The pre-1972 period

[Former flag of Northern Ireland]
[Click on this flag for an enlarged image.]

[Former arms of Northern Ireland]

Above: The former flag and arms of Northern Ireland.

The flag was introduced in 1953 but is a banner of arms which had been used by the Northern Ireland government since 1925. The arms of Northern Ireland were based on those of Ulster but the yellow field was changed to white, giving a design identical to the St George's Cross - the historical flag of England. The red hand of the O'Neills appears on a six-pointed star, representing the six counties which comprise Northern Ireland, and the crown emphasises the region's status as part of the United Kingdom.

[Ulster banner]
[Click on this flag for an enlarged image.]

[An Orange banner]

Above: The banner of the Ulster arms and the arms displayed on an Orange banner.

Official use of the flag was discontinued when the Stormont parliament was abolished in 1972. The flag was never accepted by northern nationalists but it continues to be widely used within the unionist community and is often seen with a Union Jack in the canton.

Right: The former flag of Northern Ireland being displayed by rugby fans.

[Rugby fans]

The unionist community

[Orange Order]
[Click on this flag for an enlarged image.]

Left: Flag of the Orange Order.

Another flag used exclusively by the unionist community is that of the Orange Order. It is usually carried with the Union Jack at the head of Orange parades. The flag is reputed to be based on Williamite colours which were carried at the battle of the Boyne (1690).

[The Crimson Flag]
[Click on this flag for an enlarged image.]

Left: The Crimson Flag

This flag was first used by the Williamite forces during the siege of Derry (1688-9). It is currently used by the Apprentice Boys of Derry.

[Flag of the UIM]
[Click on this flag for an enlarged image.]

[UIM flag on a mural]

Above: A drawing of the UIM flag (left), and the flag of the UIM together with the Scottish flag on a mural associated with the UDA's youth wing (right).

For some years past the Ulster Independence Movement (UIM) has used a flag that combines the crosses of St Patrick and St Andrew (for Scotland), together with the central badge from the formerly official flag of Northern Ireland. The flag is now in use among many loyalists apart from the members of the UIM, which remains a very minor group.

The nationalist community

[Republican parade]

Left: A Republican parade in Northern Ireland.

The nationalist community in Northern Ireland uses the same flags as are flown in the rest of Ireland: the Tricolour, the Sunburst, the Starry Plough and the provincial banners can all be seen in the picture above.