SYMBOLS USED IN NORTHERN IRELAND
Red Hand of Ulster
Description: The Red Hand of Ulster is the official seal of the O'Neill family. It is believed to originate from a mythical tale wherein two chieftains were racing across a stretch of water in a bid to be the first to reach the land and claim it as his own. Realising his foe would touch the land first, one chieftain cut off his hand and threw it onto the shore, thereby claiming the land before his adversary reached it.
Description: Legend has it that the shamrock was used by St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, to illustrate the Holy Trinity, is used on St. Patrick's day on 17 March.
Description: This instrument has long symbolised the island of Ireland. It's origins come from when Owen Roe O'Neill, a Gaelic Chieftain, adopted a green flag incorporating the harp. Being seen as a threat to the English invaders, playing the harp was banned, despite remaining on the royal insignia as representing Ireland in the growing British Empire.
The Ulster Banner , also known as the Ulster flag, the Northern Ireland flag or the Red Hand of Ulster flag, is still used to represent Northern Ireland in some sporting events. The flag is a heraldic banner taken from the coat of arms granted in 1924 which is based on the flag of England and the flag of Ulster, with the addition of a crown to symbolise the loyalty of Ulster unionists to the British Monarchy. As with the flag of Ulster, it contains the Red Hand of Ulster at the centre. The six pointed star represents the six counties that make up Northern Ireland.
The national flag of Ireland is a vertical tricolour of green, white, and orange. It is also known as the Irish tricolour . Officially the flag has no meaning in the Irish Constitution, but a common interpretation is that the green represents the Irish nationalist tradition of Ireland and the orange represents the Orange tradition in Ireland, with white representing peace between them.
The Coat of Arms of Northern Ireland was granted to the Government of Northern Ireland in 1924. The supporters were granted in 1925, and consist of a red lion supporting a blue banner bearing a gold harp and crown, and an Irish elk in proper colours, supporting a banner of the arms of the De Burgo Earls of Ulster, the basis for the Flag of Ulster. In the middle is St. Patrick’s cross with six pointed star in his middle, which contains also Red Hand of Ulster.
GEOGRAPHY AND ECONOMY
Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west.
Northern Ireland consists of six of the traditional nine counties of the historic Irish province of Ulster. It was created as a distinct division of the United Kingdom on 3 May 1921. For over 50 years it had its own government and parliament.
Northern Ireland was for many years the site of a violent and bitter ethno-political conflict—The Troubles—between those claiming to represent nationalists, who are predominantly Roman Catholic, and those claiming to represent unionists, who are predominantly Protestant. Unionists want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom, while nationalists wish it to be politically united with the rest of Ireland. Since the signing of the "Good Friday Agreement" in 1998, most of the paramilitary groups involved in the Troubles have ceased their armed campaigns.
This is a land of blue mountains and forest parks, mazy lakes and windswept moors, white Atlantic sands, an inland sea. In fact, it's a country that is just pretending to be small. Dozens of small towns are hidden away down among the green places of the countryside, and fishing villages string out along the shores. Distinctive field patterns, for instance, are especially striking, and so are ruined castles. Built from the 12th century onwards, and once symbols of both oppression and reassurance, they are now among Ulster's finest architectural treasures. Northern Ireland is only 5,500 square miles in area - about the size of Yorkshire or Connecticut - you can see most of the main attractions in a week without clocking up more than 500 miles.
Northern Ireland was covered by an ice sheet for most of the last ice age. The centrepiece of Northern Ireland's geography is Lough Neagh, at 151 square miles (391 km2 ) the largest freshwater lake both on the island of Ireland and in the British Isles. The largest island of Northern Ireland is Rathlin. Strangford Lough is the largest inlet in the British Isles, covering 150 km2 (58 sq mi).
There are substantial uplands in the Sperrin Mountains with extensive gold deposits, granite Mourne Mountains and basalt Antrim Plateau. None of the hills are especially high, with Slieve Donard in the Mournes reaching 849 metres (2,785 ft), Northern Ireland's highest point.
The Lower and Upper River Bann, River Foyle and River Blackwater form extensive fertile lowlands, with excellent arable land.
The whole of Northern Ireland has a temperate maritime climate. The weather is unpredictable at all times of the year.
The Northern Ireland economy is the smallest of the four economies making up the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland has traditionally an industrial economy, most notably in shipbuilding, rope manufacture and textiles, but most heavy industry has since been replaced by services, primarily the public sector. Tourism also plays a big role in the local economy. More recently the economy has benefited from major investment by many large multi-national corporations into high tech industry. These large organisations are attracted by government subsidies and the skilled workforce in Northern Ireland.
Throughout the 1990s, the Northern Irish economy grew faster than did the economy of the rest of the UK, due in part to the rapid growth of the economy of the Republic of Ireland and the so-called 'peace dividend'. Northern Ireland's macroeconomy is also characterised by considerably longer actual working hours and lower gender income disparity than in the United Kingdom as a whole.
Agriculture in Northern Ireland is heavily mechanised, thanks to high labour costs and heavy capital investment, both from private investors and the European Union's Common Agricultural Policy. The main crops are potatoes, barley, and wheat.
Engineering is the largest manufacturing sub-sector in Northern Ireland, particularly in the fields of aerospace and heavy machinery.
Northern Ireland has well-developed transport infrastructure. There are seven motorways in Northern Ireland. The Northern Irish rail network is notable as being both the only part of the United Kingdom's railroads operated by a state-owned company, Northern Ireland Railways, and the only substantial part that carries no freight traffic. Northern Ireland is home to three civilian airports: Belfast City, Belfast International, and City of Derry. Major seaports in Northern Ireland include the Port of Belfast and the Port of Larne.
Ulster was part of Catholic Ireland until the reign of Elizabeth I (1558–1603) when the Crown confiscated lands in Ireland and settled the Scots Presbyterians in Ulster. Rebellion in 1641–1651, brutally crushed by Oliver Cromwell, resulted in the settlement of Anglican Englishmen in Ulster. Subsequent political policy favoring Protestants and disadvantaging Catholics encouraged further Protestant settlement in Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland did not separate from the South until William Gladstone presented, in 1886, his proposal for home rule in Ireland. The Protestants in the North feared domination by the Catholic majority. Industry, moreover, was concentrated in the North and dependent on the British market. When World War I began, civil war threatened between the regions. Northern Ireland, however, did not become a political entity until the six counties accepted the Home Rule Bill of 1920.
In 1966–1969, rioting and street fighting between Protestants and Catholics occurred in Londonderry, fomented by extremist nationalist Protestants. These confrontations became known as “the Troubles.”
The religious communities, Catholic and Protestant, became hostile armed camps. British troops were brought in to separate them but themselves became a target of Catholics, particularly by the IRA, which by this time had turned into a terrorist movement. The goal of the IRA was to eject the British and unify Northern Ireland with the Irish Republic to the south.
In 1977 the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams, founders of the Community of Peace People, an organization dedicated to creating peace in Northern Ireland. But intermittent violence continued. Riots, sniper fire, and terrorist attacks killed more than 3,200 people between 1969 and 1998.
In 1997, Northern Ireland made a significant step in the direction of stemming sectarian strife. The first formal peace talks began on Oct. 6 with representatives of eight major Northern Irish political parties participating, a feat that in itself required three years of negotiations. Two smaller Protestant parties boycotted the talks. For the first time, Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, won two seats in the British parliament. Although the election strengthened the IRA's political legitimacy, it was the IRA's resumption of the 17-month cease-fire, which had collapsed in Feb. 1996 that gained them a place at the negotiating table.
A landmark settlement, the Good Friday Agreement of April 10, 1998, came after 19 months of intensive negotiations. The accord called for Protestants to share political power with the minority Catholics, and it gave the Republic of Ireland a voice in Northern Irish affairs. In October, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to John Hume and David Trimble, leaders of the largest Catholic and Protestant political parties. But in June 1999, the peace process again hit an impasse when the IRA refused to disarm.
As a result, the British government suspended parliament on Feb. 12, 2000, and once again imposed direct rule. The Council on Foreign Relations has estimated that Protestant paramilitary groups have been responsible for 30% of the civilian deaths in the Northern Irish conflict.
In Nov. 2003 legislative elections, the Ulster Unionists and other moderates lost out to Northern Ireland's extremist parties: Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists and Sinn Fein. Power sharing between these antithetical parties was out of the question.
A $50 million bank robbery in Dec. 2004 was linked to the IRA, and Sinn Fein's legitimacy as a political organization suffered a severe setback. The brutal murder in Jan. 2005 of Belfast Catholic Robert McCartney by the IRA, and the campaign by his five sisters to hold the IRA accountable, further tarnished the IRA's standing, even in Catholic communities that had once been IRA strongholds.
On July 28, 2005, the IRA announced that it was entering a new era in which it would unequivocally relinquish violence, give up its arms, and pursue its aims exclusively through political means. In late September, the Irish Republican Army made good on its promise to give up all its weapons, and their disarmament was verified by an international mediator.
Shortly after parliamentary elections in March 2007, Gerry Adams, the leader of Sinn Fein, and Rev. Ian Paisley, the head of the Democratic Unionist Party, met face to face for the first time and hashed out an agreement for a power-sharing government. The historic deal was put into place in May, when Paisley and McGuinness were sworn in as leader and deputy leader, respectively, of the Northern Ireland executive government, thus ending direct rule from London.
POLITICS AND RELIGION
Northern Ireland has devolved government within the United Kingdom. There is a Northern Ireland Executive together with the 108 member Northern Ireland Assembly to deal with devolved matters with the UK Government and UK Parliament responsible for reserved matters. Elections to the Assembly are by single transferable vote with 6 representatives elected for each of the 18 Westminster constituencies. It is also an electoral region of the European Union.
Northern Ireland elects 18 Members of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons; only 13 take their seats, however, as the 5 Sinn Fein MPs refuse to take the oath to serve the Queen that is required of all MPs. The Northern Ireland Office represents the UK government in Northern Ireland on reserved matters and represents Northern Irish interests within the UK government. The Northern Ireland office is led by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who sits in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom.
The main political divide in Northern Ireland is between Unionists or Loyalists who wish to see Northern Ireland continue as part of the United Kingdom and Nationalists or Republicans who wish to see Northern Ireland join the rest of Ireland, independent from the United Kingdom. Unionists are overwhelmingly Protestant, descendants of mainly Scottish, English, Welsh and Huguenot settlers as well as native Irishmen who had converted to one of the Protestant denominations. Nationalists are predominantly Catholic and descend from the population predating the settlement, with a minority from Scottish Highlanders as well as some converts from Protestantism.
The population of Northern Ireland was estimated as being 1,759,000 on 10 December 2008. In the 2001 in terms of community background, 53.1% of the Northern Irish population came from a Protestant background, 43.8% came from a Catholic background, 0.4% from non-Christian backgrounds and 2.7% non-religious backgrounds.
36% of the present-day population define themselves as Unionist, 24% as Nationalist and 40% define themselves as neither.
Christianity is the main religion in Northern Ireland though the main denominations are organised on an all-Ireland basis. After that, though dwarfed by the Christian churches, the country also has small Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist and Jewish communities.
The Roman Catholic Church in Ireland is the largest single church though there is a greater number of Protestants and Anglicans overall. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland, closely linked to the Church of Scotland in terms of theology and history, is the second largest church and largest protestant denomination. It is followed by the Church of Ireland (Anglican) which was the state church of Ireland until it was disestablished in the nineteenth century. In 2002, the much smaller Methodist Church in Ireland signed a covenant for greater cooperation and potential ultimate unity with the Church of Ireland. Smaller, but growing, protestant denominations like the Association of Baptist Churches in Ireland and the Assemblies of God Ireland are also organised on an all-Ireland basis, though in the case of the AOG this was the result of a recent reorganisation.
THE MAIN CITIES
There are 5 major settlements with city status in Northern Ireland: Armagh, Belfast, Derry, Lisburn, Newry. But Belfast and Derry are the main cities.
Belfast (from the Irish: Béal Feirste meaning "mouth of the sandbars") is the capital of and the largest city in Northern Ireland. It is the seat of devolved government and legislative Northern Ireland Assembly. It is the largest urban area in the province of Ulster, the second largest city on the island of Ireland and the 15th largest city in the United Kingdom. The city of Belfast has a population of 267,500, and lies at the heart of the Belfast urban area, which has a population of 483,418. The Belfast metropolitan area has a total population of 579,276. Belfast was granted city status in 1888.
Historically, Belfast has been a centre for the Irish linen industry (earning the nickname "Linenopolis"), tobacco production, rope-making and shipbuilding: the city's main shipbuilders, Harland and Wolff, which built the ill-fated RMS Titanic, propelled Belfast onto the global stage in the early 20th century as the largest and most productive shipyard in the world. Belfast played a key role in the Industrial Revolution, establishing its place as a global industrial centre until the latter half of the 20th century.
Today, Belfast remains a centre for industry, as well as the arts, higher education and business, a legal centre, and is the economic engine of Northern Ireland. The city suffered greatly during the period of disruption, conflict, and destruction called the Troubles, but latterly has undergone a sustained period of calm, free from the intense political violence of former years, and substantial economic and commercial growth. Belfast city centre has undergone considerable expansion and regeneration in recent years, notably around Victoria Square.
Belfast has two universities. Queen's University Belfast was founded in 1845 and is a member of the Russell Group, an association of 20 leading research-intensive universities in the UK. The University of Ulster, created in its current form in 1984, is a multi-centre university with a campus in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast. The Belfast campus has a specific focus on Art and Design and Architecture, and is currently undergoing major redevelopment.
The Belfast Education and Library Board was established in 1973 as the local authority responsible for education, youth and library services within the city. There are 184 primary, secondary and grammar schools in the city. The Ulster Museum is also located in Belfast.
Derry or Londonderry (Irish: Doire or Doire Cholmchille , meaning "Oak wood of Columba") often called the Maiden City , (a reference to its walls remaining unbreached during the Siege of Derry in 1689) is a city in Northern Ireland. It is the second largest city in Northern Ireland and the fourth largest city on the island of Ireland. The old walled city of Londonderry lies on the west bank of the River Foyle, with the location of old Derry on the east bank; the present city now covers both banks and the river is spanned by two bridges.
The population of the city proper was 83,652 in the 2001 Census. Derry is the only remaining completely intact walled city in Ireland and one of the finest examples of a walled city in Europe. The walls constitute the largest monument in State care in Northern Ireland and, as the last walled city to be built in Europe, stands as the most complete and spectacular.
The Walls were built during the period 1613-1618 by The Honourable The Irish Society as defences for early 17th century settlers from England and Scotland. The Walls, which are approximately 1 mile (1.5 km) in circumference and which vary in height and width between 12 and 35 feet (4 to 12 metres), are completely intact and form a walkway around the inner city. It is one of the few cities in Europe that never saw its fortifications breached, withstanding several sieges including one in 1689 which lasted 105 days, hence the city's nickname, The Maiden City.
The city was rebuilt in the 18th century with many of its fine Georgian style houses still surviving. The city's first bridge across the River Foyle was built in 1790. During the 18th and 19th centuries the port became an important embarkation point for Irish emigrants setting out for North America. Some of these founded the colonies of Derry and Londonderry in the state of New Hampshire.
In recent years the city, and surrounding countryside, has become well-known for its artistic legacy producing such talents as the Nobel Prizewinning poet Seamus Heaney, the poet Seamus Deane, the dramatist Brian Friel, the writer and music critic Nik Cohn, the artist Willie Doherty, the socio-political commentator and activist Eamonn McCann as well as bands such as The Undertones. The large political gable-wall murals of Bogside Artists, Free Derry Corner, the Foyle Film Festival, the Derry Walls, St Eugene's and St Columb's Cathedrals and the annual Halloween street carnival are popular tourist attractions.
TRADITIONS AND LEGENDS
Northern Ireland’s rich and unique bakery tradition is a delight for most visitors. In contrast to the rest of the British Isles, where bakeries have all but disappeared, most market towns and villages in Northern Ireland still have bustling businesses, often in their second or third generation.
Soda bread, potato farls and drop scones, wheaten and batch breads, and a selection of savouries, cakes and biscuits are the cornerstones for traditional bakeries. While each will also develop variations of fruit studded cakes, scones and sticky sweet ‘wee buns’ or ‘tray bakes’.
For at least two centuries, and arguably much longer, Ireland has exerted an important influence on the development of the traditional, popular and art musics of other regions, and in particular those of Britain and the United States. During the past decade or so, the traditional musics of the so-called Celtic regions have become a focus of international interest. The phenomenal success of shows such as Riverdance (which appeared in 1995, spawned from a 1994 Eurovision Song Contest interval act) brought Irish music and dance to a global audience and played a part in the further commoditization of Irish culture, including traditional music. However, there has been, until now, relatively little serious musicological study of the traditional music of Northern Ireland.
The History of St. Patrick
Saint Patrick was born in northern Roman Britain around 387. The son of a wealthy tax collector, Patrick's life was privileged in a comfortable Roman household. When he was 16, Patrick was captured and brought to Ireland as a slave. There he tended sheep and pigs on Slemish Mountain for six years. During these harsh days of slavery, Patrick prayed often and found a deep Christian faith. His later writings in the Confession and Letter to Coroticus describe his humility and an enduring faith even in the face of isolation and scorn.
After six years, he escaped and sailed on a boat back to his family in Britain. Freedom reinforced his Christian faith and called by God, Patrick went to France where he studied for the priesthood. He was ordained a priest and within a few years, a bishop.
Patrick chose to return to Ireland. He landed at the River Slaney. His first convert was Dichu, who gave Patrick a barn where the first church was built at Saul, County Down. Patrick travelled throughout Ireland. Patrick was a fearless and provocative missionary. The king's son Conall converted to Christianity, became a devoted follower of Patrick and protected him as he journeyed around Ireland.
Saint Patrick died in 493. His remains are believed to be buried in the grounds of Down Cathedral, Downpatrick.
The Giant's Causeway’s Legend
The Giant's Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.
Legend has it that the Irish warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) built the causeway to walk to Scotland to fight his Scottish counterpart Benandonner. One version of the legend tells that Fionn fell asleep before he got to Scotland. When he did not arrive, the much larger Benandonner crossed the bridge looking for him. To protect Fionn, his wife Oonagh laid a blanket over him so he could pretend that he was actually their baby son. In a variation, Fionn fled after seeing Benandonner's great bulk, and asked his wife to disguise him as the baby. In both versions, when Benandonner saw the size of the 'infant', he assumed the alleged father, Fionn, must be gigantic indeed. Therefore, Benandonner fled home in terror, ripping up the Causeway in case he was followed by Fionn.
The Irish peasants left to fend for themselves in a world dominated by a corrupted church, oppressive landlords and an absence of local government and medicine turned to their own imaginations to understand and order the world around them- to make their peasant culture work. Stories like Nera and the Dead Man helped children to remember rules for staying healthy and safe and to maintain sanitation. Images from the ancient tales combined with observations -the wind in the winter forest- the Banshee- helped them to explain natural occurrences.
The Sociable Fairies
1. The Sheoques: Lived in sacred thorn bushes. Thief fairy music lead humans astray. Sometimes they switched a child with a fairy child to create a changeling which they caused to die in one year.
2. The Merrows: Seen as little hornless cows but really they have fishes tails and wear a red cap (cohuleen driuth). The men have green teeth, green hair, pig's eyes and red noses- women are beautiful and prefer human mates.
The Solitary Fairies
1. The Leprechaun: The one shoemaker seen mending shoes. Catch him and get crocks of gold. A thrifty professional. Take your eyes off of him and he vanishes. Red Coat seven buttons in each row and he spins sometimes on the point of an upright hat.
2. The Cluricaun: Robbing wine cellars and riding sheep and shepherds-dogs, the live long night-found panting and mud covered in the morning.
3. The Gonconer(Ganconagh)- Love talker, Idler, appears making love to shepherdesses and milkmaids -smokes a pipe.
4. The Fear Darrig- Red man, Joker, gives evil dreams
5. The Pooka- A horse, ass, etc... takes rider on a wild ride and shakes him off in the grey of morning especially drunkards- a drunkards sleep is his kingdom. When it rains with sun shining that means he will be out that night. When berries are killed by frost it is the Pooka's spit which is upon them and they should not be eaten.
6. The Dullahan- Headless or carrying his head. Black coach, a bower with headless horses it goes to your door and if you open it a basin of blood is thrown at you- death omen.
7. Leanhaun Shee- Fairy mistresses, seeks love of men- if they refuse she is their slave- If they consent they are hers- her lovers waste away- you must find one to go in your place.
8. The Fear Gorta- Man of hunger- brings good luck to those who give him food.
9. Banshee- Fairy woman- morning- wails over dead and calls for them.
10. The Fear Sidhe: Male Fairy (there are also fairies for parts and aspects of the home, for water(sherie) light Soullh and a host of lake fairies, dragons and ghosts.)