The Ulster Covenant and the Pulse of Protestant Ulster

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The signing of the Ulster Covenant on 28 September 1912 by almost 450,000 men and women was a powerful act of defiance on the part of Unionists in the context of what they perceived as the threat to their way of life represented by the Liberal Government's policy of Irish Home Rule. This article attempts to look beyond the well-studied leadership figures of Carson and Craig in order to fashion insights into the way Ulster Protestant society was mobilised around the Covenant and opposition to Home Rule. It draws attention to hitherto over-shadowed personalities who can be said to have exerted crucial local influence. It also contends that although pan-Protestant denominational unity provided the basis for the success of the Covenant, the Presbyterian community was particularly cohesive and purposeful in the campaign. The article further argues that the risk-taking defiance that came more easily to the Presbyterians, on account of a troubled history, largely evaporated in the new political circumstances of Northern Ireland when it became a separate devolved political entity within the UK from 1921.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-325
JournalNational Identities
Issue number3
Early online date23 Jun 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Ulster, Unionism, Protestantism, Covenant


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