A new exhibition on the Ulster Covenant, was officially opened on Thursday, June 21, by Hugo Swire, M.P. Minister of State for Northern Ireland.
The artefacts on display include one of the original Covenant printing plates, Lord Brookeborough's covenant, signed in blood, and the ink stand used by Carson at the City Hall (this on loan from Lord Bannside).
David Hume, Director of Services for the Orange Order, said:
“This is an extensive and significant exhibition which will highlight the story of the Home Rule period leading up to the Ulster Covenant.
“The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland believes that the unionist community wants to have the opportunity to learn more about this period and reflect on it, hence the funding which has been committed to what is an extensive exhibition.
“We are also delighted to have a duplicate exhibition running for several months at the Somme Heritage Centre in Newtownards and look forward to working in partnership with the Centre and other smaller museums in future on such projects.
“The 1912 Covenant was a seminal development in modern Irish history and deserves to be remembered. We hope this exhibition will go some way towards that aim.”
Mr Swire said:
"I am delighted to open this exhibition on the Ulster Covenant which has been put together by the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland. The Third Home Rule Bill and the Ulster Covenant, whose centenaries we mark this year, had a profound impact on the history of these islands. Indeed the Covenant has often been described as the foundation stone of Northern Ireland. I have often said that our approach to centenaries should be to promote greater education and understanding of what have in the past been controversial and divisive events. I am confident that this exhibition, which contains some fascinating historical artefacts, clearly serves that purpose."
The Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, said:
"The Covenant shaped the future political and constitutional development of the island.
"For the ordinary unionist, the significance of the Covenant was in giving a sense of security at a time when all they held dear was under threat. The fact that it was signed by 471,414 men and women showed how important they understood it to be a century ago.
“We are hopeful that many people will visit the exhibition and learn more about this very important time in our history. We are delighted that the Minister of State, Mr Swire, was able to officially open the exhibition.”