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Saturday, 15 February 2014

15 February 1782: The first meeting of the Dungannon Convention on this day. Some 250 Irish Volunteer delegates assembled in the parish church there. Basically the volunteers represented the Protestant Patriots in arms – they wanted freedom from England’s politicians but also to remain under King George III to whom they swore loyalty. On the rights of the Catholics to full civil liberties they were more circumspect but such a course of action over time was not anathema to most of those assembled there.

That morning the delegates, representing 143 Volunteer companies, marched two by two down the streets of Dungannon, lined by the local light infantry company, to the parish church. William Irvine, Colonel of the Lowtherstown Company in Fermanagh, took the chair. Between noon and eight that evening propositions were solemnly debated and voted on. The motions passed included those that asserted Ireland’s right to legislative independence, limited money bills, and an independent judiciary.

They concluded with a Letter of support for the MPs in the Parliament in Dublin who were pressing hard under the leadership of Henry Grattan to secure from London a substantial amendment of Poyning’s Law and the abolition of the Declaratory Act of 1719 that were blocks on the exercise of power by Ireland’s elected representatives. The letter ran as follows:

'My Lords and Gentlemen,
We thank you for your noble and spirited, though hitherto ineffectual efforts, in defence of the great constitutional and commercial rights of your country…The almost unanimous voice of the people is with you; and in a free country, the voice of the People must prevail. We know our duty to our Sovereign, and are loyal. We know our duty to ourselves, and are resolved to be Free. We seek for our Rights, and no more than our Rights; and, in so just a pursuit, we should doubt the Being of a Providence, if we doubted of success.'