Northern Ireland is one of the four countries of the United
Kingdom (although it is also described by official sources as a
province or a region), situated in the northeast of the island
of Ireland. It was created as a separate legal entity on 3 May 1921,
under the Government of
Ireland Act 1920. The new autonomous
Northern Ireland was formed from six of the nine counties of Ulster:
four counties with unionist majorities and two counties,
Tyrone, which had slight Irish nationalist majorities (of 53.6% and
54.6% respectively in the 1918 election). The remaining three
Ulster counties with larger nationalist majorities were not included.
In large part unionists, at least in the northeast, supported its
creation while nationalists were opposed.
1 Resistance to Home Rule
2 1916 Rising and aftermath
4 Early years of Home Rule
5.1 Second World War
6 The Troubles
7 The Good Friday Agreement and beyond
8 See also
10 Further reading
11 External links
Resistance to Home Rule
From the late 19th century, the majority of people living in Ireland
British government to grant some form of self-rule to
Irish Nationalist Party sometimes held the balance of
power in the House of Commons in the late 19th and early 20th
centuries, a position from which it sought to gain Home Rule, which
would have given
Ireland autonomy in internal affairs, without
breaking up the United Kingdom. Two bills granting
Home Rule to
Ireland were passed by the House of Commons in 1886 and 1893, but
rejected by the House of Lords. With the passing of the Parliament Act
1911 by the Liberal Party government (which reduced the powers of the
Lords from striking down parliamentary Bills to delaying their
implementation for two years) it was apparent that
Home Rule would
probably come into force in the next five years. The
Home Rule Party
had been campaigning for this for almost fifty years.
However, a significant minority was vehemently opposed to the idea and
wished to retain the Union in its existing form.
Irish unionists had
been agitating successfully against
Home Rule since the 1880s, and on
28 September 1912, the leader of the northern unionists, Edward
Carson, introduced the
Ulster Covenant in Belfast, pledging to exclude
Ulster from home rule. The Covenant was signed by 450,000 men, some in
their own blood. Whilst precipitating a split with unionists in the
south and west (including a particularly sizeable community in
Dublin), it gave the northern unionists a feasible goal to aim for.
By the early 20th century,
Belfast (the largest city in Ulster) had
become the largest city in Ireland. Its industrial economy, with
strong engineering and shipbuilding sectors, was closely integrated
with that of Great Britain.
Belfast was a substantially Ulster
Protestant town with a
Catholic minority of less than 30%,
concentrated in the west of the city.
Home Rule Bill was introduced by the Liberal minority
government in 1912. However, the Conservative Party was sympathetic to
the unionist case, and the political voice of unionism was strong in
Parliament. After heavy amendment by the House of Lords, the Commons
agreed in 1914 to allow four counties of
Ulster to vote themselves out
of its provisions and then only for six years. Throughout 1913 and
1914, paramilitary "volunteer armies" were recruited and armed,
firstly the unionist
Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), and in response,
the nationalist Irish Volunteers. But events in Europe were to take
precedence: in what was to be the opening shot of World War I, Gavrilo
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria
Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria in Sarajevo.
Home rule was delayed for the duration of what was expected to be a
short war and unionist and nationalist leaders agreed to encourage
their volunteers to join the British army. The 36th (Ulster) Division,
which was to suffer so severely at the Somme in 1916, was formed
predominantly from the UVF. Nationalists joined in great numbers as
well, with "old" Irish regiments from
greatly strengthened by these recruits.
1916 Rising and aftermath
During World War I, tensions continued to mount in Ireland. Hardline
Irish separatists (known at the time as Irish Nationalists and later
as Republicans) rejected
Home Rule entirely because it involved
maintaining the connection with Britain. They retained control of one
faction of the Irish Volunteers, and in Easter 1916, led by Thomas
James Connolly and others attempted a rebellion in Dublin.
After summary trials, the
British government had the leaders executed
for treason. The government blamed the small
Sinn Féin party, which
had had little to do with it. The execution of the leaders of the
rebellion turned out to be a propaganda coup for militant
republicanism, and Sinn Féin's previously negligible popular support
grew. The surviving leaders of the
Irish Volunteers infiltrated the
party and assumed its leadership in 1917. (The
Irish Volunteers would
later become the
Irish Republican Army
Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1919.)
Republicans gained further support when the British government
attempted to introduce conscription to
Ireland in 1918.
Sinn Féin was
at the forefront of organising the campaign against conscription.
When the veterans of World War I, on both sides of the political
divide, returned from the front in 1918 and 1919, they came back as
battle-hardened soldiers. In the general election of 1918, the Irish
Parliamentary Party lost almost all of its seats to Sinn Féin. Of the
30 seats in the six counties that would become Northern Ireland, 23
were won by Unionists, including 3
Labour Unionists and five of the
six IPP members returned in
Ireland were elected in
Ulster as a result
of local voting pacts with Sinn Féin.
Guerrilla warfare slowly gathered pace in
Ireland in the aftermath of
the election, leading to the Anglo-Irish War. Although lower in
Ulster than the rest of Ireland, the conflict was
complicated there by involving not only the IRA,
British Army and
Royal Irish Constabulary, but the
Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) as
Main article: Partition of Ireland
The fourth and final
Home Rule Bill (the Government of
1920) partitioned the island into
Northern Ireland (six northeastern
counties) and Southern
Ireland (the rest of the island). Some
unionists such as Sir
Edward Carson opposed partition, seeing it as a
betrayal of unionism as a pan-Irish political movement. Three Counties
unionists, who found themselves on the wrong side of the new border
that partitioned Ulster, felt betrayed by those who had joined them in
pledging to "stand by one another" in the
Ulster Covenant. The
Belfast Telegraph reassured unionists who felt guilty about this "that
it was better for two-thirds of passengers to save themselves than for
all to drown". Many Irish nationalists also opposed partition,
although some were gratified that
Northern Ireland contained a large
nationalist minority that would deny it stability.
The Treaty was given effect in the
United Kingdom through the Irish
Free State Constitution Act 1922. Under Article 12 of the Treaty,
Northern Ireland could exercise its opt out by presenting an address
to the King requesting not to be part of the Irish Free State. Once
the Treaty was ratified, the Parliament of
Northern Ireland had one
month to exercise this opt out during which month the Irish Free State
Government could not legislate for Northern Ireland, holding the Free
State's effective jurisdiction in abeyance for a month.
On 7 December 1922 (the day after the establishment of the Irish Free
State) the Parliament of
Northern Ireland resolved to make the
following address to the King so as to opt out of the Irish Free
MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN, We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal
subjects, the Senators and Commons of
Northern Ireland in Parliament
assembled, having learnt of the passing of the Irish Free State
Constitution Act, 1922, being the Act of Parliament for the
ratification of the Articles of Agreement for a Treaty between Great
Britain and Ireland, do, by this humble Address, pray your Majesty
that the powers of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free
State shall no longer extend to Northern Ireland.
On 13 December 1922 Prime Minister James Craig addressed the
Northern Ireland informing them that the King had
responded to the Parliament's address as follows:
I have received the Address presented to me by both Houses of the
Northern Ireland in pursuance of Article 12 of the
Articles of Agreement set forth in the Schedule to the Irish Free
State (Agreement) Act, 1922, and of Section 5 of the Irish Free State
Constitution Act, 1922, and I have caused my Ministers and the Irish
Free State Government to be so informed.
Early years of Home Rule
Northern Ireland, having received self-government within the United
Kingdom under the Government of
Ireland Act, was in some respects left
to its own devices.
The first years of the new autonomous region were marked by bitter
violence, particularly in Belfast. The IRA was determined to oppose
the partition of
Ireland so the authorities created the (mainly
Special Constabulary to aid the Royal Irish
Constabulary (RIC) and introduced emergency powers to put down the
IRA. Many died in political violence between 1920 and 1923, during
Belfast experienced the worst violence in its history. Killings
petered out in 1923 after the signing of the
Anglo-Irish Treaty in
In total, 636 people were killed between July 1920 and July 1922 in
Northern Ireland. Approximately 460 of these deaths occurred in
Belfast (258 Catholics, 159 Protestants, and 3 of unknown religion).
However, as Catholics made up less than one-quarter of the population
of the city, the per capita death rates were much higher.
The continuing violence created a climate of fear in the new region,
and there was migration across the new border. As well as movement of
Protestants from the Free State into Northern Ireland, some Catholics
fled south, leaving some of those who remained feeling isolated.
Despite the mixed religious affiliation of the old Royal Irish
Constabulary and the transfer of many
Catholic RIC police officers to
the newly formed Royal
Ulster Constabulary (1922), northern Catholics
did not join the new force in great numbers. Many nationalists came to
view the new police force as sectarian, adding to their sense of
alienation from the state.
Under successive unionist Prime Ministers from
Sir James Craig
Sir James Craig (later
Lord Craigavon) onwards, the unionist establishment practised what is
generally considered a policy of discrimination against the
This pattern was firmly established in the case of local
government, where gerrymandered ward boundaries rigged local
government elections to ensure unionist control of some local councils
with nationalist majorities. In a number of cases, most prominently
those of the Corporation of Derry,
Omagh Urban District, and Fermanagh
County Council, ward boundaries were drawn to place as many Catholics
as possible into wards with overwhelming nationalist majorities while
other wards were created where unionists had small but secure
majorities, maximising unionist representation.
Voting arrangements which gave commercial companies multiple votes
according to size, and which restricted the personal franchise to
property owners, primary tenants and their spouses (which were ended
England in the 1940s), continued in
Northern Ireland until 1969
 and became increasingly resented. Disputes over local government
gerrymandering were at the heart of the
Northern Ireland civil rights
movement in the 1960s.
In addition, there was widespread discrimination in employment,
particularly at senior levels of the public sector and in certain
sectors of the economy, such as shipbuilding and heavy engineering.
Emigration to seek employment was significantly more prevalent among
Catholic population. As a result, Northern Ireland's demography
shifted further in favour of Protestants, leaving their ascendancy
seemingly impregnable by the late 1950s.
The abolition of proportional representation in 1929 meant that the
structure of party politics gave the
Ulster Unionist Party a continual
sizeable majority in the Parliament of Northern Ireland, leading to
fifty years of one-party rule. While nationalist parties continued to
retain the same number of seats that they had under proportional
Northern Ireland Labour Party and various smaller
leftist unionist groups were smothered, meaning that it proved
impossible for any group to sustain a challenge to the
Party from within the unionist section of the population.
In 1935, the worst violence since partition convulsed Belfast. After
an Orange Order parade decided to return to the city centre through a
Catholic area instead of its usual route; the resulting violence left
nine people dead. Over 2,000 Catholics were forced to leave their
homes across Northern Ireland.
While disputed for decades, many unionist leaders now admit that the
Northern Ireland government in the period 1922–72 was
discriminatory, although prominent
Democratic Unionist Party
Democratic Unionist Party figures
continue to deny it or its extent. One unionist leader, Nobel
Peace Prize joint-winner, former UUP leader and First Minister of
Northern Ireland David Trimble, described
Northern Ireland as having
been a "cold house for Catholics".
Northern Ireland was relatively peaceful for most of the
period from 1924 until the late 1960s, except for some brief flurries
of IRA activity, the (Luftwaffe)
Belfast blitz during the Second World
War in 1941 and the so-called "Border Campaign" from 1956 to 1962. It
found little support among nationalists. However, many Catholics were
resentful towards the state, and nationalist politics was fatalist.
Meanwhile, the period saw an almost complete synthesis between the
Ulster Unionist Party and the loyalist Orange Order, with Catholics
(even unionist Catholics) being excluded from any position of
political or civil authority outside of a handful of
Throughout this time, although the
Catholic birth rate remained higher
than for Protestants, the
Catholic proportion of the population
declined, as poor economic prospects, especially west of the River
Bann, saw Catholics emigrate in disproportionate numbers.
Nationalist political institutions declined, with the Nationalist
Party boycotting the Stormont Parliament for much of this period and
its constituency organisations reducing to little more than shells.
Sinn Féin was banned although it often operated through the
Republican Clubs or similar vehicles. At various times the party stood
and won elections on an abstentionist platform.
Labour-based politics were weak in
Northern Ireland in comparison with
Britain. A small
Northern Ireland Labour Party
existed but suffered many splits to both nationalist and unionist
Second World War
Belfast was a representative British city that has been well studied
by historians. It was a key industrial city producing ships,
tanks, aircraft, engineering works, arms, uniforms, parachutes and a
host of other industrial goods. The unemployment that had been so
persistent in the 1930s disappeared, and labour shortages appeared.
There was a major munitions strike in 1944. As a key industrial
Belfast became a target for German bombing missions, but it was
thinly defended; there were only 24 anti-aircraft guns in the city for
Northern Ireland government under Richard Dawson Bates
(Minister for Home Affairs) had prepared too late, assuming that
Belfast was far enough away to be safe. When Germany conquered France
in Spring 1940 it gained closer airfields. The city's fire brigade was
inadequate; there were no public air raid shelters as the Northern
Ireland government was reluctant to spend money on them; and there
were no searchlights in the city, which made shooting down enemy
bombers all the more difficult. After seeing the Blitz in London in
the autumn of 1940, the government began to build air raid shelters.
In early 1941, the Luftwaffe flew reconnaissance missions that
identified the docks and industrial areas to be targeted. Especially
hard hit were the working class areas in the north and east of the
city, where over 1000 were killed and hundreds were seriously injured.
Many people left the city in fear of future attacks. The bombing
revealed the terrible slum conditions. In May 1941, the Luftwaffe hit
the docks and the
Harland and Wolff
Harland and Wolff shipyard, closing it for six
months. Apart from the numbers of dead, the
Belfast blitz saw half of
the city's houses destroyed. About £20 million worth of damage was
Northern Ireland government was criticised heavily for its
lack of preparation, and Northern Ireland's Prime Minister J. M.
Andrews resigned. The bombing raids continued until the invasion of
Russia in summer 1941. The American army arrived in 1942–44, setting
up bases around Northern Ireland, and spending freely.
Main article: The Troubles
The Troubles was a period of ethno-political
Northern Ireland which spilled over at various times into
England, the Republic of Ireland, and mainland Europe. The duration of
the Troubles is conventionally dated from the late 1960s and
considered by many to have ended with the
Belfast "Good Friday"
Agreement of 1998. Violence nonetheless continues
on a sporadic basis.
In the 1960s, moderate unionist prime minister
Terence O'Neill (later
Lord O'Neill of the Maine) tried to introduce reforms, but encountered
strong opposition from both fundamentalist Protestant leaders like Ian
Paisley and within his own party. The increasing pressures from Irish
nationalists for reform and opposition by
Ulster loyalists to
compromise led to the appearance of the
Northern Ireland Civil Rights
Association, under figures such as
Austin Currie and John Hume. It had
some moderate Protestant support and membership, and a considerable
dose of student radicalism after
Northern Ireland was swept up in the
worldwide protests of 1968. Clashes between marchers and the RUC led
to increased communal strife, culminating in an attack by a unionist
mob (which included police reservists) on a march, known as the
Burntollet bridge incident, outside
Derry on 4 January 1969.
Wholescale violence erupted after an
Apprentice Boys march was forced
through the Irish nationalist
Bogside area of
Derry on 12 August 1969
by the RUC, which led to large-scale disorder known as the Battle of
the Bogside. Rioting continued until 14 August, and in that time 1,091
canisters, each containing 12.5g of
CS gas and 14 canisters containing
50g, were released by the RUC. Even more severe rioting broke out in
Belfast and elsewhere in response to events in
Derry (see Northern
Ireland riots of August 1969). The following thirty years of civil
strife came to be known as "the Troubles".
At the request of the unionist-controlled
Northern Ireland government,
British army was deployed by the UK
Home Secretary James Callaghan
two days later on 14 August 1969. Two weeks later, control of security
Northern Ireland was passed from the Stormont government to
Ian Freeland (GOC). At first the soldiers received
a warm welcome from Irish nationalists, who hoped they would protect
them from loyalist attack (which the IRA had, for ideological reasons,
not done effectively). However, tensions rose
throughout the following years, with an important milestone in the
worsening relationship between the
British Army and Irish nationalists
Falls Curfew of 3 July 1970, when 3,000 British troops
imposed a three-day curfew on the Lower Falls area of West Belfast.
After the introduction of internment without trial for suspected IRA
men on 9 August 1971, even the most moderate Irish nationalists
reacted by completely withdrawing their co-operation with the state.
Social Democratic and Labour Party
Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) members of the
Northern Ireland withdrew from that body on 15 August
and a widespread campaign of civil disobedience began.
Tensions were ratcheted to a higher level after the killing of
fourteen unarmed civilians in
Derry by the 1st Battalion, Parachute
Regiment on 30 January 1972, an event dubbed Bloody Sunday.
Throughout this period, the main paramilitary organisations began to
form. 1972 was the most violent year of the conflict. In 1970 the
Provisional IRA, was created as a breakaway from what then became
known as the
Official IRA (the Provisionals came from various
political perspectives, though most rejected the increasingly Marxist
outlook of the Officials and were united in their rejection of the
Official's view that physical force alone would not end partition),
and a campaign of sectarian attacks by loyalist paramilitary groups
Ulster Defence Association (formed to co-ordinate the various
Loyalist vigilante groups that sprung up) and others brought Northern
Ireland to the brink of civil war. On 30 March 1972, the British
government, unwilling to grant the unionist Northern Ireland
government more authoritarian special powers, and now convinced of its
inability to restore order, pushed through emergency legislation that
Northern Ireland Parliament and introduced direct rule
from London. In 1973 the
British government dissolved the
Northern Ireland and its government under the Northern
Ireland Constitution Act 1973.
British government held talks with various parties, including the
Provisional IRA, during 1972 and 1973. The
Official IRA declared a
ceasefire in 1972, and eventually ended violence against the British
altogether, although a breakaway group, the Irish National Liberation
Army, continued. The
Provisional IRA remained the largest and most
effective nationalist paramilitary group.
On 9 December 1973, after talks in Sunningdale, Berkshire, the UUP,
SDLP and Alliance Party of
Northern Ireland and both governments
Sunningdale Agreement on a cross-community government for
Northern Ireland, which took office on 1 January 1974. The Provisional
IRA was unimpressed, increasing the tempo of its campaign, while many
unionists were outraged at the participation of Irish nationalists in
the government of
Northern Ireland and at the cross-border Council of
Ireland. Although the pro-
Sunningdale parties had a clear majority in
Northern Ireland Assembly, the failure of the pro-Agreement
parties to co-ordinate their efforts in the general election of 28
February, combined with an IRA-sponsored boycott by hardline
republicans, allowed anti-
Sunningdale unionists to take 51.1% of the
vote and 11 of Northern Ireland's 12 seats in the UK House of Commons.
Emboldened by this, a coalition of anti-Agreement unionist politicians
and paramilitaries organised the
Ulster Workers' Council strike which
began on 15 May. The strikers brought
Northern Ireland to a standstill
by shutting down power stations, and after Prime Minister Harold
Wilson refused to send in troops to take over from the strikers, the
power-sharing executive collapsed on 28 May 1974.
Some British politicians, notably former British Labour minister Tony
Benn, advocated British withdrawal from Ireland, but many opposed this
policy, and called their prediction of the possible results of British
withdrawal the 'Doomsday Scenario', anticipating widespread communal
strife. The worst fear envisaged a civil war which would engulf not
just Northern Ireland, but also the Republic of
Ireland and Scotland,
both of which had major links with the people of Northern Ireland.
Later, the feared possible impact of British withdrawal was the
'Balkanisation' of Northern Ireland.
The level of violence declined from 1972 onwards, decreasing to under
150 deaths a year after 1976 and under 100 after 1988. The
Provisional IRA, using weapons and explosives obtained from the United
States and Libya, bombed
England and various
British army bases in
Europe, as well as conducting ongoing attacks within Northern Ireland.
These attacks were not only on "military" targets but also on
commercial properties and various city centres. Arguably its signature
attack would involve cars packed with high explosives. At the same
time, loyalist paramilitaries largely (but not exclusively) focused
their campaign within Northern Ireland, ignoring the uninvolved
military of the Republic of Ireland, and instead claiming a (very) few
republican paramilitary casualties. They usually targeted
Catholics (especially those working in Protestant areas), and attacked
Catholic-frequented pubs using automatic fire weapons. Such attacks
were euphemistically known as "spray jobs". Both groups would also
carry out extensive "punishment" attacks against members of their own
communities for a variety of perceived, alleged, or suspected crimes.
Various fitful political talks took place from then until the early
1990s, backed by schemes such as rolling devolution, and 1975 saw a
Provisional IRA ceasefire. The two events of real significance
during this period, however, were the hunger strikes (1981) and the
Anglo-Irish Agreement (1985).
Despite the failure of the hunger strike, the modern republican
movement made its first foray into electoral politics, with modest
electoral success on both sides of the border, including the election
Bobby Sands to the House of Commons. This convinced republicans to
Armalite and ballot box strategy
Armalite and ballot box strategy and gradually take a more
Anglo-Irish Agreement failed to bring an end to political
violence in Northern Ireland, it did improve co-operation between the
British and Irish governments, which was key to the creation of the
Belfast Agreement a decade later.
At a strategic level the agreement demonstrated that the British
recognised as legitimate the wishes of the Republic to have a direct
interest in the affairs of Northern Ireland. It also demonstrated to
paramilitaries that their refusal to negotiate with the governments
might be self-defeating in the long run. Unlike the Sunningdale
Anglo-Irish Agreement withstood a much more concerted
campaign of violence and intimidation, as well as political hostility,
from unionists. Republicans were left in the position of rejecting the
only significant all-
Ireland structures created since partition.
By the 1990s, the perceived stalemate between the IRA and British
security forces, along with the increasing political successes of Sinn
Féin, convinced a majority inside the republican movement that
greater progress towards republican objectives might be achieved
through negotiation rather than violence at this stage. This
change from paramilitary to political means was part of a broader
Northern Ireland peace process, which followed the appearance of new
leaders in London (John Major) and
Dublin (Albert Reynolds).
The Good Friday Agreement and beyond
Belfast Agreement and
Northern Ireland peace process
Increased government focus on the problems of
Northern Ireland led, in
1993, to the two prime ministers signing the Downing Street
Declaration. At the same time Gerry Adams, leader of Sinn Féin, and
John Hume, leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, engaged
in talks. The UK political landscape changed dramatically when the
1997 general election saw the return of a Labour government, led by
prime minister Tony Blair, with a large parliamentary majority. A new
leader of the
Ulster Unionist Party, David Trimble, initially
perceived as a hardliner, brought his party into the all-party
negotiations which in 1998 produced the
Belfast Agreement ("Good
Friday Agreement"), signed by eight parties on 10 April 1998, although
not involving Ian Paisley's
Democratic Unionist Party
Democratic Unionist Party or the UK
Unionist Party. A majority of both communities in Northern Ireland
approved this Agreement, as did the people of the Republic of Ireland,
both by referendum on 22 May 1998. The Republic amended its
constitution, to replace a claim it made to the territory of Northern
Ireland with an affirmation of the right of all the people of Ireland
to be part of the Irish nation and a declaration of an aspiration
towards a United
Ireland (see the Nineteenth Amendment of the
Constitution of Ireland).
Under the Good Friday Agreement, properly known as the Belfast
Agreement, voters elected a new
Northern Ireland Assembly to form a
parliament. Every party that reaches a specific level of support gains
the right to name members of its party to government and claim one or
Ulster Unionist party leader
David Trimble became
First Minister of Northern Ireland. The Deputy Leader of the SDLP,
Seamus Mallon, became Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland,
though his party's new leader, Mark Durkan, subsequently replaced him.
Ulster Unionists, Social Democratic and Labour Party, Sinn Féin
Democratic Unionist Party
Democratic Unionist Party each had ministers by right in the
The Assembly and its Executive operated on a stop-start basis, with
repeated disagreements about whether the IRA was fulfilling its
commitments to disarm, and also allegations from the Police Service of
Special Branch that there was an IRA spy-ring
operating in the heart of the civil service. It has since emerged that
the spy-ring was run by
MI5 (see Denis Donaldson). Northern Ireland
was then, once more, run by the Direct Rule Secretary of State for
Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, and a British ministerial team
answerable to him. Hain was answerable only to the Cabinet.
The changing British position to
Northern Ireland was represented by
the visit of Queen Elizabeth II to Stormont, where she met nationalist
ministers from the SDLP as well as unionist ministers and spoke of the
right of people who perceive themselves as Irish to be treated as
equal citizens along with those who regard themselves as British.
Similarly, on visits to Northern Ireland, the President of Ireland,
Mary McAleese, met with unionist ministers and with the Lord
Lieutenant of each county – the official representatives of the
However, the Assembly elections of 30 November 2003 saw
Sinn Féin and
Democratic Unionist Party
Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) emerge as the largest parties in
each community, which was perceived as making a restoration of the
devolved institutions more difficult to achieve. However, serious
talks between the political parties and the British and Irish
governments saw steady, if stuttering, progress throughout 2004, with
the DUP in particular surprising many observers with its newly
discovered pragmatism. However, an arms-for-government deal between
Sinn Féin and the DUP broke down in December 2004 due to a row over
whether photographic evidence of IRA decommissioning was necessary,
and the IRA refusal to countenance the provision of such evidence.
The 2005 British general election saw further polarisation, with the
DUP making sweeping gains, although
Sinn Féin did not make the
breakthrough many had predicted. In particular, the failure of Sinn
Féin to gain the SDLP leader Mark Durkan's Foyle seat marked a
significant rebuff for the republican party. The UUP only took one
seat, with the leader
David Trimble losing his and subsequently
resigning as leader.
On 28 July 2005, the IRA made a public statement ordering an end to
the armed campaign and instructing its members to dump arms and to
pursue purely political programmes. While the British and Irish
governments warmly welcomed the statement, political reaction in
Northern Ireland itself demonstrated a tendency to suspicion
engendered by years of political and social conflict. In August
British government announced that due to the security situation
improving and in accordance with the Good Friday Agreement provisions,
Operation Banner would end by 1 August 2007.
On 13 October 2006 an agreement was proposed after three days of
multiparty talks at
St. Andrews in Scotland, which all parties
including the DUP, supported. Under the agreement,
Sinn Féin would
fully endorse the police in Northern Ireland, and the DUP would share
power with Sinn Féin. All the main parties in Northern ireland,
including the DUP and Sinn Féin, subsequently formally endorsed the
On 8 May 2007, devolution of powers returned to Northern Ireland. DUP
Ian Paisley and Sinn Féin's
Martin McGuinness took office as
First Minister and Deputy First Minister, respectively. (BBC). "You
Raise Me Up", the 2005 track by Westlife, was played at their
Flag of Northern Ireland
History of Ireland
History of the United Kingdom
Northern Irish murals
History of the British Isles
^ "The Countries of the UK". 11 November 1997. Archived from the
original on 11 November 2009. Retrieved 11 November 1997. The
top-level division of administrative geography in the UK is the 4
countries – England, Scotland,
Wales and Northern Ireland.
Check date values in: access-date= (help)
^ "Countries within a country". 10 Downing Street. 10 January 2003.
Archived from the original on 9 September 2008. Retrieved 10 October
United Kingdom is made up of four countries: England,
Wales and Northern Ireland.
^ "'Normalisation' plans for
Northern Ireland unveiled". 10 Downing
Street. 1 August 2005. Archived from the original on 2 August 2005.
Retrieved 10 October 2012. Plans to reduce troops and abolish
Northern Ireland to 'normalise' the province, have been
outlined by the Government.
^ "The European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern
Ireland 2007–2013" (PDF).
Northern Ireland Executive. 4 October
2007. p. 16. Archived from the original (PDF) on 17 February
2010. Retrieved 28 March 2010. NI (NI) is a region of the United
Kingdom (UK) that operates in an island economy sharing a land border
^ Statutory Rules & Orders published by authority, 1921 (No. 533);
Additional source for 3 May 1921 date: Alvin Jackson (2004). Home Rule
– An Irish History. Oxford University Press. p. 198.
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"Northern Ireland". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Encyclopædia
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