Belfast Telegraph

Republic minister Heather Humphreys' Ulster Covenant revelation

By Sarah McDonald

An Irish Government minister has revealed that her grandfather signed the Ulster Covenant in 1912, but describes herself as "a proud Ulsterwoman, a Protestant and an Irish republican".

Heritage Minister Heather Humphreys was speaking at a conference around the 1916 commemorations hosted by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland held in Belfast yesterday.

Minister Humphreys said she didn't see it as her job to "assess the motivations of the men and women caught up in those tumultuous events".

She said: "Rather, I see my job to ensure that their stories are told in an inclusive and respectful way."

She referred to a comment by Rev Dr Trevor Morrow, the former Presbyterian Moderator, in his address to the conference in which he pointed out that in Ireland "we have a shared narrative across this shared land".

The Irish minister added: "The entire State programme is anchored in respectful commemoration. It does not seek to be triumphalist or divisive."

The minister said that when she spoke of republicanism, she was speaking of it "in its truest sense; equality, fraternity and liberty".

She added: "Republicanism in its purest form is simply the right for everyone to have their say and the right to choose those who represent us - a principle upon which the Presbyterian Church is based."

Minister Humphreys suggested that the stories of Protestants who lived south of the border after 1916 and post-1922 needed to be heard, as "many had very difficult experiences at a time of immense turbulence".

She concluded by recalling how her grandfather, Robert James Stewart, as a young man of 19, had signed the Ulster Covenant in 1912, which protested against efforts to bring in Home Rule.

"I am sure that at the time he never in his wildest dreams would have thought that his only granddaughter, a little over 100 years later, would serve as a minister in the Irish Government, with responsibility for commemorations."

Belfast Telegraph


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