DUP leader Peter Robinson has called on nationalists to show respect for unionism by referring to the State by its official title of Northern Ireland.
“Regardless of one's long-term aspirations, it is surely not too much — 90 years after the creation of Northern Ireland — for people to refer to the country they live in by its name.
“People are entitled to have their own vision for the future, but it is an act of denial and disrespect to assiduously avoid using the proper title Northern Ireland,” he stated.
The First Minister made his comments at an event to mark the centenary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant.
The speech was confident in tone: “Today the Union is more secure than before and has defied all those in Britain and Ireland who conspired to wrench Northern Ireland from the Union.”
At a Covenant event at Belfast City Hall, he said: “Our present tourism campaign says 2012 is ‘Our Time, Our Place’ but it is only ‘our time and our place’ — and by ‘our’ I am referring to the greater number of people, Protestant and Catholic, who wish the link with Great Britain to remain — because of the determination and resistance of the men and women of 1912.”
He recalled that at the time of the signing of the Covenant unionist leaders had been prepared to break the law rather than come under the sway of a devolved Home Rule Parliament in Dublin.
He said they had been justified, but believed that such tactics were no longer required because “there is, in this age, an acceptance of the principle of consent”.
Mr Robinson said: “The introduction of the Third Home Rule Bill signalled the start of a crisis for unionism.
“It was a fight for the very survival of the Union.
“Unionists in 1912 saw their very way of life as being under the gravest threat and they were prepared to do whatever might become necessary to defend their position.
“The Ulster Covenant, the formation of the Ulster Volunteers and the importation of weapons demonstrated the lengths to which unionists were prepared to go in defence of their heritage.
“We must use this inheritance to advance the lives of all the people of Northern Ireland today.”
He added: “Carson and Craig succeeded because unionism was united. We should not be so complacent that we feel we can afford to let unionism take off in a host of different directions.”
Many will see this call as aimed at the Ulster Unionists who have their conference this weekend.
He said: “We wouldn’t expect nationalists and republicans to do anything other than campaign for a united Ireland. That is their legitimate right. Our agenda is to offer the better and more attractive alternative.”