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Minister of State McGinley to open exhibition on the Ulster Covenant in Donegal

Northern Ireland Peace Process, Press Releases, Northern Ireland, 2012

Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Dinny McGinley T.D. will today open an exhibition on the signatories of the Ulster Covenant in Donegal, at the Donegal County Museum in Letterkenny.

The exhibition is part of a wider initiative in Donegal, Cavan, and Monaghan to commemorate the centenary of the Ulster Covenant, which was signed on 29th September 1912. Public lectures and exhibitions have been organised in all three counties, to explore the history and legacy of the 35,000 people in those counties who signed the Ulster Covenant – 17,000 in Donegal alone.    

Support provided for the exhibition by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Reconciliation Fund forms part of the Government’s commemorative programme for 2012.  Other events in the programme marking the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant include the Edward Carson lecture delivered by First Minister Peter Robinson at Iveagh House in Dublin in March, and an academic conference on the Covenant in King’s College London opened by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore T.D. in September.

Speaking before the event, Minister McGinley said:

“The decade of commemorations which is currently upon us presents a unique opportunity to deepen understanding between the different traditions on this island and to explore our shared history. The events of the decade 1912 – 1922 changed the course of history in Ireland. The signing of the Ulster Covenant 100 years ago was a defining moment in that period and its consequences have impacted on every person on this island in the decades that followed. It is important that we remember the ordinary men and women in every corner of Ulster who signed the Covenant in their hundreds of thousands, to better understand their hopes and aspirations for the society in which they lived. It is only right that we reflect on its causes and legacy.

The Reconciliation Fund is supporting commemorative activities and also wider community initiatives to ensure that voices from the past are heard, but also to contribute to increased understanding of how to move forward together in a spirit of mutual respect and understanding.

I am delighted that the Thiepval Memorial Loyal Orange Lodge, together with partner lodges around Donegal and the County Museum have put together this fascinating exhibition, illuminating the events and personalities of the period. While the coming decade will be marked by large-scale official commemorations, it will also see a range of activities and initiatives at local and community level. I think that the Donegal exhibition can act as an example of best practice in that regard”.

Note for Editors:

The Reconciliation Fund was originally established under the Department’s North-South and Anglo-Irish budget in 1982. The Fund’s objectives are to assist individuals and organisations involved in reconciliation work and to encourage and facilitate better relations within and between the traditions in the North, between North and South, and between Ireland and Britain. These Funds form part of the Government’s overall efforts to help Northern Ireland overcome the wounds of the past and to meet the challenge of creating a shared society, based on values of mutual respect and understanding.

To give effect to the commitment in the Good Friday Agreement to “positively examine the case for enhanced financial assistance for the work of reconciliation”, the budget of the Reconciliation Fund was increased eight-fold in 1999 to £2 million. Since then, the Reconciliation Fund has awarded grants exceeding €23 million to some 650 organisations involved in cross community and cross border reconciliation and outreach projects. The overall allocation for 2012 is €2.7 million. €19,300 was awarded to the Thiepval Memorial Loyal Orange Lodge in Convoy, County Donegal, to support the exhibition in the Donegal County Museum and a series of public lectures and discussion events.