Ulster Banner

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Ulster Banner
Red cross on a white field, defaced by a six-pointed star bearing a red hand ensigned by a crown.
NameUlster Banner
Relinquished1972 (Government abolished)
DesignRed cross on a white field, decorated by a six-pointed star bearing a red hand and ensigned by a crown.
Designed byNevile Wilkinson
(Ulster King of Arms)

The Ulster Banner[1] (Irish: Meirge Uladh) is a heraldic banner taken from the former coat of arms of Northern Ireland, consisting of a red cross on a white field, upon which is a crowned six-pointed star with a red hand in the centre. It was the flag of the former Government of Northern Ireland and common flag of Northern Ireland from 1953 until that government was abolished in 1972. It was adopted to mark the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, and was first flown over Parliament Buildings on 1 July 1953, in honour of the Queen's visit. The Minister of Home Affairs announced[when?] that, while the Union Jack was the only standard officially recognised, those who wished to have a distinctive Ulster symbol might use the banner.[2] Since 1972, the Ulster Banner has had no official status and is not used by the current Northern Ireland government or by the British government.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11] However, the Ulster Banner is still in common use by loyalists/unionists, and to represent Northern Ireland internationally in some sporting competitions. It has become a symbol of Ulster loyalism[6][12] and is a contentious symbol.[7][13] In recent years there have been calls for a new, neutral flag for Northern Ireland to replace the Ulster Banner.[9][14] It is commonly presented as the flag of Northern Ireland, however this is incorrect as Northern Ireland has no official flag.


Original Tudor Crown version of flag based on escutcheon of arms granted royal warrant in 1924
Traditional Flag of Ulster

The arms and flag were designed in Dublin by Ulster King of Arms Neville-Rodwell Wilkinson in 1923–1924. The flag is based on the flag of the traditional province of Ulster,[15] including a Red Hand of Ulster in the centre, and the red de Burgh cross[16] (though some claim this is the Saint George's Cross[17]). It has the addition of a crown to represent the monarchy of the United Kingdom. Rather than a shield, the Red Hand is inside a six pointed star, representing the six counties that make up Northern Ireland. It is blazoned: "Argent a cross gules, overall on a six pointed star of the field ensigned by an Imperial crown proper a dexter hand couped at the wrist of the second".

The flag is also sometimes called the Ulster flag,[18] Northern Ireland flag, the (old) Stormont flag, or the Red Hand of Ulster flag.[19] Loyalists often use 'Ulster' as another name for Northern Ireland, and Stormont was the seat of Northern Ireland's government.


Use by the Government of Northern Ireland[edit]

In 1924, the Government of Northern Ireland was granted its own coat of arms by Royal Warrant and had the right to display these arms on a flag or banner. This right was exercised for the Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953. From 1953 until 1972, the flag was used officially by the Government of Northern Ireland and also as a de facto civic flag for Northern Ireland. In 1972, the Government and Parliament of Northern Ireland were abolished by the Parliament of the United Kingdom under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973.

Later use[edit]

Since the Government of Northern Ireland was abolished in 1972, the flag (and variations thereof) has continued to be used by unionists. In 2004, Belfast City Council commissioned a study on the flying of flags which noted that the Ulster Banner continued to be flown, alongside the Union flag, by three unionist-controlled local authorities in Northern Ireland: Ards Borough Council, Carrickfergus Borough Council and Castlereagh Borough Council.[20]

International sport[edit]

The Ulster Banner is used to represent Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games[21][22], players on the PGA Tour,[23] and by FIFA to represent the Northern Ireland national football team.[24] At recent Rugby World Cups the Irish Rugby team, which represents the entire island of Ireland has played under two flags - the Irish national flag and the Flag of Ulster, the official flag of the IRFU Ulster Branch - rather than a flag representing Northern Ireland.[25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Groom, Nick (2006). The Union Jack: the Story of the British Flag. Atlantic Books. p. 295. ISBN 978-1-84354-336-7.
  2. ^ McCartney, Clem & Bryson, Lucy. Clashing Symbols? A report on the use of flags, anthems and other national symbols in Northern Ireland. The Institute for Irish Studies, Queen's University of Belfast, 1994, p 42 ISBN 085 389 538 4
  3. ^ "Ulster". Flag Institute. The Ulster flag is different from the Ulster Banner, which was the former flag of Northern Ireland but now holds no official status.
  4. ^ Minahan, James (2009). The Complete Guide to National Symbols and Emblems. ABC-CLIO. p. 486. The official flag of the province is the Union Jack. There is no official national flag of Northern Ireland, following the Northern Ireland Constitution Act of 1973, nor any unofficial flag universally accepted in Northern Ireland.
  5. ^ McCormick, John (2012). Contemporary Britain. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 53. The old flag of Northern Ireland – a red hand inside a white star on a red cross – has strong connections with the Protestant community, and is no longer official but is still occasionally flown. The official flag of Northern Ireland is the Union Flag.
  6. ^ a b Paul Nolan and Dominic Bryan (2016). Flags: Towards a New Understanding (PDF). Queen's University Belfast. p. 6. following the Northern Ireland Constitution Act of 1973, the Ulster Banner ceased to have any official standing, but there followed a huge increase in its unofficial use as a symbol of loyalism.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)
  7. ^ a b Promoting Fair Play in Sport. Sport Northern Ireland. p. 9. Archived 7 April 2013 at the Wayback Machine "Many existing flags have no official status and this includes the former Northern Ireland 'flag' (or flag of the Executive Committee of the Privy Council of Northern Ireland or Ulster Banner) that only had official status during the life of the NI Government between 1953 and 1972, and would be regarded by many as contentious in the current political circumstance".
  8. ^ "Flags". Northern Ireland Foundation. It was the official flag of Northern Ireland from then until the Northern Ireland government was suspended in 1972, and has had no official standing since that time.
  9. ^ a b "New Northern Ireland flag should be created, says Lord Kilclooney". The News Letter. 17 December 2013. Lord Kilclooney, the former Ulster Unionist deputy leader, is a vice chairman of Westminsters all-party group on flags and heraldry which promotes the flying of the Union Flag. He told the News Letter [...] 'whilst England (St George's Cross) Scotland (St Andrew's Cross) and Wales (The Dragon) have individual regional flags, the Flags Institute in London confirms that Northern Ireland has no official regional flag. It should now be possible to design a regional flag [...] which is acceptable to both communities in Northern Ireland'.
  10. ^ "Union Flag (Executive Buildings)". Northern Ireland Assembly. 6 June 2000. Mr Fraser Agnew: The Ulster flag] [...] was a civil flag for Northern Ireland, but its official status was abolished when the Northern Ireland Parliament was closed down in 1973. Thereafter, the Union flag was made the official flag in Northern Ireland. That is a fact.
  11. ^ "Northern Ireland (United Kingdom)". Flags of the World.
  12. ^ "Flags used in Northern Ireland". Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). this particular flag of Northern Ireland is seen as staunchly Loyalist
  13. ^ "Bangor man travels the world with Northern Ireland flag". BBC News. 9 September 2013. The red cross on a white background flutters from many a lamppost in Northern Ireland, and is often a divisive symbol between unionists and nationalists.
  14. ^ "Find a neutral flag for all of Northern Ireland: Richard Haass issues challenge to parties". Belfast Telegraph. 3 December 2013.
  15. ^ CRW Flags of the World – Northern Ireland (United Kingdom)
  16. ^ CRW Flags – Northern Ireland (United Kingdom)
  17. ^ CAIN: Symbols – Flags Used in Northern Ireland
  18. ^ Lords Hansard text for 13 Jul 200613 July 2006 (pt 0947)
  19. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 30 October 2008. Retrieved 23 October 2008.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ http://www.belfastcity.gov.uk/equality/docs/FlyingOfUnionFlagEQIA.pdf Archived 26 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ Commonwealth Games Federation Archived 20 April 2019 at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ Telegraph Archived 6 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "Rory McIlroy PGA TOUR Profile - News, Stats, and Videos". PGATour. PGA Tour. Retrieved 6 August 2018.
  24. ^ Northern Ireland: Country information, FIFA.com
  25. ^ https://danieldcollins.wordpress.com/2015/10/21/is-irish-rugby-truly-the-beacon-of-inclusiveness-it-is-purported-to-be/