SATURDAY, September 29, 2012 will go down in my own personal view as one of the most enjoyable and memorable days in my lifetime - the day when tens of thousands of members of all the loyal orders converged in Belfast to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant in 1912.
When the parade got under way at the assembly point in Sandy Row for the counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone, there was a throng of band members and loyal order members waiting patiently to take their turn to parade, while enjoying the spectacle of seeing the various counties and their districts parade into the city centre.
As I took my place along with Cookstown district and the Co Tyrone contingent at the rear of the parade this was the first time - as indeed it would have been for thousands of others - to have paraded right through Belfast city centre and along the six-mile route to Parliament Buildings at Stormont,
marching behind some of the finest marching bands in Ulster and in my own case this was the Derryloran Boyne Defenders flute band from Cookstown.
When the parade got to the gates of Parliament Buildings, Stormont, and as we proceeded up the impressive entrance driveway the one disappointment that I and those alongside me noticed right away was that the two dominant flag poles on either side of the “Rule Britannia” statue at the top of Stormont Parliament Buildings didn’t have the flag of our country flying.
There were a few smaller Union Jacks placed outside a few office windows but these were hardly recognisable and were more in keeping with holidaymakers placing the flags of their country on their apartment blocks, not the sort of image for the seat of the Northern Ireland Parliament Buildings.
For such an important and historic occasion in the life of its nation the whole driveway and Parliament Buildings itself should have been bedecked in a sea of red, white and blue, with Union Jacks and Ulster flags flying, and this would have been the case in any other country.
Why is Northern Ireland different and will there been an explanation for this from the Northern Ireland Assembly?
This will not detract from what was a truly momentous occasion when the actions of Lord Carson and our forefathers, who signed Ulster’s Solemn Covenant, was remembered by the tens of thousands on parade and all that could be added was the words of an advert that the Northern Ireland Office had on our television screens many years ago after the ceasefires: “Wouldn’t it be great if it was like this here all of the time”.
Traditional Unionist voice