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Culture of Northern Ireland facts for kids

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The culture of Northern Ireland relates to the traditions of Northern Ireland. Elements of the culture of Ulster and the culture of the United Kingdom are to be found.


Since 1998, the Ulster Museum, Armagh Museum, Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and the Ulster American Folk Park have been administered by the National Museums and Galleries of Northern Ireland.

The Linen Hall Library, the oldest library in Belfast, has endured many changes of fortune since its foundation in 1788, but has maintained a vision of providing access to literature and local studies to the population at large.

Food and drink

Ulster Fry 2003
An Ulster fry, served in Belfast, Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland's best known chefs include Paul Rankin and Michael Deane.

The best known traditional dish in Northern Ireland is the Ulster fry. Two other popular meals are fish and chips or 'Bangers and Mash' (Sausages and Creamed Potatoes)

A unique speciality to Northern Ireland is Yellowman. Yellowman is a chewy toffee-textured honeycomb and is sold in non-standard blocks and chips and is associated with the Ould Lammas Fair in Ballycastle, County Antrim, where it is sold along with other confectionery and often dulse.

Dulse is commonly used in Ireland, where it can be used to make white soda bread. It can be found in many health food stores or fish markets and can be ordered directly from local distributors. it is also traditionally sold at the Ould Lammas Fair. It is particularly popular along the Causeway Coast. Although a fast-dying tradition, many gather their own dulse. Along the Ulster coastline from County Down to County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland, it is eaten dried and uncooked as a snack.


Multilingual sign Department Culture Leisure Arts Northern Ireland
The brand identity of the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure in Northern Ireland as shown on this sign is displayed in English, Irish and Ulster Scots

English is the most spoken language in Northern Ireland. There are also two recognised regional languages in Northern Ireland: the Irish language (see Irish language in Northern Ireland) and the local variety of Scots known as Ulster Scots. Northern Ireland Sign Language and Irish Sign Language have been recognised since 29 March 2004. A third, British Sign Language is also used.

At the 2001 census, Chinese was the most widely spoken minority language in Northern Ireland, with Shelta, Arabic and Portuguese also spoken by a significant number of people. Since the census, however, an influx of people from recent EU accession states is likely to have significantly increased numbers of speakers of languages from these countries. Detailed figures on these changes are not yet available.



Plaque poetry Writers Square Belfast Robert McAdam
Poetry by Robert McAdam (1808–1895) in paving, Writers' Square, Belfast

Despite its small geographical size, Northern Ireland prolifically produces internationally renowned writers and poets from a wide variety of disciplines. Irish language literature was the predominant literature in the pre-Plantation period. The Ulster Cycle is pertinent to the history of literature in the territory of present-day Northern Ireland. Ulster Scots literature first followed models from Scotland, with the rhyming weavers, such as James Orr, developing an indigenous tradition of vernacular literature. Writers in the counties which now form Northern Ireland participated in the Gaelic Revival.

  • John Brown
  • Ciarán Carson
  • Mairtín Crawford
  • Brian Friel
  • Seamus Heaney
  • John Hewitt
  • C. S. Lewis
  • Bernard MacLaverty
  • Louis MacNeice
  • Ian McDonald
  • Medbh McGuckian
  • Gerard McKeown
  • Paul Muldoon
  • Flann O'Brien
  • Frank Ormsby
  • Tom Paulin
  • Richard Rowley
  • Bob Shaw
  • David Park

Visual arts

Noted visual artists from Northern Ireland include:

  • Bogside Artists
  • Basil Blackshaw, born in Glengormley, Painter
  • Max Clendinning, post-modernist architect and interior designer
  • Willie Doherty, Photographer & video artist twice nominated for the Turner Prize
  • Garth Ennis, born in Holywood Co. Down, is creator of popular Vertigo series Preacher
  • Terry George, born in Co. Down, director of Hotel Rwanda
  • John Kindness, Painter and Sculptor
  • Sir John Lavery, born in Belfast, was a representative of the group known as the Irish Impressionists.
  • Neil Shawcross, painter
  • Paul Seawright, Photographer & Professor at the University of Ulster
  • Victor Sloan, MBE, Photographer
  • Sir Hans Sloane, Born in Killyleagh, Co. Down, in 1660, his famous collection was opened to the public as the British Museum in 1759
  • John Butler Yeats, Painter

Performing arts

Ulster Hall Belfast
Ulster Hall, a venue for concerts and performance.

Noted actors from Northern Ireland include:

Film and television

See also Cinema of Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Screen, a government agency financed by Invest NI and the European Regional Development Fund, provides financial support to film and television productions in Northern Ireland. Among the works it has supported is the 2011 HBO television series Game of Thrones, which is filmed principally in Belfast's Paint Hall studios and on location elsewhere in Northern Ireland.

Belfast hosts the Belfast Film Festival and the CineMagic film festival, as well as several independent cinemas including Queen's Film Theatre and Strand Cinema.


Noted musicians from Northern Ireland include:

  • Ash
  • Agnelli & Nelson
  • Brian Kennedy
  • Vivian Campbell (guitarist for Def Leppard)
  • Derek Bell
  • D Ream
  • Duke Special
  • Candida Doyle
  • The Freshmen
  • Gary Moore
  • Sir James Galway
  • General Fiasco
  • Tony McAuley
  • Neil Hannon
  • Phil Kieran
  • Ruby Murray
  • Snow Patrol
  • Stiff Little Fingers
  • Two Door Cinema Club
  • The Undertones
  • Therapy?
  • Ulster Orchestra
  • Hamilton Harty
  • Michael Alcorn
  • The Answer
  • Van Morrison and Them
  • David McWilliams
  • Foy Vance
  • VerseChorusVerse
  • In Case of Fire


August Craft Month is an annual coordinated programme of events that showcase the work of craft makers in Northern Ireland and from across the United Kingdom, Ireland and Europe. It is organised by Craft Northern Ireland.


Traditional songs commonly associated with Northern Ireland, and Belfast in particular would be I'll Tell Me Ma and Mickey Marley's Roundabout.

A traditional song of the Unionist and Loyalist communities would be The Sash, which may be considered offensive or at least distateful by the Nationalist communities, particularly when it is used to threaten or incite violence.

Symbolism and traditions

Apprentice Boys Marching Accordions
Apprentice Boys band marching in Bushmills.

Unionists tend to use the Union Flag and sometimes the Ulster Banner, while nationalists usually use the Flag of Ireland, or sometimes the Flag of Ulster. Both sides also occasionally use the flags of secular and religious organisations they belong to. Some groups, including the Irish Rugby Football Union and the Church of Ireland use the Flag of St. Patrick as a symbol of Ireland which lacks the same nationalist or unionist connotations.

The flax flower, representing the linen industry, has been used as a neutral symbol – as for the Northern Ireland Assembly.

St. Patrick's Day is celebrated by both nationalists and unionists, while "The Twelfth" is celebrated only by unionists.

Celebrations to mark the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne are held every Twelfth of July and draw huge crowds. The Apprentice Boys of Derry also organise commemorative events. The bowler hat is a symbol of Orangeism.

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