The main railway lines linking to and from Belfast Great Victoria Street and Belfast Central are:
- The Derry Line and the Portrush Branch
- The Larne Line
- The Bangor Line
- The Portadown Line
Only five Irish counties, all in Southern and Western Ulster, currently have no mainline railway. The historic Great Northern Railway of Ireland connected them. They are Cavan, Monaghan, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Donegal. A plan to re-link Sligo and Derry through Donegal has been postponed until at least 2030.
Flag of Ulster:
NOTE: Northern Ireland has not had a distinct flag since 1973, instead officially using only the Union Jack. The previous flag is still seen but it is mired in controversy as a sectarian banner that separates instead of uniting the people. Ulster, one of the four provinces of Ireland, includes the entirety of Northern Ireland as well as three counties in the Republic of Ireland. This is an imperfect solution to the lack of a flag for Northern Ireland but it is the one I have chosen.
The flag of Ulster is a historic banner based on the coat of arms of Ulster, used to represent Ulster, one of the four provinces of Ireland. It consists of a red cross on a gold background with a red hand on a white shield in the centre.
The flag of Ulster came about when Walter de Burgh, 1st Earl of Ulster became earl of the Earldom of Ulster in 1264. He merged the de Burgh family heraldry, which was a red cross on a yellow background with that of the Red Hand of Ulster of the Irish over-kingdom of Ulaid, which the earldom encompassed.
The de Burgh heraldry is said to have come about after Hubert de Burgh, 1st Earl of Kent had fought in the Third Crusade but had no coat of arms himself. He carried a gold colored shield into battle. Following a battle, King Richard the Lionheart of England gave de Burgh a coat of arms by dipping his finger into the blood of a Saracen slain at the feet of de Burgh and marked a red cross onto de Burgh’s shield; stating “for your bravery, this shall be your crest”.
The origin of the Red Hand of Ulster however is shrouded in mystery, with a popular legend saying that in the race to claim the kingship of Ulster, the first man to lay his hand on the province would have claim to it. This led one man to chop off his hand and throw it over his comrades.
There was dispute throughout the early modern period over which Irish clan had the right to it. Either the Magennises who were the ruling dynasty of the Uí Echach Cobo, part of the original Ulaid, or the O’Neill’s, the ruling dynasty of the Cenél nEógain, who after 1317 claimed the kingship of Ulaid for the first time. Eventually in 1908 the then head of the O’Neill clan admitted that it originally belonged to the Magennises.
There is often debate as to if a dexter (right) or sinister (left) hand is to be used on the flag. While usually a right hand is used on the flag, several organizations such as the former 36th (Ulster) Division that also used a left hand. The symbols also appear in heraldry for some of the counties of Ulster. The counties of Antrim, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone all use a right red hand in their coats of arms. County Louth also use a right hand but theirs is skin colored as it symbolizes the hand of God rather than the red hand of Ulster.