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Flag of Northern Ireland

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Title: Flag of Northern Ireland  
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Subject: Flag of England, Flag of Wales, Outline of Northern Ireland, Flag of Scotland, UKFlags
Collection: Flags of Northern Ireland
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Flag of Northern Ireland

St Patrick's Saltire is sometimes used by the British government to represent Northern Ireland.
The Union Flag is flown on designated days from some government buildings in Northern Ireland; Northern Ireland is represented in the flag through the St Patrick's Saltire

Northern Ireland has not had its own unique, government-sanctioned flag since the Northern Ireland parliament and government were prorogued in 1972, and abolished in 1973.[1] During official events, the British government uses the Union Flag, which is the official flag of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and is the only flag used by the government in Northern Ireland.[2]

The Saint Patrick's Saltire is sometimes used by the government to represent Northern Ireland alongside the other countries of the United Kingdom, and is the centrepiece of the badge of the Police Service of Northern Ireland.


  • FOTW: Northern Ireland
  • CAIN: Flags in Northern Ireland
  • The Union Flags and flags of the United Kingdom

External links

  1. ^ Under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973
  2. ^ The Union Flag and flags of the United Kingdom
  3. ^ – Football Europe
  4. ^
  5. ^
  6. ^ a b Encyclopaedia Britannica says: 'According to British tradition, a coat of arms or flag is granted to the government of a territory, not to the people residing there. Therefore, when the government of Northern Ireland was disbanded in March 1972, its arms and flag officially disappeared; however, the flag continues to be used by groups (such as sports teams) representing the territory in an unofficial manner in sport.'
  7. ^ Northern Ireland (United Kingdom)
  8. ^ CAIN: Symbols – Flags Used in Northern Ireland
  9. ^ Northern Ireland (United Kingdom)
  10. ^ The Flags Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2000
  11. ^ Transforming Conflict: Flags and Emblems by Dominic Bryan and Gordon Gillespie, Institute of Irish Studies, Queen's University, Belfast, March 2005
  12. ^
  13. ^ Dominic Bryan & Gordon Gillespie (2005) Transforming Conflict: Flags and Emblems, Belfast: Institute of Irish Studies, Queens University Belfast
  14. ^ The National Flag, Department of the Taoiseach
  15. ^ Belfast Agreement, section: "Economic, Social and Cultural Issues", para. 5
  16. ^ Tension over flag flying at BBC News
  17. ^ Flagging concern: the controversy over flags and emblems
  18. ^ HC Deb 22 July 1986 vol 102 c111W
  19. ^ HC Deb 25 July 1986 vol 102 c571W
  20. ^
  21. ^


See also

Saint Patrick's Saltire, a red Welsh Dragon.[18] The government clarified that the Union Flag was the flag of Northern Ireland, not the Saint Patrick's Saltire or the Ulster Banner.[19] In 2008, David McNarry suggested it should be allowed in Northern Irish number plates analogous to the flags allowed on English, Scottish, and Welsh plates.[20] The barge Gloriana during the 2012 Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant flew flags for the four 'home nations' of the United Kingdom, including the Saint Patrick's Cross for Northern Ireland.[21]

St Patrick's Saltire flying for Northern Ireland at the 2011 Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Saint Patrick's Saltire

All signatories to the Belfast Agreement also declare their acceptance of the 'principle of consent' (i.e. that there will be no change to the constitutional position of Northern Ireland unless a majority votes for it), and Unionists argued that this provision amounts to recognising that the Union Flag is the only legitimate official flag in Northern Ireland. The problem was discussed in detail and various proposals made including suggestions for a new flag.[17]

Nationalists pointed to this to argue that the use of the Union Flag for official purposes should be restricted, or that the Irish tricolour should be flown alongside the British flag on government buildings. Sinn Féin ministers in the power-sharing Northern Ireland Executive instructed that the Union Flag was not to fly from buildings operated by their respective departments.[16] This power was removed from ministers by virtue of the Flag Regulations (Northern Ireland) Order 2000, mentioned above.

All participants acknowledge the sensitivity of the use of symbols and emblems for public purposes, and the need in particular in creating the new institutions to ensure that such symbols and emblems are used in a manner which promotes mutual respect rather than division.[15]

After the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, flags continue to be a source of disagreement in Northern Ireland. The Agreement states that:

Peace process

In sport, the Ulster Banner is carried by the Northern Ireland team in the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony. It is also regularly displayed by supporters of the Northern Ireland national football team and is displayed by FIFA as the flag of Northern Ireland.

In Northern Ireland, some members from each of the unionist and nationalist communities use flags to declare their political allegiances and to mark territory.[13] Unionists and loyalists fly the Union Flag and Ulster Banner to show their support for the union and/or their allegiance to Northern Ireland. Irish nationalists and republicans fly the Irish tricolour to show their support for a United Ireland. The Irish tricolour is intended to symbolise peace (represented by the colour white) between Catholics (green) and Protestants (orange).[14]

The Irish tricolour is flown by northern nationalists in support of a united Ireland

Displaying flags

In 2004, Belfast City Council commissioned a study on the flying of flags which noted that the Ulster banner was flown alongside the Union flag by a number of local authorities in Northern Ireland. These included Ards Borough Council, Carrickfergus Borough Council and Castlereagh Borough Council.[12]

Legislation relating to flag flying does not apply to District Council buildings, and District Councils follow a range of practices varying from flying the Union Flag on a number of council buildings every day of the year as at Lisburn, to flying no flags on any building, flying only the council flag or flying flags on the designated days in the same way as government buildings.[11]

Local authorities

Other regulations exist for other public bodies in Northern Ireland. Use of flags by the Police Service of Northern Ireland is governed by the Police Emblems and Flags Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2002, which provides that no flag shall be used by the Service other than its own flag.

The regulations also provides that, on the occasion of a visit to a government building by the British Monarch, the Royal Standard shall be flown and the Union Flag can be flown, and on state visits from other heads of state the Union Flag and the national flag of the country of the visitor can be flown. Where two flagpoles exist, the flag of Europe should be flown on Europe Day alongside the Union flag. The regulations prohibit any flags being flown from the relevant buildings except as expressly permitted by the regulations.[10]

There are various practices for the flying of flags by public bodies in Northern Ireland. The Flags Regulations (Northern Ireland) Order 2000 requires that the Union Flag be flown over specified government buildings including Parliament Buildings and state offices on specified 'named days' (honouring, for example Queen Elizabeth II's official birthday).

Official use of flags

The flag is based on the flag of England[7][8] and the flag of the province of Ulster.[9] As with the flag of the province of Ulster, it contains the Red Hand of Ulster at the centre. The points of the star represent the six counties that make up Northern Ireland.

In 1924, the Government of Northern Ireland was granted arms (the Coat of arms of Northern Ireland) by Royal Warrant and had the right to display these arms on a flag or banner. This right was exercised for the Coronation in 1953. Between 1953 and 1972, this flag was the arms of the Government of Northern Ireland. When the Parliament of Northern Ireland was dissolved by the British government under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973, the flag ceased to have official standing but remains the only flag to date which represents Northern Ireland at international level in sport.[6]

The 'Ulster Banner'[5] is one name that was given to the flag, which may be referred to as 'the flag of Northern Ireland', the '[former] Northern Ireland flag', the 'Red Hand Flag' or as the 'Ulster Flag' (not to be confused with the provincial Flag of Ulster). The Ulster Banner was the official flag that was used to represent the Government of Northern Ireland from 1953 to 1973. In common with other British flags, any civic status of the flag was not defined in law.[6]

Design used in the past, but now abandonedThe Ulster Banner – used officially by the former Government of Northern Ireland (1953–1972)

Flag of the Government of Northern Ireland (1953–1973)


  • Flag of the Government of Northern Ireland (1953–1973) 1
  • Official use of flags 2
    • Local authorities 2.1
  • Displaying flags 3
    • Peace process 3.1
  • Saint Patrick's Saltire 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Neither the Saint Patrick's Saltire nor the Ulster Banner may be flown on government buildings in Northern Ireland.[4]


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