human Rights Commission. It is not the human rights agenda of the far left. For that is simply the unelected and the unelectable seeking to impose their aims without the backing of the ballot box.
It also speaks of Ulster – the men who signed the Covenant signed it as ‘men of Ulster’ and the women who signed the declaration signed it as ‘women of Ulster’.
The authors of the Ulster Covenant were men of strong faith and the main author, Thomas Sinclair, was the leading layman in the Presbyterian Church. And when it came to signing the Covenant the leaders of the Protestant churches were there to the fore, signing it immediately after Carson. We live in a day when there is an attempt to secularise our society and to sideline religious faith. That is something which we are right to resist.'