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Ulster

From Academic Kids

For other places and things named Ulster, see Ulster (disambiguation).
Ulster
Missing image
Provincial_Ulster_Flag.gif
Flag of Ulster

Statistics
Area: 24,481 km²
Population: 1,931,981 (estimate)
Map
Map of Ulster

Ulster (Irish: Cúige Uladh) is one of the four provinces of the island of Ireland.

Contents

Geography & demographics

Ulster has a population of just under 2 million people and an area of 24,481 square kilometres (8,952 square miles). Its biggest city is Belfast (Béal Feirste). Since 1922, six of its nine counties, Antrim (Aontroim), Armagh (Ard Mhacha), Down (An Dún), Fermanagh (Fear Manach), Londonderry (Doire) and Tyrone (Tír Eoghain), are known collectively as Northern Ireland, and are still part of the United Kingdom.

The six counties that make up Northern Ireland are sometimes referred to by Unionists as "Ulster". However that usage is controversial and disputed by many, especially geographers who use the term exclusively to apply to the nine-county province of Ulster. Three counties in the province of Ulster, Cavan (An Cabhán), Donegal (Dún na nGall) and Monaghan (Muineachán) are part of the Republic of Ireland. About half of Ulster's population live in Antrim and Down.

English is spoken by virtually everyone in Ulster, apart from a few immigrants living in the province, and a handful of monoglots in the Donegal Gaeltacht. Irish is probably the second most widely-spoken language, though this is hard to verify as many people claim fluency while having only a basic working knowledge of the language. Cantonese is the third most common mostly due to the considerable Chinese community of Belfast, the province's largest city. Belfast has more Chinese restaurants per capita than any other European city.

The biggest lake in Ireland (and the British Isles), Lough Neagh, is in eastern Ulster. The province's highest point is Slieve Donard, in Down (848 metres). The most northerly point of Ireland, Malin Head, is in Donegal, and the second highest sea cliffs in Europe, at Slieve League, are also in this county. The longest river in the British Isles, the Shannon, rises in Cavan. Volcanic activity in eastern Ulster led to the formation of the Antrim Plateau and the Giant's Causeway, one of Ireland's three UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The geographical centre of Ulster is near the village of Pomeroy, in Tyrone.

History & politics

Early History

Ulster (Cúige Uladh) is one the four historic Irish provinces. Its early history extends further back than written records and is known only by legends such as the Ulster Cycle. In early medieval Ireland, Ulster was dominated by the Uí Neill dynasty who werre based in Tír Eoghan - modern Tyrone. After the Anglo-Norman invasion of the twelfth entury, the east of the province was conquered Norman barons, first De Courcy, then De Lacy, who founded the Earldom of Ulster - based around modern counties Antrim and Down. However, by the end of the 15th century, the Earldom had collapsed and Ulster was the only Irish province to be completely outside of English control.

In the 1600s Ulster functioned as the last redoubt of the traditional Gaelic way of life, and following the defeat of the Irish forces in the Nine Years War at the battle of Kinsale (1601), Elizabeth I succeeded in subjugating Ulster and all of Ireland. The Gaelic leaders of Ulster, the O'Neills, and O'Donnells decamped en masse in 1607 to Catholic Europe, finding their power under English suzerainty limited. This allowed the Crown to settle Ulster with more loyal English and Scottish planters, which began in earnest in 1610.

Plantations and Civil Wars

The Plantation of Ulster, which was government run, settled only the counties confiscated from the Irish rebels of the Nine Years War. This involved disposessing thousands of the native Irish, who were forced by the Crown to take up poorer land. Many of them settled in northern Connacht. These refugees influence can still be heard in the dialects of Irish spoken in Mayo, which have many similarities to Ulster Irish not found elsewhere in Connacht. Counties Donegal, Tyrone, Armagh, Cavan, Derry and Fermanagh were included in the official plantation. However, the most extensive settlement in Ulster of English and Scots occurred in Antrim and Down, which were not officially planted, but had been de-populated during the war. This unofficial settlement continued well into the 18th century, interrupted only by the Catholic uprising of 1641. Thousands of Protestants were slaughtered by dispossessed Catholics, an event which remains strong in Ulster Protestant folk memory. In the ensuing wars, Ulster became a battleground between the Protestant settlers and the native Irish Catholics. In 1646, the Irish Catholic army under Owen Roe O'Neill inflicted a bloody defeat on a Scottish Covenanter army at Benburb in county Tyrone, but failed to follow up their victory and the war lapsed into stalemate. The war in Ulster ended with the defeat of the Irish Catholic army at the battle of Scarrifholis in1650 and the occupation of the province by the Cromwellian New Model Army. The attrocities committed by all sides in the war poisoned the relationship between Ulster's ethno-religious communities for generations afterwards.

Forty years later, in 1689, the conflict was re-fought in Williamite war in Ireland, which provided Protestant loyalists with the iconic victories of the Siege of Derry, the Battle of the Boyne and the battle of Aughrim, which are still commemorated today. Under the subsequent Protestant Ascendancy in Ireland, most of Ulster's population was excluded from power on religious grounds. Roman Catholics, descended from the indigenous Irish, and Presbyterians, descended from Scottish planters were both discriminated against by the Penal Laws, which gave full political rights only to Anglican Protestants, who were mostly descended from English settlers.

Republicanism, Rebellion and communal Strife

As a result, in the 1790s, many Catholics and Presbyterians, inspired by the American and French revolutions joined together in the United Irishmen movement (which was founded in Belfast) to found a non-sectarian independent Irish republic. The United Irishmen were particularly strong in Belfast, Antrim and Down. However, this period also saw much sectarian violence between Catholics and members of the Church of Ireland (or Anglicans, who practised the 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 of 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 as the Penal Laws were relaxed and Catholics began to purchase land and involve themselves in the linen trade, activities which previously had involved many onerous restrictions. Protestants, including 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. It has been estimated that up to 7000 Catholics were expelled from Ulster during this violence. Loyalist militias, primarily Anglicans, also used violence against the United Irishmen and 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 were swiftly put down by the British authorities, who employed severe repression after the fighting had ended. In the wake of the failure of this rebellion, and the gradual abolition of official religious discrimination after the Act of Union in 1800, Presbyterians came to identify more with the state and their Anglican neighbours, who perceived them as the lesser of two evils.

Industrialisation, Home Rule and Partition

In the 19th century, Ulster became the most prosperous province in Ireland - with the only large-scale industrialisation in the country. In the latter part of the century, Belfast overtook Dublin as the largest city on the island. Belfast became famous in this period for its huge dockyards and shipbuilding - notably of the RMS Titanic. In the 19th century sectarian divisions in Ulster became hardened into the policial categories of unionist (supporters of the Union with Britain, mostly Protestant) and Irish nationalist (advocates of Irish independence, usually, though not only, Catholic). The origins of Northern Ireland's current politics lie in these late 19th century disputes over Home Rule for Ireland, which Ulster Protestants usually opposed - fearing for their status in an autonomous Catholic-dominated Ireland and also not trusting politicians from the agrarian south and west with supporting the more industrial economy of Ulster. To resist Home Rule, thousands of unionists, led by Edward Carson and James Craig signed the "Ulster Covenant" of 1912 pledging to resist Irish independence. This movement also saw the creation of the Ulster Volunteer Force, the first Irish paramilitary group, in order to resist British attempts to enforce Home Rule. In response, Irish nationalists created the Irish Volunteers - forerunners of the IRA to ensure the passing of the Home Rule Act 1914.

After World War I, in which thousands of Ulstermen of all religions were killed, Ireland saw several years of political violence and the enactment of the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 followed by the Anglo-Irish Treaty which ended in the partition of Ireland between the Irish Free State (now Republic of Ireland) and Northern Ireland. In 1922 most of Ulster became Northern Ireland and remained in the United Kingdom, whilst the rest became part of the Irish Free State. For the subsequent history of Ulster see History of Northern Ireland and History of the Republic of Ireland.

While the Ulster Catholics of Northern Ireland have long opposed Northern Ireland's existence, the Ulster Protestants of the three Republic of Ireland counties have assimilated well (although there was a good deal of migration into the six counties following partition). Some sectarian tensions remain. Seven of the six counties eighteen MPs are Catholic, while one of Ulster's ten TDs is Protestant.

The flag of Ulster, shown to the right, was the basis for the official flag of Northern Ireland , which was abolished in 1973.

Sport

In Gaelic games, Ulster counties compete with the other Irish counties in the All-Ireland Championships and National Leagues, as well as the All-Ireland inter-club championships. The whole province fields a team to play the other provinces in the Railway Cup. Gaelic Football is by far the most popular sport in Ulster, with counties Derry, Antrim, and Down existing as 'isolated' Hurling counties. In rugby, Ulster plays in the Celtic League, along with teams from Wales, Scotland and the rest of Ireland.

See also

Template:Ireland countiescs:Ulster de:Ulster es:Ulster fr:Ulster ga:Cúige Uladh it:Ulster nl:Ulster no:Ulster pl:Ulster sv:Ulster

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