Ulster Covenant, Easter Proclamation & Human Rights

The Ulster Covenant and Easter Proclamation represent important historical and constitutional texts in our shared history. This event explored the human rights elements and meaning within the two documents.

You can listen to the entire discussion above by clicking on the play button.

The panel consisted of:

Chair: Kevin Hanratty, Director, Human Rights Consortium

Speaker: Philip Orr, local historian

Speaker: Chris Hazzard, Sinn Fein MLA

Local historian Philip Orr examined the Ulster Covenant, signed in 1912. Setting out the fractious context which saw the development of the document, he explained that its author Thomas Sinclair was a Liberal, and that this shone through in the text.

He highlighted the Covenant as a very public document, one that engages the idea of female and universal suffrage and the need to create a wider voting franchise.

Orr underlined mentions of conscience, equal citizenship, and fears that religious freedom would be undermined by Home Rule as evidence that rights and equality were a core feature of the document.

In an age where women cannot vote and many working class men cannot vote because the don’t have the property qualifications to do so; everyone is free, whether they have a penny in their pocket, or they’re a millionaire, to sign the document (Ulster Covenant).
— Philip Orr, Local Historian

Sinn Fein MLA Chris Hazzard looked at the Easter Proclamation from 1916.

He focused on how equality was very much at the heart of the document, with issues of democracy, self-determination, sovereignty, economic and social justice and the rights of all citizens regardless of religious persuasion or none.

The MLA said the most important lines of the Proclamation talked about the need for rights and equality,

‘The Republic guarantees religious and civil liberty, equal rights and equal opportunities to all its citizens, and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation and of all its parts, cherishing all of the children of the nation equally’

He added that the signatories had envisaged a system of representative government, which meant universal inclusivity, including suffrage for women and their participation within government.

The Easter Proclamation heralded the need to entrench equality in all aspects of society, including proper legislation both north and south to guarantee rights and the protection of LGBT’s, women, the disabled, the old and the vulnerable.
— Chris Hazzard, Sinn Fein MLA

While grounded in the context of the competing perspectives on nationality and the future governance of Ireland the event brought into focus some of the historic aspirations behind both document for more progressive societies which extended the reach of rights and equality. 

Posted on August 9, 2016 .