Ulster Provisional Government Proclamation, poster printed in blue, 755 x 500mm., Belfast, Old Town Hall, 24 September, 1913
THE ONLY KNOWN SURVIVING COPY, PRINTED THE DAY FOLLOWING THE RESOLUTION OF THE ULSTER UNIONIST COUNCIL.
The Unionists knew that a Third Home Rule Bill would be introduced when Asquith and the Liberals were elected in 1905 and, after the passing of the Parliament Act in 1911, that it would inevitably become law. Many of the actions promoted by leaders such as Edward Carson and James Craig were seen as mere demonstrations to galvanise protestant opinion to resist Home Rule, and as a tactic to ruin and wreck the Bill, which some saw as ultimately 'bluff'.
If such were the tactics, they were undermined by the Parliament Act, and in September 1912 nearly 500,000 people had signed the Ulster Solemn League and Covenant and in January 1913 the Ulster Volunteer Force was set up. With the Bill still making its way through Parliament to inevitable conclusion, and on the eve of the conference of the Ulster Unionist Council set for 23 September 1913, Sir Edward Carson wrote to Bonar Law setting out clearly that he had moved on from the idea of a demand for exclusion as a wrecking tactic, and was now prepared to embrace it as a solution to the Bill, only subject to the difficulties of defining the borders of Ulster for this purpose (A. Jackson, Home Rule, 2004, p.144).
With partition as a solution planted in his mind, Carson led the 500 delegates to the conference of 23 September to endorse the Proclamation of a Provisional Government for Ulster. There was a very big proviso - that although the Provisional Government now existed it would not take executive power until necessary to resist a Nationalist Government set up in Dublin, and then do so holding Ulster 'In Trust' for the British Nation. Within two months the Irish Citizen Army and Eoin MacNeill's Irish Volunteers had been set up by the Nationalists to mirror the UVF, but it was a further two years before, on Easter Sunday 1916, that the Nationalists issued their own Proclamation of a Provisional Government.