THE County Grand Lodge of Belfast has launched a commemorative medal to celebrate the historic signing of the Ulster Covenant in 1912.
The launch heralds the start of celebrations leading up to 2012 when unionism will commemorate a defining moment in its history, a history in which the Orange institution played a pivotal role.
The Covenant was signed by just under half-a-million people on September 28, 1912, in angry opposition to home rule.
Ulster Unionist leader Edward Carson was the first to sign the document at Belfast City Hall followed by 237,368 men and 234,046 women who penned their signatures to the declaration, many in their own blood.
The anniversary of this date has been traditionally celebrated ever since as Ulster Day.
The special Orange Order medal incorporates Lord Carson's statue outside Parliament Buildings, surrounded by the wording, Celebrating 100 years Ulster Covenant Centenary – For God and Ulster 1912- 2012.
County grand master of Belfast Tom Haire said that brethren are looking forward to marking the centenary and that plans are already at an advanced stage.
He added: "This magnificent medal will allow those who wear it to signify their ongoing commitment to the principles that the Covenant proclaimed."
Grand master Robert Saulters, who was presented with the first medal, congratulated Belfast members on the initiative.
He was joined in his wholesome support by unionist politicians.
UUP leader Sir Reg Empey, also a member of Belfast No 4 District, said: "It is right that we celebrate the centenary in 2012 and ensure that all in 21st century Northern Ireland – from all traditions – learn of the importance of the Covenant."
DUP MLA Robin Newton said: "This welcome initiative by the Belfast County Lodge deserves the support of every person. I know that plans are being put in place for a commemoration of the Ulster Covenant in 2012 involving the unionist parties, bands, the loyal orders and other key stakeholders – 1912 was a seminal moment in the history of unionism."
- Medals can be purchased at a cost of 11 (includes 1 p&p) from Belfast Orangefest, 342-344 Shankill Road Belfast BT13 3AB or for further details contact 02890 324516.