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Title: Ulster  
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Subject: List of political and geographic subdivisions by total area (all), County Donegal, British literature, Northern Ireland, Orr (surname)
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Irish: Ulaidh
Ulster-Scots: Ulstèr
Flag of Ulster
Location of Ulster
Sovereign states Ireland
United Kingdom
Counties Antrim (UK)
Armagh (UK)
Cavan (IRE)
Donegal (IRE)
Down (UK)
Fermanagh (UK)
Londonderry (UK)
Monaghan (IRE)
Tyrone (UK)
 • MPs 8 DUP MPs
5 Sinn Féin MPs
1 Alliance MP
1 Independent MP
 • Teachtaí Dála 5 Fine Gael TDs
3 Sinn Féin TDs
2 Fianna Fáil TDs
1 Independent TD
 • MLAs & Councillors (UK) 38 DUP MLAs
29 Sinn Féin MLAs
8 Alliance MLAs
1 Green MLA
175 DUP Cllrs
138 Sinn Féin Cllrs
99 UUP Cllrs
87 SDLP Cllrs
44 Alliance Cllrs
6 TUV Cllrs
3 Green Cllrs
2 PUP Cllrs
1 UKIP Cllr
27 Independent Cllrs
 • Councillors (Ireland) 27 Fine Gael Cllrs
23 Fianna Fáil Cllrs
15 Sinn Féin Cllrs
2 Labour Cllrs
7 Independent Cllrs
 • Total 21,552 km2 (8,275 sq mi)
Population (2011 estimate)
 • Total 2,105,666[a]

Patron Saints: Finnian of Moville[1]

a. ^ The Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency[2] for 2011 combined with the preliminary results of Census of Ireland 2011 for Ulster (part of).[3]

Ulster (; Irish: Ulaidh pronounced  or Cúige Uladh pronounced , Ulster Scots: Ulstèr[4][5][6] or Ulster)[7][8][9] is one of the provinces of Ireland, located in the north of the island. In ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths (Irish: cúige) ruled by a rí ruirech, or "king of over-kings".

The definition of the province was fluid from early to medieval times. It took a definitive shape in the reign of King James I of England when all the counties of Ireland were eventually shired. This process of evolving conquest had been under way since the Norman invasion of Ireland, particularly as advanced by the Cambro-Norman magnates Hugh de Lacy and John de Courcy. Ulster was a central topic role in the parliamentary debates that eventually resulted in the Government of Ireland Act 1920. Under the terms of the Act, Ireland was divided into two territories, Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland, with the border passing through the province. "Southern Ireland" was to be all of Ireland except for "the parliamentary counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone, and the parliamentary boroughs of Belfast and Londonderry [the city of Derry]" which were to constitute "Northern Ireland". The area of Northern Ireland was seen as the maximum area within which Ulster Protestants/unionists could be expected to have a safe majority. This was in spite of the fact that counties Fermanagh and Tyrone had Catholic/Irish nationalist majorities. While these six counties and two parliamentary boroughs were all in the province of Ulster, three other counties of the province – Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan – were assigned to the Irish Free State.

Ulster has no official function for local government purposes in either jurisdiction. However, for the purposes of ISO-3166-2, Ulster is used to refer to the three counties of Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan only, which are given country sub-division code "IE-U".[10]


The name Ulster comes from the Irish Cúige Uladh (IPA: ) meaning "fifth of the Ulaidh". The Ulaidh were a group of tribes who dwelt in the region, while "fifth" refers to the five regions into which ancient Ireland was divided. In English, the first part of the name ("Ul") refers to the Ulaidh. The latter part of the name ("ster") comes either from the English possessive ending -s and Irish tír (Ulaidhs tír) or the Old Norse staðr, both of which mean "land" or "territory".

Ulaidh (or Cúige Uladh) has historically been anglicised as Ulagh or Ullagh[11] and Latinized as Ulidia or Ultonia.[12] The latter two have yielded the terms Ulidian and Ultonian. The Irish word for someone or something from Ulster is Ultach. Words that have been used in English are Ullish and Ulsterman/Ulsterwoman.

Northern Ireland is often referred to as 'Ulster',[13] despite including only six of Ulster's nine counties. This usage is most common amongst people in Northern Ireland who are unionist,[14] although it is also used by the media throughout the United Kingdom.[15][16] Some Irish nationalists object to the use of Ulster in this context.[14]

Geography and political sub-divisions

Ulster (coloured), showing Northern Ireland in orange and the Republic of Ireland part in green

Ulster has a population of just over 2 million people and an area of 21,552 square kilometres (8,321 sq mi). Its biggest city, Belfast, has an urban population of over half a million inhabitants, making it the second-largest city in Ireland and the 10th largest urban area in the UK. Six of Ulster's nine counties, Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone, including the former parliamentary boroughs of Belfast and Londonderry, form Northern Ireland which remained part of the United Kingdom after the partition of Ireland in 1921. Three Ulster counties – Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan – form part of the Republic of Ireland. About half of Ulster's population lives in counties Antrim and Down. Across the nine counties, according to the aggregate UK 2011 Census for Northern Ireland, and Irish 2011 Census for counties Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan, there is a slim Catholic majority over Protestant (50.8% against 42.7%).[17]

While the traditional counties continue to demarcate areas of local government in the Republic of Ireland, this is no longer the case in Northern Ireland. Since 1974, the traditional counties have a ceremonial role only. Local government in Northern Ireland is today demarcated by 26 districts.

County based sub-divisions

County Population Area
County Antrim (Contae Aontroma; Coontie Anthrim/Antrìm/Antrim/Entrim) 618,108 3,046 square kilometres (1,176 sq mi)
County Armagh (Contae Ard Mhacha; Coontie Airmagh/Armagh) 174,792 1,254 square kilometres (484 sq mi)
County Cavan (Contae an Chabháin) 73,183 1,931 square kilometres (746 sq mi)
County Donegal (Contae Dhún na nGall/Thír Chonaill; Coontie Dunnygal/Dinnygal) 161,137 4,861 square kilometres (1,877 sq mi)
County Down (Contae an Dúin; Coontie Doon/Doun) 531,665 2,466 square kilometres (952 sq mi)
County Fermanagh (Contae Fhear Manach; Coontie Fermanagh/Fermanay) 61,170 1,691 square kilometres (653 sq mi)
County Londonderry (Contae Dhoire; Coontie Lunnonderrie) 247,132 2,075 square kilometres (801 sq mi)
County Monaghan (Contae Mhuineacháin) 60,483 1,295 square kilometres (500 sq mi)
County Tyrone (Contae Thír Eoghain; Coontie Tyrone/Owenslann) 177,986 3,263 square kilometres (1,260 sq mi)
Grand Total 2,105,656 21,882 square kilometres (8,449 sq mi)

Counties shaded in grey are in the Republic of Ireland. Counties shaded in pink are in Northern Ireland.

District based sub-divisions

Largest settlements

Settlements in Ulster with at least 14,000 inhabitants, listed in order of population:

1. Belfast (480,000)
2. Derry (105,000)
3. Craigavon (65,000)
4. Bangor (58,400)
5. Ballymena (28,700)
6. Newtownards (27,800)
7. Newry (27,400)
8. Carrickfergus (27,200)
9. Coleraine (24,000)
10. Antrim (20,000)
11. Omagh (19,800)
12. Letterkenny (19,600)
13. Larne (18,200)
14. Banbridge (14,700)
15. Armagh (14,500)
16. Portrush/Portstewart (14,200)

Physical geography

The biggest lake in the British Isles, Lough Neagh, lies in eastern Ulster. The province's highest point, Slieve Donard (848 metres (2,782 ft)), stands in County Down. The most northerly point in Ireland, Malin Head, is in County Donegal, as are the sixth-highest (601 metres (1,972 ft)) sea cliffs in Europe, at Slieve League. The northernmost point in Ireland is in County Donegal, the most easterly point in Ireland is in County Down, and the most westerly point in the UK is in County Fermanagh. The longest river in the British Isles, the Shannon, rises at the Shannon Pot in County Cavan with underground tributaries from County Fermanagh. Volcanic activity in eastern Ulster led to the formation of the Antrim Plateau and the Giant's Causeway, one of the UK's 28 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The geographical centre of Ulster lies between the villages of Pomeroy and Carrickmore in County Tyrone. In terms of area, County Donegal is the largest county in all of Ulster.



The province's main airport is Sydenham in Belfast. The City of Derry Airport is located at Eglinton, 13 kilometres (8 mi) east of the city of Derry. There is also Donegal Airport (Irish: Aerfort Dhún na nGall), popularly known as Carrickfinn Airport, which is located in The Rosses.


Railway lines are run by Northern Ireland Railways (N.I.R.). The two most important lines are: Belfast to Bangor and Belfast to Lisburn. They are strategically the most important routes on the network with the greatest number of passengers and largest profit margins. The Belfast-Derry railway line connecting Londonderry railway station, via Coleraine, Ballymoney, Ballymena and Antrim, with Belfast Central and Belfast Great Victoria Street is a noted scenic route. Belfast is also connected with Carrickfergus and Larne Harbour, Portadown, Newry and onwards, via the Enterprise service jointly operated by N.I.R. and Iarnród Éireann, to Dublin Connolly.

Main railway lines linking to and from Belfast Great Victoria Street and Belfast Central are:

  • The Londonderry Line and the Portrush Branch.
  • The Larne Line
  • The Bangor Line
  • The Portadown Line

The historic Great Northern Railway of Ireland connected the counties that have no mainline railway at present.

Ulster's counties without mainline railways are County Cavan, County Monaghan, County Fermanagh, County Tyrone and County Donegal. Londonderry railway station is the closest railway station to County Donegal.

Languages and dialects

Most people in Ulster speak English. Irish is the next most commonly spoken language. English is taught in all schools in the province, and Irish is taught in all schools in the counties that are part of the Republic, and in many schools in Northern Ireland, almost exclusively in the Catholic and Irish-medium sectors. In responses to the 2001 census in Northern Ireland 10% of the population had "some knowledge of Irish"[18] and 4.7% could "speak, read, write and understand" Irish.[18] Large parts of County Donegal are Gaeltacht areas where Irish is the first language and some people in west Belfast also speak Irish, especially in the "Gaeltacht Quarter".[19] The dialect of Irish (Gaeilge) most commonly spoken in Ulster (especially throughout Northern Ireland and County Donegal) is Gaeilge Thír Chonaill or Donegal Irish, also known as Gaeilge Uladh or Ulster Irish. Donegal Irish has many similarities to Scottish Gaelic. Cantonese forms the third most common language, mostly due to the considerable Chinese community of Belfast, the province's largest city. Ulster Scots dialects, sometimes known by the neologism Ullans, are also spoken in Counties Down, Antrim, Londonderry and Donegal.[20]

There are about 30,000 Irish language speakers in the Ulster counties of Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan, with 17,132 native speakers in the Donegal Gaeltacht. Some 5,339 pupils attend the 44 Gaelscoileanna (Irish language primary schools) and seven Gaelcholáiste (Irish language secondary schools) across the province. According to the Republic's Census 2011 there are 7,713 daily speakers outside the education system in Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan.There is also a large,and fast expanding Irish language community,in the other Ulster counties.


Early history

Ulster is one of the four Irish provinces. Its name derives from the Irish language Cúige Uladh (pronounced "Kooi-gah UH-loo"), meaning "fifth of the Ulaidh", named for the ancient inhabitants of the region.

The province's early story extends further back than written records and survives mainly in legends such as the Ulster Cycle. The archaeology of Ulster, formerly called Ulandia, gives examples of "ritual enclosures", such as the "Giant's Ring" near Belfast, which is an earth bank about 590 feet in diameter and 15 feet high, in the centre of which there is a dolmen (Riordain, 66).[21]

In 637, the Battle of Moira, known archaically as the Battle of Mag Rath, was fought by the Gaelic High King of Ireland Domnall II against his foster son King Congal of Ulster, supported by his ally Domnall the Freckled (Domnall Brecc) of Dalriada. The battle was fought near the Woods of Killultagh, just outside the village of Moira in what would become County Down. It was allegedly the largest battle ever fought on the island of Ireland, and resulted in the death of Congal and the retreat of Domnall Brecc.

In early medieval Ireland, the Uí Néill dynasty displaced the Ulaidh and dominated Ulster from their base in Tír Eóghain, most of which forms modern County Tyrone. Among the High Kings of Ireland were Áed Findliath (died 879), Niall Glúndub (died 919), and Domnall ua Néill (died 980), all of the Cenél nEógain branch of the Uí Néill. Their descendants took the surname Mac Lochlainn (McLaughlin), ruling the kingdom of Ailech. The Ulaid continued to rule a remnant Ulaidh (province) in southeastern Ulster until the Norman invasion in the very late 12th century. The Ulaid were last ruled as a Nation by the MacDunleavy.

A bronze statue commemorating The Flight of the Earls at Rathmullan in north County Donegal.

Domnall Ua Lochlainn (died 1121) and Muirchertach Mac Lochlainn (died 1166) were of this dynasty. The Mac Lochlainn were in 1241 overthrown by their kin, the clan Ó Néill (see O'Neill dynasty). The Ó Néill's were from then on established as Ulster's most powerful Gaelic family.

The Ó Domhnaill (O'Donnell) dynasty were Ulster's second most powerful clan from the early thirteenth-century through to the beginning of the seventeenth-century. The O'Donnells ruled over Tír Chonaill (most of modern County Donegal) in West Ulster.

After the Norman invasion of Ireland in the twelfth century, the east of the province fell by conquest to Norman barons, first De Courcy (died 1219), then Hugh de Lacy (1176–1243), who founded the Earldom of Ulster based on the modern counties of Antrim and Down.

However, by the end of the 14th century the Earldom had collapsed and Ulster had become the only Irish province completely outside of English control.

In the 1600s Ulster was the last redoubt of the traditional Gaelic way of life, and following the defeat of the Irish forces in the Nine Years War (1594–1603) at the battle of Kinsale (1601), Elizabeth I's English forces succeeded in subjugating Ulster and all of Ireland.

The Gaelic leaders of Ulster, the O'Neills and O'Donnells, finding their power under English suzerainty limited, decamped en masse in 1607 (the Flight of the Earls) to Roman Catholic Europe. This allowed the English Crown to plant Ulster with more loyal English and Scottish planters, a process which began in earnest in 1610.

Plantations and civil wars

The colonisation (or plantation) of Ulster by people from Great Britain (especially Presbyterians from Scotland). Private plantation by wealthy landowners began in 1606,[22][23][24] while the official plantation controlled by King James I of England (who was also King James VI of Scots) began in 1609. All land owned by Irish chieftains, the Ó Neills and Ó Donnells (along with those of their supporters), who fought against the English Crown in the Nine Years War, were confiscated and used to settle the colonists. The Counties Tyrconnell, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Cavan, Coleraine and Armagh comprised the official Colony[25] however most of the counties including the most heavily colonised Counties Antrim and Down were privately colonised.[22][23][24] These counties, though not officially designated as subject to Plantation, had suffered violent depopulation during the previous wars and proved attractive to Private Colonialists from nearby Britain.

The official reason for the Plantation is said to have been to pay for the costly Nine Years' War,[26] but this view was not shared by all in the English government of the time, most notably the English Crown-appointed Attorney-General for Ireland in 1609, Sir John Davies:
A barbarous country must be first broken by a war before it will be capable of good government ; and when it is fully subdued and conquered, if it be not well planted and governed after the conquest, it will eftsoons return to the former barbarism.[27]

The Plantation of Ulster continued well into the 18th century, interrupted only by the Irish Rebellion of 1641. This Rebellion was initially led by Sir Phelim O'Neill (Irish: Sir Féilim Ó Néill), and was intended to overthrow British rule rapidly, but quickly degenerated into attacks on Colonialists, in which dispossessed Irish slaughtered thousands of the Colonialists. In the ensuing wars (1641–1653, fought against the background of civil war in England, Scotland and Ireland), Ulster became a battleground between the Colonialists and the native Irish. In 1646, an Irish army under command by Owen Roe O'Neill (Irish: Eoghan Ruadh Ó Néill) inflicted a defeat on a Scottish Covenanter army at Benburb in County Tyrone, but the native Irish forces failed to follow up their victory and the war lapsed into stalemate. The war in Ulster ended with the defeat of the native army at the Battle of Scarrifholis, near Newmills on the western outskirts of Letterkenny, County Donegal, in 1650, as part of the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland conducted by Oliver Cromwell and the New Model Army, the aim of which was to expel all native Irish to the Province of Connaught.[28]

Forty years later, in 1688–1691, the Williamite War was fought, the belligerents of which were the Williamites and Jacobites. The war was partly due to a dispute over who was the rightful claimant to the British Throne, and thus the supreme monarch of the nascent British Empire. However, the war was also a part of the greater War of the Grand Alliance, fought between King Louis XIV of France and his allies, and a European-wide coalition, the Grand Alliance, led by Prince William of Orange and Emperor Leopold I of the Holy Roman Empire, supported by the Vatican and many other states. The Grand Alliance was a cross-denominational alliance designed to stop French eastward colonialist expansion under Louis XIV, with whom King James II was allied.

The majority of Irish people were "Jacobites" and supported James II due to his 1687 Declaration of Indulgence or, as it is also known, The Declaration for the Liberty of Conscience, that granted religious freedom to all denominations in England and Scotland and also due to James II's promise to the Irish Parliament of an eventual right to self-determination.[29][30] However, James II was deposed in the Glorious Revolution, and the majority of Ulster Colonialists (Williamites) backed William of Orange. It is of note that both the Williamite and Jacobite armies were religiously mixed; William of Orange's own elite forces, the Dutch Blue Guards had a papal banner with them during the invasion, many of them being Dutch Catholics.[31]

At the start of the war, Irish Jacobites controlled most of Ireland for James II, with the exception of the Williamite strongholds at Derry and at Enniskillen in Ulster. The Jacobites besieged Derry from December 1688 to July 1689, ending when a Williamite army from Britain relieved the city. The Williamites based in Enniskillen defeated another Jacobite army at the battle of Newtownbutler on 28 July 1689. Thereafter, Ulster remained firmly under Williamite control and William's forces completed their conquest of the rest of Ireland in the next two years. The war provided Protestant loyalists with the iconic victories of the Siege of Derry, the Battle of the Boyne (1 July 1690) and the Battle of Aughrim (12 July 1691), all of which the Orange Order commemorate each year.

The Williamites' victory in this war ensured British rule in Ireland for over 200 years. The Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland excluded most of Ulster's population from having any Civil power on religious grounds. Roman Catholics (descended from the indigenous Irish) and Presbyterians (mainly descended from Scottish Colonialists) both suffered discrimination under the Penal Laws, which gave full political rights only to Anglican Protestants (mostly descended from English settlers). In the 1690s, Scottish Presbyterians became a majority in Ulster, due to a large influx of them into the Province.


Considerable numbers of Ulster-Scots emigrated to the North American colonies throughout the 18th century (160,000 settled in what would become the United States between 1717 and 1770 alone).

Disdaining (or forced out of) the heavily English regions on the Atlantic coast, most groups of Ulster-Scots settlers crossed into the "western mountains," where their descendants populated the Jim Webb puts forth a thesis in his book Born Fighting to suggest that the character traits he ascribes to the Scotch-Irish such as loyalty to kin, mistrust of governmental authority, and a propensity to bear arms, helped shape the American identity.

In the United States Census, 2000, 4.3 million Americans claimed Scotch-Irish ancestry. Interestingly, the areas where the most Americans reported themselves in the 2000 Census only as "American" with no further qualification (e.g. Kentucky, north-central Texas, and many other areas in the Southern US) are largely the areas where many Scotch-Irish settled, and are in complementary distribution with the areas which most heavily report Scotch-Irish ancestry.

According to the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, 400,000 people in the US were of Irish birth or ancestry in 1790 when the first US Census counted 3,100,000 white Americans. According to the encyclopaedia, half of these Irish Americans were descended from Ulster, and half from the other three provinces of Ireland.

Republicanism, rebellion and communal strife

Most of the 18th century saw a calming of sectarian tensions in Ulster. The economy of the province improved, as small producers exported linen and other goods. Belfast developed from a village into a bustling provincial town. However, this did not stop many thousands of Ulster people from emigrating to British North America in this period, where they became known as "Scots Irish" or "Scotch-Irish".

Political tensions resurfaced, albeit in a new form, towards the end of the 18th century. In the 1790s many Catholics and Presbyterians, in opposition to Anglican domination and inspired by the American and French revolutions joined together in the United Irishmen movement. This group (founded in Belfast) dedicated itself to founding a non-sectarian and independent Irish republic. The United Irishmen had particular strength in Belfast, Antrim and Down. Paradoxically however, this period also saw much sectarian violence between Catholics and Protestants, principally members of the Church of Ireland (Anglicans, who practised the British state religion and had rights denied to both Presbyterians and Catholics), notably the "Battle of the Diamond" in 1795, a faction fight between the rival "Defenders" (Catholic) and "Peep O'Day Boys" (Anglican), which led to over 100 deaths and to the founding of the Orange Order. This event, and many others like it, came about with the relaxation of the Penal Laws and Catholics began to be allowed to purchase land and involve themselves in the linen trade (activities which previously had involved many onerous restrictions). Protestants, including some Presbyterians, who in some parts of the province had come to identify with the Catholic community, used violence to intimidate Catholics who tried to enter the linen trade. Estimates suggest that up to 7000 Catholics suffered expulsion from Ulster during this violence. Many of them settled in northern Connacht. These refugees' linguistic influence still survives in the dialects of Irish spoken in Mayo, which have many similarities to Ulster Irish not found elsewhere in Connacht. Loyalist militias, primarily Anglicans, also used violence against the United Irishmen and against Catholic and Protestant republicans throughout the province.

In 1798 the United Irishmen, led by Henry Joy McCracken, launched a rebellion in Ulster, mostly supported by Presbyterians. But the British authorities swiftly put down the rebellion and employed severe repression after the fighting had ended. In the wake of the failure of this rebellion, and following the gradual abolition of official religious discrimination after the Act of Union in 1800, Presbyterians came to identify more with the State and with their Anglican neighbours, due to their civil rights now being respected by both the state and their Anglican neighbours.

The 1859 Ulster Revival was a major Christian revival that spread though out Ulster.

Industrialisation, Home Rule and partition

Royal Avenue, Belfast. Photochrom print circa 1890–1900.

In the 19th century, Ulster had the only large-scale industrialisation and became the most prosperous province on the island. In the latter part of the century, Belfast briefly overtook Dublin as the island's largest city. Belfast became famous in this period for its huge dockyards and shipbuilding — and notably for the construction of the RMS Titanic. Sectarian divisions in Ulster became hardened into the political categories of unionist (supporters of the Union with Britain; mostly, but not exclusively, Protestant) and nationalist (advocates of repeal of the 1800 Act of Union, usually, though not exclusively, Catholic). Northern Ireland's current politics originate from these late 19th century disputes over Home Rule that would have devolved some powers of government to Ireland, and which Ulster Protestants usually opposed—fearing for their religious rights calling it "Rome Rule" in an autonomous Catholic-dominated Ireland and also not trusting politicians from the agrarian south and west to support the more industrial economy of Ulster. This lack of trust however was largely unfounded as during the 19th and early 20th century important industries in the southern most region of Cork, included brewing, distilling, wool and like Belfast, shipbuilding.[32]

The results of the Irish general election, 1918, in which Sinn Féin and the Irish Parliamentary Party won the majority of votes on the island of Ireland, shown in the color green and light green respectively, with the exception being primarily in the East of the province of Ulster.

Thousands of unionists, led by the Dublin-born barrister Sir Edward Carson and James Craig, signed the "Ulster Covenant" of 1912 pledging to resist Home Rule. This movement also set up the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). In April 1914, the UVF assisted with the landing of 30,000 German rifles with 3,000,000 rounds at Larne by blockading authorities. (See Larne gunrunning). The Curragh Incident showed it would be difficult to use the British army to enforce home rule from Dublin on Ulster's unionist minority.

In response, Irish republicans created the Irish Volunteers, part of which later became the forerunner of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) — to seek to ensure the passing of the Home Rule Bill. Upon the outbreak of World War I in 1914, 200,000 Irishmen, both Southern and Northern, of all religious sects volunteered to serve in the British Army. This had the effect of interrupting the armed stand-off in Ireland. As the war progressed, in Ireland, opposition to the War grew stronger, reaching its peak in 1918 when the British government proposed laws to extend conscription to all able bodied Irishmen during the Conscription Crisis.

In the aftermath of World War I, the political party Sinn Féin("Ourselves") won the majority of votes in the Irish general election, 1918, this political party pursued a policy of complete independent self-determination for the island of Ireland as outlined in the Sinn Féin campaign Manifesto of 1918, a great deal more than the devolved government/Home Rule advocated by the (I.P.P)Irish Parliamentary Party. Following the Sinn Féin victory in these elections the Irish Declaration of Independence was penned and Irish republicans launched a guerrilla campaign against British rule in what became the Irish War of Independence (January 1919 – July 1921). The fighting in Ulster during the Irish War of Independence generally took the form of street battles between Protestants and Catholics in the city of Belfast. Estimates suggest that about 600 civilians died in this communal violence, the majority of them (58%) Catholics. The IRA remained relatively quiescent in Ulster, with the exception of the south Armagh area, where Frank Aiken led it. A lot of IRA activity also took place at this time in County Donegal and the City of Derry, where one of the main Republican leaders was Peadar O'Donnell. Hugh O'Doherty, a Sinn Féin politician, was elected mayor of Derry at this time. In the First Dáil, which was elected in late 1918, Prof. Eoin Mac Néill served as the Sinn Féin T.D. for Derry city.

1920 to present

Partition of Ireland, first mooted in 1912, was introduced with the enactment of the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which gave self-government/Home rule to six of Ulster's north-eastern counties within the UK. This was confirmed by the Anglo-Irish Treaty (6 December 1921). One of the primary stipulations of the treaty was the partition of Ireland into the UK dominion of the Irish Free State (now the sovereign Republic of Ireland) and the home rule institution of Northern Ireland. Hostilities in the Irish War of Independence formally ceased on 11 July 1921. Low-level violence, however, continued in Ulster, causing Michael Collins to order a boycott of Northern products in protest at attacks on the Catholic/Nationalist community. When the Irish Free State came into existence in 1922, the Northern Ireland Parliament (already in existence) was given the option to 'opt out', which it did.

Following the Anglo Irish treaty, the exact border between the two UK dominions of the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland was decided by the Boundary Commission in 1925, in which the line was drawn around six of Ulster's nine counties.

Electorally, voting in the six Northern Ireland counties of Ulster tends to follow religious or sectarian lines; noticeable religious demarcation does not exist in the South Ulster counties of Cavan and Monaghan in the Republic of Ireland. County Donegal is largely a Catholic county, but with a large Protestant minority. Generally, Protestants in Donegal vote for the political party Fine Gael("Family of the Irish").[33] However, religious sectarianism in politics has largely disappeared from the rest of the Republic of Ireland. This was illustrated when Erskine H. Childers, a Church of Ireland member and Teachta Dála (TD, a member of the lower house of the National Parliament) who had represented Monaghan, won election as President after having served as a long-term minister under Fianna Fáil Taoisigh Éamon de Valera, Seán Lemass and Jack Lynch.

The Republic of Ireland takes place every July in the village of Rossnowlagh, near Ballyshannon, in the south of County Donegal.

As of 2006, Northern Ireland has eight Catholic members of parliament (of a total of 18 from the whole of Northern Ireland) in the British House of Commons at Westminster; and the other three counties have one Protestant T.D. of the ten it has elected to Dáil Éireann, the Lower House of the Oireachtas, the parliament of the Republic of Ireland. At present (August 2007) County Donegal sends six T.D.'s to Dáil Éireann. The county is divided into two constituencies: Donegal North-East and Donegal South-West, each with three T.D.'s. County Cavan and County Monaghan form the one constituency called Cavan-Monaghan, which sends five T.D.'s to the Dáil (one of whom is a Protestant).

The historic Flag of Ulster served as the basis for the Ulster Banner (often referred to as the Flag of Northern Ireland), which was the flag of the Government of Northern Ireland until the proroguing of the Stormont parliament in 1973.


In Gaelic games (which include Gaelic football and hurling), Ulster counties play the Ulster Senior Football Championship and Ulster Senior Hurling Championship. In football, the main competitions in which they compete with the other Irish counties are the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship and National Football League, while the Ulster club champions represent the province in the All-Ireland Senior Club Football Championship. Hurling teams play in the All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship, National Hurling League and All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Championship. The whole province fields a team to play the other provinces in the Railway Cup in both football and hurling. Gaelic Football is by far the most popular of the GAA sports in Ulster but hurling is also played, especially in Antrim, Armagh, Derry, and Down.

The border has divided association football teams since 1921.[34] The Irish Football Association (the I.F.A.) oversees the sport in N.I., while the Football Association of Ireland (the F.A.I.) oversees the sport in the Republic. As a result, separate international teams are fielded and separate championships take place (Irish Football League in Northern Ireland, League of Ireland in the rest of Ulster and Ireland). Anomalously, Derry City F.C. has played in the League of Ireland since 1985 due to crowd trouble at some of their Irish League matches prior to this. The other major Ulster team in the League of Ireland is Finn Harps of Ballybofey, County Donegal. When Derry City F.C. and Finn Harps play against each other, the game is usually referred to as a 'North-West Derby'. There have been cup competitions between I.F.A. and F.A.I. clubs, most recently the Setanta Sports Cup.

In Rugby union, the professional rugby team representing the province and the IRFU Ulster Branch, Ulster Rugby, compete in the RaboDirect PRO12 along with teams from Wales, Scotland, Italy and the other Irish Provinces (Leinster, Munster and Connacht). They also compete in Europe's main club rugby tournament, the Heineken Cup, which they won back in 1999. Notable Ulster rugby players include Willy John McBride, Jack Kyle and Mike Gibson. The former is the most capped British and Irish Lion of all time, having completed four tours with the Lions in the sixties and seventies.

Cricket is also played in Ulster, especially in Northern Ireland and East Donegal.[35]

Golf is however by far the most high profile sport and the sport that Ulster has succeeded at more than any other. Ulster has produced many great players over the years, from Fred Daly winning The Open Championship in 1947 at the Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake to most recently Rory McIlroy winning the US Open and Darren Clarke winning The Open Championship in 2011. Ulster also has another Major winner in Graeme McDowell who also won the US Open in 2010.

In horse racing, specifically National Hunt Ulster has produced the most dominant jockey of all time Tony McCoy.

See also


  1. ^ Challoner, Richard. A Memorial of Ancient British Piety: or, a British Martyrology, p. 128. W. Needham, 1761. Accessed 14 March 2013.
  2. ^ estimate
  3. ^ "Table 1. Population of each Province, County and City and actual and percentage change, 2006 and 2011". Census of Population 2011: Preliminary Results.  
  4. ^ Ulster Scots – Ulstèr-Scotch NI Department for Regional Development.
  5. ^ Ulster's Hiddlin Swaatch – Culture Northern Ireland Dr Clifford Smyth
  6. ^ Guide to Monea Castle – Ulster-Scots version Department of the Environment.
  7. ^ North-South Ministerial Council: 2010 Annual Report in Ulster Scots
  8. ^ North-South Ministerial Council: 2009 Annual Report in Ulster Scots
  9. ^ Tourism Ireland: 2008 Yearly Report in Ulster Scots
  10. ^ ISO 3166-2 Newsletter II-1, 19 February 2010, which gives "Ulster" as the official English name and "Ulaidh" as the official Irish name of the province, citing "Ordnance Survey Office, Dublin 1993" as its source –
  11. ^ County Down, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837)
  12. ^ Publications / Irish Archaeological Society, Dublin, Volume 1
  13. ^ Ulster — Definitions from
  14. ^ a b CAIN – Glossary of Terms Related to the Northern Ireland Conflict
  15. ^ Ulster Facts, information, pictures | articles about Ulster. Retrieved on 23 July 2013.
  16. ^ Evans-Pritchard, Ambrose (7 April 2009). "Ireland imposes emergency cuts". The Daily Telegraph (London). 
  17. ^ "Community Background", 2011 Census, for NI, and "Religion", 2011 Census, for RoI
  18. ^ a b Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency Census 2001 Output
  19. ^ CAIN: Key Issue: Language: Pritchard, R.M.O. (2004) Protestants and the Irish Language: Historical Heritage and Current Attitudes in Northern Ireland
  20. ^ Gregg, R. J. (1972). "The Scotch-Irish Dialect Boundaries in Ulster". In Wakelin, Martyn F. (ed). Patterns in the Folk Speech of the British Isles. London: Athlone Press.  
  21. ^ Riordain, S. O. (1966). Antiquities of the Irish Countryside. University Paperbacks (reprint ed.). London: Methuen & Co. Ltd. 
  22. ^ a b Stewart, A. T. Q. (1989). The Narrow Ground: The Roots of Conflict in Ulster (Rev. ed.). London: Faber and Faber Ltd. p. 38.  
  23. ^ a b Falls, Cyril (1996). The Birth of Ulster. London: Constable and Company Ltd. pp. 156–157.  
  24. ^ a b Perceval-Maxwell, M. (1999). The Scottish Migration to Ulster in the Reign of James I. Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation. p. 89.  
  25. ^ T. A. Jackson, p. 51.
  26. ^ Wars and Conflicts – Plantation of Ulster – English and Scottish Planters – 1641 Rebellion BBC History
  27. ^ Davies, John (1890). Morley, Henry, ed. A Discovery of the True Cause Why Ireland Was Never Entirely Subdued Nor Brought Under Obedience of the Crown of England Until the Beginning of His Majesty's Happy Reign. London: George Routledge and Sons, Ltd. pp. 218–219. 
  28. ^ BBC Short History
  29. ^ Harris, Tim (2006). Revolution: The Great Crisis of the British Monarchy, 1685–1720. London: Allen Lane. p. 440.  
  30. ^ Magennis, Eoin (1998). in Mid-18th-Century Ireland"Fiction Unmasked"A 'Beleaguered Protestant'?: Walter Harris and the Writing of . Eighteenth-Century Ireland 13: 6–111. Retrieved 16 March 2012. 
  31. ^ Rabushka, Alvin (2008). Taxation in Colonial America, 1607–1775. Princeton University Press. p. 279.  
  32. ^| pg 168
  33. ^ "The Future's Bright For Donegal's Orangemen". Independent News And Media. 11 July 2004. Retrieved 6 June 2008. 
  34. ^ FAI History
  35. ^ Explaining Northern Ireland: Broken Images


The Ulster Countryside. Deane, C.Douglas. 1983. Century Books. ISBN 0-903152-17-7

Further reading

  • Faulkner, J. and Thompson, R. 2011. The Natural History of Ulster. National Museums of Northern Ireland. Publication No. 026. ISBN 0-900761-49-0
  • Morton, O. 1994. Marine Algae of Northern Ireland. Ulster Museum, Belfast. ISBN 0-900761-28-8
  • Stewart and Corry's Flora of the North-east of Ireland. Third edition. Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen's University of Belfast

External links

  • BBC Nations History of Ireland
  • Census 2011 – Ulster Irish language stats
  • Census 2011 – Donegal Gaeltacht stats
  • Inconvenient Peripheries: Ethnic Identity and the United Kingdom Estate PDF (96.8 KB) The cases of "Protestant Ulster" and Cornwall, by Professor Philip Payton
  • Mercator Atlas of Europe Map of Ireland ("Irlandia") circa 1564
  • Placenames Database of Ireland developed by Fiontar
  • Gaeltacht Comprehensive Language Study 2007
  • Gaelscoil stats

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