The "Ulster Banner" is one name that was given to the flag, which can be referred to as "the [former] flag of Northern Ireland", the "[former] Northern Ireland flag", the "Red Hand Flag" or as the "Ulster Flag" (not to be confused with the provincial Flag of Ulster). The Ulster Banner was the official flag that was used to represent the Government of Northern Ireland from 1953 to 1973. In common with other British flags, any civic status of the flag was not defined in a de jure manner.
In 1924, the Government of Northern Ireland was granted arms by Royal Warrant and had the right to display these arms on a flag or banner. This right was exercised for the Coronation in 1953. Between 1953 and 1972, this flag was the arms of the Government of Northern Ireland. It ceased to have official government sanction when the Parliament of Northern Ireland was dissolved by the British government under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973, but remains the only flag to date which represents Northern Ireland at international level in sport.
The flag is based on the flag of England and the flag of the province of Ulster, with the addition of a crown to symbolise the loyalty of Ulster unionists to the British Monarchy. As with the flag of the province of Ulster, it contains the Red Hand of Ulster at the centre. There is a dispute as to the meaning of the star, with some maintaining it is the Star of David, and others say it represents the six counties that make up Northern Ireland.
The flag is used within the unionist community, along with the Union Flag. A variation of the flag places the Union Flag in the Canton, and defaced with the red hand and the outline of a map of Northern Ireland on the Union Flag. It is regularly displayed by fans of the Northern Ireland national football team. It is also used to represent Northern Ireland at the Commonwealth Games.