Irish History Live


Ulster Solemn League and Covenant by Ruth Drury

The mass signing of the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant on 28 September 1912, known as Ulster Day, marked a defining moment in the Unionists’ campaign against the introduction of British Liberal Prime Minister Henry H. Asquith’s third Home Rule Bill in Ireland. Edward Carson and James Craig, leaders of the Ulster Unionist opposition, were instrumental in organising the signing of the Covenant at Belfast City Hall by 237,368 men.[1] By signing the Covenant each man promised to stand in opposition, cherishing their position of equal citizenship with the United Kingdom, and to resist the conspiracy to introduce a Home Rule parliament in Ireland, which they regarded as being injurious to Ulster.[2]

Women were excluded from signing the Ulster Covenant. The Ulster Women’s Unionist Council, established in January 1911, however, organised their own declaration to allow Unionist women to ‘associate with the men of Ulster in their uncompromising opposition to the Home Rule Bill’[3]. Signed alongside the Covenant on Ulster Day, the Declaration boasts 234,046[4] female signatures.

[1] Public Records Office Northern Ireland (PRONI), ‘The Ulster Covenant’ ( (accessed 18 March 2013).

[2] Geoffrey Lewis, Carson: the man who divided Ireland (London, 2005), p. 103.

[3] Diane Urquhart, ‘The female of the species is more deadlier than the male?: The Ulster women’s unionist council, 1911-1940’ in Alan Hayes and Diane Urquhart (eds), The Irish woman’s history reader (London, 2001), p. 52.

[4] PRONI, ‘The Ulster Covenant’ ( (accessed 18 Mar. 2013).

For further information, primary source documents and photographs relating to the Ulster Covenant and Declaration, see: .


This entry was written by Ruth Drury. At the time of writing Ruth was a second-year student at Queen’s University Belfast studying for a degree in Modern History and Politics. Her research interests include contemporary Irish history, in particular the social and political changes throughout Ireland during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She also expresses a keen interest in modern American History, most specifically the impact of Slavery, the eventual emancipation of slaves and the development of black civil rights movements.

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