It was standing room only for the ‘Making History Talk – Understanding the Ulster Covenant’ event at the Clinton Centre, Enniskillen on 13th September. Over 150 people packed the main conference room to hear Prof Brian Walker and Dr Brian Feeney give alternative perspectives on The Ulster Covenant.
The hope of the organizers was that the audience would reflect a broad cross section of the local community in Fermanagh. They were not disappointed as people from every part of Fermanagh and from all sides of the community attended. One village community group even organised a bus in order to attend.
Brian Walker and Brian Feeney are both noted historians and commentators. Their presentations gave a valuable insight into what was going on within the minds of both the unionist and nationalist communities at the time of the signing of the Ulster Covenant.
Professor Walker gave a comprehensive overview of the circumstances surrounding the signing of the Ulster Covenant as well as an insight into the range of signatories and organizations that became involved within the Protestant community. Dr Feeney gave a very clear understanding of the issues and fears within the nationalist community at that time. Both presentations gave a sense of how the actions and reactions of each community effected one another.
In group discussion, facilitated by Doug Baker, the level of engagement amongst the audience was extremely high, with an excellent range of honest and thought provoking questions being asked.
Bishop John McDowell, in closing on behalf of the organizers, identified an important point when he said, “The event is a reminder that understanding our past is at least as unpredictable as understanding the future”. The event was extremely helpful in understanding the complex circumstances, context and reactions that marked not only that period of our history but also served as a reminder of the need for care and understanding as any of us reflect on it. Part of that care includes being willing to listen to alternative perspectives on our history to gain a greater understanding.
The event is the first in a series that will look at key moments in our history on this island. It was designed to give an insight into the hopes and fears in the minds of both the unionist and nationalist community at the time of the Ulster Covenant in 1912. The organizers included the Church of Ireland diocese of Clogher, Enniskillen Presbyterians and Methodists as well as Co Fermanagh Grand Orange Lodge. Bishop John McDowell currently chairs the Church of Ireland Working Group on Historic Commemorations.
Photo. Courtesy Raymond Humphreys Impartial Reporter Enniskillen.