Ulster under Home Rule: A Study of the Political and Economic Problems of Northern Ireland

By Thomas Wilson | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1
ULSTER'S SIX COUNTIES

By J. M. MOGEY

1. THE ancient name of Ulster, itself a teutonic version of the still more ancient Celtic word "Uladh", is commonly applied to the six counties of Ireland that still remain within the United Kingdom: Antrim, Down, Armagh, Tyrone, Fermanagh and Londonderry. This use of the term is sometimes held to be improper on the ground that three counties of the old Province now form part of Eire -- Donegal, Monaghan and Cavan -- and the term "Northern Ireland", though also ambiguous, seems to enjoy some official favour. On the other hand, it may be fairly urged that the nine-county province was essentially a product of the English conquest, and the boundaries of the ancient Gaelic province were, to say the least of it, fluctuating and ill-determined. At all events popular usage tends to defy the pedants, and in everyday speech "Ulster" has become the title of the area. It is true that Irish republicans sometimes prefer to talk about the "Six Counties" with the intention presumably of implying that these six would be like the other counties of Ireland were it not that they had been arbitrarily lopped off by an alien power. If this, indeed, is the implication it needs to be qualified. However much one may regret the division of the island, one must accept the fact that its northern part, like the Catalan fringe of the Iberian peninsula, differs in some crucial respects from the rest of the country and has long maintained a certain consciousness of regional autonomy. The purpose of this opening chapter is to give some description of the land of Ulster and of the people who live there.

2. A glance at the map reveals that Ulster's coastline is only a few miles away from south-west Scotland. Although the crossing of these treacherous narrows must have presented more difficulty to primitive craft than the short distance would suggest, the two areas have been of immense importance to each other since prehistoric times. England was far less important to Ulster until her leadership in the British Isles made her the main political influence and even then the social and cultural links with Scotland were stronger. Southern Ireland, by contrast, was more closely associated with England and Wales and had more direct, if tenuous, links with Continental Europe.

Within Ireland, geography also fostered some degree of isolation in the

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