Ulster (/ˈʌlstər/; Irish: Ulaidh pronounced [ˈul̪ˠəi] or Cúige Uladh pronounced [ˈkuːɟə ˈul̪ˠə], Ulster Scots: Ulstèr or Ulster) is a province in the north of the island of Ireland. In ancient Ireland, it was one of the fifths (Irish: cúige) ruled by a rí ruirech, or "king of over-kings".
The definition of the province was fluid from early to medieval times. It took a definitive shape in the reign of King James I of England when all the counties of Ireland were eventually shired. This process of evolving conquest had been under way since the Norman invasion of Ireland, particularly as advanced by the Cambro-Norman magnates Hugh de Lacy and John de Courcy. Ulster was a central topic role in the parliamentary debates that eventually resulted in the Government of Ireland Act 1920. Under the terms of the Act, Ireland was divided into two territories, Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland, with the border passing through the province. "Southern Ireland" was to be all of Ireland except for "the parliamentary counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone, and the parliamentary boroughs of Belfast and Londonderry [the city of Derry]" which were to constitute "Northern Ireland". The area of Northern Ireland was seen as the maximum area within which Ulster Protestants/unionists could be expected to have a safe majority, despite counties Fermanagh and Tyrone having slight Roman Catholic/Irish nationalist majorities. While these six counties and two parliamentary boroughs were all in the province of Ulster, three other counties of the province – Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan – were assigned to the Irish Free State.
Ulster has no official function for local government purposes in either jurisdiction. However, for the purposes of ISO-3166-2, Ulster is used to refer to the three counties of Cavan, Donegal and Monaghan only, which are given country sub-division code "IE-U".
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