Province of Ulster

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For other uses see, Ulster (disambiguation).
Flag of Ulster

The Province of Ulster was one of the four provinces of the Kingdom of Ireland and then Ireland in the United Kingdom; it existed from the 16th century until the 20th century. The other three provinces of Ireland were Connacht, Munster and Leinster. The province was named after the old Kingdom of Ulster which covered most of the North; under the Ulaid; until being restricted to the East after the descendents of Conn of the Hundred Battles carved out the Kingdom of Aileach and Kingdom of Airgíalla. The rump Kingdom of Ulster was conquered from the MacDonlevys by the Normans during the 13th century (including the Burke family for a time) under the Lordship of Ireland.

The nine county province, including; Antrim, Armagh, Cavan, Fermanagh, Londonderry, Donegal, Down, Monaghan and Tyrone; was constituted during the Tudor-era. It was partitioned during the 20th century, as six counties remained part of the United Kingdom as Northern Ireland (this entity is sometimes called "Ulster" by Ulster-Scots and their fellow travelers), while the rest joined what became the republic of Ireland. For all-Ireland sporting events, including rugby and Gaelic games, the nine counties compete under the banner of Ulster; this is typically preferred by Irish nationalists.

Geography and 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, Belfast has an urban area of over half a million inhabitants. Six of Ulster's nine counties, Antrim (Aontroim), Armagh (Ard Mhacha), Down (An Dún), Fermanagh (Fear Manach), Londonderry (Doire) (formerly known as County Coleraine before being renamed and expanded during the Plantation of Ulster) and Tyrone (Tír Eoghain), form Northern Ireland, and remained part of the United Kingdom after the partition of Ireland in 1921. Three Ulster counties, Cavan (An Cabhán), Donegal (Dún na nGall) and Monaghan (Muineachán) form part of the Republic of Ireland. About half of Ulster's population lives in Counties Antrim and Down. Many inhabitants (especially unionists) refer to the six-county Northern Ireland as "Ulster".

Most people in Ulster speak Hiberno English, Mid-Ulster English, Irish or Ulster Scots as their primary language. Irish probably comes second by number of fluent speakers. Large parts of County Donegal are in the Gaeltacht (an Irish-speaking district) and many people in West Belfast also speak Irish. The dialect of Gaeilge (the Irish language) most commonly spoken in Ulster (especially throughout Northern Ireland and County Donegal) is Gaeilge Tír Chonaill or Donegal Irish, also known as Gaeilge Uladh or Ulster Irish. Donegal Irish has many similarities to Scots Gaelic.

Some sources refer to the inhabitants of Ulster as Ultonians - from the traditional Latin form of the name of the province: Ultonia. In the past however, the word Ullish has also been used as an adjective to describe people and things from Ulster.

The biggest lake in Ireland, and in the UK, Lough Neagh, lies in eastern Ulster. The province's highest point, Slieve Donard (848 metres), stands in County Down. The most northerly point of Ireland, Malin Head, and the highest (601 metres) sea cliffs in Europe, at Slieve League, both form part of County Donegal. The longest river in Ireland, the Shannon, rises in County 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 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 two largest cities in the province are the City of Belfast and the City of Derry (also known as the City of Londonderry). Belfast is Ireland's second largest city.

Ulster can be sub-divided up into the following unofficial "regions". West Ulster covers Counties Londonderry, Donegal, Fermanagh and Tyrone, together with the City of Derry. East Ulster covers Counties Antrim, Armagh (especially North Armagh) and Down, together with the City of Armagh, City of Belfast, City of Lisburn and the City of Newry. South Ulster covers Counties Cavan and Monaghan. Sometimes South Armagh, which is part of County Armagh, is included in South Ulster as oppossed to East Ulster.

Ulster's main airport is Belfast International Airport (popularly called Aldergrove Airport), which is located at Aldergrove, near Antrim Town, in County Antrim. George Best Belfast City Airport (sometimes referred to as "the Harbour Airport") is the other, smaller airport in that city. It is located at Sydenham in East Belfast. The City of Derry Airport is located at Eglinton on the eastern outskirts of the City of Derry and is a major airport for the city, West Tyrone and County Donegal.

See also