Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland (Irish: Tuaisceart Éireann [ˈt̪ˠuəʃcəɾˠt̪ˠ ˈeːɾʲən̪ˠ] (listen);[7] Ulster-Scots: Norlin Airlann) is a part of the United Kingdom in the north-east of the island of Ireland,[8][9] variously described as a country, province or region.[10][11][12] Northern Ireland shares a border to the south and west with the Republic of Ireland. In 2011, its population was 1,810,863,[4] constituting about 30% of the island's total population and about 3% of the UK's population. Established by the Northern Ireland Act 1998 as part of the Good Friday Agreement, the Northern Ireland Assembly holds responsibility for a range of devolved policy matters, while other areas are reserved for the British government. Northern Ireland co-operates with the Republic of Ireland in some areas, and the Agreement granted the Republic the ability to "put forward views and proposals" with "determined efforts to resolve disagreements between the two governments".[13]

Northern Ireland was created in 1921, when Ireland was partitioned between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland by the Government of Ireland Act 1920. Unlike Southern Ireland, which would become the Irish Free State in 1922, the majority of Northern Ireland's population were unionists, who wanted to remain within the United Kingdom.[14] Most of these were the Protestant descendants of colonists from Great Britain. However, a significant minority, mostly Catholics, were nationalists who wanted a united Ireland independent of British rule.[15][16][17][18] Today, the former generally see themselves as British and the latter generally see themselves as Irish, while a distinct Northern Irish or Ulster identity is claimed both by a large minority of Catholics and Protestants and by many of those who are non-aligned.[19]

For most of the 20th century, when it came into existence, Northern Ireland was marked by discrimination and hostility between these two sides in what First Minister of Northern Ireland, David Trimble, called a "cold house" for Catholics. In the late 1960s, conflict between state forces and chiefly Protestant unionists on the one hand, and chiefly Catholic nationalists on the other, erupted into three decades of violence known as the Troubles, which claimed over 3,500 lives and caused over 50,000 casualties.[20][21] The 1998 Good Friday Agreement was a major step in the peace process, including the decommissioning of weapons, although sectarianism and religious segregation still remain major social problems, and sporadic violence has continued.[22]

Northern Ireland has historically been the most industrialised region of Ireland. After declining as a result of the political and social turmoil of the Troubles,[23] its economy has grown significantly since the late 1990s. The initial growth came from the "peace dividend" and the links which increased trade with the Republic of Ireland, continuing with a significant increase in tourism, investment and business from around the world. Unemployment in Northern Ireland peaked at 17.2% in 1986, dropping to 6.1% for June–August 2014 and down by 1.2 percentage points over the year,[24] similar to the UK figure of 6.2%.[25] 58.2% of those unemployed had been unemployed for over a year.

Prominent artists and sportspeople from Northern Ireland include Van Morrison, Rory McIlroy, Joey Dunlop, Wayne McCullough and George Best. Some people from Northern Ireland prefer to identify as Irish (e.g., poet Seamus Heaney and actor Liam Neeson) while others prefer to identify as British (e.g. actor Sir Kenneth Branagh). Cultural links between Northern Ireland, the rest of Ireland, and the rest of the UK are complex, with Northern Ireland sharing both the culture of Ireland and the culture of the United Kingdom. In many sports, the island of Ireland fields a single team, a notable exception being association football. Northern Ireland competes separately at the Commonwealth Games, and people from Northern Ireland may compete for either Great Britain or Ireland at the Olympic Games.

Northern Ireland

Location of Northern Ireland (dark green) – in Europe (green & dark grey) – in the United Kingdom (green)
Location of Northern Ireland (dark green)

– in Europe (green & dark grey)
– in the United Kingdom (green)

StatusCountry (constituent unit)
Capital
and largest city
Belfast
54°36′N 5°55′W / 54.600°N 5.917°W
Languages[b]English
Regional languages
Ethnic groups
(2011)
GovernmentConsociational devolved legislature within unitary constitutional monarchy
• Monarch
Elizabeth II
Vacant
Vacant
Parliament of the United Kingdom
• Secretary of StateKaren Bradley
• House of Commons18 MPs (of 650)
LegislatureNorthern Ireland Assembly
Devolution
3 May 1921
18 July 1973
17 July 1974
19 November 1998
Area
• Total
14,130 km2 (5,460 sq mi)[2]
Population
• 2019 estimate
Increase 1,885,400[3]
• 2011 census
1,810,863[4]
• Density
133/km2 (344.5/sq mi)
GVA2016 estimate
 • Total£37 billion[5]
 • Per capita£20,000
HDI (2017)0.899[6]
very high
CurrencyPound sterling (GBP£)
Time zoneUTC (Greenwich Mean Time)
• Summer (DST)
UTC+1 (British Summer Time)
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy (AD)
Driving sideleft
Calling code+44[c]
ISO 3166 codeGB-NIR
  1. The official flag of Northern Ireland is the Union Jack de jure. However, the Ulster Banner was used by the Parliament of Northern Ireland from 1953 to 1973 and is still used by some organisations and entities, and is seen as the unofficial flag of the region by unionists but its use is controversial. See Flag of Northern Ireland for more.
  2. ^ Northern Ireland has no official language. English serves as the de facto language of government and diplomacy and has been established through precedent. Irish and Ulster Scots are officially recognised by Her Majesty's Government as minority languages.
  3. ^ +44 is always followed by 28 when calling landlines. The code is 028 within the UK and 048 from the Republic of Ireland where it is treated as a domestic call.

History

Cannon on Derry City Walls SMC 2007
Cannon on Derry's city walls

The region that is now Northern Ireland was the bedrock of the Irish war of resistance against English programmes of colonialism in the late 16th century. The English-controlled Kingdom of Ireland had been declared by the English king Henry VIII in 1542, but Irish resistance made English control fragmentary. Following Irish defeat at the Battle of Kinsale, though, the region's Gaelic, Roman Catholic aristocracy fled to continental Europe in 1607 and the region became subject to major programmes of colonialism by Protestant English (mainly Anglican) and Scottish (mainly Presbyterian) settlers. A rebellion in 1641 by Irish aristocrats against English rule resulted in a massacre of settlers in Ulster in the context of a war breaking out between England, Scotland and Ireland fuelled by religious intolerance in government. Victories by English forces in that war and further Protestant victories in the Williamite War in Ireland (1688–1691) toward the close of the 17th century solidified Anglican rule in Ireland. In Northern Ireland, the victories of the Siege of Derry (1689) and the Battle of the Boyne (1690) in this latter war are still celebrated by some Protestants (both Anglican and Presbyterian).[26][27]

Popes Innocent XI and Alexander VIII had supported William of Orange instead of his maternal uncle and father-in-law James II, despite William being Protestant and James a Catholic, due to William's participation in alliance with both Protesant and Catholic powers in Europe in wars against Louis XIV (the "Sun King"), the powerful King of France who had been in conflict with the papacy for decades. In 1693, however, Pope Innocent XII recognised James as continuing King of Great Britain and Ireland in place of William, after reconciliation with Louis. In 1695, and contrary to the terms of the Treaty of Limerick (October 1691), a series of penal laws were passed by the Anglican ruling class in Ireland in intense anger at the Pope's recognition of James over William, which was felt to be a betrayal. The intention of the laws was to materially disadvantage the Catholic community and, to a lesser extent, the Presbyterian community. In the context of open institutional discrimination, the 18th century saw secret, militant societies develop in communities in the region and act on sectarian tensions in violent attacks. These events escalated at the end of the century following an event known as the Battle of the Diamond, which saw the supremacy of the Anglican and Presbyterian Peep o'Day Boys over the Catholic Defenders and leading to the formation of the Anglican Orange Order. A rebellion in 1798 led by the cross-community Belfast-based Society of the United Irishmen and inspired by the French Revolution sought to break the constitutional ties between Ireland and Britain and unite Irish people of all religions. Following this, in an attempt to quell sectarianism and force the removal of discriminatory laws (and to prevent the spread of French-style republicanism to Ireland), the government of the Kingdom of Great Britain pushed for the two kingdoms to be merged. The new state, formed in 1801, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, was governed from a single government and parliament based in London.

Some 250,000 people from Ulster emigrated to the British North American colonies between 1717 and 1775.[28] It is estimated that there are more than 27 million Scotch-Irish Americans now living in the United States,[29] along with many Scotch-Irish Canadians in Canada.

Partition of Ireland

Carson signing Solemn League and Covenant
Signing of the Ulster Covenant in 1912 in opposition to Home Rule

During the 19th century, legal reforms started in the late 18th century continued to remove statutory discrimination against Catholics, and progressive programmes enabled tenant farmers to buy land from landlords. By the close of the century, autonomy for Ireland within the United Kingdom, known as Home Rule, was regarded as highly likely. In 1912, after decades of obstruction from the House of Lords, Home Rule became a near-certainty. A clash between the House of Commons and House of Lords over a controversial budget produced the Parliament Act 1911, which enabled the veto of the Lords to be overturned. The House of Lords veto had been the unionists' main guarantee that Home Rule would not be enacted because the majority of members of the House of Lords were unionists. In response, opponents to Home Rule, from Conservative and Unionist Party leaders such as Bonar Law and Dublin-based barrister Sir Edward Carson to militant working class unionists in Ireland, threatened the use of violence. In 1914, they smuggled thousands of rifles and rounds of ammunition from Imperial Germany for use by the Ulster Volunteers (UVF), a paramilitary organisation opposed to the implementation of Home Rule.

Unionists were in a minority in Ireland as a whole, but in the northern province of Ulster they were a very large majority in County Antrim and County Down, small majorities in County Armagh and County Londonderry and a substantial minority in Ulster's five other counties.[30] The four counties named, along with County Fermanagh and County Tyrone, would later constitute Northern Ireland. Most of the remaining 26 counties which later became the Republic of Ireland were overwhelmingly majority-nationalist.

During the Home Rule Crisis the possibility was discussed of a "temporary" partition of these six counties from the rest of Ireland. In 1914, the Third Home Rule Bill received Royal Assent as the Government of Ireland Act 1914. However, its implementation was suspended before it came into effect because of the outbreak of the First World War, and the Amending Bill to partition Ireland was abandoned. The war was expected to last only a few weeks but in fact, lasted four years. By the end of the war (during which the 1916 Easter Rising had taken place), the Act was seen as unimplementable. Public opinion among nationalists had shifted during the war from a demand for home rule to one for full independence. In 1919, David Lloyd George proposed a new bill be established by the cabinet's Walter Long Committee on Ireland, which by adopting findings of his (Lloyd George's) inconclusive 1917-18 Irish Convention would divide Ireland into two Home Rule areas: twenty-six counties being ruled from Dublin and six being ruled from Belfast. Straddling these two areas would be a shared Lord Lieutenant of Ireland who would appoint both governments and a Council of Ireland, which Lloyd George believed would evolve into an all-Ireland parliament.[31]

Events overtook the government. The pro-independence Sinn Féin won 73 of the 105 parliamentary seats in Ireland at the general election of 1918, and unilaterally established the First Dáil, an extrajudicial parliament in Ireland. Ireland was partitioned between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland in 1921, under the terms of Lloyd George's Government of Ireland Act 1920,[32] during the Anglo-Irish War between Irish republican and British forces. A truce was established on 11 July; the war ended on 6 December 1921 with the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, which created the Irish Free State. Under the terms of the treaty, Northern Ireland would become part of the Free State unless the government opted out by presenting an address to the king, although in practice partition remained in place.[33]

Northern Ireland

Coat of Arms of Northern Ireland
The Coat of Arms of Northern Ireland used between 1924 and 1973
Opening of the new Northern Ireland Parliament Buildings
Opening of Stormont in 1932

As expected, the Houses of the Parliament of Northern Ireland resolved on 7 December 1922 (the day after the establishment of the Irish Free State) to exercise its right to opt out of the Free State by making an address to the King.[34] The text of the address was:

Most Gracious Sovereign, We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Senators and Commons of Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, having learnt of the passing of the Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922, being the Act of Parliament for the ratification of the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great Britain and Ireland, do, by this humble Address, pray your Majesty that the powers of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State shall no longer extend to Northern Ireland.[35][36]

Shortly afterwards, the Boundary Commission was established to decide on the territorial boundaries between the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. Owing to the outbreak of civil war in the Free State, the work of the commission was delayed until 1925. Leaders in Dublin expected a substantial reduction in the territory of Northern Ireland, with nationalist areas moving to the Free State. However, the commission's report recommended only that some small portions of land should be ceded from Northern Ireland to the Free State and even that a small amount of land should be ceded from the Free State to Northern Ireland. To prevent argument, this report was suppressed and, in exchange for a waiver to the Free State's obligations to the UK's public debt and the dissolution of the Council of Ireland (sought by the Government of Northern Ireland), the initial six-county border was maintained with no changes.

In June 1940, to encourage the neutral Irish state to join with the Allies, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill indicated to the Taoiseach Éamon de Valera that the United Kingdom would push for Irish unity, but believing that Churchill could not deliver, de Valera declined the offer.[37] The British did not inform the Government of Northern Ireland that they had made the offer to the Dublin government, and De Valera's rejection was not publicised until 1970.

The Ireland Act 1949 gave the first legal guarantee that the region would not cease to be part of the United Kingdom without the consent of the Parliament of Northern Ireland.

The Troubles

The Troubles, which started in the late 1960s, consisted of about thirty years of recurring acts of intense violence during which 3,254 people were killed[38] with over 50,000 casualties.[39] From 1969 to 2003 there were over 36,900 shooting incidents and over 16,200 bombings or attempted bombings associated with The Troubles.[40] The conflict was caused by the disputed status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom and the discrimination against the Irish nationalist minority by the dominant unionist majority.[41] From 1967 to 1972 the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA), which modelled itself on the US civil rights movement, led a campaign of civil resistance to anti-Catholic discrimination in housing, employment, policing, and electoral procedures. The franchise for local government elections included only rate-payers and their spouses, and so excluded over a quarter of the electorate. While the majority of disenfranchised electors were Protestant, Catholics were over-represented since they were poorer and had more adults still living in the family home.[42]

Troubles deaths by perpetrator
Responsibility for Troubles-related deaths between 1969 and 2001

NICRA's campaign, seen by many unionists as an Irish republican front, and the violent reaction to it, proved to be a precursor to a more violent period.[43] As early as 1969, armed campaigns of paramilitary groups began, including the Provisional IRA campaign of 1969–1997 which was aimed at the end of British rule in Northern Ireland and the creation of a United Ireland, and the Ulster Volunteer Force, formed in 1966 in response to the perceived erosion of both the British character and unionist domination of Northern Ireland. The state security forces – the British Army and the police (the Royal Ulster Constabulary) – were also involved in the violence. The British government's position is that its forces were neutral in the conflict, trying to uphold law and order in Northern Ireland and the right of the people of Northern Ireland to democratic self-determination. Republicans regarded the state forces as combatants in the conflict, pointing to the collusion between the state forces and the loyalist paramilitaries as proof of this. The "Ballast" investigation by the Police Ombudsman has confirmed that British forces, and in particular the RUC, did collude with loyalist paramilitaries, were involved in murder, and did obstruct the course of justice when such claims had been investigated,[44] although the extent to which such collusion occurred is still hotly disputed.

As a consequence of the worsening security situation, autonomous regional government for Northern Ireland was suspended in 1972. Alongside the violence, there was a political deadlock between the major political parties in Northern Ireland, including those who condemned violence, over the future status of Northern Ireland and the form of government there should be within Northern Ireland. In 1973, Northern Ireland held a referendum to determine if it should remain in the United Kingdom, or be part of a united Ireland. The vote went heavily in favour (98.9%) of maintaining the status quo. Approximately 57.5% of the total electorate voted in support, but only 1% of Catholics voted following a boycott organised by the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP).[45]

Peace process

The Troubles were brought to an uneasy end by a peace process which included the declaration of ceasefires by most paramilitary organisations and the complete decommissioning of their weapons, the reform of the police, and the corresponding withdrawal of army troops from the streets and from sensitive border areas such as South Armagh and Fermanagh, as agreed by the signatories to the Belfast Agreement (commonly known as the "Good Friday Agreement"). This reiterated the long-held British position, which had never before been fully acknowledged by successive Irish governments, that Northern Ireland will remain within the United Kingdom until a majority of voters in Northern Ireland decides otherwise. The Constitution of Ireland was amended in 1999 to remove a claim of the "Irish nation" to sovereignty over the entire island (in Article 2).[46]

Scottish and Northern Ireland Ministers
First Minister Ian Paisley (DUP) center, his deputy Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin) left, and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond right in 2008.

The new Articles 2 and 3, added to the Constitution to replace the earlier articles, implicitly acknowledge that the status of Northern Ireland, and its relationships within the rest of the United Kingdom and with the Republic of Ireland, would only be changed with the agreement of a majority of voters in each jurisdiction. This aspect was also central to the Belfast Agreement which was signed in 1998 and ratified by referendums held simultaneously in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. At the same time, the British Government recognised for the first time, as part of the prospective, the so-called "Irish dimension": the principle that the people of the island of Ireland as a whole have the right, without any outside interference, to solve the issues between North and South by mutual consent.[47] The latter statement was key to winning support for the agreement from nationalists. It established a devolved power-sharing government within Northern Ireland, which must consist of both unionist and nationalist parties. These institutions were suspended by the British Government in 2002 after Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) allegations of spying by people working for Sinn Féin at the Assembly (Stormontgate). The resulting case against the accused Sinn Féin member collapsed.[48][49]

On 28 July 2005, the Provisional IRA declared an end to its campaign and has since decommissioned what is thought to be all of its arsenal. This final act of decommissioning was performed in accordance with the Belfast Agreement of 1998 and under the watch of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning and two external church witnesses. Many unionists, however, remain sceptical. The International Commission later confirmed that the main loyalist paramilitary groups, the UDA, UVF and the Red Hand Commando, had decommissioned what is thought to be all of their arsenals, witnessed by a former archbishop and a former top civil servant.[50]

Politicians elected to the Assembly at the 2003 Assembly election were called together on 15 May 2006 under the Northern Ireland Act 2006[51] for the purpose of electing a First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and choosing the members of an Executive (before 25 November 2006) as a preliminary step to the restoration of devolved government.

Following the election held on 7 March 2007, devolved government returned on 8 May 2007 with Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Féin deputy leader Martin McGuinness taking office as First Minister and deputy First Minister, respectively.[52] In its white paper on Brexit the United Kingdom government reiterated its commitment to the Belfast Agreement. With regard to Northern Ireland's status, it said that the UK Government's "clearly-stated preference is to retain Northern Ireland’s current constitutional position: as part of the UK, but with strong links to Ireland".[53]

Politics

Background

The main political divide in Northern Ireland is between unionists, who wish to see Northern Ireland continue as part of the United Kingdom, and nationalists, who wish to see Northern Ireland unified with the Republic of Ireland, independent from the United Kingdom. These two opposing views are linked to deeper cultural divisions. Unionists are predominantly Ulster Protestant, descendants of mainly Scottish, English, and Huguenot settlers as well as Gaels who converted to one of the Protestant denominations. Nationalists are overwhelmingly Catholic and descend from the population predating the settlement, with a minority from the Scottish Highlands as well as some converts from Protestantism. Discrimination against nationalists under the Stormont government (1921–1972) gave rise to the civil rights movement in the 1960s.[54]

While some unionists argue that discrimination was not just due to religious or political bigotry, but also the result of more complex socio-economic, socio-political and geographical factors,[55] its existence, and the manner in which nationalist anger at it was handled, were a major contributing factor to the Troubles. The political unrest went through its most violent phase between 1968 and 1994.[56]

In 2007, 36% of the population defined themselves as unionist, 24% as nationalist and 40% defined themselves as neither.[57] According to a 2015 opinion poll, 70% express a long-term preference of the maintenance of Northern Ireland's membership of the United Kingdom (either directly ruled or with devolved government), while 14% express a preference for membership of a united Ireland.[58] This discrepancy can be explained by the overwhelming preference among Protestants to remain a part of the UK (93%), while Catholic preferences are spread across a number of solutions to the constitutional question including remaining a part of the UK (47%), a united Ireland (32%), Northern Ireland becoming an independent state (4%), and those who "don't know" (16%).[59]

Official voting figures, which reflect views on the "national question" along with issues of candidate, geography, personal loyalty and historic voting patterns, show 54% of Northern Ireland voters vote for unionist parties, 42% vote for nationalist parties and 4% vote "other". Opinion polls consistently show that the election results are not necessarily an indication of the electorate's stance regarding the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Most of the population of Northern Ireland are at least nominally Christian, mostly Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations. Many voters (regardless of religious affiliation) are attracted to unionism's conservative policies, while other voters are instead attracted to the traditionally leftist Sinn Féin and SDLP and their respective party platforms for democratic socialism and social democracy.[60]

For the most part, Protestants feel a strong connection with Great Britain and wish for Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. Many Catholics however, generally aspire to a United Ireland or are less certain about how to solve the constitutional question. In the 2015 survey by Northern Ireland Life and Times, 47% of Northern Irish Catholics supported Northern Ireland remaining a part of the United Kingdom, either by direct rule (6%) or devolved government (41%).

Protestants have a slight majority in Northern Ireland, according to the latest Northern Ireland Census. The make-up of the Northern Ireland Assembly reflects the appeals of the various parties within the population. Of the 108 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), 56 are unionists and 40 are nationalists (the remaining 12 are classified as "other").

Governance

StormontGeneral
Parliament Buildings at Stormont, Belfast, seat of the assembly.

Since 1998, Northern Ireland has had devolved government within the United Kingdom, presided over by the Northern Ireland Assembly and a cross-community government (the Northern Ireland Executive). The UK Government and UK Parliament are responsible for reserved and excepted matters. Reserved matters comprise listed policy areas (such as civil aviation, units of measurement, and human genetics) that Parliament may devolve to the Assembly some time in the future. Excepted matters (such as international relations, taxation and elections) are never expected to be considered for devolution. On all other governmental matters, the Executive together with the 90-member Assembly may legislate for and govern Northern Ireland. Devolution in Northern Ireland is dependent upon participation by members of the Northern Ireland executive in the North/South Ministerial Council, which coordinates areas of co-operation (such as agriculture, education and health) between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Additionally, "in recognition of the Irish Government's special interest in Northern Ireland", the Government of Ireland and Government of the United Kingdom co-operate closely on non-devolved matters through the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.

Elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly are by single transferable vote with five Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) elected from each of 18 parliamentary constituencies. In addition, eighteen representatives (Members of Parliament, MPs) are elected to the lower house of the UK parliament from the same constituencies using the first-past-the-post system. However, not all of those elected take their seats. Sinn Féin MPs, currently seven, refuse to take the oath to serve the Queen that is required before MPs are allowed to take their seats. In addition, the upper house of the UK parliament, the House of Lords, currently has some 25 appointed members from Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland itself forms a single constituency for elections to the European Parliament.

The Northern Ireland Office represents the UK government in Northern Ireland on reserved matters and represents Northern Ireland's interests within the UK Government. Additionally, the Republic's government also has the right to "put forward views and proposals" on non-devolved matters in relation to Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Office is led by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who sits in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom.

Northern Ireland is a distinct legal jurisdiction, separate from the two other jurisdictions in the United Kingdom (England and Wales, and Scotland). Northern Ireland law developed from Irish law that existed before the partition of Ireland in 1921. Northern Ireland is a common law jurisdiction and its common law is similar to that in England and Wales. However, there are important differences in law and procedure between Northern Ireland and England and Wales. The body of statute law affecting Northern Ireland reflects the history of Northern Ireland, including Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the Northern Ireland Assembly, the former Parliament of Northern Ireland and the Parliament of Ireland, along with some Acts of the Parliament of England and of the Parliament of Great Britain that were extended to Ireland under Poynings' Law between 1494 and 1782.

Descriptions

There is no generally accepted term to describe what Northern Ireland is: province, region, country or something else.[10][11][12] The choice of term can be controversial and can reveal the writer's political preferences.[11] This has been noted as a problem by several writers on Northern Ireland, with no generally recommended solution.[10][11][12]

Owing in part to the way in which the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland, came into being, there is no legally defined term to describe what Northern Ireland 'is'. There is also no uniform or guiding way to refer to Northern Ireland amongst the agencies of the UK government. For example, the websites of the Office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom[61] and the UK Statistics Authority describe the United Kingdom as being made up of four countries, one of these being Northern Ireland.[62] Other pages on the same websites refer to Northern Ireland specifically as a "province" as do publications of the UK Statistics Authority.[63][64] The website of the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency also refers to Northern Ireland as being a province[65] as does the website of the Office of Public Sector Information[66] and other agencies within Northern Ireland.[67] Publications of HM Treasury[68] and the Department of Finance and Personnel of the Northern Ireland Executive,[69] on the other hand, describe Northern Ireland as being a "region of the UK". The UK's submission to the 2007 United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names defines the UK as being made up of two countries (England and Scotland), one principality (Wales) and one province (Northern Ireland).[70]

Unlike England, Scotland and Wales, Northern Ireland has no history of being an independent country or of being a nation in its own right.[71] Some writers describe the United Kingdom as being made up of three countries and one province[72] or point out the difficulties with calling Northern Ireland a country.[73] Authors writing specifically about Northern Ireland dismiss the idea that Northern Ireland is a "country" in general terms,[10][12][74][75] and draw contrasts in this respect with England, Scotland and Wales.[76] Even for the period covering the first 50 years of Northern Ireland's existence, the term country is considered inappropriate by some political scientists on the basis that many decisions were still made in London.[71] The absence of a distinct nation of Northern Ireland, separate within the island of Ireland, is also pointed out as being a problem with using the term[12][77][78] and is in contrast to England, Scotland, and Wales.[79]

Many commentators prefer to use the term "province", although that is also not without problems. It can arouse irritation, particularly among nationalists, for whom the title province is properly reserved for the traditional province of Ulster, of which Northern Ireland comprises six out of nine counties.[11][73] The BBC style guide is to refer to Northern Ireland as a province, and use of the term is common in literature and newspaper reports on Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. Some authors have described the meaning of this term as being equivocal: referring to Northern Ireland as being a province both of the United Kingdom and of the traditional country of Ireland.[77]

"Region" is used by several UK government agencies and the European Union. Some authors choose this word but note that it is "unsatisfactory".[11][12] Northern Ireland can also be simply described as "part of the UK", including by UK government offices.[61]

Alternative names

Many people inside and outside Northern Ireland use other names for Northern Ireland, depending on their point of view. Disagreement on names, and the reading of political symbolism into the use or non-use of a word, also attaches itself to some urban centres. The most notable example is whether Northern Ireland's second city should be called "Derry" or "Londonderry".

Choice of language and nomenclature in Northern Ireland often reveals the cultural, ethnic and religious identity of the speaker. The first Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Seamus Mallon, was criticised by unionist politicians for calling the region the "North of Ireland" while Sinn Féin has been criticised in a Dublin newspaper for referring to the "Six Counties".[80]

Those who do not belong to any group but lean towards one side often tend to use the language of that group. Supporters of unionism in the British media (notably The Daily Telegraph and the Daily Express) regularly call Northern Ireland "Ulster".[81] Some media outlets in the Republic use "North of Ireland", "the North", or (less often) the "Six Counties".

Government and cultural organisations in Northern Ireland often use the word "Ulster" in their title; for example, the University of Ulster, the Ulster Museum, the Ulster Orchestra, and BBC Radio Ulster.

Although some news bulletins since the 1990s have opted to avoid all contentious terms and use the official name, Northern Ireland, the term "the North" remains commonly used by broadcast media in the Republic.

Unionist mural, Shankill - panoramio
Unionist mural in Belfast

Unionist

  • Ulster, strictly speaking, refers to the province of Ulster, of which six of nine historical counties are in Northern Ireland. The term "Ulster" is widely used by unionists and the British press as shorthand for Northern Ireland, and is also favoured by Ulster nationalists.[82] In the past, calls have been made for Northern Ireland's name to be changed to Ulster. This proposal was formally considered by the Government of Northern Ireland in 1937 and by the UK Government in 1949 but no change was made.[83]
  • The Province refers to the historic Irish province of Ulster but today is used by some as shorthand for Northern Ireland. The BBC, in its editorial guidance for Reporting the United Kingdom, states that "the Province" is an appropriate secondary synonym for Northern Ireland, while "Ulster" is not. It also suggests that "people of Northern Ireland" is preferred to "British" or "Irish", and the term "mainland" should be avoided in reference to Great Britain in relation to Northern Ireland.[84]

Nationalist

  • North of Ireland – used to avoid using the name given by the British-enacted Government of Ireland Act 1920.
  • The Six Counties (na Sé Chontae) – the Republic of Ireland is similarly described as the Twenty-Six Counties.[85] Some of the users of these terms contend that using the official name of the region would imply acceptance of the legitimacy of the Government of Ireland Act.
  • The Occupied Six Counties – used by some republicans.[86] The Republic, whose legitimacy is similarly not recognised by republicans opposed to the Belfast Agreement, is described as the "Free State", referring to the Irish Free State, which gained independence (as a Dominion) in 1922.[87]
  • British-Occupied Ireland – Similar in tone to the Occupied Six Counties,[88] this term is used by more dogmatic republicans, such as Republican Sinn Féin,[89] who still hold that the Second Dáil was the last legitimate government of Ireland and that all governments since have been foreign-imposed usurpations of Irish national self-determination.[90]

Other

  • Norn Iron or "Norniron" – is an informal and affectionate[91] local nickname used to refer to Northern Ireland, derived from the pronunciation of the words "Northern Ireland" in an exaggerated Ulster accent (particularly one from the greater Belfast area). The phrase is seen as a lighthearted way to refer to Northern Ireland, based as it is on regional pronunciation. It often refers to the Northern Ireland national football team.[92]

Geography and climate

Northern Ireland Köppen
Köppen climate types of Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland was covered by an ice sheet for most of the last ice age and on numerous previous occasions, the legacy of which can be seen in the extensive coverage of drumlins in Counties Fermanagh, Armagh, Antrim and particularly Down.

The centrepiece of Northern Ireland's geography is Lough Neagh, at 151 square miles (391 km2) the largest freshwater lake both on the island of Ireland and in the British Isles. A second extensive lake system is centred on Lower and Upper Lough Erne in Fermanagh. The largest island of Northern Ireland is Rathlin, off the north Antrim coast. Strangford Lough is the largest inlet in the British Isles, covering 150 km2 (58 sq mi).

Hare's Gap - geograph.org.uk - 66827
Hare's Gap, Mourne Mountains

There are substantial uplands in the Sperrin Mountains (an extension of the Caledonian mountain belt) with extensive gold deposits, granite Mourne Mountains and basalt Antrim Plateau, as well as smaller ranges in South Armagh and along the Fermanagh–Tyrone border. None of the hills are especially high, with Slieve Donard in the dramatic Mournes reaching 850 metres (2,789 ft), Northern Ireland's highest point. Belfast's most prominent peak is Cavehill.

The volcanic activity which created the Antrim Plateau also formed the eerily geometric pillars of the Giant's Causeway on the north Antrim coast. Also in north Antrim are the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Mussenden Temple and the Glens of Antrim.

The Lower and Upper River Bann, River Foyle and River Blackwater form extensive fertile lowlands, with excellent arable land also found in North and East Down, although much of the hill country is marginal and suitable largely for animal husbandry.

The valley of the River Lagan is dominated by Belfast, whose metropolitan area includes over a third of the population of Northern Ireland, with heavy urbanisation and industrialisation along the Lagan Valley and both shores of Belfast Lough.

The whole of Northern Ireland has a temperate maritime climate, rather wetter in the west than the east, although cloud cover is persistent across the region. The weather is unpredictable at all times of the year, and although the seasons are distinct, they are considerably less pronounced than in interior Europe or the eastern seaboard of North America. Average daytime maximums in Belfast are 6.5 °C (43.7 °F) in January and 17.5 °C (63.5 °F) in July. The highest maximum temperature recorded was 30.8 °C (87.4 °F) at Knockarevan, near Garrison, County Fermanagh on 30 June 1976 and at Belfast on 12 July 1983.[93] The lowest minimum temperature recorded was −18.7 °C (−1.7 °F) at Castlederg, County Tyrone on 23 December 2010.[94]

Northern Ireland is the least forested part of the United Kingdom and Ireland, and one of the least forested parts of Europe.[95][96] Until the end of the Middle Ages, the land was heavily forested with native trees such as oak, ash, hazel, birch, alder, willow, aspen, elm, rowan, yew and Scots pine.[97] Today, only 8% of Northern Ireland is woodland, and most of this is non-native conifer plantations.[98]

Counties

Northern Ireland consists of six historic counties: County Antrim, County Armagh, County Down, County Fermanagh, County Londonderry,[99] County Tyrone.

These counties are no longer used for local government purposes; instead, there are eleven districts of Northern Ireland which have different geographical extents. These were created in 2015, replacing the twenty-six districts which previously existed.[100]

Although counties are no longer used for local governmental purposes, they remain a popular means of describing where places are. They are officially used while applying for an Irish passport, which requires one to state one's county of birth. The name of that county then appears in both Irish and English on the passport's information page, as opposed to the town or city of birth on the United Kingdom passport. The Gaelic Athletic Association still uses the counties as its primary means of organisation and fields representative teams of each GAA county. The original system of car registration numbers largely based on counties still remains in use. In 2000, the telephone numbering system was restructured into an 8 digit scheme with (except for Belfast) the first digit approximately reflecting the county.

The county boundaries still appear on Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland Maps and the Phillips Street Atlases, among others. With their decline in official use, there is often confusion surrounding towns and cities which lie near county boundaries, such as Belfast and Lisburn, which are split between counties Down and Antrim (the majorities of both cities, however, are in Antrim).

In March 2018, The Sunday Times published its list of Best Places to Live in Britain, including the following places in Northern Ireland: Ballyhackamore near Belfast (overall best for Northern Ireland), Holywood, County Down, Newcastle, County Down, Portrush, County Antrim, Strangford, County Down.[101]

Economy

'Titanic Quarter' development, Abercorn Basin, Belfast - geograph.org.uk - 1378153
Goliath crane of Harland & Wolff in Belfast.

Northern Ireland has traditionally had an industrial economy, most notably in shipbuilding, rope manufacture and textiles, but most heavy industry has since been replaced by services, primarily the public sector.

Seventy percent of the economy's revenue comes from the service sector. Apart from the public sector, another important service sector is tourism, which rose to account for over 1% of the economy's revenue in 2004. Tourism has been a major growth area since the end of the Troubles. Key tourism attractions include the historic cities of Derry, Belfast and Armagh and the many castles in Northern Ireland. These large firms are attracted by government subsidies and the skilled workforce in Northern Ireland.

The local economy has seen contraction during the Great Recession. In response, the Northern Ireland Assembly has sent trade missions abroad. The Executive wishes to gain taxation powers from London, to align Northern Ireland's corporation tax rate with the unusually low rate of the Republic of Ireland.

Transport

Northern Ireland has underdeveloped transport infrastructure, with most infrastructure concentrated around Greater Belfast, Greater Derry and Craigavon. Northern Ireland is served by three airports – Belfast International near Antrim, George Best Belfast City integrated into the railway network at Sydenham in East Belfast, and City of Derry in County Londonderry.

Major seaports at Larne and Belfast carry passengers and freight between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Passenger railways are operated by Northern Ireland Railways. With Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail), Northern Ireland Railways co-operates in providing the joint Enterprise service between Dublin Connolly and Lanyon Place. The whole of Ireland has a mainline railway network with a gauge of 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm), which is unique in Europe and has resulted in distinct rolling stock designs. The only preserved line of this gauge is the Downpatrick and County Down Railway. Main railway lines linking to and from Belfast Great Victoria Street railway station and Belfast Central are:

Main motorways are:

The cross-border road connecting the ports of Larne in Northern Ireland and Rosslare Harbour in the Republic of Ireland is being upgraded as part of an EU-funded scheme. European route E01 runs from Larne through the island of Ireland, Spain and Portugal to Seville.

Demographics

Religion or religion brought up in
2011 census: differences in proportions of those who are, or were brought up, either Catholic or Protestant/Other Christians

The population of Northern Ireland has risen yearly since 1978. The population in 2011 was 1.8 million, having grown 7.5% over the previous decade[102] from just under 1.7 million in 2001. This constitutes just under 3% of the population of the UK (62 million) and just over 28% of the population of the island of Ireland (6.3 million).

The population of Northern Ireland is almost entirely white (98.2%).[102] In 2011, 88.8% of the population were born in Northern Ireland, with 4.5% born in Britain, and 2.9% born in the Republic of Ireland. 4.3% were born elsewhere; triple the amount there were in 2001.[103] Most are from Eastern Europe and Lithuania and Latvia. The largest non-white ethnic groups were Chinese (6,300) and Indian (6,200). Black people of various origins made up 0.2% of the 2011 population and people of mixed ethnicity made up 0.2%.[104]

Religion

At the 2011 census, 41.5% of the population identified as Protestant/non-Roman Catholic Christian, 41% as Roman Catholic, and 0.8% as non-Christian, while 17% identified with no religion or did not state one.[104] The biggest of the Protestant/non-Roman Catholic Christian denominations were the Presbyterian Church (19%), the Church of Ireland (14%) and the Methodist Church (3%). In terms of community background (i.e. religion or religion brought up in), 48% of the population came from a Protestant background, 45% from a Catholic background, 0.9% from non-Christian backgrounds, and 5.6% from non-religious backgrounds.[104]

Cities and towns by population[105]

Belfast City Hall, October 2010 (01)

Belfast
Guildhall, Derry, August 2010

Derry

# Settlement Population Metro population

Lisburn Market House

Lisburn
Newry Townhall - geograph.org.uk - 1476695

Newry

1 Belfast 334,420 671,559
2 Derry 84,750 237,000
3 Lisburn [106] 71,403
4 Greater Craigavon 68,890
5 Newtownabbey [106] 66,120
6 Bangor [106] 62,650
7 Ballymena 30,590
8 Newtownards 28,860
9 Newry 28,080
10 Carrickfergus [106] 27,640

Citizenship and identity

Most common nationality 2011
Map of predominant national identity in the 2011 census

In the 2011 census in Northern Ireland respondents gave their national identity as follows.[107]

National
identity
All Religious affiliation
Catholic Protestant
and other
Christian
Non-
Christian
None
British 48.4% 12.9% 81.6% 50.1% 55.9%
Irish 28.4% 57.2% 3.9% 12.4% 14.0%
Northern Irish 29.4% 30.7% 26.9% 18.0% 35.2%
English, Scottish, or Welsh 1.6% 0.8% 1.5% 2.9% 5.2%
All other 3.4% 4.4% 1.0% 29.1% 7.1%

Several studies and surveys carried out between 1971 and 2006 have indicated that, in general, most Protestants in Northern Ireland see themselves primarily as British, whereas a majority of Roman Catholics regard themselves primarily as Irish.[108][109][110][111][112][113][114][115] This does not, however, account for the complex identities within Northern Ireland, given that many of the population regard themselves as "Ulster" or "Northern Irish", either as a primary or secondary identity. Overall, the Catholic population is somewhat more ethnically diverse than the more homogeneous Protestant population. 83.1% of Protestants identified as "British" or with a British ethnic group (English, Scottish, or Welsh) in the 2011 Census, whereas only 3.9% identified as "Irish". Meanwhile, 13.7% of Catholics identified as "British" or with a British ethnic group. A further 4.4% identified as "all other", which are largely immigrants, for example from Poland.

A 2008 survey found that 57% of Protestants described themselves as British, while 32% identified as Northern Irish, 6% as Ulster and 4% as Irish. Compared to a similar survey carried out in 1998, this shows a fall in the percentage of Protestants identifying as British and Ulster and a rise in those identifying as Northern Irish. The 2008 survey found that 61% of Catholics described themselves as Irish, with 25% identifying as Northern Irish, 8% as British and 1% as Ulster. These figures were largely unchanged from the 1998 results.[116][117]

People born in Northern Ireland are, with some exceptions, deemed by UK law to be citizens of the United Kingdom. They are also, with similar exceptions, entitled to be citizens of Ireland. This entitlement was reaffirmed in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement between the British and Irish governments, which provides that:

...it is the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly [the two governments] confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments and would not be affected by any future change in the status of Northern Ireland.

Predominant passport held northern ireland
Map of most commonly held passport

As a result of the Agreement, the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland was amended. The current wording provides that people born in Northern Ireland are entitled to be Irish citizens on the same basis as people from any other part of the island.[118]

Neither government, however, extends its citizenship to all persons born in Northern Ireland. Both governments exclude some people born in Northern Ireland, in particular persons born without one parent who is a British or Irish citizen. The Irish restriction was given effect by the twenty-seventh amendment to the Irish Constitution in 2004. The position in UK nationality law is that most of those born in Northern Ireland are UK nationals, whether or not they so choose. Renunciation of British citizenship requires the payment of a fee, currently £372.[119]

In the 2011 census in Northern Ireland respondents stated that they held the following passports.[120]

Passport All usual
residents
Religion or religion brought up in
Catholic Protestant
and other
Christian
Other
Religions
None
No passport 18.9% 19.2% 18.5% 9.9% 20.2%
United Kingdom 59.1% 38.4% 77.8% 56.0% 65.2%
Ireland 20.8% 40.5% 4.1% 10.0% 7.2%
Other 3.4% 4.5% 1.1% 29.2% 9.4%

Languages

English dialects in Ulster contrast
Approximate boundaries of the current and historical English/Scots dialects in Ulster. South to north, the colour bands represent Hiberno-English, South-Ulster English, Mid-Ulster English and the three traditional Ulster Scots areas. The Irish-speaking Gaeltacht is not shown.

English is spoken as a first language by almost all of the Northern Ireland population. It is the de facto official language and the Administration of Justice (Language) Act (Ireland) 1737 prohibits the use of languages other than English in legal proceedings.

Under the Good Friday Agreement, Irish and Ulster Scots (an Ulster dialect of the Scots language, sometimes known as Ullans), are recognised as "part of the cultural wealth of Northern Ireland".[121] Two all-island bodies for the promotion of these were created under the Agreement: Foras na Gaeilge, which promotes the Irish language, and the Ulster Scots Agency, which promotes the Ulster Scots dialect and culture. These operate separately under the aegis of the North/South Language Body, which reports to the North/South Ministerial Council.

The British government in 2001 ratified the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Irish (in Northern Ireland) was specified under Part III of the Charter, with a range of specific undertakings in relation to education, translation of statutes, interaction with public authorities, the use of placenames, media access, support for cultural activities and other matters. A lower level of recognition was accorded to Ulster Scots, under Part II of the Charter.[122]

English

The dialect of English spoken in Northern Ireland shows influence from the lowland Scots language.[123] There are supposedly some minute differences in pronunciation between Protestants and Catholics, for instance; the name of the letter h, which Protestants tend to pronounce as "aitch", as in British English, and Catholics tend to pronounce as "haitch", as in Hiberno-English. However, geography is a much more important determinant of dialect than religious background.

Irish

Map of those with some ability in Irish in the 2011 census in Northern Ireland
Percentage of people aged 3+ claiming to have some ability in Irish in the 2011 census

The Irish language (Irish: an Ghaeilge), or Gaelic, is a native language of Ireland.[124] It was spoken predominantly throughout what is now Northern Ireland before the Ulster Plantations in the 17th century and most place names in Northern Ireland are anglicised versions of a Gaelic name. Today, the language is often associated with Irish nationalism (and thus with Catholics). However, in the 19th century, the language was seen as a common heritage, with Ulster Protestants playing a leading role in the Gaelic revival.[125]

In the 2011 census, 11% of the population of Northern Ireland claimed "some knowledge of Irish"[102] and 3.7% reported being able to "speak, read, write and understand" Irish.[102] In another survey, from 1999, 1% of respondents said they spoke it as their main language at home.[126]

The dialect spoken in Northern Ireland, Ulster Irish, has two main types, East Ulster Irish and Donegal Irish (or West Ulster Irish),[127] is the one closest to Scottish Gaelic (which developed into a separate language from Irish Gaelic in the 17th century). Some words and phrases are shared with Scots Gaelic, and the dialects of east Ulster – those of Rathlin Island and the Glens of Antrim – were very similar to the dialect of Argyll, the part of Scotland nearest to Ireland. And those dialects of Armagh and Down were also very similar to the dialects of Galloway.

Use of the Irish language in Northern Ireland today is politically sensitive. The erection by some district councils of bilingual street names in both English and Irish,[128] invariably in predominantly nationalist districts, is resisted by unionists who claim that it creates a "chill factor" and thus harms community relationships. Efforts by members of the Northern Ireland Assembly to legislate for some official uses of the language have failed to achieve the required cross-community support, and the UK government has declined to legislate. There has recently been an increase in interest in the language among unionists in East Belfast.[129]

Ulster Scots

Map showing the percentage of people aged 3+ claiming to have some ability in Ulster Scots in the 2011 census
Percentage of people aged 3+ claiming to have some ability in Ulster Scots in the 2011 census

Ulster Scots comprises varieties of the Scots language spoken in Northern Ireland. For a native English speaker, "[Ulster Scots] is comparatively accessible, and even at its most intense can be understood fairly easily with the help of a glossary."[130]

Along with the Irish language, the Good Friday Agreement recognised the dialect as part of Northern Ireland's unique culture and the St Andrews Agreement recognised the need to "enhance and develop the Ulster Scots language, heritage and culture".[131]

Approximately 2% of the population claim to speak Ulster Scots.[132] However, the number speaking it as their main language in their home is negligible,[126] with only 0.9% of 2011 census respondents claiming to be able to speak, read, write and understand Ulster-Scots. 8.1% professed to have "some ability" however.[102]

Sign languages

The most common sign language in Northern Ireland is Northern Ireland Sign Language (NISL). However, because in the past Catholic families tended to send their deaf children to schools in Dublin where Irish Sign Language (ISL) is commonly used, ISL is still common among many older deaf people from Catholic families.

Irish Sign Language (ISL) has some influence from the French family of sign language, which includes American Sign Language (ASL). NISL takes a large component from the British family of sign language (which also includes Auslan) with many borrowings from ASL. It is described as being related to Irish Sign Language at the syntactic level while much of the lexicon is based on British Sign Language (BSL).[133]

As of March 2004 the British Government recognises only British Sign Language and Irish Sign Language as the official sign languages used in Northern Ireland.[134][135]

Culture

Ulster Covenant Commemoration Parade, Belfast, September 2012 (010)
An Orange march

Northern Ireland shares both the culture of Ireland and the culture of the United Kingdom. Those of Catholic background tend to identity more with Irish culture, and those of Protestant background more with British culture. This has caused the two communities to become pillarised.

Parades are a prominent feature of Northern Ireland society,[136] more so than in the rest of Ireland or in Britain. Most are held by Protestant fraternities such as the Orange Order, and Ulster loyalist marching bands. Each summer, during the "marching season", these groups have hundreds of parades, deck streets with British flags, bunting and specially-made arches, and light large towering bonfires.[137] The biggest parades are held on 12 July (The Twelfth). There is often tension when these activities take place near Catholic neighbourhoods, which sometimes leads to violence.[138]

Since the end of the Troubles, Northern Ireland has witnessed rising numbers of tourists. Attractions include cultural festivals, musical and artistic traditions, countryside and geographical sites of interest, public houses, welcoming hospitality and sports (especially golf and fishing). Since 1987 public houses have been allowed to open on Sundays, despite some opposition.

The Ulster Cycle is a large body of prose and verse centring on the traditional heroes of the Ulaid in what is now eastern Ulster. This is one of the four major cycles of Irish mythology. The cycle centres on the reign of Conchobar mac Nessa, who is said to have been king of Ulster around the 1st century. He ruled from Emain Macha (now Navan Fort near Armagh), and had a fierce rivalry with queen Medb and king Ailill of Connacht and their ally, Fergus mac Róich, former king of Ulster. The foremost hero of the cycle is Conchobar's nephew Cúchulainn.

Symbols

Flax flowers
The logo for the Northern Ireland assembly is based on the flower of the flax plant.[139]
Fountain (04)
The unionist Ulster Banner on the foreground, with a republican Irish flag in the background on the left, in Derry

Northern Ireland comprises a patchwork of communities whose national loyalties are represented in some areas by flags flown from flagpoles or lamp posts. The Union Jack and the former Northern Ireland flag are flown in many loyalist areas, and the Tricolour, adopted by republicans as the flag of Ireland in 1916,[140] is flown in some republican areas. Even kerbstones in some areas are painted red-white-blue or green-white-orange, depending on whether local people express unionist/loyalist or nationalist/republican sympathies.[141]

The official flag is that of the state having sovereignty over the territory, i.e. the Union Flag.[142] The former Northern Ireland flag, also known as the "Ulster Banner" or "Red Hand Flag", is a banner derived from the coat of arms of the Government of Northern Ireland until 1972. Since 1972, it has had no official status. The Union Flag and the Ulster Banner are used exclusively by unionists. UK flags policy states that in Northern Ireland, "The Ulster flag and the Cross of St Patrick have no official status and, under the Flags Regulations, are not permitted to be flown from Government Buildings."[143][144]

The Irish Rugby Football Union and the Church of Ireland have used the Saint Patrick's Saltire or "Cross of St Patrick". This red saltire on a white field was used to represent Ireland in the flag of the United Kingdom. It is still used by some British army regiments. Foreign flags are also found, such as the Palestinian flags in some nationalist areas and Israeli flags in some unionist areas.[145]

The United Kingdom national anthem of "God Save the Queen" is often played at state events in Northern Ireland. At the Commonwealth Games and some other sporting events, the Northern Ireland team uses the Ulster Banner as its flag—notwithstanding its lack of official status—and the Londonderry Air (usually set to lyrics as Danny Boy), which also has no official status, as its national anthem.[146][147] The national football team also uses the Ulster Banner as its flag but uses "God Save The Queen" as its anthem.[148] Major Gaelic Athletic Association matches are opened by the national anthem of the Republic of Ireland, "Amhrán na bhFiann (The Soldier's Song)", which is also used by most other all-Ireland sporting organisations.[149] Since 1995, the Ireland rugby union team has used a specially commissioned song, "Ireland's Call" as the team's anthem. The Irish national anthem is also played at Dublin home matches, being the anthem of the host country.[150]

Northern Irish murals have become well-known features of Northern Ireland, depicting past and present events and documenting peace and cultural diversity. Almost 2,000 murals have been documented in Northern Ireland since the 1970s.

Sport

In Northern Ireland, sport is popular and important in the lives of many people. Sports tend to be organised on an all-Ireland basis, with a single team for the whole island.[151] The most notable exception is association football, which has separate governing bodies for each jurisdiction.[151]

Field sports

Association football

George best 1976
George Best, Northern Irish international footballer and 1968 Ballon d'Or

The Irish Football Association (IFA) serves as the organising body for association football in Northern Ireland, with the Northern Ireland Football League (NIFL) responsible for the independent administration of the three divisions of national domestic football, as well as the Northern Ireland Football League Cup.

The highest level of competition within Northern Ireland are the NIFL Premiership and the NIFL Championship. However, many players from Northern Ireland compete with clubs in England and Scotland.

NIFL clubs are semi-professional or Intermediate.NIFL Premiership clubs are also eligible to compete in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League with the league champions entering the Champions league second qualifying round and the 2nd placed league finisher, the European play-off winners and the Irish Cup winners entering the Europa League second qualifying round.No clubs have ever reached the group stage.

Despite Northern Ireland's small population, the national team qualified for the World Cup in 1958, 1982 and 1986, making it to the quarter-finals in 1958 and 1982 and made it the first knockout round in the European Championships in 2016.

Rugby union

The six counties of Northern Ireland are among the nine governed by the Ulster branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union, the governing body of rugby union in Ireland. Ulster is one of the four professional provincial teams in Ireland and competes in the Pro14 and European Cup. It won the European Cup in 1999.

In international competitions, the Ireland national rugby union team's recent successes include four Triple Crowns between 2004 and 2009 and a Grand Slam in 2009 in the Six Nations Championship.

Cricket

Northern Ireland plays as the Ireland cricket team which represents both Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland. The Ireland Cricket team is a full member of the International Cricket Council, having been granted Test status and full membership (along with Afghanistan) by the ICC in June 2017. They are currently able to compete in Test cricket, the highest level of competitive cricket in the international arena and they are one of the twelve full-member countries under the ICC.

Ireland is the current champion of the ICC Intercontinental Cup. One of Ireland's regular international venues is Stormont in Belfast.

Peter Canavan - SFC 2005 cc 3.0
Peter Canavan, Tyrone captain 2003

Gaelic games

Gaelic games include Gaelic football, hurling (and camogie), handball and rounders. Of the four, football is the most popular in Northern Ireland. Players play for local clubs with the best being selected for their county teams. The Ulster GAA is the branch of the Gaelic Athletic Association that is responsible for the nine counties of Ulster, which include the six of Northern Ireland.

These nine county teams participate in the Ulster Senior Football Championship, Ulster Senior Hurling Championship, All-Ireland Senior Football Championship and All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship.

Recent successes for Northern Ireland teams include Armagh's 2002 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship win and Tyrone's wins in 2003, 2005 and 2008.

Golf

Rory McIlroy watches drive flight (crowd, landscape orientation)
Prominent Northern Irish golfer Rory McIlroy

Perhaps Northern Ireland's most notable successes in professional sport have come in golf. Northern Ireland has contributed more major champions in the modern era than any other European country, with three in the space of just 14 months from the US Open in 2010 to The Open Championship in 2011. Notable golfers include Fred Daly (winner of The Open in 1947), Ryder Cup players Ronan Rafferty and David Feherty, leading European Tour professionals David Jones, Michael Hoey (a winner on Tour in 2011) and Gareth Maybin, as well as three recent major winners Graeme McDowell (winner of the US Open in 2010, the first European to do so since 1970), Rory McIlroy (winner of four majors) and Darren Clarke (winner of The Open in 2011).[152][153] Northern Ireland has also contributed several players to the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team, including Alan Dunbar and Paul Cutler who played on the victorious 2011 team in Scotland.

The Golfing Union of Ireland, the governing body for men's and boy's amateur golf throughout Ireland and the oldest golfing union in the world, was founded in Belfast in 1891. Northern Ireland's golf courses include the Royal Belfast Golf Club (the earliest, formed in 1881), Royal Portrush Golf Club, which is the only course outside Great Britain to have hosted The Open Championship, and Royal County Down Golf Club (Golf Digest magazine's top-rated course outside the United States).[154][155]

Snooker

Northern Ireland has produced two world snooker champions; Alex Higgins, who won the title in 1972 and 1982, and Dennis Taylor, who won in 1985. The highest-ranked Northern Ireland professional on the world circuit presently is Mark Allen from Antrim. The sport is governed locally by the Northern Ireland Billiards and Snooker Association who run regular ranking tournaments and competitions.

Motor sports

Although Northern Ireland lacks an international automobile racecourse, two Northern Irish drivers have finished inside the top two of Formula One, with John Watson achieving the feat in 1982 and Eddie Irvine doing the same in 1999. The largest course and the only MSA-licensed track for UK-wide competition is Kirkistown.[156]

Rugby league

The Ireland national rugby league team has participated in the Emerging Nations Tournament (1995), the Super League World Nines (1996), the World Cup (2000 and 2008), European Nations Cup (since 2003) and Victory Cup (2004).

The Ireland A rugby league team compete annually in the Amateur Four Nations competition (since 2002) and the St Patrick's Day Challenge (since 1995).

Professional wrestling

In 2007, after the closure of UCW (Ulster Championship Wrestling) which was a wrestling promotion, PWU formed, standing for Pro Wrestling Ulster. The wrestling promotion features championships, former WWE superstars and local independent wrestlers. Events and IPPV's throughout Northern Ireland.[157]

Education

Unlike most areas of the United Kingdom, in the last year of primary school, many children sit entrance examinations for grammar schools.

Integrated schools, which attempt to ensure a balance in enrolment between pupils of Protestant, Roman Catholic and other faiths (or none), are becoming increasingly popular, although Northern Ireland still has a primarily de facto religiously segregated education system. In the primary school sector, forty schools (8.9% of the total number) are integrated schools and thirty-two (7.2% of the total number) are Irish language-medium schools.

The main universities in Northern Ireland are Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University, and the distance learning Open University which has a regional office in Belfast.

Wildlife

356 species of marine algae have been recorded in the north-east of Ireland. As Counties Londonderry, Antrim and Down are the only three counties of Northern Ireland with a shoreline this will apply to all Northern Ireland. 77 species are considered rare having been recorded rarely.[158]

Media and communications

The BBC has a division called BBC Northern Ireland with headquarters in Belfast. As well as broadcasting standard UK-wide programmes, BBC NI produces local content, including a news break-out called BBC Newsline. The ITV franchise in Northern Ireland is Ulster Television (UTV). The state-owned Channel 4 and the privately owned Channel 5 also broadcast in Northern Ireland. Access is available to satellite and cable services.[159] All Northern Ireland viewers must obtain a UK TV licence to watch live television transmissions.

RTÉ, the national broadcaster of the Republic of Ireland, is available over the air to most parts of Northern Ireland via reception overspill[160] and via satellite and cable. Since the digital TV switchover, RTÉ One, RTÉ2 and the Irish-language channel TG4, are now available over the air on the UK's Freeview system from transmitters within Northern Ireland.[161] Although they are transmitted in standard definition, a Freeview HD box or television is required for reception.

As well as the standard UK-wide radio stations from the BBC, Northern Ireland is home to many local radio stations, such as Cool FM, CityBeat, and Q102.9. The BBC has two regional radio stations which broadcast in Northern Ireland, BBC Radio Ulster and BBC Radio Foyle.

Besides the UK and Irish national newspapers, there are three main regional newspapers published in Northern Ireland. These are the Belfast Telegraph, the Irish News and the News Letter.[162] According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations (UK) the average daily circulation for these three titles in 2018 was:

Title Market type Print time Political alignment Format Circulation Jan-Jun 2018[163] Circulation Jul-Dec 2018[164]
The Belfast Telegraph Regional Morning Non-Sectarianism/British Unionism Compact 35,931 33,951
The Irish News Regional Morning Irish nationalism Compact 33,647 32,315
The News Letter Regional Morning British unionism Tabloid 13,374 12,499

Northern Ireland uses the same telecommunications and postal services as the rest of the United Kingdom at standard domestic rates and there are no mobile roaming charges between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.[165][166] People in Northern Ireland who live close to the border with the Republic of Ireland may inadvertently switch over to the Irish mobile networks, causing international roaming fees to be applied.[167] Calls from landlines in Northern Ireland to numbers in the Republic of Ireland are charged at the same rate as those to numbers in Great Britain, while landline numbers in Northern Ireland can similarly be called from the Republic of Ireland at domestic rates, using the 048 prefix.[168]

See also

References

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  11. ^ a b c d e f J. Whyte; G. FitzGerald (1991), Interpreting Northern Ireland, Oxford: Oxford University Press, One problem must be adverted to in writing about Northern Ireland. This is the question of what name to give to the various geographical entities. These names can be controversial, with the choice often revealing one's political preferences. ... some refer to Northern Ireland as a 'province'. That usage can arouse irritation particularly among nationalists, who claim the title 'province' should be properly reserved to the four historic provinces of Ireland-Ulster, Leinster, Munster, and Connacht. If I want to a label to apply to Northern Ireland I shall call it a 'region'. Unionists should find that title as acceptable as 'province': Northern Ireland appears as a region in the regional statistics of the United Kingdom published by the British government.
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Further reading

  • Jonathan Bardon, A History of Ulster (Blackstaff Press, Belfast, 1992), ISBN 0-85640-476-4
  • Brian E. Barton, The Government of Northern Ireland, 1920–1923 (Athol Books, 1980)
  • Paul Bew, Peter Gibbon and Henry Patterson The State in Northern Ireland, 1921–72: Political Forces and Social Classes, Manchester (Manchester University Press, 1979)
  • Tony Geraghty (2000). The Irish War. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 978-0-8018-7117-7.
  • Robert Kee, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism (Penguin, 1972–2000), ISBN 0-14-029165-2
  • Osborne Morton, Marine Algae of Northern Ireland (Ulster Museum, Belfast, 1994), ISBN 0-900761-28-8
  • Henry Patterson, Ireland Since 1939: The Persistence of Conflict (Penguin, 2006), ISBN 978-1-84488-104-8
  • P. Hackney (ed.) Stewart's and Corry's Flora of the North-east of Ireland 3rd edn. (Institute of Irish Studies, Queen's University of Belfast, 1992), ISBN 0-85389-446-9(HB)

External links

Belfast

Belfast (; from Irish: Béal Feirste, meaning "mouth of the Farset") is a city in the United Kingdom, the capital city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast of Ireland. It is the largest city in Northern Ireland and second-largest on the island of Ireland. It had a population of 333,871 as of 2015.By the early 19th century, Belfast became a major port. It played a key role in the Industrial Revolution, becoming the biggest linen-producer in the world, earning it the nickname "Linenopolis". By the time it was granted city status in 1888, it was a major centre of Irish linen production, tobacco-processing and rope-making. Shipbuilding was also a key industry; the Harland and Wolff shipyard, which built the RMS Titanic, was the world's biggest shipyard. Belfast as of 2019 has a major aerospace and missiles industry. Industrialisation and the inward migration it brought made Belfast Ireland's biggest city and it became the capital of Northern Ireland following the Partition of Ireland in 1922. Its status as a global industrial centre ended in the decades after the Second World War of 1939–1945.

Belfast suffered greatly in the Troubles: in the 1970s and 1980s it was one of the world's most dangerous cities. However, a survey conducted by a finance company and published in 2016 rated the city as one of the safest within the United Kingdom. Throughout the 21st century, the city has seen a sustained period of calm, free from the intense political violence of former years, and has benefitted from substantial economic and commercial growth. Belfast remains a centre for industry, as well as for the arts, higher education, business, and law, and is the economic engine of Northern Ireland. Belfast is still a major port, with commercial and industrial docks, including the Harland and Wolff shipyard, dominating the Belfast Lough shoreline. It is served by two airports: George Best Belfast City Airport and Belfast International Airport 15 miles (24 km) west of the city. The Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) listed Belfast as a Gamma global city in 2018.

C. S. Lewis

Clive Staples Lewis (29 November 1898 – 22 November 1963) was a British writer and lay theologian. He held academic positions in English literature at both Oxford University (Magdalen College, 1925–1954) and Cambridge University (Magdalene College, 1954–1963). He is best known for his works of fiction, especially The Screwtape Letters, The Chronicles of Narnia, and The Space Trilogy, and for his non-fiction Christian apologetics, such as Mere Christianity, Miracles, and The Problem of Pain.

Lewis and fellow novelist J. R. R. Tolkien were close friends. They both served on the English faculty at Oxford University and were active in the informal Oxford literary group known as the Inklings. According to Lewis's memoir Surprised by Joy, he was baptised in the Church of Ireland, but fell away from his faith during adolescence. Lewis returned to Anglicanism at the age of 32, owing to the influence of Tolkien and other friends, and he became an "ordinary layman of the Church of England". Lewis's faith profoundly affected his work, and his wartime radio broadcasts on the subject of Christianity brought him wide acclaim.

Lewis wrote more than 30 books which have been translated into more than 30 languages and have sold millions of copies. The books that make up The Chronicles of Narnia have sold the most and have been popularised on stage, TV, radio, and cinema. His philosophical writings are widely cited by Christian apologists from many denominations.

In 1956, Lewis married American writer Joy Davidman; she died of cancer four years later at the age of 45. Lewis died on 22 November 1963 from renal failure, one week before his 65th birthday. In 2013, on the 50th anniversary of his death, Lewis was honoured with a memorial in Poets' Corner in Westminster Abbey.

Countries of the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom (UK) comprises four countries: England, Scotland and Wales (which collectively make up Great Britain) and Northern Ireland (which is variously described as a country, province or region).Within the United Kingdom, a unitary sovereign state, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales have gained a degree of autonomy through the process of devolution. The UK Parliament and British Government deal with all reserved matters for Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, but not in general matters that have been devolved to the Northern Ireland Assembly, Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales. Additionally, devolution in Northern Ireland is conditional on co-operation between the Northern Ireland Executive and the Government of Ireland (see North/South Ministerial Council) and the British Government consults with the Government of Ireland to reach agreement on some non-devolved matters for Northern Ireland (see British–Irish Intergovernmental Conference). England, comprising the majority of the population and area of the United Kingdom, remains fully the responsibility of the UK Parliament centralised in London.

England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are not themselves listed in the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) list of countries. However the ISO list of the subdivisions of the UK, compiled by British Standards and the UK's Office for National Statistics, uses "country" to describe England, Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland, in contrast, is described as a "province" in the same lists. Each has separate national governing bodies for sports and compete separately in many international sporting competitions, including the Commonwealth Games. Northern Ireland also forms joint All-Island sporting bodies with the Republic of Ireland for most sports, including rugby union.The Channel Islands and the Isle of Man are dependencies of the Crown and are not part of the UK. Similarly, the British overseas territories, remnants of the British Empire, are not part of the UK.

Historically, from 1801, following the Acts of Union, until 1921 the whole island of Ireland was a country within the UK. Ireland was split into two separate jurisdictions in 1921: Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland. Southern Ireland left the United Kingdom under the Irish Free State Constitution Act 1922.

Derry

Derry, officially Londonderry (), is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland and the fourth-largest city on the island of Ireland. The name Derry is an anglicisation of the Old Irish name Daire (modern Irish: Doire) meaning "oak grove". In 1613, the city was granted a Royal Charter by King James I and gained the "London" prefix to reflect the funding of its construction by the London guilds. While the city is more usually known colloquially as Derry, Londonderry is also commonly used and remains the legal name.

The old walled city lies on the west bank of the River Foyle, which is spanned by two road bridges and one footbridge. The city now covers both banks (Cityside on the west and Waterside on the east). The population of the city was 83,652 at the 2001 Census, while the Derry Urban Area had a population of 90,736. The district administered by Derry City and Strabane District Council contains both Londonderry Port and City of Derry Airport.

Derry is close to the border with County Donegal, with which it has had a close link for many centuries. The person traditionally seen as the founder of the original Derry is Saint Colmcille, a holy man from Tír Chonaill, the old name for almost all of modern County Donegal, of which the west bank of the Foyle was a part before 1610.In 2013, Derry was the inaugural UK City of Culture, having been awarded the title in 2010.

Elizabeth II

Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary; born 21 April 1926) is Queen of the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms.Elizabeth was born in London as the first child of the Duke and Duchess of York, later King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, and she was educated privately at home. Her father acceded to the throne on the abdication of his brother King Edward VIII in 1936, from which time she was the heir presumptive. She began to undertake public duties during the Second World War, serving in the Auxiliary Territorial Service. In 1947, she married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, a former prince of Greece and Denmark, with whom she has four children: Charles, Prince of Wales; Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York; and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex.

When her father died in February 1952, she became head of the Commonwealth and queen regnant of seven independent Commonwealth countries: the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Pakistan and Ceylon. She has reigned as a constitutional monarch through major political changes, such as devolution in the United Kingdom, Canadian patriation, and the decolonisation of Africa. Between 1956 and 1992, the number of her realms varied as territories gained independence and realms, including South Africa, Pakistan, and Ceylon (renamed Sri Lanka), became republics. Her many historic visits and meetings include a state visit to the Republic of Ireland and visits to or from five popes. Significant events have included her coronation in 1953 and the celebrations of her Silver, Golden, and Diamond Jubilees in 1977, 2002, and 2012 respectively. In 2017, she became the first British monarch to reach a Sapphire Jubilee. She is the longest-lived and longest-reigning British monarch as well as the world's longest-serving female head of state, oldest-living monarch, longest-reigning current monarch, and the oldest and longest-serving current head of state.

Elizabeth has occasionally faced republican sentiments and press criticism of the royal family, in particular after the breakdown of her children's marriages, her annus horribilis in 1992 and the death in 1997 of her former daughter-in-law Diana, Princess of Wales. However, support for the monarchy has consistently been and remains high, as does her personal popularity.

Gary Moore

Robert William Gary Moore (4 April 1952 – 6 February 2011) was a Northern Irish blues guitarist and singer-songwriter.

During his teenage years in the 1960's, Moore played in the line up of a number of local Belfast based bands, before a move to Dublin, Ireland, after being asked to join the Irish band Skid Row, whose soon to depart lead singer, was one Phil Lynott. Later on, Moore could be seen playing in the likes of Thin Lizzy and British band Colosseum II, as well as having his own, highly successful solo career split between the genres of heavy metal and blues. Moore shared the stage with such blues and rock musicians as B.B. King, Albert King, John Mayall, Jack Bruce, Ginger Baker, Albert Collins, George Harrison, and Greg Lake.

Giant's Causeway

The Giant's Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic fissure eruption. It is located in County Antrim on the north coast of Northern Ireland, about three miles (4.8 km) northeast of the town of Bushmills.

It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, and a national nature reserve in 1987 by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland. In a 2005 poll of Radio Times readers, the Giant's Causeway was named as the fourth greatest natural wonder in the United Kingdom. The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven or eight sides. The tallest are about 12 metres (39 ft) high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 28 metres (92 ft) thick in places.

Much of the Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site is today owned and managed by the National Trust and it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Northern Ireland. Access to the Giant’s Causeway is free of charge: it is not necessary to go via the visitors centre, which charges a fee. The remainder of the site is owned by the Crown Estate and a number of private landowners.

Good Friday Agreement

The Good Friday Agreement (GFA) or Belfast Agreement (Irish: Comhaontú Aoine an Chéasta or Comhaontú Bhéal Feirste) was a major political development in the Northern Ireland peace process of the 1990s. Northern Ireland's present devolved system of government is based on the agreement. The agreement also created a number of institutions between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom.

The agreement is made up of two inter-related documents, both agreed in Belfast on Good Friday, 10 April 1998:

a multi-party agreement by most of Northern Ireland's political parties (the Multi-Party Agreement);

an international agreement between the British and Irish governments (the British–Irish Agreement).The agreement set out a complex series of provisions relating to a number of areas including:

The status and system of government of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom. (Strand 1)

The relationship between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. (Strand 2)

The relationship between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom. (Strand 3)Issues relating to sovereignty, civil and cultural rights, decommissioning of weapons, demilitarisation, justice, and policing were central to the agreement.

The agreement was approved by voters across the island of Ireland in two referendums held on 22 May 1998. In Northern Ireland, voters were asked in the 1998 Northern Ireland Good Friday Agreement referendum whether they supported the multi-party agreement. In the Republic of Ireland, voters were asked whether they would allow the state to sign the agreement and allow necessary constitutional changes (Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland) to facilitate it. The people of both jurisdictions needed to approve the agreement in order to give effect to it.

The British–Irish Agreement came into force on 2 December 1999. The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) was the only major political group in Northern Ireland to oppose the Good Friday Agreement.

Government of the United Kingdom

The Government of the United Kingdom, formally referred to as Her Majesty's Government, is the central government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is also commonly referred to as simply the UK Government or the British Government.The government is led by the Prime Minister, who selects all the remaining ministers. The prime minister and the other most senior ministers belong to the supreme decision-making committee, known as the Cabinet. The government ministers all sit in Parliament, and are accountable to it. The government is dependent on Parliament to make primary legislation, and since the Fixed-terms Parliaments Act 2011, general elections are held every five years to elect a new House of Commons, unless there is a successful vote of no confidence in the government or a two-thirds vote for a snap election (as was the case in 2017) in the House of Commons, in which case an election may be held sooner. After an election, the monarch (currently Queen Elizabeth II) selects as prime minister the leader of the party most likely to command the confidence of the House of Commons, usually by possessing a majority of MPs.Under the uncodified British constitution, executive authority lies with the monarch, although this authority is exercised only by, or on the advice of, the prime minister and the cabinet. The Cabinet members advise the monarch as members of the Privy Council. In most cases they also exercise power directly as leaders of the Government Departments, though some Cabinet positions are sinecures to a greater or lesser degree (for instance Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster or Lord Privy Seal).

The current prime minister is Theresa May, who took office on 13 July 2016. She is the leader of the Conservative Party, which won a majority of seats in the House of Commons in the general election on 7 May 2015, when David Cameron was the party leader; although at the last general election she failed to secure a majority government. Prior to this, Cameron and the Conservatives led a coalition from 2010 to 2015 with the Liberal Democrats, in which Cameron was prime minister.

The Government is occasionally referred to with the metonym Westminster, due to that being where many of the offices of the government are situated, especially by members in the Government of Scotland, the Welsh Government and the Northern Ireland Executive in order to differentiate it from their own.

Ireland

Ireland ( (listen); Irish: Éire [ˈeːɾʲə] (listen); Ulster-Scots: Airlann [ˈɑːrlən]) is an island in the North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest in Europe, and the twentieth-largest on Earth.Politically, Ireland is divided between the Republic of Ireland (officially named Ireland), which covers five-sixths of the island, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In 2011, the population of Ireland was about 6.6 million, ranking it the second-most populous island in Europe after Great Britain. Just under 4.8 million live in the Republic of Ireland and just over 1.8 million live in Northern Ireland.The island's geography comprises relatively low-lying mountains surrounding a central plain, with several navigable rivers extending inland. Its lush vegetation is a product of its mild but changeable climate which is free of extremes in temperature. Much of Ireland was woodland until the end of the Middle Ages. Today, woodland makes up about 10% of the island, compared with a European average of over 33%, and most of it is non-native conifer plantations. There are twenty-six extant land mammal species native to Ireland. The Irish climate is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and thus very moderate, and winters are milder than expected for such a northerly area, although summers are cooler than those in continental Europe. Rainfall and cloud cover are abundant.

The earliest evidence of human presence in Ireland is dated at 10,500 BC (12,500 years ago). Gaelic Ireland had emerged by the 1st century AD. The island was Christianised from the 5th century onward. Following the 12th century Norman invasion, England claimed sovereignty. However, English rule did not extend over the whole island until the 16th–17th century Tudor conquest, which led to colonisation by settlers from Britain. In the 1690s, a system of Protestant English rule was designed to materially disadvantage the Catholic majority and Protestant dissenters, and was extended during the 18th century. With the Acts of Union in 1801, Ireland became a part of the United Kingdom. A war of independence in the early 20th century was followed by the partition of the island, creating the Irish Free State, which became increasingly sovereign over the following decades, and Northern Ireland, which remained a part of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland saw much civil unrest from the late 1960s until the 1990s. This subsided following a political agreement in 1998. In 1973 the Republic of Ireland joined the European Economic Community while the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland, as part of it, did the same.

Irish culture has had a significant influence on other cultures, especially in the field of literature. Alongside mainstream Western culture, a strong indigenous culture exists, as expressed through Gaelic games, Irish music and the Irish language. The island's culture shares many features with that of Great Britain, including the English language, and sports such as association football, rugby, horse racing, and golf.

Jamie Dornan

James Dornan (born 1 May 1982) is an actor, model, and musician from Northern Ireland. He played Sheriff Graham Humbert in the ABC series Once Upon a Time (2011–2013), and serial killer Paul Spector in the BBC Two and RTÉ One crime drama series The Fall (2013–2016), the latter of which won him an Irish Film and Television Award for Best Actor in Television and was nominated for a British Academy Television Award for Best Actor . In film, he portrayed Axel von Fersen in Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette (2006), Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades franchise (2015–2018), and Jan Kubiš in Anthropoid (2016).

Kenneth Branagh

Sir Kenneth Charles Branagh (; born 10 December 1960) is a Northern Irish actor, director, producer, and screenwriter. Branagh trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London, and in 2015 succeeded Richard Attenborough as its president. He has both directed and starred in several film adaptations of William Shakespeare's plays, including Henry V (1989) (for which he was nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Actor and Best Director), Much Ado About Nothing (1993), Othello (1995), Hamlet (1996) (for which he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay), Love's Labour's Lost (2000), and As You Like It (2006).

Branagh has starred in numerous other films and television series including Fortunes of War (1987), Woody Allen's Celebrity (1998), Wild Wild West (1999), as the voice of Miguel in The Road to El Dorado (2000), as SS leader Reinhard Heydrich in Conspiracy (2001), Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), Warm Springs (2005), as Major General Henning von Tresckow in Valkyrie (2008), The Boat That Rocked (2009), Wallander (2008–2016), My Week with Marilyn (2011) as Sir Laurence Olivier (Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor), and as Royal Navy Commander Bolton in the action-thriller Dunkirk (2017). He has directed such films as Dead Again (1991), in which he also starred, Swan Song (1992) (Academy Award nominated for Best Live Action Short Film), Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1994) in which he also starred, The Magic Flute (2006), Sleuth (2007), the blockbuster superhero film Thor (2011), the action thriller Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014) in which he also co-stars, the live-action film Cinderella (2015), and the mystery drama adaptation of Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express (2017), in which he also starred as Hercule Poirot.

He narrated the series Cold War (1998), the BBC documentary miniseries Walking with Dinosaurs (1999) (as well as The Ballad of Big Al), Walking with Beasts (2001) and Walking with Monsters (2005). Branagh has been nominated for five Academy Awards, five Golden Globe Awards, and has won three BAFTAs, and an Emmy Award. He was appointed a Knight Bachelor in the 2012 Birthday Honours and was knighted on 9 November 2012. He was made a Freeman of his native city of Belfast in January 2018.

Liam Neeson

Liam John Neeson (born 7 June 1952) is an actor from Northern Ireland. He has been nominated for a number of awards, including an Academy Award for Best Actor, a BAFTA Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role, and three Golden Globe Awards for Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama. Empire magazine ranked Neeson among both the "100 Sexiest Stars in Film History" and "The Top 100 Movie Stars of All Time".In 1976, Neeson joined the Lyric Players' Theatre in Belfast for two years. He then acted in the Arthurian film Excalibur (1981). Between 1982 and 1987, Neeson starred in five films, most notably alongside Mel Gibson and Anthony Hopkins in The Bounty (1984), and Robert De Niro and Jeremy Irons in The Mission (1986). He landed a leading role alongside Patrick Swayze in Next of Kin (1989).

Neeson rose to prominence when he starred as Oskar Schindler in Schindler's List (1993). He has since starred in other successful films, including the drama Nell (1994), the historical biopic Michael Collins (1996), the 1998 film adaptation of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables, the epic space opera Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999), the biographical drama Kinsey (2004), the superhero film Batman Begins (2005), the action thriller series Taken (2008–2014), the thriller-survival film The Grey (2011), and the historical drama Silence (2016). He also provided the voices of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia trilogy (2005–2010) and the titular monster in A Monster Calls (2016).

Lyra McKee

Lyra Catherine McKee ( 31 March 1990 – 18 April 2019) was a journalist from Northern Ireland who wrote for several publications about the consequences of the Troubles. She also served as an editor for Mediagazer, a news aggregator website. On 18 April 2019, McKee was fatally shot during rioting in the Creggan area of Derry.

National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty

The National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty, commonly known simply as the National Trust, is an independent charity and membership organisation for environmental and heritage conservation in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is the largest membership organisation in the United Kingdom.The trust describes itself as "a charity that works to preserve and protect historic places and spaces—for ever, for everyone". The trust was founded in 1895 and given statutory powers, starting with the National Trust Act 1907. Historically, the trust tended to focus on English country houses, which still make up the largest part of its holdings, but it also protects historic landscapes such as in the Lake District, historic urban properties, and nature reserves. In Scotland, there is an independent National Trust for Scotland. The Trust has special powers to prevent land being sold off or mortgaged, although this can be over-ridden by Parliament.The National Trust has been the beneficiary of many large donations and bequests. It owns over 500 heritage properties, which includes many historic houses and gardens, industrial monuments, and social history sites. Most of these are open to the public, usually for a charge. Others are leased, on terms that manage to preserve their character. The Trust is one of the largest landowners in the United Kingdom, owning over 248,000 hectares (610,000 acres; 2,480 km2; 960 sq mi) of land, including many characteristic sites of natural beauty, most of which are open to the public free of charge.The Trust, one of the largest UK charities financially, is funded by membership subscriptions, entrance fees, legacies, and revenue from gift shops and restaurants within its properties. It has been accused of focusing too much on country estates, and in recent years, the trust has sought to broaden its activities by acquiring historic properties such as former mills, early factories, workhouses, and the childhood homes of Paul McCartney and John Lennon.In 2015, the trust undertook a governance review to mark the 10th anniversary of the current governance structure. The review led to the downsizing of the council and limitation of tenure to two terms.

Northern Ireland Assembly

The Northern Ireland Assembly (Irish: Tionól Thuaisceart Éireann, Ulster-Scots: Norlin Airlan Assemblie) is the devolved legislature of Northern Ireland. It has power to legislate in a wide range of areas that are not explicitly reserved to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, and to appoint the Northern Ireland Executive. It sits at Parliament Buildings at Stormont in Belfast. The Assembly is currently in a period of suspension, after it collapsed in January 2017 due to policy disagreements within the leadership and the resignation of Martin McGuinness following the RHI scandal. Subsequent discussions to restore the Assembly have been unsuccessful.

The Assembly is a unicameral, democratically elected body comprising 90 members known as Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). Members are elected under the single transferable vote form of proportional representation (STV-PR) In turn, the Assembly selects most of the ministers of the Northern Ireland Executive using the principle of power-sharing under the D'Hondt method to ensure that Northern Ireland's largest voting blocs, unionists and Irish nationalists, both participate in governing the region. The Assembly's standing orders allow for certain contentious motions to require a cross-community vote; in addition to requiring the support of an overall majority of members, such votes must also be supported by a majority within both blocs in order to pass.

The Assembly is one of two "mutually inter-dependent" institutions created under the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, the other being the North/South Ministerial Council with the Republic of Ireland. The Agreement aimed to end Northern Ireland's violent 30-year Troubles. The first Assembly election was held in June 1998.

Disagreements between the main unionist and nationalist parties have stalled the formation of an Executive and the commencement of the Assembly on several occasions, forcing the Northern Ireland Office of the UK Government to suspend the institutions. The longest suspension lasted for the entirety of the Assembly's second term, from 14 October 2002 until 7 May 2007, during which time the Assembly's powers reverted to the Northern Ireland Office. Negotiations during this period of direct rule resulted in the St Andrews Agreement in November 2006, and following a third election in March 2007, full power was restored to the devolved institutions on 8 May 2007. This third Assembly was the first to complete a full term, and saw powers in relation to policing and justice transferred to its second Executive on 12 April 2010.

A breakdown of trust brought down the Assembly and Executive on 26 January 2017, and a fresh election was held on 2 March. Negotiations mediated by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland missed the three-week deadline provided in law for the formation of an Executive. The passing of an extended legal deadline of 29 June left decisions on funding allocations in the hands of the Northern Ireland Civil Service, and a budget for the ongoing 2017–18 financial year began its passage through the UK Parliament on 13 November.

Northern Ireland national football team

The Northern Ireland national football team represents Northern Ireland in international association football. From 1882 to 1920, all of Ireland was represented by a single side, the Ireland national football team, organised by the Irish Football Association (IFA). In 1921, the jurisdiction of the IFA was reduced to Northern Ireland following the secession of clubs in the soon-to-be Irish Free State, although its team remained the national team for all of Ireland until 1950, and used the name Ireland until the 1970s. The Football Association of Ireland (FAI) organises the separate Republic of Ireland national football team.

Although part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland has always had a representative side that plays in major professional tournaments – whether alongside the rest of Ireland pre-1922 or as its own entity – though not in the Olympic Games, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has always recognised United Kingdom representative sides.

Northern Ireland has competed in three FIFA World Cups, reaching the quarter-final stage in the 1958 and 1982 tournaments. At UEFA Euro 2016, the team made its first appearance at the European tournament and reached the second round.

The Troubles

The Troubles (Irish: Na Trioblóidí) was an ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland during the late 20th century. Also known internationally as the Northern Ireland conflict, it is sometimes described as an "irregular war" or "low-level war". The conflict began in the late 1960s and is usually deemed to have ended with the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Although the Troubles primarily took place in Northern Ireland, at times the violence spilled over into parts of the Republic of Ireland, England, and mainland Europe.

The conflict was primarily political and nationalistic, fuelled by historical events. It also had an ethnic or sectarian dimension, although it was not a religious conflict. A key issue was the constitutional status of Northern Ireland. Unionists/loyalists, who were mostly Protestants, wanted Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom. Irish nationalists/republicans, who were mostly Catholics, wanted Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom and join a united Ireland.

The conflict began during a campaign to end discrimination against the Catholic/nationalist minority by the Protestant/unionist government and police force. The authorities attempted to suppress this protest campaign and were accused of police brutality; it was also met with violence from loyalists, who alleged it was a republican front. Increasing inter-communal violence, and conflict between nationalist youths and police, eventually led to riots in August 1969 and the deployment of British troops, who constructed 'peace walls' to keep the opposing communities apart. Some Catholics initially welcomed the army as a more neutral force, but it soon came to be seen as hostile and biased. The emergence of armed paramilitary organisations led to the subsequent warfare over the next three decades.

The main participants in the Troubles were republican paramilitaries such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA); loyalist paramilitaries such as the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Ulster Defence Association (UDA); British state security forces—the British Army and Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC); and political activists and politicians. The security forces of the Republic played a smaller role. Republican paramilitaries carried out a guerrilla campaign against the British security forces, as well as a bombing campaign against infrastructure, commercial and political targets. Loyalists targeted republicans/nationalists, and attacked the wider Catholic community in what they claimed was retaliation. At times there were bouts of sectarian tit-for-tat violence. The British security forces undertook both a policing and a counter-insurgency role, primarily against republicans. There were some incidents of collusion between British security forces and loyalists. The Troubles also involved numerous riots, mass protests and acts of civil disobedience, and led to segregation and the creation of no-go areas.

More than 3,500 people were killed in the conflict, of whom 52% were civilians, 32% were members of the British security forces, and 16% were members of paramilitary groups. There has been sporadic violence since the Good Friday Agreement was signed, including a campaign by anti-ceasefire republicans.

United Kingdom

The United Kingdom (UK), officially the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. With an area of 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi), the United Kingdom is the 78th-largest sovereign state in the world. It is also the 22nd-most populous country, with an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

The UK is a unitary parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy. The current monarch is Queen Elizabeth II, who has reigned since 1952, making her the longest-serving current head of state. The United Kingdom's capital and largest city is London, a global city and financial centre with an urban area population of 10.3 million. Other major urban areas in the UK include Greater Manchester, the West Midlands and West Yorkshire conurbations, Greater Glasgow and the Liverpool Built-up Area.

The United Kingdom consists of four constituent countries: England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Their capitals are London, Edinburgh, Cardiff, and Belfast, respectively. Apart from England, the countries have their own devolved governments, each with varying powers, but such power is delegated by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, which may enact laws unilaterally altering or abolishing devolution (England does not have any devolved power). The nearby Isle of Man, Bailiwick of Guernsey and Bailiwick of Jersey are not part of the UK, being Crown dependencies with the British Government responsible for defence and international representation. The medieval conquest and subsequent annexation of Wales by the Kingdom of England, followed by the union between England and Scotland in 1707 to form the Kingdom of Great Britain, and the union in 1801 of Great Britain with the Kingdom of Ireland created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Five-sixths of Ireland seceded from the UK in 1922, leaving the present formulation of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. There are fourteen British Overseas Territories, the remnants of the British Empire which, at its height in the 1920s, encompassed almost a quarter of the world's land mass and was the largest empire in history. British influence can be observed in the language, culture and political systems of many of its former colonies.The United Kingdom is a developed country and has the world's fifth-largest economy by nominal GDP and ninth-largest economy by purchasing power parity. It has a high-income economy and has a very high Human Development Index rating, ranking 14th in the world. It was the world's first industrialised country and the world's foremost power during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The UK remains a great power, with considerable economic, cultural, military, scientific and political influence internationally. It is a recognised nuclear weapons state and is sixth in military expenditure in the world. It has been a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council since its first session in 1946. It has been a leading member state of the European Union (EU) and its predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), since 1973; however, a referendum in 2016 resulted in 51.9 per cent of UK voters favouring leaving the European Union, and the country's exit is being negotiated. The United Kingdom is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, the Council of Europe, the G7, the G20, NATO, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Interpol and the World Trade Organization (WTO).

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