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Northern Ireland ( ga, Tuaisceart Éireann ; sco, label= Ulster-Scots, Norlin Airlann) is a part of the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a country in Europe, off the north-western coast of the continental mainland. It comprises England, Scotland, Wales and ...
, situated in the north-east of the island of
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, in north-western Europe. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the s ...
, that is variously described as a country, province or region. Northern Ireland shares an open border to the south and west with the
Republic of Ireland Ireland ( ga, Éire ), also known as the Republic of Ireland (), is a country in north-western Europe consisting of 26 of the 32 counties of the island of Ireland. The capital and largest city is Dublin, on the eastern side of the island. ...
. In 2021, its population was 1,903,100, making up about 27% of Ireland's population and about 3% of the UK's population. The Northern Ireland Assembly (colloquially referred to as Stormont after its location), established by the
Northern Ireland Act 1998 __NOTOC__ The Northern Ireland Act 1998 is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom which allowed Westminster to devolve power to Northern Ireland, after decades of direct rule. It renamed the New Northern Ireland Assembly, established by ...
, holds responsibility for a range of devolved policy matters, while other areas are reserved for the
UK Government ga, Rialtas a Shoilse gd, Riaghaltas a Mhòrachd , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size = 220px , image2 = Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg , image_size2 = 180px , caption = Royal Arms , date_est ...
. Northern Ireland cooperates with the Republic of Ireland in several areas. Northern Ireland was created in May 1921, when Ireland was partitioned by the Government of Ireland Act 1920, creating a devolved government for the six northeastern counties. As was intended, Northern Ireland had a unionist majority, who wanted to remain in the United Kingdom;David McKittrick & David McVea. ''Making Sense of the Troubles''. New Amsterdam Books, 2002. p.5 they were generally the
Protestant Protestantism is a Christian denomination, branch of Christianity that follows the theological tenets of the Reformation, Protestant Reformation, a movement that began seeking to reform the Catholic Church from within in the 16th century agai ...
descendants of colonists from Britain. Meanwhile, the majority in Southern Ireland (which became the
Irish Free State The Irish Free State ( ga, Saorstát Éireann, , ; 6 December 192229 December 1937) was a state established in December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921. The treaty ended the three-year Irish War of Independence between ...
in 1922), and a significant minority in Northern Ireland, were
Irish nationalists Irish nationalism is a nationalist political movement which, in its broadest sense, asserts that the people of Ireland should govern Ireland as a sovereign state. Since the mid-19th century, Irish nationalism has largely taken the form of cu ...
and
Catholics The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with 1.3 billion baptized Catholics worldwide . It is among the world's oldest and largest international institutions, and has played a ...
who wanted a united independent Ireland. Today, the former generally see themselves as British and the latter generally see themselves as Irish, while a Northern Irish or
Ulster Ulster (; ga, Ulaidh or ''Cúige Uladh'' ; sco, label= Ulster Scots, Ulstèr or ''Ulster'') is one of the four traditional Irish provinces. It is made up of nine counties: six of these constitute Northern Ireland (a part of the United Kin ...
identity is claimed by a significant minority from all backgrounds. The creation of Northern Ireland was accompanied by violence both in defence of and against partition. During the conflict of 1920–22, the capital
Belfast Belfast ( , ; from ga, Béal Feirste , meaning 'mouth of the sand-bank ford') is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast. It is the 12th-largest city in the United Kingdom ...
saw major
communal violence Communal violence is a form of violence that is perpetrated across ethnic or communal lines, the violent parties feel solidarity for their respective groups, and victims are chosen based upon group membership. The term includes conflicts, riots ...
, mainly between Protestant unionist and Catholic nationalist civilians. More than 500 were killed and more than 10,000 became refugees, mostly Catholics. For the next fifty years, Northern Ireland had an unbroken series of Unionist Party governments. There was informal mutual segregation by both communities, and the Unionist governments were accused of discrimination against the Irish nationalist and Catholic minority. In the late 1960s, a campaign to end discrimination against Catholics and nationalists was opposed by loyalists, who saw it as a republican front. This unrest sparked
the Troubles The Troubles ( ga, Na Trioblóidí) were an ethno-nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland that lasted about 30 years from the late 1960s to 1998. Also known internationally as the Northern Ireland conflict, it is sometimes described as an "i ...
, a thirty-year conflict involving republican and loyalist paramilitaries and state forces, which claimed over 3,500 lives and injured 50,000 others. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement was a major step in the peace process, including paramilitary disarmament and security normalisation, although sectarianism and segregation remain major social problems, and sporadic violence has continued. The economy of Northern Ireland was the most industrialised in Ireland at the time of Partition of Ireland, but declined, a decline exacerbated by the political and social turmoil of the Troubles. Its economy has grown significantly since the late 1990s. The initial growth came from the " peace dividend" and 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% and down by 1.2 percentage points over the year, similar to the UK figure of 6.2%. 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 British culture is influenced by the combined nations' history; its historically Christian religious life, its interaction with the cultures of Europe, the traditions of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland and the impact of the British Empir ...
. In many sports, Ireland fields a single team, with the Northern Ireland national football team being an exception to this. Northern Ireland competes separately at the
Commonwealth Games The Commonwealth Games, often referred to as the Friendly Games or simply the Comm Games, are a quadrennial international multi-sport event among athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations. The event was first held in 1930, and, with the ex ...
, and people from Northern Ireland may compete for either
Great Britain Great Britain is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean off the northwest coast of continental Europe. With an area of , it is the largest of the British Isles, the largest European island and the ninth-largest island in the world. It ...
or
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, in north-western Europe. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the s ...
at the
Olympic Games The modern Olympic Games or Olympics (french: link=no, Jeux olympiques) are the leading international sporting events featuring summer and winter sports competitions in which thousands of athletes from around the world participate in a multi ...
.


History

The region that is now Northern Ireland was long inhabited by native
Gaels The Gaels ( ; ga, Na Gaeil ; gd, Na Gàidheil ; gv, Ny Gaeil ) are an ethnolinguistic group native to Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man in the British Isles. They are associated with the Gaelic languages: a branch of the Celtic langua ...
who were Irish-speaking and predominantly Catholic. It was made up of several Gaelic kingdoms and territories and was part of the province of
Ulster Ulster (; ga, Ulaidh or ''Cúige Uladh'' ; sco, label= Ulster Scots, Ulstèr or ''Ulster'') is one of the four traditional Irish provinces. It is made up of nine counties: six of these constitute Northern Ireland (a part of the United Kin ...
. In 1169, Ireland was invaded by a coalition of forces under the command of the English crown that quickly overran and occupied most of the island, beginning 800 years of foreign central authority. Attempts at resistance were swiftly crushed everywhere outside of Ulster. Unlike in the rest of the country, where Gaelic authority continued only in scattered, remote pockets, the major kingdoms of Ulster would mostly remain intact with English authority in the province contained to areas on the eastern coast closest to Great Britain. English power gradually eroded in the face of stubborn Irish resistance in the centuries that followed; eventually being reduced to only the city of Dublin and its suburbs. When Henry VIII launched the 16th century Tudor re-conquest of Ireland, Ulster once resisted most effectively. In the Nine Years' War (1594–1603), an alliance of Gaelic chieftains led by the two most powerful Ulster lords, Hugh Roe O'Donnell and the Earl of Tyrone fought against the English government in Ireland. The Ulster-dominated alliance represented the first Irish united front (prior resistance had always been localized). Despite being able to cement an alliance with Spain and major victories early on, inevitable defeat was virtually guaranteed following England's victory at the Siege of Kinsale. In 1607, the rebellion's leaders fled to mainland Europe alongside much of Ulster's Gaelic nobility. Their lands were confiscated by
the Crown The Crown is the state in all its aspects within the jurisprudence of the Commonwealth realms and their subdivisions (such as the Crown Dependencies, overseas territories, provinces, or states). Legally ill-defined, the term has differ ...
and colonized with English-speaking Protestant
settler A settler is a person who has migrated to an area and established a permanent residence there, often to colonize the area. A settler who migrates to an area previously uninhabited or sparsely inhabited may be described as a pioneer. Settle ...
s from Britain, in the
Plantation of Ulster The Plantation of Ulster ( gle, Plandáil Uladh; Ulster-Scots: ''Plantin o Ulstèr'') was the organised colonisation ('' plantation'') of Ulstera province of Irelandby people from Great Britain during the reign of King James I. Most of th ...
. This led to the founding of many of Ulster's towns and created a lasting Ulster Protestant community with ties to Britain. The Irish Rebellion of 1641 began in Ulster. The rebels wanted an end to anti-Catholic discrimination, greater Irish self-governance, and to roll back the Plantation. It developed into an ethnic conflict between Irish Catholics and British Protestant settlers and became part of the wider
Wars of the Three Kingdoms The Wars of the Three Kingdoms were a series of related conflicts fought between 1639 and 1653 in the kingdoms of England, Scotland and Ireland, then separate entities united in a personal union under Charles I. They include the 1639 to 1640 Bi ...
(1639–53), which ended with the English Parliamentarian conquest. Further Protestant victories in the Williamite-Jacobite War (1688–91) solidified Anglican Protestant rule in the
Kingdom of Ireland The Kingdom of Ireland ( ga, label=Classical Irish, an Ríoghacht Éireann; ga, label= Modern Irish, an Ríocht Éireann, ) was a monarchy on the island of Ireland that was a client state of England and then of Great Britain. It existed from ...
. The Williamite victories of the
Siege of Derry The siege of Derry in 1689 was the first major event in the Williamite War in Ireland. The siege was preceded by a first attempt against the town by Jacobite forces on 7 December 1688 that was foiled when 13 apprentices shut the gates ...
(1689) and Battle of the Boyne (1690) are still celebrated by some Protestants in Northern Ireland. Many more Scots Protestants migrated to Ulster during the Scottish famine of the 1690s. Following the Williamite victory, and contrary to the Treaty of Limerick (1691), a series of Penal Laws were passed by the Anglican Protestant ruling class in Ireland. The intention was to disadvantage Catholics and, to a lesser extent,
Presbyterians Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition within Protestantism that broke from the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland by John Knox, who was a priest at St. Giles Cathedral (Church of Scotland). Presbyterian churches derive their n ...
. Some 250,000 Ulster Presbyterians emigrated to the
British North American British North America comprised the colonial territories of the British Empire in North America from 1783 onwards. English colonisation of North America began in the 16th century in Newfoundland, then further south at Roanoke and Jamestown, ...
colonies between 1717 and 1775. It is estimated that there are more than 27 million
Scotch-Irish Americans Scotch-Irish (or Scots-Irish) Americans are American descendants of Ulster Protestants who emigrated from Ulster in northern Ireland to America during the 18th and 19th centuries, whose ancestors had originally migrated to Ireland mainly from ...
now living in the United States, along with many Scotch-Irish Canadians in Canada. In the context of institutional discrimination, the 18th century saw secret, militant societies develop in Ulster and act on sectarian tensions in violent attacks. This escalated at the end of the century, especially during the County Armagh disturbances, where the Protestant
Peep o'Day Boys The Peep o' Day Boys was an agrarian Protestant association in 18th-century Ireland. Originally noted as being an agrarian society around 1779–80, from 1785 it became the Protestant component of the sectarian conflict that emerged in County Ar ...
fought the Catholic Defenders. This led to the founding of the Protestant Orange Order. The Irish Rebellion of 1798 was led by the
United Irishmen The Society of United Irishmen was a sworn association in the Kingdom of Ireland formed in the wake of the French Revolution to secure "an equal representation of all the people" in a national government. Despairing of constitutional reform, ...
; a cross-community Irish republican group founded by Belfast Presbyterians, which sought Irish independence. Following this, the government of the
Kingdom of Great Britain The Kingdom of Great Britain (officially Great Britain) was a sovereign country in Western Europe from 1 May 1707 to the end of 31 December 1800. The state was created by the 1706 Treaty of Union and ratified by the Acts of Union 1707, wh ...
pushed for the two kingdoms to be merged, in an attempt to quell sectarianism, remove discriminatory laws, and prevent the spread of French-style republicanism. The
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland was a sovereign state in the British Isles that existed between 1801 and 1922, when it included all of Ireland. It was established by the Acts of Union 1800, which merged the Kingdom of Grea ...
was formed in 1801 and governed from London. During the 19th century, legal reforms known as the
Catholic emancipation Catholic emancipation or Catholic relief was a process in the kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, and later the combined United Kingdom in the late 18th century and early 19th century, that involved reducing and removing many of the restricti ...
continued to remove discrimination against Catholics, and progressive programs enabled tenant farmers to buy land from landlords.


Home Rule Crisis

By the late 19th century, a large and disciplined cohort of Irish Nationalist MPs at
Westminster Westminster is an area of Central London, part of the wider City of Westminster. The area, which extends from the River Thames to Oxford Street, has many visitor attractions and historic landmarks, including the Palace of Westminster, B ...
committed the Liberal Party to "Irish Home Rule"—self-government for Ireland, within the United Kingdom. This was bitterly opposed by Irish Unionists, most of whom were Protestants, who feared an Irish devolved government dominated by Irish nationalists and Catholics. The Government of Ireland Bill 1886 and Government of Ireland Bill 1893 were defeated. However, Home Rule became a near-certainty in 1912 after the Government of Ireland Act 1914 was introduced. The Liberal government was dependent on Nationalist support, and the
Parliament Act 1911 The Parliament Act 1911 (1 & 2 Geo. 5 c. 13) is an Act of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. It is constitutionally important and partly governs the relationship between the House of Commons and the House of Lords, the two Houses of Pa ...
prevented the House of Lords from blocking the bill indefinitely.James F. Lydon
''The Making of Ireland: From Ancient Times to the Present''
, Routledge, 1998, p. 326
In response, unionists vowed to prevent Irish Home Rule, from
Conservative and Unionist Party The Conservative Party, officially the Conservative and Unionist Party and also known colloquially as the Tories, is one of the two main political parties in the United Kingdom, along with the Labour Party. It is the current governing party, ...
leaders such as Bonar Law and Dublin-based barrister Edward Carson to militant working class unionists in Ireland. This sparked the Home Rule Crisis. In September 1912, more than 500,000 Unionists signed the Ulster Covenant, pledging to oppose Home Rule by any means and to defy any Irish government. In 1914, unionists smuggled thousands of rifles and rounds of ammunition from
Imperial Germany The German Empire (),Herbert Tuttle wrote in September 1881 that the term "Reich" does not literally connote an empire as has been commonly assumed by English-speaking people. The term literally denotes an empire – particularly a hereditary ...
for use by the Ulster Volunteers (UVF), a paramilitary organisation formed to oppose Home Rule. Irish nationalists had also formed a paramilitary organisation, the Irish Volunteers. It sought to ensure Home Rule was implemented, and it smuggled its own weapons into Ireland a few months after the Ulster Volunteers. Ireland seemed to be on the brink of civil war. Unionists were in a minority in Ireland as a whole, but a majority in the province of
Ulster Ulster (; ga, Ulaidh or ''Cúige Uladh'' ; sco, label= Ulster Scots, Ulstèr or ''Ulster'') is one of the four traditional Irish provinces. It is made up of nine counties: six of these constitute Northern Ireland (a part of the United Kin ...
, especially the counties Antrim, Down,
Armagh Armagh ( ; ga, Ard Mhacha, , "Macha's height") is the county town of County Armagh and a city in Northern Ireland, as well as a civil parish. It is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland – the seat of the Archbishops of Armagh, the ...
and Londonderry. Unionists argued that if Home Rule could not be stopped then all or part of Ulster should be excluded from it. In May 1914, the UK Government introduced an Amending Bill to allow for 'Ulster' to be excluded from Home Rule. There was then debate over how much of Ulster should be excluded and for how long. Some Ulster unionists were willing to tolerate the 'loss' of some mainly-Catholic areas of the province. The crisis was interrupted by the outbreak of the
First World War World War I (28 July 1914 11 November 1918), often abbreviated as WWI, was List of wars and anthropogenic disasters by death toll, one of the deadliest global conflicts in history. Belligerents included much of Europe, the Russian Empire, ...
in August 1914, and Ireland's involvement in it. The UK Government abandoned the Amending Bill, and instead rushed through a new bill, the Suspensory Act 1914, suspending Home Rule for the duration of the war, with the exclusion of Ulster still to be decided.


Partition of Ireland

By the end of the war (during which the 1916
Easter Rising The Easter Rising ( ga, Éirí Amach na Cásca), also known as the Easter Rebellion, was an armed insurrection in Ireland during Easter Week in April 1916. The Rising was launched by Irish republicans against British rule in Ireland with t ...
had taken place), most Irish nationalists now wanted full independence rather than home rule. In September 1919, British Prime Minister
David Lloyd George David Lloyd George, 1st Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor, (17 January 1863 – 26 March 1945) was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 1916 to 1922. He was a Liberal Party (United Kingdom), Liberal Party politician from Wales, known for lea ...
tasked a committee with planning another home rule bill. Headed by English unionist politician Walter Long, it was known as the 'Long Committee'. It decided that two devolved governments should be established—one for the nine counties of Ulster and one for the rest of Ireland—together with a Council of Ireland for the "encouragement of Irish unity". Most Ulster unionists wanted the territory of the Ulster government to be reduced to six counties so that it would have a larger Protestant unionist majority. They feared that the territory would not last if it included too many Catholics and Irish nationalists. The six counties of Antrim, Down,
Armagh Armagh ( ; ga, Ard Mhacha, , "Macha's height") is the county town of County Armagh and a city in Northern Ireland, as well as a civil parish. It is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland – the seat of the Archbishops of Armagh, the ...
, Londonderry, Tyrone and
Fermanagh Historically, Fermanagh ( ga, Fir Manach), as opposed to the modern County Fermanagh, was a kingdom of Gaelic Ireland, associated geographically with present-day County Fermanagh. ''Fir Manach'' originally referred to a distinct kin group of a ...
comprised the maximum area unionists believed they could dominate. The area that was to become Northern Ireland amounted to six of the nine counties of Ulster, in spite of the fact that in the last all Ireland election (
1918 Irish general election The 1918 Irish general election was the part of the 1918 United Kingdom general election which took place in Ireland. It is now seen as a key moment in modern Irish history because it saw the overwhelming defeat of the moderate nationalist Iri ...
) counties Fermanagh and Tyrone had Sinn Fein/Nationalist Party (Irish Parliamentary Party) majorities. Events overtook the government. In the 1918 Irish general election, the pro-independence
Sinn Féin Sinn Féin ( , ; en, " eOurselves") is an Irish republican and democratic socialist political party active throughout both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The original Sinn Féin organisation was founded in 1905 by Arthur Gr ...
party won the overwhelming majority of Irish seats. Sinn Féin's elected members boycotted the British parliament and founded a separate Irish parliament ( Dáil Éireann), declaring the independent Irish Republic covering the whole island. Many Irish republicans blamed the British establishment for the sectarian divisions in Ireland, and believed that Ulster Unionist defiance would fade once British rule was ended. The British authorities outlawed the Dáil in September 1919, and a guerrilla conflict developed as the
Irish Republican Army The Irish Republican Army (IRA) is a name used by various paramilitary organisations in Ireland throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Organisations by this name have been dedicated to irredentism through Irish republicanism, the belief th ...
(IRA) began attacking British forces. This became known as the
Irish War of Independence The Irish War of Independence () or Anglo-Irish War was a guerrilla war fought in Ireland from 1919 to 1921 between the Irish Republican Army (IRA, the army of the Irish Republic) and British forces: the British Army, along with the quasi-mil ...
. Meanwhile, the Government of Ireland Act 1920 passed through the British parliament in 1920. It would divide Ireland into two self-governing UK territories: the six northeastern counties (Northern Ireland) being ruled from
Belfast Belfast ( , ; from ga, Béal Feirste , meaning 'mouth of the sand-bank ford') is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast. It is the 12th-largest city in the United Kingdom ...
, and the other twenty-six counties (Southern Ireland) being ruled from
Dublin Dublin (; , or ) is the capital and largest city of Ireland. On a bay at the mouth of the River Liffey, it is in the province of Leinster, bordered on the south by the Dublin Mountains, a part of the Wicklow Mountains range. At the 2016 ...
. Both would have a shared Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, who would appoint both governments and a Council of Ireland, which the UK Government intended to evolve into an all-Ireland parliament. The Act received
royal assent Royal assent is the method by which a monarch formally approves an act of the legislature, either directly or through an official acting on the monarch's behalf. In some jurisdictions, royal assent is equivalent to promulgation, while in oth ...
that December, becoming the Government of Ireland Act 1920. It came into force on 3 May 1921,O'Day, Alan. ''Irish Home Rule, 1867–1921''. Manchester University Press, 1998. p. 299 partitioning Ireland and creating Northern Ireland. Elections to the Northern parliament were held on 24 May, in which Unionists won most seats. Its parliament first met on 7 June and formed its first devolved government, headed by Unionist Party leader James Craig. Republican and nationalist members refused to attend. King George V addressed the ceremonial opening of the Northern parliament on 22 June. During 1920–22, in what became Northern Ireland, partition was accompanied by violence "in defence or opposition to the new settlement" – see The Troubles in Northern Ireland (1920–1922). The IRA carried out attacks on British forces in the north-east but was less active than in the south of Ireland. Protestant loyalists attacked the Catholic community in reprisal for IRA actions. In the summer of 1920, sectarian violence erupted in Belfast and Derry, and there were mass burnings of Catholic property in Lisburn and Banbridge. Conflict continued intermittently for two years, mostly in
Belfast Belfast ( , ; from ga, Béal Feirste , meaning 'mouth of the sand-bank ford') is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast. It is the 12th-largest city in the United Kingdom ...
, which saw "savage and unprecedented"
communal violence Communal violence is a form of violence that is perpetrated across ethnic or communal lines, the violent parties feel solidarity for their respective groups, and victims are chosen based upon group membership. The term includes conflicts, riots ...
between Protestant and Catholic civilians. There was rioting, gun battles, and bombings. Homes, businesses, and churches were attacked and people were expelled from workplaces and mixed neighbourhoods. More than 500 were killed and more than 10,000 became refugees, most of them Catholics. The
British Army The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of the British Armed Forces along with the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. , the British Army comprises 79,380 regular full-time personnel, 4,090 Gurkha ...
was deployed and the Ulster Special Constabulary (USC) was formed to help the regular police. The USC was almost wholly Protestant and some of its members carried out reprisal attacks on Catholics. A truce between British forces and the IRA was established on 11 July 1921, ending the fighting in most of Ireland. However, communal violence continued in Belfast, and in 1922 the IRA launched a guerrilla offensive in border areas of Northern Ireland. The
Anglo-Irish Treaty The 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty ( ga , An Conradh Angla-Éireannach), commonly known in Ireland as The Treaty and officially the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty Between Great Britain and Ireland, was an agreement between the government of the ...
was signed between representatives of the UK Government and the Irish Republic on 6 December 1921. This created the
Irish Free State The Irish Free State ( ga, Saorstát Éireann, , ; 6 December 192229 December 1937) was a state established in December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921. The treaty ended the three-year Irish War of Independence between ...
. 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. As expected, 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 King
George V George V (George Frederick Ernest Albert; 3 June 1865 – 20 January 1936) was King of the United Kingdom and the British Dominions, and Emperor of India, from 6 May 1910 until his death in 1936. Born during the reign of his grandmother ...
. The text of the address was: Shortly afterwards, the
Irish Boundary Commission The Irish Boundary Commission () met in 1924–25 to decide on the precise delineation of the border between the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. The 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty, which ended the Irish War of Independence, provided for such a c ...
was established to decide on the border between the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. Owing to the outbreak of the Irish Civil War, the work of the commission was delayed until 1925. The Free State government and
Irish nationalists Irish nationalism is a nationalist political movement which, in its broadest sense, asserts that the people of Ireland should govern Ireland as a sovereign state. Since the mid-19th century, Irish nationalism has largely taken the form of cu ...
hoped for a large transfer of territory to the Free State, as many border areas had nationalist majorities, leaving the remaining Northern Ireland too small to be viable. However, the commission's final report recommended only small transfers of territory, and in both directions. The Free State, Northern Ireland, and UK governments agreed to suppress the report and accept the ''status quo'', while the UK Government agreed that the Free State would no longer have to pay its share of the UK national debt.


1925–1965

Northern Ireland's border was drawn to give it "a decisive Protestant majority". At the time of its creation, Northern Ireland's population was two-thirds Protestant and one-third Catholic. Most Protestants were unionists/loyalists who sought to maintain Northern Ireland as a part of the United Kingdom, while most Catholics were Irish nationalists/republicans who sought an independent United Ireland. There was mutual self-imposed segregation in Northern Ireland between Protestants and Catholics such as in education, housing, and often employment.McKittrick & McVea, pp.17–19 For its first fifty years, Northern Ireland had an unbroken series of Unionist Party governments. Almost every minister of these governments were members of the Protestant Orange Order. Almost all judges and magistrates were Protestant, many of them closely associated with the Unionist Party. Northern Ireland's new police force was the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), which succeeded the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). It too was almost wholly Protestant and lacked operational independence, responding to directions from government ministers. The RUC and the reserve Ulster Special Constabulary (USC) were militarized police forces due to the threat from the IRA. They "had at their disposal the Special Powers Act, a sweeping piece of legislation which allowed arrests without warrant, internment without trial, unlimited search powers, and bans on meetings and publications". The Nationalist Party was the main political party in opposition to the Unionist governments. However, its elected members often protested by
abstaining Abstention is a term in election procedure for when a participant in a vote either does not go to vote (on election day) or, in parliamentary procedure, is present during the vote, but does not cast a ballot. Abstention must be contrasted with ...
from the Northern Ireland parliament, and many nationalists did not vote in parliamentary elections. Other early nationalist groups which campaigned against partition included the National League of the North (formed in 1928), the
Northern Council for Unity The Northern Council for Unity was an Irish republican political party founded in 1937 by Anthony Mulvey.Peter Barberis, John McHugh, Mike Tyldesley, ''Encyclopedia of British and Irish Political Organizations'', 2002, p. 237 The group was form ...
(formed in 1937) and the
Irish Anti-Partition League The Irish Anti-Partition League (APL) was a political organisation based in Northern Ireland which campaigned for a united Ireland from 1945 to 1958. Foundation Prior to the establishment of the League, there had been no rank-and-file organis ...
(formed in 1945). The Unionist governments, and some unionist-dominated local authorities, were accused of discriminating against the Catholic and Irish nationalist minority; especially over gerrymandering of electoral boundaries, the allocation of public housing, public sector employment, and policing. While some individual accusations were unfounded or exaggerated, there are enough proven cases to show "a consistent and irrefutable pattern of deliberate discrimination against Catholics". Decades later, Unionist First Minister of Northern Ireland, David Trimble, said it had been a "cold house" for Catholics. In June 1940, to encourage the neutral Irish state to join with the
Allies of World War II The Allies, formally referred to as the Declaration by United Nations, United Nations from 1942, were an international Coalition#Military, military coalition formed during the World War II, Second World War (1939–1945) to oppose the Axis ...
, British Prime Minister
Winston Churchill Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill (30 November 187424 January 1965) was a British statesman, soldier, and writer who served as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom twice, from 1940 to 1945 during the Second World War, and again from ...
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. 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. From 1956 to 1962, the
Irish Republican Army The Irish Republican Army (IRA) is a name used by various paramilitary organisations in Ireland throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Organisations by this name have been dedicated to irredentism through Irish republicanism, the belief th ...
(IRA) carried out a limited guerrilla campaign in border areas of Northern Ireland, called the Border Campaign. It aimed to destabilize Northern Ireland and bring about an end to partition but failed. In 1965, Northern Ireland's Prime Minister Terence O'Neill met the Taoiseach, Seán Lemass. It was the first meeting between the two heads of government since partition.


The Troubles

The Troubles, which started in the late 1960s, consisted of about 30 years of recurring acts of intense violence during which 3,254 people were killed with over 50,000 casualties. From 1969 to 2003 there were over 36,900 shooting incidents and over 16,200 bombings or attempted bombings associated with The Troubles. 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. From 1967 to 1972 the
Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association ) was an organisation that campaigned for civil rights in Northern Ireland during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Formed in Belfast on 9 April 1967,
(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. 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. 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 The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of the British Armed Forces along with the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. , the British Army comprises 79,380 regular full-time personnel, 4,090 Gurkha ...
and the police (the Royal Ulster Constabulary) – were also involved in the violence. The UK 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 Combatant is the legal status of an individual who has the right to engage in hostilities during an armed conflict. The legal definition of "combatant" is found at article 43(2) of Additional Protocol I (AP1) to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. It ...
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 for Northern Ireland 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,The Ballast report
: "...the Police Ombudsman has concluded that this was collusion by certain police officers with identified UVF informants."
although the extent to which such collusion occurred is still disputed. As a consequence of the worsening security situation, the 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 the 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).


Peace process

The Troubles were brought to an uneasy end by a peace process that 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 sensitive border areas such as South Armagh and
Fermanagh Historically, Fermanagh ( ga, Fir Manach), as opposed to the modern County Fermanagh, was a kingdom of Gaelic Ireland, associated geographically with present-day County Fermanagh. ''Fir Manach'' originally referred to a distinct kin group of a ...
, 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). 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 UK 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.Parliamentary debate
: "The British government agree that it is for the people of the island of Ireland alone, by agreement between the two parts respectively, to exercise their right of self-determination on the basis of consent, freely and concurrently given, North and South, to bring about a united Ireland, if that is their wish."
The latter statement was key to winning support for the agreement from nationalists. It established a devolved power-sharing government, the Northern Ireland Assembly, located on the Stormont Estate, which must consist of both unionist and nationalist parties. These institutions were suspended by the
UK Government ga, Rialtas a Shoilse gd, Riaghaltas a Mhòrachd , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size = 220px , image2 = Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg , image_size2 = 180px , caption = Royal Arms , date_est ...
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. 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 An arsenal is a place where arms and ammunition are made, maintained and repaired, stored, or issued, in any combination, whether privately or publicly owned. Arsenal and armoury (British English) or armory (American English) are mostl ...
. This final act of decommissioning was performed under the watch of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD) and two external church witnesses. Many unionists, however, remained skeptical. The IICD later confirmed that the main loyalist paramilitary groups, the Ulster Defence Association, UVF, and the Red Hand Commando, had decommissioned what is thought to be all of their arsenals, witnessed by former archbishop
Robin Eames Robert Henry Alexander Eames, Baron Eames, (born 27 April 1936) is an Anglican bishop and life peer, who served as Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh from 1986 to 2006. Early life and education Eames was born in 1936, the son ...
and a former top civil servant. Politicians elected to the Assembly at the 2003 Assembly election were called together on 15 May 2006 under the Northern Ireland Act 2006 to elect a First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and choose the members of an Executive (before 25 November 2006) as a preliminary step to the restoration of devolved government. Following the election on 7 March 2007, the devolved government returned on 8 May 2007 with
Democratic Unionist Party The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) is a unionist, loyalist, and national conservative political party in Northern Ireland. It was founded in 1971 during the Troubles by Ian Paisley, who led the party for the next 37 years. Currently led by J ...
(DUP) leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Féin deputy leader Martin McGuinness taking office as First Minister and deputy First Minister, respectively. In its white paper on
Brexit Brexit (; a portmanteau of "British exit") was the Withdrawal from the European Union, withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) from the European Union (EU) at 23:00 Greenwich Mean Time, GMT on 31 January 2020 (00:00 1 February 2020 Central Eur ...
the United Kingdom government reiterated its commitment to the Belfast Agreement. Concerning 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".


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 The Huguenots ( , also , ) were a religious group of French Protestants who held to the Reformed, or Calvinist, tradition of Protestantism. The term, which may be derived from the name of a Swiss political leader, the Genevan burgomaster Be ...
settlers as well as
Gaels The Gaels ( ; ga, Na Gaeil ; gd, Na Gàidheil ; gv, Ny Gaeil ) are an ethnolinguistic group native to Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man in the British Isles. They are associated with the Gaelic languages: a branch of the Celtic langua ...
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 The Highlands ( sco, the Hielands; gd, a’ Ghàidhealtachd , 'the place of the Gaels') is a historical region of Scotland. Culturally, the Highlands and the Lowlands diverged from the Late Middle Ages into the modern period, when Lowland S ...
as well as some converts from Protestantism. Discrimination against nationalists under the Stormont government (1921–1972) gave rise to the
civil rights movement The civil rights movement was a nonviolent social and political movement and campaign from 1954 to 1968 in the United States to abolish legalized institutional racial segregation, discrimination, and disenfranchisement throughout the Unite ...
in the 1960s. 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, 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. In 2007, 36% of the population defined themselves as unionist, 24% as nationalist, and 40% defined themselves as neither. 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. 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 several 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%). Official voting figures, which reflect views on the "national question" along with issues of the 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 Social democracy is a political, social, and economic philosophy within socialism that supports political and economic democracy. As a policy regime, it is described by academics as advocating economic and social interventions to promote s ...
. 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. 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 90 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs), 37 are unionists and 35 are nationalists (the remaining 18 are classified as "other").


Governance

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 In the United Kingdom, devolved matters are the areas of public policy where the Parliament of the United Kingdom has devolved its legislative power to the national assemblies of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, while reserved matte ...
. 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 International relations (IR), sometimes referred to as international studies and international affairs, is the scientific study of interactions between sovereign states. In a broader sense, it concerns all activities between states—such ...
, 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 cooperation (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 The Government of Ireland ( ga, Rialtas na hÉireann) is the cabinet that exercises executive authority in Ireland. The Constitution of Ireland vests executive authority in a government which is headed by the , the head of government. The govern ...
and
Government of the United Kingdom ga, Rialtas a Shoilse gd, Riaghaltas a Mhòrachd , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size = 220px , image2 = Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg , image_size2 = 180px , caption = Royal Arms , date_est ...
co-operate closely on non-devolved matters through the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference. Elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly are by
single transferable vote Single transferable vote (STV) is a multi-winner electoral system in which voters cast a single vote in the form of a ranked-choice ballot. Voters have the option to rank candidates, and their vote may be transferred according to alternate p ...
with five Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) elected from each of 18
parliamentary constituencies An electoral district, also known as an election district, legislative district, voting district, constituency, riding, ward, division, or (election) precinct is a subdivision of a larger state (a country, administrative region, or other polit ...
. 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 In a first-past-the-post electoral system (FPTP or FPP), formally called single-member plurality voting (SMP) when used in single-member districts or informally choose-one voting in contrast to ranked voting, or score voting, voters cast the ...
system. However, not all of those elected take their seats. Sinn Féin MPs, currently seven, refuse to take the oath to serve the King that is required before MPs are allowed to take their seats. In addition, the upper house of the UK parliament, the
House of Lords The House of Lords, also known as the House of Peers, is the upper house of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. Membership is by appointment, heredity or official function. Like the House of Commons, it meets in the Palace of Westminst ...
, currently has some 25 appointed members from Northern Ireland. 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 about 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 Jurisdiction (from Latin 'law' + 'declaration') is the legal term for the legal authority granted to a legal entity to enact justice. In federations like the United States, areas of jurisdiction apply to local, state, and federal levels. J ...
, separate from the two other jurisdictions in the United Kingdom (
England and Wales England and Wales () is one of the three legal jurisdictions of the United Kingdom. It covers the constituent countries England and Wales and was formed by the Laws in Wales Acts 1535 and 1542. The substantive law of the jurisdiction is En ...
, and
Scotland Scotland (, ) is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain, mainland Scotland has a border with England to the southeast and is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to ...
). Northern Ireland law developed from Irish law that existed before the
partition of Ireland The partition of Ireland ( ga, críochdheighilt na hÉireann) was the process by which the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland divided Ireland into two self-governing polities: Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. ...
in 1921. Northern Ireland is a
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent, judge-made law, or case law) is the body of law created by judges and similar quasi-judicial tribunals by virtue of being stated in written opinions."The common law is not a brooding omniprese ...
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 The Parliament of Ireland ( ga, Parlaimint na hÉireann) was the legislature of the Lordship of Ireland, and later the Kingdom of Ireland, from 1297 until 1800. It was modelled on the Parliament of England and from 1537 comprised two ch ...
, along with some Acts of the
Parliament of England The Parliament of England was the legislature of the Kingdom of England from the 13th century until 1707 when it was replaced by the Parliament of Great Britain. Parliament evolved from the great council of bishops and peers that advise ...
and of the
Parliament of Great Britain The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in May 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and the Parliament of Scotland. The Acts ratified the treaty of Union which created a new unified Kingdo ...
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. The choice of term can be controversial and can reveal the writer's political preferences. This has been noted as a problem by several writers on Northern Ireland, with no generally recommended solution. Owing in part to how 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 and the UK Statistics Authority describe the United Kingdom as being made up of four countries, one of these being Northern Ireland. Other pages on the same websites refer to Northern Ireland specifically as a "province" as do publications of the UK Statistics Authority. The website of the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency also refers to Northern Ireland as being a province as does the website of the Office of Public Sector Information and other agencies within Northern Ireland. Publications of
HM Treasury His Majesty's Treasury (HM Treasury), occasionally referred to as the Exchequer, or more informally the Treasury, is a Departments of the Government of the United Kingdom, department of Government of the United Kingdom, His Majesty's Government ...
and the Department of Finance and Personnel of the Northern Ireland Executive, 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 A principality (or sometimes princedom) can either be a monarchical feudatory or a sovereign state, ruled or reigned over by a regnant-monarch with the title of prince and/or princess, or by a monarch with another title considered to fall un ...
(Wales) and one province (Northern Ireland). Unlike England, Scotland, and Wales, Northern Ireland has no history of being an independent country or of being a nation in its own right. Some writers describe the United Kingdom as being made up of three countries and one province or point out the difficulties with calling Northern Ireland a country. Authors writing specifically about Northern Ireland dismiss the idea that Northern Ireland is a "country" in general terms,; and draw contrasts in this respect with England, Scotland and Wales. 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. 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 and is in contrast to England, Scotland, and Wales. 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. 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 the traditional country of Ireland. "Region" is used by several UK government agencies and the European Union. Some authors choose this word but note that it is "unsatisfactory". Northern Ireland can also be simply described as "part of the UK", including by the UK government offices.


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-largest city should be called "Derry" or "Londonderry". Choice of language and
nomenclature Nomenclature (, ) is a system of names or terms, or the rules for forming these terms in a particular field of arts or sciences. The principles of naming vary from the relatively informal conventions of everyday speech to the internationally ag ...
in Northern Ireland often reveals the cultural, ethnic, and religious identity of the speaker. 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 ''The Daily Telegraph'', known online and elsewhere as ''The Telegraph'', is a national British daily broadsheet newspaper published in London by Telegraph Media Group and distributed across the United Kingdom and internationally. It was f ...
'' and the ''
Daily Express The ''Daily Express'' is a national daily United Kingdom middle-market newspaper printed in tabloid format. Published in London, it is the flagship of Express Newspapers, owned by publisher Reach plc. It was first published as a broadsheet ...
'') regularly call Northern Ireland "Ulster". Many media outlets in the Republic use "North of Ireland" (or simply "the North"), as well as the "Six Counties". ''
The New York Times ''The New York Times'' (''the Times'', ''NYT'', or the Gray Lady) is a daily newspaper based in New York City with a worldwide readership reported in 2020 to comprise a declining 840,000 paid print subscribers, and a growing 6 million paid ...
'' has also used "the North". Government and cultural organisations in Northern Ireland often use the word "Ulster" in their title; for example, the
University of Ulster sco, Ulstèr Universitie , image = Ulster University coat of arms.png , caption = , motto_lang = , mottoeng = , latin_name = Universitas Ulidiae , established = 1865 – Magee College 1953 - Magee Un ...
, the
Ulster Museum The Ulster Museum, located in the Botanic Gardens in Belfast, has around 8,000 square metres (90,000 sq. ft.) of public display space, featuring material from the collections of fine art and applied art, archaeology, ethnography, treasure ...
, 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

* Ulster, strictly speaking, refers to the province of
Ulster Ulster (; ga, Ulaidh or ''Cúige Uladh'' ; sco, label= Ulster Scots, Ulstèr or ''Ulster'') is one of the four traditional Irish provinces. It is made up of nine counties: six of these constitute Northern Ireland (a part of the United Kin ...
, 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. 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. * 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 reporting about Great Britain and Northern Ireland.


Nationalist

* North of Ireland – used to avoid using the name given by the British-enacted Government of Ireland Act 1920. * The Six Counties () – the Republic of Ireland is similarly described as the Twenty-Six Counties. 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. 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 The Irish Free State ( ga, Saorstát Éireann, , ; 6 December 192229 December 1937) was a state established in December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921. The treaty ended the three-year Irish War of Independence between ...
, which gained independence (as a
Dominion The term ''Dominion'' is used to refer to one of several self-governing nations of the British Empire. "Dominion status" was first accorded to Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Newfoundland, South Africa, and the Irish Free State at the 1926 ...
) in 1922. * British-Occupied Ireland – Similar in tone to the Occupied Six Counties, this term is used by more dogmatic republicans, such as Republican Sinn Féin, who still hold that the
Second Dáil The Second Dáil () was Dáil Éireann as it convened from 16 August 1921 until 8 June 1922. From 1919 to 1922, Dáil Éireann was the revolutionary parliament of the self-proclaimed Irish Republic. The Second Dáil consisted of members elect ...
was the last legitimate government of Ireland and that all governments since have been foreign-imposed usurpations of Irish national self-determination.


Other

* Norn Iron or "Norniron" – is an informal and affectionate 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.


Geography and climate

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
drumlin A drumlin, from the Irish word ''droimnín'' ("littlest ridge"), first recorded in 1833, in the classical sense is an elongated hill in the shape of an inverted spoon or half-buried egg formed by glacial ice acting on underlying unconsolidated ...
s in Counties Fermanagh, Armagh, Antrim and particularly Down. The centrepiece of Northern Ireland's geography is Lough Neagh, at the largest freshwater lake both on the island of Ireland and in the
British Isles The British Isles are a group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean off the north-western coast of continental Europe, consisting of the islands of Great Britain, Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Inner and Outer Hebrides, the Northern Isl ...
. A second extensive lake system is centred on Lower and Upper Lough Erne in Fermanagh. The largest island of Northern Ireland is
Rathlin Rathlin Island ( ga, Reachlainn, ; Local Irish dialect: ''Reachraidh'', ; Scots: ''Racherie'') is an island and civil parish off the coast of County Antrim (of which it is part) in Northern Ireland. It is Northern Ireland's northernmost point ...
, off the north Antrim coast. Strangford Lough is the largest inlet in the British Isles, covering . There are substantial uplands in the Sperrin Mountains (an extension of the Caledonian mountain belt) with extensive gold deposits,
granite Granite () is a coarse-grained ( phaneritic) intrusive igneous rock composed mostly of quartz, alkali feldspar, and plagioclase. It forms from magma with a high content of silica and alkali metal oxides that slowly cools and solidifies un ...
Mourne Mountains The Mourne Mountains ( ; ga, Beanna Boirche), also called the Mournes or Mountains of Mourne, are a granite mountain range in County Down in the south-east of Northern Ireland. They include the highest mountains in Northern Ireland, the hig ...
and
basalt Basalt (; ) is an aphanitic (fine-grained) extrusive igneous rock formed from the rapid cooling of low-viscosity lava rich in magnesium and iron (mafic lava) exposed at or very near the surface of a rocky planet or moon. More than 90 ...
Antrim Plateau County Antrim (named after the town of Antrim, ) is one of six counties of Northern Ireland and one of the thirty-two counties of Ireland. Adjoined to the north-east shore of Lough Neagh, the county covers an area of and has a population of ...
, 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 , Northern Ireland's highest point. Belfast's most prominent peak is Cavehill. The volcanic activity which created the Antrim Plateau also formed the geometric pillars of the Giant's Causeway on the north Antrim coast. Also in north Antrim are the
Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge (locally pronounced carrick-a-reed) is a rope bridge near Ballintoy in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede (). It spans and is above the rocks below. ...
,
Mussenden Temple Mussenden Temple is a small circular building located on cliffs near Castlerock in County Londonderry, high above the Atlantic Ocean on the north-western coast of Northern Ireland. History Perched on the cliffs overlooking Downhill Stran ...
and the Glens of Antrim. The Lower and Upper River Bann, River Foyle and River Blackwater form extensive fertile lowlands, with excellent
arable land Arable land (from the la, arabilis, "able to be ploughed") is any land capable of being ploughed and used to grow crops.''Oxford English Dictionary'', "arable, ''adj''. and ''n.''" Oxford University Press (Oxford), 2013. Alternatively, for th ...
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 vast majority of Northern Ireland has a temperate maritime climate, (''Cfb'' in the
Köppen climate classification The Köppen climate classification is one of the most widely used climate classification systems. It was first published by German-Russian climatologist Wladimir Köppen (1846–1940) in 1884, with several later modifications by Köppen, nota ...
) rather wetter in the west than the east, although cloud cover is very common 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 in January and in July. The highest maximum temperature recorded was , registered in July 2021 at Armagh Observatory's weather station. The lowest minimum temperature recorded was at Castlederg,
County Tyrone County Tyrone (; ) is one of the six counties of Northern Ireland, one of the nine counties of Ulster and one of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland. It is no longer used as an administrative division for local government but retai ...
on 23 December 2010. Northern Ireland is the least forested part of the United Kingdom and Ireland, and one of the least forested countries in Europe. Until the end of the
Middle Ages In the history of Europe, the Middle Ages or medieval period lasted approximately from the late 5th to the late 15th centuries, similar to the post-classical period of global history. It began with the fall of the Western Roman Empire ...
, the land was heavily forested. Native species include
deciduous In the fields of horticulture and Botany, the term ''deciduous'' () means "falling off at maturity" and "tending to fall off", in reference to trees and shrubs that seasonally shed leaves, usually in the autumn; to the shedding of petals, ...
trees such as oak,
ash Ash or ashes are the solid remnants of fires. Specifically, ''ash'' refers to all non-aqueous, non-gaseous residues that remain after something burns. In analytical chemistry, to analyse the mineral and metal content of chemical samples, ash ...
, hazel,
birch A birch is a thin-leaved deciduous hardwood tree of the genus ''Betula'' (), in the family Betulaceae, which also includes alders, hazels, and hornbeams. It is closely related to the beech- oak family Fagaceae. The genus ''Betula'' cont ...
, alder,
willow Willows, also called sallows and osiers, from the genus ''Salix'', comprise around 400 speciesMabberley, D.J. 1997. The Plant Book, Cambridge University Press #2: Cambridge. of typically deciduous trees and shrubs, found primarily on moist so ...
,
aspen Aspen is a common name for certain tree species; some, but not all, are classified by botanists in the section ''Populus'', of the '' Populus'' genus. Species These species are called aspens: *'' Populus adenopoda'' – Chinese aspen (C ...
, elm,
rowan The rowans ( or ) or mountain-ashes are shrubs or trees in the genus ''Sorbus'' of the rose family, Rosaceae. They are native throughout the cool temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, with the highest species diversity in the Himalaya ...
and
hawthorn Hawthorn or Hawthorns may refer to: Plants * '' Crataegus'' (hawthorn), a large genus of shrubs and trees in the family Rosaceae * ''Rhaphiolepis'' (hawthorn), a genus of about 15 species of evergreen shrubs and small trees in the family Rosace ...
, as well as
evergreen In botany, an evergreen is a plant which has foliage that remains green and functional through more than one growing season. This also pertains to plants that retain their foliage only in warm climates, and contrasts with deciduous plants, whic ...
trees such Scots pine,
yew Yew is a common name given to various species of trees. It is most prominently given to any of various coniferous trees and shrubs in the genus ''Taxus'': * European yew or common yew (''Taxus baccata'') * Pacific yew or western yew (''Taxus br ...
and holly. Today, only 8% of Northern Ireland is woodland, and most of this is non-native
conifer Conifers are a group of cone-bearing seed plants, a subset of gymnosperms. Scientifically, they make up the division Pinophyta (), also known as Coniferophyta () or Coniferae. The division contains a single extant class, Pinopsida. All ext ...
plantation A plantation is an agricultural estate, generally centered on a plantation house, meant for farming that specializes in cash crops, usually mainly planted with a single crop, with perhaps ancillary areas for vegetables for eating and so on. Th ...
s.


Counties

Northern Ireland consists of six historic counties:
County Antrim County Antrim (named after the town of Antrim, ) is one of six counties of Northern Ireland and one of the thirty-two counties of Ireland. Adjoined to the north-east shore of Lough Neagh, the county covers an area of and has a population ...
,
County Armagh County Armagh (, named after its county town, Armagh) is one of the six counties of Northern Ireland and one of the traditional thirty-two counties of Ireland. Adjoined to the southern shore of Lough Neagh, the county covers an area of an ...
, County Down,
County Fermanagh County Fermanagh ( ; ) is one of the thirty-two counties of Ireland, one of the nine counties of Ulster and one of the six counties of Northern Ireland. The county covers an area of 1,691 km2 (653 sq mi) and has a population of 61,805 ...
, County Londonderry, and
County Tyrone County Tyrone (; ) is one of the six counties of Northern Ireland, one of the nine counties of Ulster and one of the thirty-two traditional counties of Ireland. It is no longer used as an administrative division for local government but retai ...
. These counties are no longer used for local government purposes; instead, there are eleven
districts of Northern Ireland Northern Ireland is divided into 11 districts for local government purposes. In Northern Ireland, local councils do not carry out the same range of functions as those in the rest of the United Kingdom; for example they have no responsibility ...
which have different geographical extents. These were created in 2015, replacing the twenty-six districts which previously existed. 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 The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA; ga, Cumann Lúthchleas Gael ; CLG) is an Irish international amateur sporting and cultural organisation, focused primarily on promoting indigenous Gaelic games and pastimes, which include the traditional ...
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 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 Philip's 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 Ballyhackamore () is a townland in County Down, Northern Ireland, it is a suburb of Belfast located on the Upper Newtownards Road. It is also a ward in the UK Parliamentary constituency of East Belfast. The Sunday Times named Ballyhackamore th ...
near Belfast (overall best for Northern Ireland), Holywood, County Down, Newcastle, County Down, Portrush, County Antrim, Strangford, County Down.


Cities and major towns


Economy

Northern Ireland has traditionally had an industrial economy, most notably in shipbuilding, rope manufacture, and textiles, but the heaviest 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 Armagh ( ; ga, Ard Mhacha, , "Macha's height") is the county town of County Armagh and a city in Northern Ireland, as well as a civil parish. It is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland – the seat of the Archbishops of Armagh, the ...
and the many castles in Northern Ireland. The local economy has seen contraction during the
Great Recession The Great Recession was a period of marked general decline, i.e. a recession, observed in national economies globally that occurred from late 2007 into 2009. The scale and timing of the recession varied from country to country (see map). At ...
. The Executive wishes to gain taxation powers from London, to align Northern Ireland's corporation tax rate with that of the Republic of Ireland. As in all of the UK, the economy of Northern Ireland was negatively impacted by the lockdowns and travel restrictions necessitated by the
COVID-19 pandemic The COVID-19 pandemic, also known as the coronavirus pandemic, is an ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The novel virus was first identi ...
. The tourism and hospitality industry was particularly hard hit. These sectors "have been mandated to close since 26 December 2020, with a very limited number of exceptions" and many restrictions were continuing into April 2021. Hotels and other accommodations, for example, "closed apart from only for work-related stays". Some restrictions were expected to be loosened in mid April but tourism was expected to remain very limited.


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 Larne (, , the name of a Gaelic territory) is a town on the east coast of County Antrim, Northern Ireland, with a population of 18,755 at the 2011 Census. It is a major passenger and freight roll-on roll-off port. Larne is administered by Mid a ...
and
Belfast Belfast ( , ; from ga, Béal Feirste , meaning 'mouth of the sand-bank ford') is the capital and largest city of Northern Ireland, standing on the banks of the River Lagan on the east coast. It is the 12th-largest city in the United Kingdom ...
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 Enterprise (or the archaic spelling Enterprize) may refer to: Business and economics Brands and enterprises * Enterprise GP Holdings, an energy holding company * Enterprise plc, a UK civil engineering and maintenance company * Enterprise ...
service between Dublin Connolly and Lanyon Place. The whole of Ireland has a mainline railway network with a gauge of , which is unique in Europe and has resulted in distinct rolling stock designs. The only preserved line of this gauge on the island is the Downpatrick and County Down Railway, which operates heritage steam and diesel locomotives. Main railway lines linking to and from
Belfast Great Victoria Street railway station Great Victoria Street is a railway station serving the city centre of Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is one of two major stations in the city, along with , and is one of the four stations located in the city centre, the others being Lanyon Place, ...
and Lanyon Place railway station are: * The Derry Line and the Portrush Branch. * The Larne Line * The Bangor Line * The Portadown Line Main motorways are: * M1 connecting Belfast to the south and west, ending in Dungannon * M2 connecting Belfast to the north. An unconnected section of the M2 also by-passes
Ballymena Ballymena ( ; from ga, an Baile Meánach , meaning 'the middle townland') is a town in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is part of the Borough of Mid and East Antrim. The town is built on land given to the Adair family by King Charles I i ...
Additional short motorway spurs include: * M12 connecting the M1 to Portadown * M22 connecting the M2 to near Randalstown * M3 connecting the M1 (via the A12) and M2 in Belfast with the A2 dual carriageway to Bangor * M5 connecting Belfast to
Newtownabbey Newtownabbey ( ) is a large settlement in North Belfast in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is separated from the rest of the city by Cavehill and Fortwilliam golf course. It surrounds Carnmoney Hill, and was formed from the merging of sever ...
The cross-border road connecting the ports of
Larne Larne (, , the name of a Gaelic territory) is a town on the east coast of County Antrim, Northern Ireland, with a population of 18,755 at the 2011 Census. It is a major passenger and freight roll-on roll-off port. Larne is administered by Mid a ...
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 Seville (; es, Sevilla, ) is the capital and largest city of the Spanish autonomous community of Andalusia and the province of Seville. It is situated on the lower reaches of the River Guadalquivir, in the southwest of the Iberian Penins ...
.


Demographics

The population of Northern Ireland has risen yearly since 1978. The population at the time of the 2021 census was 1.9 million, having grown 5% over the previous decade. The population in 2011 was 1.8 million, a rise of 7.5% over the previous decade. The current population makes up 2.8% of the UK's population (67 million) and 27% of the island of Ireland's population (7.03 million). The population density is 135 inhabitants / km2. As of the 2021 census, the population of Northern Ireland is almost entirely
white White is the lightest color and is achromatic (having no hue). It is the color of objects such as snow, chalk, and milk, and is the opposite of black. White objects fully reflect and scatter all the visible wavelengths of light. White ...
(96.6%). In 2021, 86.5% of the population were born in Northern Ireland, with 4.8% born in Great Britain, 2.1% born in the Republic of Ireland, and 6.5% born elsewhere (more than half of them in another European country). In 2021 the largest non-white ethnic groups were
black Black is a color which results from the absence or complete absorption of visible light. It is an achromatic color, without hue, like white and grey. It is often used symbolically or figuratively to represent darkness. Black and white ha ...
(0.6%),
Indian Indian or Indians may refer to: Peoples South Asia * Indian people, people of Indian nationality, or people who have an Indian ancestor ** Non-resident Indian, a citizen of India who has temporarily emigrated to another country * South Asia ...
(0.5%), and Chinese (0.5%). In 2011, 88.8% of the population were born in Northern Ireland, 4.5% in Great Britain, and 2.9% in the Republic of Ireland. 4.3% were born elsewhere; triple the amount there were in 2001.


Religion

At the 2021 census, 42.3% of the population identified as
Roman Catholic Roman or Romans most often refers to: * Rome, the capital city of Italy *Ancient Rome, Roman civilization from 8th century BC to 5th century AD * Roman people, the people of ancient Rome *'' Epistle to the Romans'', shortened to ''Romans'', a let ...
, 37.3% as Protestant/other Christian, 1.3% as other religions, while 17.4% identified with no religion or did not state one. The biggest of the Protestant/other Christian denominations were the
Presbyterian Church Presbyterianism is a part of the Reformed tradition within Protestantism that broke from the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland by John Knox, who was a priest at St. Giles Cathedral (Church of Scotland). Presbyterian churches derive their nam ...
(16.6%), the
Church of Ireland The Church of Ireland ( ga, Eaglais na hÉireann, ; sco, label= Ulster-Scots, Kirk o Airlann, ) is a Christian church in Ireland and an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. It is organised on an all-Ireland basis and is the sec ...
(11.5%) and the
Methodist Church Methodism, also called the Methodist movement, is a group of historically related denominations of Protestant Christianity whose origins, doctrine and practice derive from the life and teachings of John Wesley. George Whitefield and John's ...
(2.3%). At the 2011 census, 41.5% of the population identified as Protestant/other Christian, 41% as Roman Catholic, 0.8% as other religions, while 17% identified with no religion or did not state one.Census 2011 In terms of background (i.e. religion or religion brought up in), at the 2021 census 45.7% of the population came from a Catholic background, 43.5% from a Protestant background, 1.5% from other religious backgrounds, and 5.6% from non-religious backgrounds. This was the first time since Northern Ireland's creation that there were more people from a Catholic background than Protestant. At the 2011 census, 48% came from a Protestant background, 45% from a Catholic background, 0.9% from other religious backgrounds, and 5.6% from non-religious backgrounds. In recent censuses, respondents gave their religious identity or religious upbringing as follows:


Identity and citizenship

In Northern Ireland censuses, respondents can choose more than one national identity. In 2021: *42.8% identified as British, solely or along with other national identities *33.3% identified as Irish, solely or along with other national identities *31.5% identified as Northern Irish, solely or along with other national identities The main national identities given in recent censuses were: 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 most Catholics see themselves primarily as Irish. 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. 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 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. 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 he two governmentsconfirm 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.
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. 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. In recent censuses, residents said they held the following passports:


Languages

Irish is an official language of Northern Ireland as of 6 December 2022 when the Irish Language Act (Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Act 2022) became law. The Irish Language Act officially repealed legislation from 1737 that banned the use of Irish in courts. English is a ''de facto'' official language. English is also spoken as a first language by 95.4% of the Northern Ireland population. Under the Good Friday Agreement, Irish and Ulster Scots (an Ulster dialect of the
Scots language Scots ( endonym: ''Scots''; gd, Albais, ) is an Anglic language variety in the West Germanic language family, spoken in Scotland and parts of Ulster in the north of Ireland (where the local dialect is known as Ulster Scots). Most commo ...
, sometimes known as ''Ullans''), are recognised as "part of the cultural wealth of Northern Ireland". The Irish Language Act of 2022 also legislated commissioners for both Irish and Ulster Scots. 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
UK Government ga, Rialtas a Shoilse gd, Riaghaltas a Mhòrachd , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size = 220px , image2 = Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg , image_size2 = 180px , caption = Royal Arms , date_est ...
in 2001 ratified the
European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages (ECRML) is a European treaty (CETS 148) adopted in 1992 under the auspices of the Council of Europe to protect and promote historical regional and minority languages in Europe. However, th ...
. Irish (in Northern Ireland) was specified under Part III of the Charter, with a range of specific undertakings about 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.


English

The dialect of English spoken in Northern Ireland shows influence from the lowland
Scots language Scots ( endonym: ''Scots''; gd, Albais, ) is an Anglic language variety in the West Germanic language family, spoken in Scotland and parts of Ulster in the north of Ireland (where the local dialect is known as Ulster Scots). Most commo ...
. 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 British English (BrE, en-GB, or BE) is, according to Oxford Dictionaries, "English as used in Great Britain, as distinct from that used elsewhere". More narrowly, it can refer specifically to the English language in England, or, more broadl ...
, and Catholics tend to pronounce as "haitch", as in
Hiberno-English Hiberno-English (from Latin '' Hibernia'': "Ireland"), and in ga, Béarla na hÉireann. or Irish English, also formerly Anglo-Irish, is the set of English dialects native to the island of Ireland (including both the Republic of Ireland ...
. However, geography is a much more important determinant of dialect than religious background.


Irish

The Irish language ( ga, an Ghaeilge), or ''Gaelic'', is the second most spoken language in Northern Ireland and is a native language of Ireland. 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 Anglicisation is the process by which a place or person becomes influenced by English culture or British culture, or a process of cultural and/or linguistic change in which something non-English becomes English. It can also refer to the influen ...
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. In the 2021 census, 12.4% (compared with 10.7% in 2011) of the population of Northern Ireland claimed "some knowledge of Irish" and 3.9% (compared with 3.7% in 2011) reported being able to "speak, read, write and understand" Irish. In another survey, from 1999, 1% of respondents said they spoke it as their main language at home.Northern Ireland LIFE & TIMES Survey
What is the main language spoken in your own home?
The dialect spoken in Northern Ireland, Ulster Irish, has two main types, East Ulster Irish and Donegal Irish (or West Ulster Irish), is the one closest to
Scottish Gaelic Scottish Gaelic ( gd, Gàidhlig ), also known as Scots Gaelic and Gaelic, is a Goidelic language (in the Celtic branch of the Indo-European language family) native to the Gaels of Scotland. As a Goidelic language, Scottish Gaelic, as well as ...
(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 Argyll (; archaically Argyle, in modern Gaelic, ), sometimes called Argyllshire, is a historic county and registration county of western Scotland. Argyll is of ancient origin, and corresponds to most of the part of the ancient kingdom of ...
, the part of Scotland nearest to Ireland. And those dialects of Armagh and Down were also very similar to the dialects of Galloway. The 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, 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. In May 2022, the UK Government proposed a bill in the House of Lords to make Irish an official language (and support Ulster Scots) in Northern Ireland and to create an Irish Language Commissioner. There has recently been an increase in interest in the language among unionists in East Belfast.


Ulster Scots

Ulster Scots comprises varieties of the
Scots language Scots ( endonym: ''Scots''; gd, Albais, ) is an Anglic language variety in the West Germanic language family, spoken in Scotland and parts of Ulster in the north of Ireland (where the local dialect is known as Ulster Scots). Most commo ...
spoken in Northern Ireland. For a native English speaker, " lster Scotsis comparatively accessible, and even at its most intense can be understood fairly easily with the help of a glossary."Aodan Mac Poilin, 1999
"Language, Identity and Politics in Northern Ireland"
in Ulster Folk Life Vol. 45, 1999
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". At the time of the 2021 census, approximately 1.1% (compared to 0.9% in 2011) of the population claimed to be able to speak, read, write and understand Ulster-Scots, while 10.4% (compared to 8.1% in 2011) professed to have "some ability".


Sign languages

The most common
sign language Sign languages (also known as signed languages) are languages that use the visual-manual modality to convey meaning, instead of spoken words. Sign languages are expressed through manual articulation in combination with non-manual markers. Sign ...
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 A lexicon is the vocabulary of a language or branch of knowledge (such as nautical or medical). In linguistics, a lexicon is a language's inventory of lexemes. The word ''lexicon'' derives from Greek word (), neuter of () meaning 'of or fo ...
is based on
British Sign Language British Sign Language (BSL) is a sign language used in the United Kingdom (UK), and is the first or preferred language among the Deaf community in the UK. Based on the percentage of people who reported 'using British Sign Language at home' o ...
(BSL). the
UK Government ga, Rialtas a Shoilse gd, Riaghaltas a Mhòrachd , image = HM Government logo.svg , image_size = 220px , image2 = Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom (HM Government).svg , image_size2 = 180px , caption = Royal Arms , date_est ...
recognises only British Sign Language and Irish Sign Language as the official sign languages used in Northern Ireland.


Culture

Northern Ireland shares both the culture of Ireland and the
culture of the United Kingdom British culture is influenced by the combined nations' history; its historically Christian religious life, its interaction with the cultures of Europe, the traditions of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland and the impact of the British Empir ...
. Parades are a prominent feature of Northern Ireland society, more so than in the rest of Ireland or the United Kingdom. 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 in the "Eleventh Night" celebrations.Bryan, Dominic. ''Orange Parades: The Politics of Ritual, Tradition and Control''. Pluto Press, 2000. p. 130 The biggest parades are held on 12 July (
The Twelfth The Twelfth (also called Orangemen's Day) is an Ulster Protestant celebration held on 12 July. It began in the late 18th century in Ulster. It celebrates the Glorious Revolution (1688) and victory of Protestant King William of Orange ove ...
). There is often tension when these activities take place near Catholic neighbourhoods, which sometimes leads to violence. 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 Ulaid (Old Irish, ) or Ulaidh ( Modern Irish, ) was a Gaelic over-kingdom in north-eastern Ireland during the Middle Ages made up of a confederation of dynastic groups. Alternative names include Ulidia, which is the Latin form of Ulaid, and in ...
in what is now eastern Ulster. This is one of the four major cycles of
Irish mythology Irish mythology is the body of myths native to the island of Ireland. It was originally oral tradition, passed down orally in the Prehistoric Ireland, prehistoric era, being part of ancient Celtic religion. Many myths were later Early Irish ...
. The cycle centres on the reign of Conchobar mac Nessa, who is said to have been the 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, who features in the epic prose/poem ''An Táin Bó Cúailnge'' (The Cattle Raid of Cooley, a ''
casus belli A (; ) is an act or an event that either provokes or is used to justify a war. A ''casus belli'' involves direct offenses or threats against the nation declaring the war, whereas a ' involves offenses or threats against its ally—usually one ...
'' between Ulster and Connaught).


Symbols

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 The Union Jack, or Union Flag, is the ''de facto'' national flag of the United Kingdom. Although no law has been passed making the Union Flag the official national flag of the United Kingdom, it has effectively become such through precedent. ...
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, 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. The official flag is that of the state having sovereignty over the territory, i.e. the Union Flag. 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. The 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." The
Irish Rugby Football Union The Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) ( ga, Cumann Rugbaí na hÉireann) is the body managing rugby union in the island of Ireland (both Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland). The IRFU has its head office at 10/12 Lansdowne Road and home ...
and the
Church of Ireland The Church of Ireland ( ga, Eaglais na hÉireann, ; sco, label= Ulster-Scots, Kirk o Airlann, ) is a Christian church in Ireland and an autonomous province of the Anglican Communion. It is organised on an all-Ireland basis and is the sec ...
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 The British Army is the principal land warfare force of the United Kingdom, a part of the British Armed Forces along with the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force. , the British Army comprises 79,380 regular full-time personnel, 4,090 Gurkha ...
regiments. Foreign flags are also found, such as the Palestinian flags in some nationalist areas and
Israeli Israeli may refer to: * Something of, from, or related to the State of Israel * Israelis, citizens or permanent residents of the State of Israel * Modern Hebrew, a language * ''Israeli'' (newspaper), published from 2006 to 2008 * Guni Israeli (b ...
flags in some unionist areas. The United Kingdom national anthem of "
God Save the King "God Save the King" is the national and/or royal anthem of the United Kingdom, most of the Commonwealth realms, their territories, and the British Crown Dependencies. The author of the tune is unknown and it may originate in plainchant, ...
" is often played at state events in Northern Ireland. At the
Commonwealth Games The Commonwealth Games, often referred to as the Friendly Games or simply the Comm Games, are a quadrennial international multi-sport event among athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations. The event was first held in 1930, and, with the ex ...
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 Lyrics are words that make up a song, usually consisting of verses and choruses. The writer of lyrics is a lyricist. The words to an extended musical composition such as an opera are, however, usually known as a " libretto" and their writer, ...
as '' Danny Boy''), which also has no official status, as its
national anthem A national anthem is a patriotic musical composition symbolizing and evoking eulogies of the history and traditions of a country or nation. The majority of national anthems are marches or hymns in style. American, Central Asian, and Europea ...
. The Northern Ireland national football team also uses the Ulster Banner as its flag but uses "God Save The King" as its anthem. Major
Gaelic Athletic Association The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA; ga, Cumann Lúthchleas Gael ; CLG) is an Irish international amateur sporting and cultural organisation, focused primarily on promoting indigenous Gaelic games and pastimes, which include the traditional ...
matches are opened by the national anthem of the Republic of Ireland, "
Amhrán na bhFiann "" (), called "The Soldier's Song" in English, is Ireland's national anthem. The music was composed by Peadar Kearney and Patrick Heeney, the original English lyrics by Kearney, and the Irish-language translation, now usually the version hea ...
(The Soldier's Song)", which is also used by most other all-Ireland sporting organisations. 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. 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.How do other sports in the island cope with the situation?
The Herald, 3 April 2008
The most notable exception is association football, which has separate governing bodies for each jurisdiction.


Field sports


Association football

The
Irish Football Association The Irish Football Association (IFA) is the governing body for association football in Northern Ireland. It organised the Ireland national football team from 1880 to 1950, which after 1954, became the Northern Ireland national football team. ...
(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 The NIFL Premiership, known as the Danske Bank Premiership for sponsorship purposes, and colloquially as the Irish League or Irish Premiership, is a professional association football league which operates as the highest division of the North ...
and the NIFL Championship. However, many players from Northern Ireland compete with clubs in
England England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to its west and Scotland to its north. The Irish Sea lies northwest and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. It is separated from continental Europe ...
and
Scotland Scotland (, ) is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. Covering the northern third of the island of Great Britain, mainland Scotland has a border with England to the southeast and is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean to ...
. NIFL clubs are
semi-professional Semi-professional sports are sports in which athletes are not participating on a full-time basis, but still receive some payment. Semi-professionals are not amateur because they receive regular payment from their team, but generally at a conside ...
or Intermediate.
NIFL Premiership The NIFL Premiership, known as the Danske Bank Premiership for sponsorship purposes, and colloquially as the Irish League or Irish Premiership, is a professional association football league which operates as the highest division of the North ...
clubs are also eligible to compete in the
UEFA Champions League The UEFA Champions League (abbreviated as UCL, or sometimes, UEFA CL) is an annual club football competition organised by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) and contested by top-division European clubs, deciding the competi ...
and
UEFA Europa League The UEFA Europa League (abbreviated as UEL, or sometimes, UEFA EL), formerly the UEFA Cup, is an annual football club competition organised since 1971 by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) for eligible European football clubs. ...
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 The Irish Football Association Challenge Cup, commonly referred to as the Irish Cup (currently known as the Samuel Gelston's Whiskey Irish Cup for sponsorship purposes) is the primary football knock-out cup competition in Northern Ireland. Ina ...
winners entering the Europa League second qualifying round. No clubs have ever reached the group stage. Despite Northern Ireland's small population, the Northern Ireland national football team qualified for the
1958 FIFA World Cup The 1958 FIFA World Cup was the sixth FIFA World Cup, a quadrennial football tournament for men's senior national teams, and was played in Sweden from 8 to 29 June 1958. It was the first FIFA World Cup to be played in a Nordic country. Brazil ...
,
1982 FIFA World Cup The 1982 FIFA World Cup was the 12th FIFA World Cup, a quadrennial football tournament for men's senior national teams, and was played in Spain between 13 June and 11 July 1982. The tournament was won by Italy, who defeated West Germany 3–1 ...
and 1986 FIFA World Cup, 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 Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU) ( ga, Cumann Rugbaí na hÉireann) is the body managing rugby union in the island of Ireland (both Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland). The IRFU has its head office at 10/12 Lansdowne Road and home ...
, the governing body of
rugby union Rugby union, commonly known simply as rugby, is a close-contact team sport that originated at Rugby School in the first half of the 19th century. One of the two codes of rugby football, it is based on running with the ball in hand. In it ...
in Ireland. Ulster is one of the four professional provincial teams in Ireland and competes in the United Rugby Championship 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

The Ireland cricket team represents both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It is a full member of the
International Cricket Council The International Cricket Council (ICC) is the world governing body of cricket. Headquartered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, its members are 108 national associations, with 12 Full Members and 96 Associate Members. Founded in 1909 as the '' ...
, having been granted Test status and full membership by the ICC in June 2017. The side competes in Test cricket, the highest level of competitive cricket in the international arena, and is one of the 12 full-member countries of the ICC. Ireland men's side has played in the
Cricket World Cup The Cricket World Cup (officially known as ICC Men's Cricket World Cup) is the international championship of One Day International (ODI) cricket. The event is organised by the sport's governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), ...
and T20 World Cup and has won the
ICC Intercontinental Cup The ICC Intercontinental Cup was a first-class cricket tournament organised by the International Cricket Council (ICC) as part of its cricket development programme. It was designed to allow Associate Members of the ICC the chance to play fir ...
four times. The women's side has played in the Women's World Cup. One of the men's side's regular international venues is Stormont in Belfast.


Gaelic games

Gaelic games include
Gaelic football Gaelic football ( ga, Peil Ghaelach; short name '), commonly known as simply Gaelic, GAA or Football is an Irish team sport. It is played between two teams of 15 players on a rectangular grass pitch. The objective of the sport is to score by ki ...
,
hurling Hurling ( ga, iománaíocht, ') is an outdoor team game of ancient Gaelic Irish origin, played by men. One of Ireland's native Gaelic games, it shares a number of features with Gaelic football, such as the field and goals, the number of p ...
(and camogie), Gaelic 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 The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA; ga, Cumann Lúthchleas Gael ; CLG) is an Irish international amateur sporting and cultural organisation, focused primarily on promoting indigenous Gaelic games and pastimes, which include the traditional ...
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 The Ulster Senior Football Championship is an inter-county competition for Gaelic football teams in the province of Ulster. It is organised by the Ulster Council of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) and begins in early May. The final is ...
, Ulster Senior Hurling Championship, All-Ireland Senior Football Championship and All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship. Recent successes for Northern Ireland teams include
Armagh Armagh ( ; ga, Ard Mhacha, , "Macha's height") is the county town of County Armagh and a city in Northern Ireland, as well as a civil parish. It is the ecclesiastical capital of Ireland – the seat of the Archbishops of Armagh, the ...
's 2002 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship win and
Tyrone GAA The Tyrone County Board ( ga, Cumann Lúthchleas Gael, Coiste Chontae Tír Eoghain), or Tyrone GAA, is one of the 32 county boards of the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) in Ireland, and is responsible for the administration of Gaelic games ...
's wins in 2003, 2005, 2008, and 2021.


Golf

Perhaps Northern Ireland's most notable successes in professional sport have come in golf. Northern Ireland had three major champions in the space of just 14 months from the U.S. Open in 2010 to
The Open Championship The Open Championship, often referred to as The Open or the British Open, is the oldest golf tournament in the world, and one of the most prestigious. Founded in 1860, it was originally held annually at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland. Later t ...
in
2011 File:2011 Events Collage.png, From top left, clockwise: a protester partaking in Occupy Wall Street heralds the beginning of the Occupy movement; protests against Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who was killed that October; a young man celebrates ...
. Notable golfers include Fred Daly (winner of The Open in 1947),
Ryder Cup The Ryder Cup is a biennial men's golf competition between teams from Europe and the United States. The competition is contested every two years with the venue alternating between courses in the United States and Europe. The Ryder Cup is named af ...
players Ronan Rafferty and David Feherty, leading European Tour professionals David Jones, Michael Hoey (a five-time winner on the tour) and Gareth Maybin, as well as three recent major winners
Graeme McDowell Graeme McDowell (born 30 July 1979) is a professional golfer from Northern Ireland. He has a total of eleven tournament victories on the European Tour, and four on the PGA Tour, including one major championship, the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble ...
(winner of the U.S. 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). 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. Dunbar also won The Amateur Championship in 2012, at Royal Troon. 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 The Open Championship, often referred to as The Open or the British Open, is the oldest golf tournament in the world, and one of the most prestigious. Founded in 1860, it was originally held annually at Prestwick Golf Club in Scotland. Later t ...
, and Royal County Down Golf Club (''
Golf Digest ''Golf Digest'' is a monthly golf magazine published by Warner Bros. Discovery through its sports unit under its Warner Bros. Discovery Golf division. It is a generalist golf publication covering recreational golf and men's and women's competi ...
'' magazine's top-rated course outside the United States).


Snooker

Northern Ireland has produced two world
snooker Snooker (pronounced , ) is a cue sport played on a rectangular table covered with a green cloth called baize, with six pockets, one at each corner and one in the middle of each long side. First played by British Army officers stationed in ...
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 Mark may refer to: Currency * Bosnia and Herzegovina convertible mark, the currency of Bosnia and Herzegovina * East German mark, the currency of the German Democratic Republic * Estonian mark, the currency of Estonia between 1918 and 1927 * Finn ...
from
County Antrim County Antrim (named after the town of Antrim, ) is one of six counties of Northern Ireland and one of the thirty-two counties of Ireland. Adjoined to the north-east shore of Lough Neagh, the county covers an area of and has a population ...
. The sport is governed locally by the Northern Ireland Billiards and Snooker Association who run regular ranking tournaments and competitions.


Motorsport


Motorcycle racing

Motorcycle racing is a particularly popular sport during the summer months, with the main meetings of the season attracting some of the largest crowds to any outdoor sporting event in the whole of
Ireland Ireland ( ; ga, Éire ; Ulster-Scots: ) is an island in the North Atlantic Ocean, in north-western Europe. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the s ...
. Two of the three major international road race meetings are held in Northern Ireland, these being the
North West 200 The International North West 200 is a Northern Irish motorsport event established in 1929 for road racing motorcycles held on a street circuit known as ''the Triangle'' between the towns of Portstewart, Coleraine and Portrush in Causeway Coast ...
and the
Ulster Grand Prix The Ulster Grand Prix is a motorcycle race that takes place on the Dundrod Circuit made up entirely of closed-off public roads near Belfast, Northern Ireland. The first races took place in 1922 and in 1935 and 1948 the Fédération Internati ...
. In addition racing on purpose built circuits take place at Kirkistown and Bishop's Court, whilst smaller road race meetings are held such as the
Cookstown 100 Cookstown ( ga, An Chorr Chríochach, IPA: �anˠˈxoːɾˠɾˠˈçɾʲiːxəx is a small town in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. It is the fourth largest town in the county and had a population of 11,599 in the 2011 census. It, along with Mag ...
, the
Armoy Armoy () is a village and civil parish in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. It is 5.5 miles (9 km) southwest of Ballycastle and 8 miles (13 km) northeast of Ballymoney. According to an estimate in 2013 by the Northern Irela ...
Road Races and the Tandragee 100 all of which form part of the Irish National Road Race Championships and which have produced some of the greatest motorcycle racers in the history of the sport, notably
Joey Dunlop William Joseph "Joey" Dunlop (25 February 1952 – 2 July 2000) was a Northern Irish motorcyclist from Ballymoney. Career He won his third hat trick at the Isle of Man TT in 2000 and set his fastest lap on the course of 123.87 mph in the ...
.


Motor racing

Although Northern Ireland lacks an international automobile racecourse, two Northern Irish drivers have finished inside the top two of
Formula One Formula One (also known as Formula 1 or F1) is the highest class of international racing for open-wheel single-seater formula racing cars sanctioned by the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA). The World Drivers' Championship, ...
, with John Watson achieving the feat in the 1982 Formula One season and Eddie Irvine doing the same in 1999 Formula One season. The largest course and the only
Motor Sports Association Motorsport UK, formerly known as the Motor Sports Association (MSA), is a national membership organisation and governing body for four-wheel motorsport in the United Kingdom. Legally, it is a not-for-profit private company limited by guarantee. ...
-licensed track for UK-wide competition is Kirkistown Circuit.


Rugby league

The Ireland national rugby league team has participated in the
Emerging Nations Tournament In 1995 and 2000, the Rugby League International Federation held an Emerging Nations Tournament alongside the Rugby League World Cup. The competition was designed to allow teams who have failed to qualify for the World Cup proper a chance to play ...
(1995), the Super League World Nines (1996), the World Cup (2000, 2008, 2013, 2017, 2021), European Nations Cup (since 2003) and Victory Cup (2004). The Ireland A rugby league team competes annually in the Amateur Four Nations competition (since 2002) and the St Patrick's Day Challenge (since 1995).


Ice hockey

The Belfast Giants have competed in the
Elite Ice Hockey League The Elite Ice Hockey League (EIHL), sometimes referred to as the British Elite League or, for sponsorship reasons, the Viaplay Elite League, is an ice hockey league in the United Kingdom. Formed in 2003 following the demise of the Ice Hocke ...
since the 2000–01 season and are the sole Northern Irish team in the league. The team's roster has featured Northern Irish-born players such as Mark Morrison, Graeme Walton and Gareth Roberts among others. Geraldine Heaney, an Olympic gold medalist and one of the first women inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame, competed internationally for
Canada Canada is a country in North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean and northward into the Arctic Ocean, covering over , making it the world's second-largest country by to ...
but was born in Northern Ireland.
Owen Nolan Owen Liam Nolan (born 12 February 1972) is a Northern Irish-born, Canadian former professional ice hockey player. He was drafted first overall by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1990 NHL Entry Draft. During his 18-year NHL career, he played for ...
, (born 12 February 1972) is a Canadian former professional ice hockey player born in Northern Ireland. He was drafted 1st overall in the 1990 NHL Draft by the Quebec Nordiques.


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.


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, 40 schools (8.9% of the total number) are integrated schools and 32 (7.2% of the total number) are Gaelscoileanna (Irish language-medium schools). The main universities in Northern Ireland are Queen's University Belfast and Ulster University, and the distance learning
Open University The Open University (OU) is a British Public university, public research university and the largest university in the United Kingdom by List of universities in the United Kingdom by enrolment, number of students. The majority of the OU's underg ...
which has a regional office in Belfast.


Wildlife

356 species of marine
algae Algae (; singular alga ) is an informal term for a large and diverse group of photosynthetic eukaryotic organisms. It is a polyphyletic grouping that includes species from multiple distinct clades. Included organisms range from unicellular micr ...
have been recorded in the northeast of Ireland. As Counties Londonderry, Antrim, and Down are the only three counties of Northern Ireland with a shoreline this will apply to all of Northern Ireland. 77 species are considered rare having been recorded rarely.


Media and communications

The BBC has a division called
BBC Northern Ireland BBC Northern Ireland ( ga, BBC Thuaisceart Éireann; Ulster-Scots: ''BBC Norlin Airlan'') is a division of the BBC and the main public broadcaster in Northern Ireland. It is widely available across both Northern Ireland and the Republic of I ...
with headquarters in Belfast and operates BBC One Northern Ireland and
BBC Two Northern Ireland BBC Two Northern Ireland ( ga, BBC Thuaisceart Éireann a Dó) is the Northern Irish variation of BBC Two operated by BBC Northern Ireland. It is broadcast via digital terrestrial transmitters and from the SES Astra 2E satellite (transponder 4 ...
. As well as broadcasting standard UK-wide programmes, BBC NI produces local content, including a news break-out called
BBC Newsline ''BBC Newsline'' is the BBC's national television news programme for Northern Ireland, broadcast on BBC One Northern Ireland from the headquarters of BBC Northern Ireland in Ormeau Avenue, Belfast. As well as being available via all multi-ch ...
. The ITV franchise in Northern Ireland is UTV. The state-owned
Channel 4 Channel 4 is a British free-to-air public broadcast television network operated by the state-owned Channel Four Television Corporation. It began its transmission on 2 November 1982 and was established to provide a fourth television service ...
and the privately owned Channel 5 also broadcast in Northern Ireland. Access is also available to satellite and cable services. All Northern Ireland viewers must obtain a UK TV licence to watch live television transmissions or use BBC iPlayer.
RTÉ (RTÉ) (; Irish for "Radio & Television of Ireland") is the national broadcaster of Ireland headquartered in Dublin. It both produces and broadcasts programmes on television, radio and online. The radio service began on 1 January 1926, whil ...
, the national broadcaster of the Republic of Ireland, is available over the air to most parts of Northern Ireland via reception overspill of the Republic's Saorview service, or via satellite and cable. Since the digital TV switchover,
RTÉ One RTÉ One ( ga, RTÉ a hAon) is an Irish free-to-air flagship television channel owned and operated by Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTÉ). It is the most-popular and most-watched television channel in the country and was launched as ''Telefís ...
, RTÉ2 and the Irish-language channel TG4, are now available over the air on the UK's
Freeview Freeview may refer to: *Freeview (Australia), the marketing name for the digital terrestrial television platform in Australia *Freeview (New Zealand), a digital satellite and digital terrestrial television platform in New Zealand *Freeview (UK), a ...
system from transmitters within Northern Ireland. 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,
Belfast CityBeat Q Radio (formerly known as Citybeat and Belfast CityBeat) is a Northern Irish radio station. It broadcasts to Greater Belfast on 96.7 MHz FM and on DAB Digital Radio across all of Northern Ireland. From 5 April 2007, Citybeat became avail ...
, and
Q102.9 Q1 or Q-1 may refer to: * Quarter 1, as in the first quarter of a calendar year or fiscal year * first quartile in descriptive statistics * The first quarto, usually meaning the earliest published version, of one of William Shakespeare's works * ...
. 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 ''Belfast Telegraph'' is a daily newspaper published in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Independent News & Media. Its editor is Eoin Brannigan. Reflecting its unionist tradition, the paper has historically been "favoured by the Protestant po ...
'', ''
The Irish News ''The Irish News'' is a compact daily newspaper based in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It is Northern Ireland's largest selling morning newspaper and is available throughout Ireland. It is broadly Irish nationalist in its viewpoint, though it al ...
'' and ''
The News Letter The ''News Letter'' is one of Northern Ireland's main daily newspapers, published from Monday to Saturday. It is the world's oldest English-language general daily newspaper still in publication, having first been printed in 1737. The newspape ...
''. According to the
Audit Bureau of Circulations (UK) The Audit Bureau of Circulations (ABC) is a non-profit organisation owned and developed by the media industry. ABC delivers industry-agreed standards for media brand measurement of print publications, digital channels and events. The company ...
the average daily circulation for these three titles in 2018 was: : 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. 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. 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.


See also

*
List of Ulster-related topics The territorial extent covered by the term ''Ulster'' may vary, reflecting the prevalent deep political and cultural divisions. *The province of Ulster, one of the historic four provinces on the island of Ireland – comprising nine counties, ...
* Outline of Northern Ireland * Outline of the United Kingdom


Notes


References


Sources

*


Further reading

*
Jonathan Bardon Jonathan Eric Bardon (born in Dublin, 1941 – died in Belfast, 21 April 2020), was an Irish historian and author. Early life Bardon was born in Dublin in 1941 and graduated from Trinity College, Dublin (TCD), in 1963. Shortly thereafter, ...
, ''A History of Ulster'' (Blackstaff Press, Belfast, 1992), * Brian E. Barton, ''The Government of Northern Ireland, 1920–1923'' (Athol Books, 1980) *
Paul Bew Paul Anthony Elliott Bew, Baron Bew (born 22 January 1950), is a British historian from Northern Ireland and a life peer. He has worked at Queen's University Belfast since 1979, and is currently Professor of Irish Politics, a position he has ...
, Peter Gibbon and Henry Patterson '' The State in Northern Ireland, 1921–72: Political Forces and Social Classes, Manchester'' (Manchester University Press, 1979) * * Robert Kee, ''The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism'' (Penguin, 1972–2000), * Osborne Morton, ''Marine Algae of Northern Ireland'' (Ulster Museum, Belfast, 1994), * Henry Patterson, ''Ireland Since 1939: The Persistence of Conflict'' (Penguin, 2006), * 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), (HB)


External links


Northern Ireland Executive
(Northern Ireland devolved government)
Discover Northern Ireland
(
Northern Ireland Tourist Board Tourism Northern Ireland, also known as Tourism NI, is a non-departmental public body of the Department for the Economy. Its primary objective is to promote Northern Ireland as a tourist destination to domestic tourists, from within Northern Ire ...
) * {{Authority control English-speaking countries and territories History of Northern Ireland Ireland, Northern Island countries NUTS 1 statistical regions of the European Union NUTS 1 statistical regions of the United Kingdom NUTS 2 statistical regions of the United Kingdom States and territories established in 1921 United Kingdom by country 1921 establishments in Northern Ireland