Flag of Ulster

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The Flag of Ulster
Red Hand arms of O'Neill from National library of Ireland
Arms of De Burgh[1]

The Flag of Ulster is a historic banner used to represent Ulster, one of the four provinces of Ireland. The Red Hand of Ulster is a symbol that is either derived from the O'Neill dynasty, then the most prominent Irish clan in Ulster, or the Dextra Dei of early Christian iconography. The gold background featuring a red cross comes from the coat of arms of the Burkes, a Hiberno-Norman noble family.


The arms of the historic province of Ulster is a composite achievement, combining the heraldic symbols of two of that province's best known families, namely the cross of de Burgh and the red hand motif adopted by the O Neill (Ua Néill, later Ó Néill) Kings of Ailech and Tír Eoghan.

The 'Red Hand' badge of O'Neill was probably grounded on a theme in Gaelic culture. An early heraldic use in Ireland of the open right hand can be seen in the seal of Aodh Ó Néill, King of the Irish of Ulster, 1344-1364.[2]

When Walter de Burgh, Lord of Connacht, became Earl of Ulster in 1243 the de Burgh cross became inseparably linked with the Hiberno-Norman Earldom of Ulster, which spanned over a third of the province. The seal of his son Richard, for example, appended to a deed dated 1282, shows the heraldic cross in triplicate together with what may well be a portrait head of the Earl himself. At some point the Red Hand motif was appended to the de Burgh cross, the result eventually coming to represent the entire province.

Present forms and uses[edit]

The flag of Ulster is usually displayed alongside the flags of Leinster, Munster, Connacht, or as part of the combined flag of the Provinces of Ireland. The flag is the official flag of the Ulster Gaelic Athletic Association and the Ulster rugby team, and is part of the IRFU four provinces flag and the Ireland hockey team flag.


  1. ^ The Arms of Ireland: Medieval and Modern,” The Coat of Arms IX
  2. ^ National Library of Ireland Heraldry In Ireland

See also[edit]