Protestants of Ulster

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Ulster Protestants
Total population
Total ambiguous
Regions with significant populations
Northern Ireland 873,464[citation needed]
Republic of Ireland 27,234[1]
Ulster English, Ulster Scots
(mostly Presbyterianism, Anglicanism, and Methodism)
Related ethnic groups
Ulster Scots, Irish people, Scottish people, English people
Percentage of Protestants in each electoral division in Ulster, based on census figures from 2001 (UK) and 2006 (ROI).
0-10% dark green, 10-30% mid-green,
30-50% light green, 50-70% light orange,
70-90% mid-orange, 90-100% dark orange.
Changes in distribution of Irish Protestants, 1861–2011 (see Protestant decline in Ireland)

The Protestants of Ulster are an ethnoreligious group in the province of Ulster, Ireland. They make up almost half the population of Ulster. Some Ulster Protestants are descendants of the Protestant settlers involved in the early 17th century Ulster Plantation, which introduced the first significant numbers of Protestants into the west and centre of the province. These settlers were mostly Lowland Scottish and Northern English people and predominantly from Galloway, the Scottish Borders and Northumberland.[2] Begun privately in 1606, the Plantation became government-sponsored in 1609. Colonising Ulster with loyal British settlers, the vast majority of whom were Protestant, was seen by London as a way to prevent further rebellion in the province, as it had been the region most resistant to English control during the preceding century. There was a total settler population of about 19,000 by 1622,[3] and between 50,000[4] and possibly as many as 80,000 in the 1630s.

Ulster Protestants descend from a variety of lineages, including Scottish people (some of whose descendants consider themselves Ulster Scots people), English people, Irish people, and Huguenots.[5][6] Another influx of an estimated 20,000 Scottish Protestants, mainly to counties Antrim, Down and Londonderry, was a result of the seven ill years in the 1690s.[7] This migration decisively shifted the population of Ulster to having a Protestant majority.[8] While Presbyterians of Scottish descent and origin had already become the majority of Ulster Protestants by the 1660s (when Protestants still only made up a third of the population), they became an absolute majority in the province by the 1720s.[9]

Divisions between Ulster's Protestants and Irish Catholics have played a major role in the history of Ulster from the 17th century to the present day, especially during the Plantation, the Cromwellian conquest, the Williamite War, the revolutionary period, and the Troubles. Most Ulster Protestants are Presbyterian or Anglican. Scottish colonists were mostly Presbyterian[10] and the English mostly members of the Church of England. Repression of Presbyterians by Anglicans (who followed the Church of Ireland state religion) intensified after the Glorious Revolution (especially after the 1703 Test Act) and was one reason for heavy emigration to North America by Ulster Presbyterians during the 18th century (see Scotch-Irish American).[11] Between 1717 and 1775, an estimated 200,000 migrated to what became the United States of America.[12] Some Presbyterians also returned to Scotland during this period. This repression largely ended after the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and the relaxation of the Penal Laws.[13] As Belfast industrialised in the 19th century, it attracted yet more Protestant immigrants from Scotland.[14] After the 1920-22 partition of Ireland, the new government of Northern Ireland launched a campaign to entice Protestants from the rest of Ireland to relocate to the new polity with inducements of state jobs and housing, and "large numbers" accepted.[15] Because of these migrations, Ulster has a lower proportion of Catholics than the other provinces of Ireland.

Most Ulster Protestants speak Ulster English, and some speak one of the Ulster Scots dialects.[16][17][18] The vast majority live in Northern Ireland. Most tend to support its Union with the rest of the United Kingdom,[19] and are thus known as unionists. Unionism is an ideology that has been divided by some into two camps; Ulster British, who are attached to the United Kingdom and identify as British; and Ulster loyalists, whose politics are primarily ethnic, prioritising Ulster Protestant above British identity.[20][21][22] The Loyal Orders, which include the Orange Order, Royal Black Institution and Apprentice Boys of Derry, are exclusively Protestant fraternal organisations which originated in Ulster and still have most of their membership there.

About 3% of Ulster Protestants reside in the rest of Ulster in the Republic of Ireland (formed after the breakup of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland).[23] Some still retain a sense of Britishness, and a small number have difficulty identifying with the independent Irish state.[24][25][26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ "‘Sheep stealers from the north of England’: the Riding Clans in Ulster by Robert Bell". History Ireland. 
  3. ^ Canny, Making Ireland British, p 211
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Ulster blood, English heart – I am what I am". 
  6. ^ "The Huguenots in Lisburn". Culture Northern Ireland. 
  7. ^ K. J. Cullen, Famine in Scotland: The “Ill Years” of the 1690s (Edinburgh University Press, 2010), ISBN 0748638873, pp. 178-9.
  8. ^
  9. ^ Karen Cullen, Famine in Scotland: The 'Ill Years' of the 1690s, p176-179
  10. ^ Edmund Curtis, p. 198.
  11. ^ "The Irish at Home and Abroad: Scots-Irish in Colonial America / Magazine / Irish Ancestors / The Irish Times". 
  12. ^ Fischer, David Hackett, Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America Oxford University Press, USA (14 March 1989), p. 606; Parke S. Rouse, Jr., The Great Wagon Road, Dietz Press, 2004, p. 32, and Leyburn, James G., The Scotch-Irish: A Social History, Univ of NC Press, 1962, p. 180.
  13. ^ James Connolly. "James Connolly: July the 12th (1913)". 
  14. ^ "The Scots in Victorian and Edwardian Belfast". 
  15. ^
  16. ^ Gregg R.J. (1972) "The Scotch-Irish Dialect Boundaries in Ulster" in Wakelin M. F., Patterns in the Folk Speech of The British Isles, London
  17. ^ C. Macafee (2001) "Lowland Sources of Ulster Scots" in J.M. Kirk & D.P. Ó Baoill, Languages Links: The Languages of Scotland and Ireland, Cló Ollscoil na Banríona, Belfast, p121
  18. ^ J. Harris (1985) Phonological Variation and Change: Studies in Hiberno English, Cambridge, p15
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Darach MacDonald. "Frontier Post". 
  24. ^
  25. ^ "Living behind the Emerald". 
  26. ^ "Orange County, Irish-style...". 

External links[edit]