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Northern Ireland
Tuaisceart Éireann
Norlin Airlann
Location of  Northern Ireland  (inset - orange)
in the United Kingdom (camel)

in the European continent  (white)

(and largest city)
54°35.456′N 5°50.4′W / 54.590933°N 5.84°W / 54.590933; -5.84
Official language(s) English (de facto)
Ulster Scots1
Ethnic groups  99.15% White (91.0% Northern Ireland born, 8.15% other white), 0.41% Asian, 0.10% Irish Traveller, 0.34% others.[1]
Demonym Irish[2]
Northern Irish2
Government Constitutional monarchy
 -  Monarch Elizabeth II
 -  Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Gordon Brown MP
 -  First Minister Peter Robinson MLA MP
 -  deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness MLA MP
 -  Secretary of State Shaun Woodward MP
 -  Government of Ireland Act 3 May 1921 
 -  Total 13,843 km2 
5,345 sq mi 
 -  2009 estimate 1,775,000[3] 
 -  2001 census 1,685,267 
 -  Density 122/km2 
315/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2002 estimate
 -  Total £33.2 billion 
 -  Per capita £19,603 
Currency Pound sterling (GBP)
Time zone GMT (UTC+0)
 -  Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)
Drives on the left
Internet TLD .uk3
Calling code +444
1 Officially recognised languages: Northern Ireland has no official language. The use of English has been established through precedent. Irish and Ulster Scots are officially recognised minority languages
2 While Irish and Northern Irish are common demonyms for Northern Ireland, nationality is a complicated issue. See the Citizenship and identity section below for details
3 .ie, in common with the Republic of Ireland, and also .eu, as part of the European Union. ISO 3166-1 is GB, but .gb is unused
4 +44 is always followed by 28 when calling landlines. The code is 028 within the UK and 048 from the Republic of Ireland

Northern Ireland (Irish: Tuaisceart Éireann, Ulster Scots: Norlin Airlann) is one of the four countries of the United Kingdom.[4][5] Situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland, it shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west. At the time of the 2001 UK Census, its population was 1,685,000, constituting about 30% of the island's total population and about 3% of the population of the United Kingdom.

Northern Ireland consists of six of the traditional nine counties of the historic Irish province of Ulster. It was created as a distinct division of the United Kingdom on 3 May 1921 under the Government of Ireland Act 1920,[6] though its constitutional roots lie in the 1800 Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland. For over 50 years it had its own devolved government and parliament. These institutions were suspended in 1972 and abolished in 1973. Repeated attempts to restore self-government finally resulted in the establishment of the present-day Northern Ireland Executive and Northern Ireland Assembly. The Assembly operates on consociational democracy principles requiring cross-community support.

Northern Ireland was for many years the site of a violent and bitter ethno-political conflict—The Troubles—between those claiming to represent nationalists, who are predominantly Roman Catholic, and those claiming to represent unionists, who are predominantly Protestant. Unionists want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom,[7] while nationalists wish it to be politically reunited[8][9] with the rest of Ireland.[10][11] Since the signing of the "Good Friday Agreement" in 1998, most of the paramilitary groups involved in the Troubles have ceased their armed campaigns.

Due to its unique history, the issue of the symbolism, name and description of Northern Ireland is complex, and similarly the issue of citizenship and identity. In general, Unionists consider themselves British and Nationalists see themselves as Irish, though these identities are not necessarily mutually exclusive.



For events before 1922 see Ulster or History of Ireland

Signing of the Ulster Covenant in 1912 in opposition to Home Rule

The area that is now Northern Ireland has had a diverse history. From serving as the bedrock of Irish resistance in the era of the plantations of Queen Elizabeth and James I in other parts of Ireland, it became the subject of major planting of Scottish and English settlers after the Flight of the Earls in 1607 (when the Gaelic aristocracy fled to Catholic Europe).

The all-island Kingdom of Ireland (1541–1801) merged into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801 under the terms of the Act of Union, under which the kingdoms of Ireland and Great Britain merged under a government and parliament based in London. In the early 20th century, Unionists led by Sir Edward Carson opposed the introduction of Home Rule in Ireland. Unionists were in a minority on the island of Ireland as a whole, but were a majority in the northern province of Ulster, a very large majority in the counties of Antrim and Down, small majorities in the counties of Armagh and Londonderry. There were substantial numbers also concentrated in the nationalist-majority counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone. These six counties later formed Northern Ireland.

The clash between the House of Commons and House of Lords over the controversial budget of Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd-George produced the Parliament Act 1911, which enabled the veto of the Lords to be overturned. Given that the Lords had been the unionists' main guarantee that a home rule act would not be enacted, because of the majority of pro-unionist peers in the House, the Parliament Act made Home Rule a more likely prospect. Opponents to Home Rule, from Conservative Party leaders like Andrew Bonar Law to militant unionists in Ireland, threatened the use of violence, producing the Larne Gun Running incident in 1914, when they smuggled thousands of rifles and rounds of ammunition from Imperial Germany for the Ulster Volunteers. The prospect of civil war in Ireland loomed.

Prime Ministers
of Northern Ireland
Lord Craigavon (1922–1940)
John Miller Andrews (1940–1943)
Lord Brookeborough (1943–1963)
Captain Terence O'Neill (1963–1969)
James Chichester-Clark (1969–1971)
Brian Faulkner (1971–1972)
Infantry of the Royal Irish Rifles during the Battle of the Somme

In 1914, the Third Home Rule Act, which contained provision for a temporary partition, received the Royal Assent. Its implementation was suspended for the duration of the intervening First World War, which was expected to last only a few weeks, but, in fact, lasted four years.

By the end of the war, the Act was seen as dead in the water, with public opinion in the majority nationalist community having moved from a demand for home rule to independence. David Lloyd George in 1919 proposed a new bill which would divide Ireland into two Home Rule areas, twenty-six counties being ruled from Dublin, six being ruled from Belfast, with a shared Lord Lieutenant of Ireland appointing both executives and a Council of Ireland, which Lloyd George believed would evolve into an all-Ireland parliament.[12]

The island of Ireland was partitioned in 1921 under the terms of the Government of Ireland Act 1920.[13] Six of the nine Ulster counties (four with a unionist majority, two with a nationalist majority)[14] in the north-east formed Northern Ireland and the remaining three counties (including County Donegal, which had a large Protestant minority and was the most northern county in all of Ireland) joined those of Leinster, Munster and Connacht to form Southern Ireland. Whilst Southern Ireland had only a brief existence between 1921 and 1922, a period dominated by the Anglo-Irish War and its aftermath, Northern Ireland was to continue on.

Signature page of the Anglo-Irish Treaty

Northern Ireland provisionally became an autonomous part of the Irish Free State on 6 December 1922. However, as expected, the Parliament of Northern Ireland chose, under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, to opt out of the Irish Free State the following day.[15] Shortly after Northern Ireland had exercised its opt out of the Irish Free State, a Boundary Commission was established to decide on the territorial boundaries between the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. Though leaders in Dublin expected a substantial reduction in the territory of Northern Ireland (with nationalist border areas moving to the Free State), the Boundary Commission decided against this; in fact the unpublished report had recommended that land should be ceded from Southern Ireland to Northern Ireland. To prevent argument, this report was suppressed, and the initial 6-county border was approved by the Dáil in Dublin on 10 December 1925 by a vote of 71 to 20.[16]

In June 1940, to encourage the Irish state to join with the Allies, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill indicated to the Taoiseach Éamon de Valera that the United Kingdom would push for Irish unity, but believing that Churchill could not deliver, de Valera declined the offer.[17] (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 to the Parliament and Government that Northern Ireland would not cease to be part of the United Kingdom without consent of the majority of its citizens.

The Troubles, starting in the late 1960s, consisted of about thirty years of recurring acts of intense violence between elements of Northern Ireland's nationalist community (principally Roman Catholic) and unionist community (principally Protestant) during which 3,254 people were killed.[18] The conflict was caused by the disputed status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom and the discrimination against the nationalist minority by the dominant unionist majority.[citation needed] The violence was characterised by the armed campaigns of paramilitary groups, 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 new "all-Ireland", "thirty-two county" Irish Republic, and the Ulster Volunteer Force, formed in 1966 in response to the perceived erosion of both the British character and unionist domination of Northern Ireland. The state security forces — the British Army and the police (the Royal Ulster Constabulary) - were also involved in the violence. The British government's point of view 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. Irish republicans regarded the state forces as "combatants" in the conflict, alleging collusion between the state forces and the loyalist paramilitaries as proof of this. The "Ballast" investigation by the Police Ombudsman has confirmed that British forces, and in particular the RUC, did collude with loyalist paramilitaries, were involved in murder, and did obstruct the course of justice when such claims had previously been investigated,[19] although the extent to which such collusion occurred is still hotly disputed.

As a consequence of the worsening security situation, autonomous regional government for Northern Ireland was suspended in 1972. Alongside the violence, there was a political deadlock between the major political parties in Northern Ireland, including those who condemned violence, over the future status of Northern Ireland and the form of government there should be within Northern Ireland. In 1973, Northern Ireland held a referendum to determine if it should remain in the United Kingdom, or be part of a united Ireland. The vote went heavily in favour (98.9%) of maintaining the status quo with approximately 57.5% of the total electorate voting in support, but only 1% of Catholics voted following a boycott organised by the SDLP.[20]

Recent history

First Ministers deputy First Minsters
David Trimble (1999-2001) Seamus Mallon (1999-2001)
Reg Empey (acting) (2001) Mark Durkan (2001-2002)
David Trimble (2001-2002) Martin McGuinness (2007-)
Ian Paisley (2007-2008)
Peter Robinson (2008-)
Arlene Foster (acting) (2010)

The Troubles were brought to an uneasy end by a peace process which included the declaration of ceasefires by most paramilitary organisations and the complete decommissioning of their weapons, the reform of the police, and the corresponding withdrawal of army troops from the streets and from sensitive border areas such as South Armagh and Fermanagh, as agreed by the signatories to the Belfast Agreement (commonly known as the "Good Friday Agreement"). This reiterated the long-held British position, which had never before been fully acknowledged by successive Irish governments, that Northern Ireland will remain within the United Kingdom until a majority votes otherwise. Bunreacht na hÉireann, the constitution of the Irish state, was amended in 1999 to remove a claim of the "Irish nation" to sovereignty over the whole of Ireland (in Article 2), a claim qualified by an acknowledgement that Ireland could only exercise legal control over the territory formerly known as the Irish Free State. 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 Ireland, would only be changed with the agreement of a majority of voters in both jurisdictions (Ireland voting separately). This aspect was also central to the Belfast Agreement which was signed in 1998 and ratified by referenda held simultaneously in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. At the same time, the British Government recognised for the first time, as part of the prospective, the so-called "Irish dimension": the principle that the people of the island of Ireland as a whole have the right, without any outside interference, to solve the issues between North and South by mutual consent.[21] The latter statement was key to winning support for the agreement from nationalists and republicans. It also established a devolved power-sharing government within Northern Ireland where the government must consist of both unionist and nationalist parties.

These institutions were suspended by the British Government in 2002 after Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) allegations of spying by people working for Sinn Féin at the Assembly (Stormontgate). The resulting case against the accused Sinn Féin member collapsed.

On 28 July 2005, the Provisional IRA declared an end to its campaign and has since decommissioned what is thought to be all of its arsenal. This final act of decommissioning was performed in accordance with the Belfast Agreement of 1998, and under the watch of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning and two external church witnesses. Many unionists, however, remain sceptical. This IRA decommissioning is in contrast to Loyalist paramilitaries who have so far refused to decommission many weapons. It is not thought that this will have a major effect on further political progress as political parties linked to Loyalist paramilitaries do not attract significant support and will not be in a position to form part of a government in the near future. Sinn Féin, on the other hand, with their (real and perceived) links to militant republicanism, are the largest nationalist party in Northern Ireland.

Politicians elected to the Assembly at the 2003 Assembly Election were called together on 15 May 2006 under the Northern Ireland Act 2006[22] for the purpose of electing a First Minister of Northern Ireland and a Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and choosing the members of an Executive (before 25 November 2006) as a preliminary step to the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland.

Following the election held on 7 March 2007, devolved government returned to Northern Ireland on 8 May 2007 with Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Féin deputy leader Martin McGuinness taking office as First Minister and Deputy First Minister, respectively.[23] The current First Minister is Peter Robinson, having taken over as leader of the Democratic Unionist Party.

Government and politics

Parliament Buildings in Stormont, Belfast, seat of the assembly

Northern Ireland has devolved government within the United Kingdom. There is a Northern Ireland Executive together with the 108 member Northern Ireland Assembly to deal with devolved matters with the UK Government and UK Parliament responsible for reserved matters. Elections to the Assembly are by single transferable vote with 6 representatives elected for each of the 18 Westminster constituencies. It is also an electoral region of the European Union.

Northern Ireland elects 18 Members of Parliament (MP) to the House of Commons; not all take their seats, however, as the Sinn Fein MPs (currently five) refuse to take the oath to serve the Queen that is required of all MPs. The Northern Ireland Office represents the UK government in Northern Ireland on reserved matters and represents Northern Irish interests within the UK government. The Northern Ireland office is led by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who sits in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom.

Northern Ireland is a distinct legal jurisdiction, separate from England, Wales and Scotland.[24]

Communities in Northern Ireland - 1991 census
Northern Ireland

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The main political divide in Northern Ireland is between Unionists or Loyalists who wish to see Northern Ireland continue as part of the United Kingdom and Nationalists or Republicans who wish to see Northern Ireland join the rest of Ireland, independent from the United Kingdom. These two opposing views are linked to deeper cultural divisions. Unionists are overwhelmingly Protestant, descendants of mainly Scottish, English, Welsh and Huguenot settlers as well as indigenous Irishmen who had converted to one of the Protestant denominations. Nationalists are predominantly Catholic and descend from the population predating the settlement, with a minority from Scottish Highlanders as well as some converts from Protestantism. Discrimination against nationalists under the Stormont government (1921–1972) gave rise to the nationalist civil rights movement in the 1960s.[25] Some Unionists argue that any discrimination was not just because of religious or political bigotry, but also the result of more complex socio-economic, socio-political and geographical factors.[26] Whatever the cause, the existence of discrimination, and the manner in which Nationalist anger at it was handled, was a major contributing factor which led to the long-running conflict known as the Troubles. The political unrest went through its most violent phase between 1968 and 1994.[27]

The population of Northern Ireland was estimated as being 1,759,000 on 10 December 2008.[3] In the 2001 census, 45.6% of the population identified as belonging to Protestant denominations (20.7% Presbyterian, 15.3% Church of Ireland), 40.3% identified as Catholic, 0.3% identified with non-Christian religions and 13.9% identified with no religion.[28] In terms of community background, 53.1% of the Northern Irish population came from a Protestant background, 43.8% came from a Catholic background, 0.4% from non-Christian backgrounds and 2.7% non-religious backgrounds.[29][30] The population is forecast to pass the 1.8 million mark by 2011.[31]

As of 2007, 36% of the population define themselves as Unionist, 24% as Nationalist and 40% define themselves as neither.[32] According to a 2007 opinion poll, 66% express long term preference of the maintenance of Northern Ireland's membership of the United Kingdom (either directly ruled or with devolved government), while 23% express a preference for membership of a united Ireland.[33] This discrepancy can be explained by the overwhelming preference among Protestants to remain a part of the UK (89%), while Catholic preferences are spread across a number of solutions to the constitutional question including remaining a part of the UK (39%), a united Ireland (47%), Northern Ireland becoming an independent state (6%), and those who "don't know" (7%).[34] Official voting figures, which reflect views on the "national question" along with issues of candidate, geography, personal loyalty and historic voting patterns, show 54% of Northern Ireland voters vote for Pro-Unionist parties, 42% vote for Pro-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. The ethno-political loyalties are allied, though not absolutely, to the Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations and these are the labels used to categorise the opposing views. This is, however, becoming increasingly irrelevant as the Irish Question is very complicated. Many voters (regardless of religious affiliation) are attracted to Unionism's conservative policies, while other voters are instead attracted to the traditionally leftist, nationalist Sinn Féin and Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and their respective party platforms for Democratic Socialism and Social Democracy. For the most part, Protestants feel a strong connection with Great Britain and wish for Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. Many Catholics however, generally aspire to a United Ireland or are less certain about how to solve the constitutional question. In the 2007 survey by Northern Ireland Life and Times, 39% of Northern Irish Catholics supported Northern Ireland remaining a part of the United Kingdom, either by direct rule (4%) or devolved government (35%).[35]

Protestants have a slight majority in Northern Ireland, according to the latest Northern Ireland Census. The make-up of the Northern Ireland Assembly reflects the appeals of the various parties within the population. Of the 108 MLAs, 55 are Unionists and 44 are Nationalists (the remaining nine are classified as "other").

Citizenship and identity

As part of the United Kingdom, people from Northern Ireland are British citizens. They are also entitled to Irish citizenship by birth which is covered in the 1998 Belfast Agreement between the British and Irish governments, which, provides that: it is the birthright of all the people of Northern Ireland to identify themselves and be accepted as Irish or British, or both, as they may so choose, and accordingly [the two governments] confirm that their right to hold both British and Irish citizenship is accepted by both Governments and would not be affected by any future change in the status of Northern Ireland.

As a result of the Agreement, the Constitution of Ireland[36] was amended so 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 of Ireland.

Neither government, however, extends its citizenship to all persons born in Northern Ireland. Both governments exclude some people born in Northern Ireland (e.g. certain persons born in Northern Ireland neither of whose parents is a UK or Irish national). The Irish restriction was given effect by the Twenty-seventh amendment to the Constitution in 2004.

Several studies and surveys performed between 1971 and 2006 have indicated that, in general, Protestants in Northern Ireland see themselves primarily as 'British', whereas Roman Catholics regard themselves primarily as 'Irish'.[37][38][39][40][41][42][43][44]

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 primarily, or as a 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 the same survey carried out in 1998 this shows a fall in the percentage of Protestants identifying as British and Ulster, and a rise in those identifying as Northern Irish. The 2008 survey found that 61% of Catholics described themselves as Irish, with 25% identifying as Northern Irish, 8% as British and 1% as Ulster. These figures were largely unchanged from the 1998 results.[45][46]

Demography of Northern Ireland

The population of Northern Ireland has increased annually since 1978.


Symbols used in Northern Ireland

The Union Flag (also known as the Union Jack) represents the United Kingdom. This is the only flag with official status in Northern Ireland
Flag of Executive Committee of the Privy Council of Northern Ireland (also known as the Ulster Banner; no official status in Northern Ireland since 1972)
Flag of Ireland (also known as the Tricolour; no official status in Northern Ireland)
Former Governmental Coat of Arms of Northern Ireland 1925-72

Northern Ireland comprises a patchwork of communities whose national loyalties are represented in some areas by flags flown from lamp posts. The Union Flag and the former Northern Ireland Flag are flown in some loyalist areas, and the Tricolour, adopted by republicans as the flag of Ireland in 1848, is flown in some republican areas. Even kerbstones in some areas are painted red-white-blue or green-white-orange (or gold), depending on whether local people express unionist/loyalist or nationalist/republican sympathies.[47]

The official flag is the Union Flag.[48] The Northern Ireland flag was previously the former Governmental Northern Ireland banner (also known as the "Ulster Banner" or "Red Hand Flag"). It was based on the arms of the former Parliament of Northern Ireland, and was used officially by the Government of Northern Ireland and its agencies between 1953 and 1972. Since 1972, it has had no official status. 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. [49]

The Union Flag and the Ulster Banner are mainly used by Unionists.[50]

The Irish Rugby Football Union and the Church of Ireland have used the Flag of St. Patrick. It was used to represent Ireland when the whole island was part of the UK and is used by some British army regiments. Foreign flags are also found, such as the Palestinian flags in some Nationalist areas and Israeli flags in some Unionist areas. This is also true during matches with Scottish teams.

The United Kingdom national anthem of "God Save the Queen" is often played at state events in Northern Ireland. At some cross-community events, however, the "Londonderry Air" (also known as "Danny Boy") may be played as a neutral substitute.[citation needed]

At the Commonwealth Games, the Northern Ireland team uses the Ulster Banner as its flag and "Danny Boy" / "A Londonderry Air" is used as its national anthem. The Northern Ireland football team also uses the Ulster Banner as its flag but uses "God Save The Queen" as its national anthem.[51] Major Gaelic Athletic Association matches are opened by the Republic of Ireland national anthem, "Amhrán na bhFiann (The Soldier's Song)", which is also used by some other all-Ireland sporting organisations.[52] Since 1995, the Ireland rugby union team has used a specially commissioned song, "Ireland's Call" as the team's anthem. The Republic of Ireland national anthem is also played at Dublin home matches as a courtesy to the host country.[53]

Northern Irish murals have become well-known features of Northern Ireland, depicting past and present divisions, both also documenting peace and cultural diversity. Almost 2,000 murals have been documented in Northern Ireland since the 1970s (see Conflict Archive on the Internet/Murals).

Geography and climate

Map of Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland was covered by an ice sheet for most of the last ice age and on numerous previous occasions, the legacy of which can be seen in the extensive coverage of drumlins in Counties Fermanagh, Armagh, Antrim and particularly Down. The centrepiece of Northern Ireland's geography is Lough Neagh, at 151 square miles (391 km2) the largest freshwater lake both on the island of Ireland and in the British Isles. A second extensive lake system is centred on Lower and Upper Lough Erne in Fermanagh. The largest island of Northern Ireland is Rathlin, off the Antrim coast. Strangford Lough is the largest inlet in the British Isles, covering 150 km2 (58 sq mi).

There are substantial uplands in the Sperrin Mountains (an extension of the Caledonian fold mountains) with extensive gold deposits, granite Mourne Mountains and basalt Antrim Plateau, as well as smaller ranges in South Armagh and along the Fermanagh–Tyrone border. None of the hills are especially high, with Slieve Donard in the dramatic Mournes reaching 849 metres (2,785 ft), Northern Ireland's highest point. Belfast's most prominent peak is Cave Hill. The volcanic activity which created the Antrim Plateau also formed the eerily geometric pillars of the Giant's Causeway on the north Antrim coast. Also in north Antrim are the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Mussenden Temple and the Glens of Antrim.

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

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

The whole of Northern Ireland has a temperate maritime climate, rather wetter in the west than the east, although cloud cover is persistent across the region. The weather is unpredictable at all times of the year, and although the seasons are distinct, they are considerably less pronounced than in interior Europe or the eastern seaboard of North America. Average daytime maximums in Belfast are 6.5 °C (43.7 °F) in January and 17.5 °C (63.5 °F) in July. The damp climate and extensive deforestation in the 16th and 17th centuries resulted in much of the region being covered in rich green grassland.

Highest maximum temperature: 30.8 °C (87.4 °F) at Knockarevan, near Garrison, County Fermanagh on 30 June 1976 and at Belfast on 12 July 1983.

Lowest minimum temperature: −17.5 °C (0.5 °F) at Magherally, near Banbridge, County Down on 1 January 1979.[54]

Climate data for Belfast
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 13
Average high °C (°F) 6
Average low °C (°F) 2
Record low °C (°F) -13
Precipitation mm (inches) 80
Source: [55] 8 October 2009


Northern Ireland consists of six historic counties: County Antrim, County Armagh, County Down, County Fermanagh, County Londonderry,[56] County Tyrone

These counties are no longer used for local government purposes; instead there are twenty-six districts of Northern Ireland which have different geographical extents, even in the case of those named after the counties from which they derive their name. Fermanagh District Council most closely follows the borders of the county from which it takes its name. Coleraine Borough Council, on the other hand, derives its name from the town of Coleraine in County Londonderry.

Lower Lough Erne, County Fermanagh

Although counties are no longer used for governmental purpose, 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 county then appears in both Irish and English on the passport's information page, as opposed to the town or city of birth on the United Kingdom passport. The Gaelic Athletic Association still uses the counties as its primary means of organisation and fields representative teams of each GAA county.

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


There are five major settlements with city status in Northern Ireland:

Carrickfergus Castle - a Norman castle built in 1177

Towns and villages

See also the list of places in Northern Ireland for all villages, towns and cities
Donaghadee Harbour and lighthouse


Northern Ireland's legal and administrative systems have evolved from those in place in the pre-partition United Kingdom, and were developed by its devolved government from 1921 until 1972. From 1972 until 1999 (except for a brief period in 1974), laws and administration relating to Northern Ireland were handled directly from Westminster. Between the years 1999 and 2002 (except during a brief suspension), and since May 2007, devolution has returned to Northern Ireland.


Cranes at Harland & Wolff shipyard, now diversified into heavy manufacturing for the renewable energy industry

The Northern Ireland economy is the smallest of the four economies making up the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland has traditionally had an industrial economy, most notably in shipbuilding, rope manufacture and textiles, but most heavy industry has since been replaced by services, primarily the public sector. Tourism also plays a big role in the local economy. More recently the economy has benefited from major investment by many large multi-national corporations into high tech industry. These large organisations are attracted by government subsidies and the skilled workforce in Northern Ireland.


Larne Harbour

Northern Ireland is served by three airports - Belfast International near Antrim, George Best Belfast City in East Belfast, and City of Derry in County Londonderry.

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

Passenger railways are operated by Northern Ireland Railways. With Iarnrod Éireann (Irish Rail), Northern Ireland Railways co-operates in providing the joint Enterprise service between Dublin and Belfast.

Main motorways are:

  • M1 connecting Belfast to the south and west, ending in Dungannon
  • M2 connecting Belfast to the north
  • M3 connecting the M1 and M2 in Belfast with the A2 dual carriageway to Bangor
  • M5 connecting Belfast to Newtownabbey

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


An Ulster fry, served in Belfast, Northern Ireland
The Twelfth is a Bank & Public Holiday and an annual Protestant event, involving Orange parades

With its improved international reputation, Northern Ireland has recently 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 around the traditional heroes of the Ulaid in what is now eastern Ulster. This is one of the four major cycles of Irish Mythology. The cycle centres around the reign of Conchobar mac Nessa, who is said to have been king of Ulster around the time of Christ. 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.



The dialect of English spoken in Northern Ireland shows influence from Scotland, with the use of such Scots words as wee for 'little' and aye for 'yes'. Some jocularly call this dialect phonetically by the name Norn Iron. There are supposedly some minute differences in pronunciation between Protestants and Catholics, the best known of which is the name of the letter h, which Protestants tend to pronounce as "aitch", as in British English, and Catholics tend to pronounce as "haitch", as in Hiberno-English. However, geography is a much more important determinant of dialect than religious background. English is spoken as a first language by almost 100% of the Northern Irish population, though under the Good Friday Agreement, Irish and Ulster Scots (one of the dialects of the Scots language), sometimes known as Ullans, have recognition as "part of the cultural wealth of Northern Ireland".[57]

Multilingual sign in English, Irish, and Ulster Scots
Areas in Northern Ireland where more than one third of the population can speak Irish, according to the 2001 Census


The Irish language (Gaeilge) is the native language of the whole island of Ireland.[58] It was spoken predominantly throughout what is now Northern Ireland before the settlement from England and Scotland in the 17th century. Most placenames throughout Northern Ireland are anglicised versions of their Gaelic originals. These Gaelic placenames include thousands of lanes, roads, townlands, towns, villages and all of its modern cities. Examples include Belfast- derived from Béal Feirste, Shankill- derived from Sean Cill and Lough Neagh- derived from Loch nEathach.

In Northern Ireland the Irish language has long been associated with Irish nationalism. The language was seen as a common heritage and indeed the object of affection by many prominent 19th century Protestant republicans and Protestant unionists. There are three main dialects in the island of Ireland—Ulster, Munster and Connacht. Speakers of each dialect often find others difficult to understand. Speakers in Northern Ireland speak the Ulster dialect.

In the early years of the 20th century, the language became a political football throughout Ireland as Republican activists became increasingly linked with it. In the 20th century, the language became in Unionist eyes increasingly polarised for political ends and many in that community would blame Sinn Féin in this regard. After Ireland was partitioned, the language was largely rejected in the education system of the new Northern Ireland. It is argued[59] that the predominant use of the English language may have served to exacerbate the Troubles.

The erection by some Local District Councils of legal bilingual street names (English/Irish),[60] invariably in predominantly Catholic/Nationalist/Republican districts, may be perceived as creating a 'chill factor' by Unionists and as such not conducive to fostering good cross community relationships. However other countries within the United Kingdom, such as Wales and Scotland, enjoy the use of Bilingual signs in Welsh and Scots Gaelic respectively. Because of this, nationalists in Northern Ireland argue for equality in this regard. In responses to the 2001 census in Northern Ireland 10% of the population claimed "some knowledge of Irish",[61] 4.7% to "speak, read, write and understand" Irish.[61] It was not asked as part of the census but in a poll, 1% of respondents said they speak it as their main language at home.[62] Following a public consultation, the decision was taken not to introduce specific legislation for the Irish language at this time, despite 75% of the (self-selecting) respondents stating that they were in favour of such legislation.[63]

Ulster Irish[64] or Donegal Irish,[64] is the dialect which is nearest to Scots Gaelic. Some words and phrases of the dialect are shared with Scots Gaelic. The dialects of East Ulster - those of Rathlin Island and the Glens of Antrim - were very similar to the Scottish Gaelic dialect formerly spoken in Argyll, the part of Scotland nearest to Rathlin Island. The Ulster Gaelic is the most central dialect of Gaelic, both geographically and linguistically, of the once vast Gaelic speaking world, stretching from the south of Ireland to the north of Scotland. At the beginning of the 20th century, Munster Irish was favoured by many revivalists, with a shift to Connacht Irish in the 1960s, which is now the preferred dialect by many in Ireland. Many younger speakers of Irish experience less confusion with dialects due to the expansion of Irish-language broadcasting (TG4) and the exposure to a variety of dialects. There are fewer problems regarding written Irish as there is a standardised spelling and grammar, created by the Irish Government, which was supposed to reflect a compromise between various dialect forms. However, Ulster Irish speakers find that Ulster forms are generally not favoured by the standard.

All learners of Irish in Northern Ireland use this form of the language. Self-instruction courses in Ulster Irish include Now You’re Talking and Tús maith. The writer Séamus Ó Searcaigh, once warned about the Irish Government's attempts at producing a Caighdeán or Standard for the Irish language in Ireland in 1953, when he wrote that what will emerge will be "Gaedhilg nach mbéidh suim againn inntí mar nár fhás sí go nádúrtha as an teangaidh a thug Gaedhil go hÉirinn" (A Gaelic which is of no interest to us, for it has not developed naturally from the language brought to Ireland by the Gaels). The Ulster Irish dialect is spoken throughout the area of the historical nine county Ulster, in particular the Gaeltacht region of County Donegal and the "Gaeltacht Quarter". Archived from the original on 7 August 2007. of West Belfast. Mayo Irish has strong ties with Donegal Irish.

Ulster Scots

Ulster Scots comprises varieties of the Scots language spoken in Northern Ireland. Aodán Mac Poilín[65] states that "While most argue that Ulster-Scots is a dialect or variant of Scots, some have argued or implied that Ulster-Scots is a separate language from Scots. The case for Ulster-Scots being a distinct language, made at a time when the status of Scots itself was insecure, is so bizarre that it is unlikely to have been a linguistic argument." Approximately 2% of the population claim to speak Ulster Scots,[66] however the number speaking it as their main language in their home is negligible.[62] Classes at colleges can now be taken[67] but for a native English speaker "[the language] is comparatively accessible, and even at its most intense can be understood fairly easily with the help of a glossary."[65] The St Andrews Agreement recognises the need to "enhance and develop the Ulster Scots language, heritage and culture".[68]

Other languages

There are an increasing number of ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland. Chinese and Urdu are spoken by Northern Ireland's Asian communities; though the Chinese community is often referred to as the "third largest" community in Northern Ireland, it is tiny by international standards. Since the accession of new member states to the European Union in 2004, Central and Eastern European languages, particularly Polish, are becoming increasingly common.

The most common sign language in Northern Ireland is British Sign Language (BSL), but as Catholics tended to send their deaf children to schools in Dublin (St Joseph's Institute for Deaf Boys and St. Mary's Institute for Deaf Girls), Irish Sign Language (ISL) is commonly used in the Nationalist community. The two languages are not related: BSL is in the British family (which also includes Auslan), and ISL is in the French family (which also includes American Sign Language).

Variations in geographic nomenclature

Alternative names for Northern Ireland

Many people inside and outside Northern Ireland use other names for Northern Ireland, depending on their point of view.

Free Derry mural

Notwithstanding the ancient realm of Dál Riata which extended into Scotland, 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 famous example is whether Northern Ireland's second city should be called "Derry" or "Londonderry".

Choice of language and nomenclature in Northern Ireland often reveals the cultural, ethnic and religious identity of the speaker. The first Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Seamus Mallon, was criticised by unionist politicians for calling the region the "North of Ireland" while Sinn Féin has been criticised in some Irish newspapers for still referring to the "Six Counties".[69]

Those who do not belong to any group but lean towards one side often tend to use the language of that group. Supporters of unionism in the British media (notably the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Express) regularly call Northern Ireland "Ulster".[70] Some nationalist and republican-leaning media outlets in Ireland almost always use "North of Ireland" or the "Six Counties".

Government and cultural organisations in Northern Ireland, particularly those pre-dating the 1980s[citation needed], often use the word "Ulster" in their title; for example, the University of Ulster, the Ulster Museum, the Ulster Orchestra, and BBC Radio Ulster.

Many news bulletins since the 1990s have opted to avoid all contentious terms and use the official name, Northern Ireland. "The North" is still used by some news bulletins in the Republic, to the annoyance of some Unionists.[citation needed] Bertie Ahern, the previous Taoiseach, now almost always refers to "Northern Ireland" in public, having previously only used "The North". For Northern Ireland's second largest city, broadcasting outlets which are unaligned to either community and broadcast to both use both names interchangeably, often starting a report with "Londonderry" and then using "Derry" in the rest of the report. However, within Northern Ireland, print media which are aligned to either community (the News Letter is aligned to the unionist community while the Irish News is aligned to the nationalist community) generally use their community's preferred term. British newspapers with unionist leanings, such as the Daily Telegraph, usually use the language of the unionist community. In its style guide, The Guardian recommends using "Derry" and "Co Derry", and "not Londonderry".[71] The media in the Republic use the names preferred by nationalists.[72] Whether this is all an official editorial policy or a personal preference by the writers is unknown.

The division in nomenclature is seen particularly in sports and religions associated with one of the communities. Gaelic games use "Derry", for example. Nor is there clear agreement on how to decide on a name. When the nationalist-controlled local council voted to re-name the city "Derry" unionists objected, stating that as it owed its city status to a Royal Charter, only a charter issued by the Queen could change the name. The Queen has not intervened on the matter and thus the council is now called the Derry City Council while the city is still officially Londonderry. Nevertheless, the council has printed two sets of stationery - one for each term - and their policy is to reply to correspondence using whichever term the original sender used.

At times of high communal tension, each side regularly complains of the use of the nomenclature associated with the other community by a third party such as a media organisation, claiming such usage indicates evident "bias" against their community.


  • Ulster (Ulaidh), strictly speaking, refers to the province of Ulster, of which six of nine historical counties are in Northern Ireland. The term "Ulster" is widely used by the Unionist community and the British press as shorthand for Northern Ireland.[73] 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 again in 1949 but no change was made.[74]
  • The Province (An Cúige) refers literally to the historic Irish province of Ulster but today is used widely, within this community, as shorthand for Northern Ireland.[75] 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" should be preferred to "British", and the term "mainland" should be avoided in reference to Great Britain in relation to Northern Ireland[76]


  • North of Ireland (Tuaisceart na hÉireann) or North-East Ireland (Oirthuaisceart Éireann)- to emphasize the link of Northern Ireland to the rest of the island, and so by implication playing down Northern Ireland's links with Great Britain. [77]
  • The Six Counties (na Sé Chontae) - language used by republicans e.g. Republican Sinn Féin, which avoids using the name given by the British-enacted Government of Ireland Act 1920. (the Republic is similarly described as the Twenty-Six Counties.)[78] 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. The state of Ireland, whose legitimacy is not recognised by republicans opposed to the Belfast Agreement, is described as "The Free State", referring to the Irish Free State, which gained independence (as a Dominion) in 1922.[79]
  • British-Occupied Ireland. Similar in tone to the Occupied Six Counties this term is used by more dogmatic anti-Good Friday Agreement republicans who still hold that the First Dáil was the last legitimate government of Ireland and that all governments since have been foreign imposed usurpations of Irish national self-determination.[80]
  • Fourth Green Field (An Cheathrú Gort Glas).[citation needed] From the song Four Green Fields by Tommy Makem which describes Ireland as divided with one of the four green fields (the traditional provinces of Ireland) being In strangers hands, referring to the partition of Ireland.


  • The North (An Tuaisceart) - used to describe Northern Ireland in the same way that "The South" is used to describe the Republic.[citation needed]
  • Norn Iron (previously rendered "Norn Irn")[81][82] - is an informal and affectionate local nickname used by both nationalists and unionists 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 light-hearted way to refer to the province, based as it is on regional pronunciation. Often refers to the Northern Ireland national football team.

Descriptions for Northern Ireland

There is no generally accepted term to describe what Northern Ireland is: province, region, country or something else.[83][84][85] The choice of term can be controversial and can reveal the writer's political preferences.[84] This has been noted as a problem by several writers on Northern Ireland, with no generally recommended solution.[84][83][85]

Owing in part to the way in which the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland came into being, there is no legally defined term to describe what Northern Ireland 'is'. There is also no uniform or guiding way to refer to Northern Ireland amongst the agencies of the UK government. For example, the websites of the Office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom[5] and the UK Statistics Authority[4] describe the United Kingdom as being made up of four countries, one of these being Northern Ireland. Other pages[86] on the same websites refer to Northern Ireland specifically as a "province" as do publications of the UK Statistics Authority.[87] The website of the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency also refers to Northern Ireland as being a province[88] as does the website of the Office of Public Sector Information[89] and other agencies within Northern Ireland.[90] Publications of HM Treasury[91] and the Department of Finance and Personnel of the Northern Ireland Executive,[92] on the other hand, describe Northern Ireland as being a "region of the UK".

Unlike England, Scotland and Wales, Northern Ireland has no history of being an independent country or of being a nation in its own right.[93] Some writers describe the United Kingdom as being made up of three countries and one province[94] or point out the difficulties with calling Northern Ireland a country.[95] Authors writing specifically about Northern Ireland dismiss the idea that Northern Ireland is a "country" in general terms,[85][83][96][97] and draw contrasts in this respect with England, Scotland and Wales.[98] 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.[93] 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[99][100][85] and is in contrast to England, Scotland and Wales.[101]

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 occupies six out of nine counties.[84][95] The BBC style guide is to refer to Northern Ireland as a province, and use of the term is common in literature and newspaper reports on Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom. Some authors have described the meaning of this term as being equivocal: referring to Northern Ireland as being a province both of the United Kingdom and of the traditional country of Ireland.[99]

"Region" is used by several UK government agencies and the European Union. Some authors choose this word but note that it is "unsatisfactory".[85][84] Northern Ireland can also be simply described as "part of the UK", including by UK government offices.[5]


In Northern Ireland, sport is popular and important in the lives of many people. Sports tend to be organised on an all-Ireland basis including both Northern Ireland and the Republic, as in the case of Gaelic football, rugby, hockey, basketball, cricket and hurling.[102] The main exception is association football (soccer), which has separate governing bodies for each jurisdiction.[102]

Gaelic games

Gaelic games include Gaelic football, hurling, 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: Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh and Tyrone. The Ulster GAA is the branch of the Gaelic Athletic Association that is responsible for all nine counties of Ulster, including the six that are in Northern Ireland. All nine field teams in the Ulster Senior Football Championship, Ulster Senior Hurling Championship, All-Ireland Senior Football Championship and All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship. Recent successes for Northern Ireland's teams include Armagh's 2002 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship win and Tyrone's wins in 2003, 2005 and 2008.

Association football (soccer)

The Irish Football Association (IFA) is the organising body for association football in Northern Ireland. The highest level of competition within Northern Ireland is the IFA Premiership. There is also an all-island tournament, the Setanta Cup, which includes four IFA Premiership teams and four teams from the Republic's league. However, the best Northern Irish players tend to play for clubs in Great Britain in the English or Scottish leagues. Despite Northern Ireland's small population, its international team has had a number of notable successes, including World Cup quarter-final appearances in 1958 and 1982.

Rugby union

Northern Ireland's six counties are among the nine governed by the Ulster branch of the all-island governing body, the Irish Rugby Football Union. Ulster is one of the four professional provincial teams in the island of Ireland and competes in the Celtic League and European Cup. Ulster won the European Cup in 1999. In international competition, players from Northern Ireland represent the Ireland national rugby team, whose recent successes include four Triple Crowns between 2004 and 2009 and a Grand Slam in 2009.


Cricket is the fastest growing sport in the country.[citation needed] The Ireland cricket team, which represents both the Republic and Northern Ireland, is an associate member of the International Cricket Council. It participated in 2007 Cricket World Cup and qualified for the Super 8s and did the same in the 2009 ICC World Twenty20. Ireland are current champions of ICC Intercontinental Cup and the under-19 team is also performing very well.[citation needed] The regular international ground is Stormont in Belfast.


Education in Northern Ireland differs slightly from systems used elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Unlike most areas of the United Kingdom, in the last year of primary school children sit the eleven plus transfer test, and the results determine whether they attend grammar schools or secondary schools. This system was due to be changed in 2008 amidst some controversy, with the exception of north Armagh where the Dickson Plan is in effect.

Northern Ireland's state (controlled) schools are open to all children in Northern Ireland, although in practice are mainly attended by those from Protestant or non-religious backgrounds. There is a separate publicly funded school system provided for Roman Catholics, although Roman Catholics are free to attend state schools (and some non-Roman Catholics attend Roman Catholic schools). Integrated schools, which attempt to ensure a balance in enrolment between pupils of Protestant, Roman Catholic and other faiths (or none) are becoming increasingly popular, although Northern Ireland still has a primarily de facto religiously segregated education system. In the primary school sector, forty schools (8.9% of the total number) are Integrated Schools and thirty two (7.2% of the total number) are Gaelscoileanna.


There are two main universities in Northern Ireland - The Queen's University of Belfast, and the University of Ulster.

See also



  1. ^ "Northern Ireland Census 2001 Commissioned Output". NISRA. 2001. Retrieved 8 December 2009. 
  2. ^ Paul, Dickson (1997). Labels for Locals: What to Call People from Abilene to Zimbabwe. Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster. p. 138. ISBN 9780877796169. "Northern Ireland: Northern Irishman and Northern Irishwoman, or the collective Irish and Northern Irish" 
  3. ^ a b BBC NEWS | UK | Northern Ireland | NI's population passes 1.75m mark
  4. ^ a b "The Countries of the UK". - geography - beginners' guide to UK geography. UK Statistics Authority. 11 November 2005. Archived from the original on 11 November 2009. Retrieved 11 November 2009. "The top-level division of administrative geography in the UK is the 4 countries - England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland." 
  5. ^ a b c "countries within a country". The Office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. 10 January 2003. Archived from the original on 11 November 2009. Retrieved 11 November 2009. "The United Kingdom is made up of four countries: England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Its full name is the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland...Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom with a devolved legislative Assembly and a power sharing Executive made up of ministers from four political parties representing different traditions." 
  6. ^ Statutory Rules & Orders published by authority, 1921 (No. 533); Additional source for 3 May 1921 date: Alvin Jackson, Home Rule - An Irish History, Oxford University Press, 2004, p198.
  7. ^ Standing up for Northern Ireland Retrieved 2 August 2008.
  8. ^ Richard Jenkin, 1997, Rethinking ethnicity: arguments and explorations, SAGE Publicatoins: London: "In Northern Ireland the objectives of contemporary nationalists are the reunification of Ireland and the removal of British government."
  9. ^ Peter Dorey, 1995, British politics since 1945, Blackwell Publihsers: Oxford: "Just as some Nationalists have been prepared to use violence in order to secure Irish reunification, so some Unionists have been prepared to use violence in order to oppose it."
  10. ^ "Strategy Framework Document: Reunification through Planned Integration: Sinn Féin’s All Ireland Agenda". Archived from the original on 16 July 2006.  Sinn Fein, Retrieved 2 August 2008
  11. ^ Policy Summaries: Constitutional Issues SDLP, accessed 2 August 2008
  12. ^ Pilkington, Colin (2002). Devolution in Britain Today. Manchester University Press. p. 75. ISBN 0719060761. 
  13. ^ Northern Ireland became a distinct region of the United Kingdom, by Order in Council on 3 May 1921 (Statutory Rules & Orders published by authority (SR&O) 1921, No. 533). Its constitutional roots remain the Act of Union, two complementary Acts, one passed by the Parliament of Great Britain, the other by the Parliament of Ireland.
  14. ^ Whyte, Nicholas (2006). "The Irish Election of 1918". Northern Ireland Elections. Belfast: ARK Northern Ireland. 
  15. ^ On 7 December 1922 (the day after the establishment of the Irish Free State) the Parliament resolved to make the following address to the King so as to opt out of the Irish Free State: ”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". Source: Northern Ireland Parliamentary Report, 7 December 1922 and Anglo-Irish Treaty, sections 11, 12
  16. ^ Dáil Éireann - Volume 13 - 10 December 1925
  17. ^ "Anglo-Irish Relations, 1939–41: A Study in Multilateral Diplomacy and Military Restraint" in Twentieth Century British History (Oxford Journals, 2005), ISSN 1477-4674
  18. ^ Malcolm Sutton’s book, “Bear in Mind These Dead: An Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland 1969 - 1993.
  19. ^ The Ballast report: "...the Police Ombudsman has concluded that this was collusion by certain police officers with identified UVF informants."
  20. ^ BBC ON THIS DAY | 9 | 1973: Northern Ireland votes for union
  21. ^ 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."
  22. ^ Northern Ireland Act 2006 (c. 17)
  23. ^ (BBC)
  24. ^ pdf filePDF (64.6 KB) "For the purposes of the English conflict of laws, every country in the world which is not part of England and Wales is a foreign country and its foreign laws. This means that not only totally foreign independent countries such as France or Russia... are foreign countries but also British Colonies such as the Falkland Islands. Moreover, the other parts of the United Kingdom—Scotland and Northern Ireland—are foreign countries for present purposes, as are the other British Islands, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey." Conflict of Laws, JG Collier, Fellow of Trinity Hall and lecturer in Law, University of Cambridge
  25. ^ Professor John H. Whyte paper on discrimination in Northern Ireland
  26. ^ CAIN website key issues discrimination summary
  27. ^ Lord Scarman, "Violence and Civil Disturbances in Northern Ireland in 1969: Report of Tribunal of Inquiry" Belfast: HMSO, Cmd 566. (known as the Scarman Report)
  28. ^ Northern Ireland Census 2001, Table KS07a: Religion
  29. ^ Northern Ireland Census 2001, Table KS07b: Community background: religion or religion brought up in
  30. ^ BBC News: Fascination of religion head count
  31. ^ Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency population projections
  32. ^ Ark survey, 2007. Answer to the question "Generally speaking, do you think of yourself as a unionist, a nationalist or neither?"
  33. ^ Answers to the question "Do you think the long-term policy for Northern Ireland should be for it [one of the following"
  34. ^ Ark survey, 2007. Answers to the question "Do you think the long-term policy for Northern Ireland should be for it to [one of the following"
  35. ^ NI Life and Times Survey - 2007: NIRELND2
  36. ^ Department Of the Taoiseach
  37. ^ Breen, R., Devine, P. and Dowds, L. (editors), 1996: ISBN 0-86281-593-2. Chapter 2 'Who Wants a United Ireland? Constitutional Preferences among Catholics and Protestants' by Richard Breen (1996), in, Social Attitudes in Northern Ireland: The Fifth Report Retrieved 24 August 2006; Summary: In 1989—1994, 79% Protestants replied "British" or "Ulster", 60% of Catholics replied "Irish."
  38. ^ Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, 1999; Module:Community Relations, Variable:NINATID Summary:72% of Protestants replied "British". 68% of Catholics replied "Irish".
  39. ^ Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey. Module:Community Relations. Variable:BRITISH. Summary: 78% of Protestants replied "Strongly British."
  40. ^ Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, 1999; Module:Community Relations, Variable:IRISH Summary: 77% of Catholics replied "Strongly Irish."
  41. ^ Institute of Governance, 2006 "National identities in the UK: do they matter?" Briefing No. 16, January 2006; Retrieved from "IoG_Briefing". Archived from the original on 22 August 2006. PDF (211 KB) on 24 August 2006. Extract:"Three-quarters of Northern Ireland’s Protestants regard themselves as British, but only 12 per cent of Northern Ireland’s Catholics do so. Conversely, a majority of Catholics (65%) regard themselves as Irish, whilst very few Protestants (5%) do likewise. Very few Catholics (1%) compared to Protestants (19%) claim an Ulster identity but a Northern Irish identity is shared in broadly equal measure across religious traditions."Details from attitude surveys are in Demographics and politics of Northern Ireland.
  42. ^ L219252024 - Public Attitudes to Devolution and National Identity in Northern Ireland University of York Research Project 2002-2003
  43. ^ Northern Ireland: Constitutional Proposals and the Problem of Identity, by J. R. Archer The Review of Politics, 1978
  44. ^ "Chapter 7 > A changed Irish nationalism? The significance of the Belfast Agreement of 1998". Archived from the original on 10 May 2007. PDF (131 KB) A changed Irish nationalism? The significance of the Belfast Agreement of 1998, by Joseph Ruane and Jennifer Todd
  45. ^ Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, 2008; Module:Community Relations, Variable:IRISH
  46. ^ Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey, 1998; Module:Community Relations, Variable:IRISH
  47. ^ Vandals curbed by plastic edging BBC News, 25 November 2008
  48. ^ Statutory Rule 2000 No. 347
  49. ^ The Union Flag and Flags of the United Kingdom House of Commons Library, 3 June 2008
  50. ^ Northern Irish flags from the World Flag Database
  51. ^ " Northern Ireland, Latest News". Archived from the original on 10 December 2005.,1483,NIR,00.html?countrycode=NIR. 
  52. ^ John Sugden and Scott Harvie (1995). "Sport and Community Relations in Northern Ireland 3.2 Flags and anthems". Retrieved 26 May 2008. 
  53. ^ Peter Berlin (29 December 2004). "Long unsung teams live up to anthems: Rugby Union". International Herald Tribune via HighBeam Research. Retrieved 26 May 2008. "the band played Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika and Die Stem for the Springboks and Soldier's Song, the national anthem that is otherwise known as Amhran na bhFiann, and Ireland's Call, the team's official rugby anthem." 
  54. ^ "British Meteorological Office figures". Archived from the original on 19 May 2005. 
  55. ^ "Belfast, Northern Ireland - Average Conditions". BBC Weather Centre. BBC. Retrieved 8 October 2009. 
  56. ^ Many Nationalists use the name County Derry.
  57. ^ The AgreementPDF (204 KB)
  58. ^ Ryan, James G. (1997). Irish Records: Sources for Family and Local History. Flyleaf Press. p. 40. ISBN 978-0916489762. 
  59. ^ Protestants and the Irish Language: Historical Heritage and Current Attitudes in Northern Ireland Rosalind M.O. Pritchard University of Ulster at Coleraine, UK
  60. ^ The Local Government (Miscellaneous Provisions) (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (No. 759 (N.I. 5))[1]
  61. ^ a b Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency Census 2001 Output
  62. ^ a b Northern Ireland LIFE & TIMES Survey: What is the main language spoken in your own home?
  63. ^ A Statement by Edwin Poots MLA, Minister of Culture, Arts and Leisure, to the Northern Ireland Assembly on the proposal to introduce Irish Language legislation. 16 October 2007
  64. ^ a b Home Page
  65. ^ a b Aodan Mac Poilin, 1999, "Language, Identity and Politics in Northern Ireland" in Ulster Folk Life Vol. 45, 1999
  66. ^ Northern Ireland LIFE & TIMES Survey: Do you yourself speak Ulster-Scots?
  67. ^ "Stranmillis University College - Ulster Scots Project". Stranmillis University College. Retrieved 16 July 2008. 
  68. ^ "St Andrews Agreement". Archived from the original on 4 November 2006. PDF (131 KB)
  69. ^ Sunday Independent article on Mallon and the use of "Six Counties".
  70. ^ Example of Daily Telegraph use of "Ulster" in text of an article, having used "Northern Ireland" in the opening paragraph
  71. ^ The Guardian style guide
  72. ^ RTÉ News usage
  73. ^ Examples of usage of this term include Radio Ulster, Ulster Orchestra and RUC; political parties like the Ulster Unionist Party; paramilitary organisations like Ulster Defence Association and Ulster Volunteer Force. Ulster was also used political campaigns such as "Ulster Says No" and Save Ulster from Sodomy.
  74. ^ Parliamentary Reports of the Parliament of Northern Ireland, Volume 20 (1937) and The Times, 6 January 1949 – See also Alternative names for Northern Ireland
  75. ^ DUP Press Release "Paisley reacts to Prime Minister's statement". Date unknown. Extract "The DUP will be to the fore in representing the vast majority of unionists in the Province."—example of Ian Paisley referring to Northern Ireland as The Province. Retrieved from on 11 October 2006.
  76. ^ "Editorial Policy, Guidance Note" (PDF). BBC. undated. Retrieved 16 July 2008. "The term “province” is often used synonymously with Northern Ireland and it is normally appropriate to make secondary references to “the province”"
  77. ^ "Example of "North of Ireland"". Archived from the original on 18 May 2006. 
  78. ^ Sinn Féin usage of "Six Counties"
  79. ^ Examples of usage by the United States-based extreme republican "Irish Freedom Committee"
  80. ^ Usage on "", a republican website
  81. ^ "New Norn Irn manager named…". Slugger O'Toole. 31 May 2007. Retrieved 26 September 2008. 
  82. ^ "norn irn v denmark". Belfast Forum. 17 November 2007. Retrieved 26 September 2008.  Illustration of local usage
  83. ^ a b c S. Dunn and H. Dawson (2000), An Alphabetical Listing of Word, Name and Place in Northern Ireland and the Living Language of Conflict, Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press 
  84. ^ a b c d e J. Whyte and G. FitzGerald (1991), Interpreting Northern Ireland, Oxford: Oxford University Press 
  85. ^ a b c d e D. Murphy (1979), A Place Apart, London: Penguin Books 
  86. ^ Example: "‘Normalisation’ plans for Northern Ireland unveiled". Office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. 1 August 2005. Retrieved 11 November 2009.  or "26 January 2006". Office of the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. 1 August 2005. Retrieved 11 November 2009. 
  87. ^ Example: Office for National Statistics (1999), Britain 2000: the Official Yearbook of the United Kingdom, London: The Stationary Office  or Office for National Statistics (1999), UK electoral statistics 1999, London: Office for National Statistics 
  88. ^ "The Population of Northern Ireland". Northern Ireland Statistical Research Agency. Retrieved 11 November 2009. 
  89. ^ Example: "Background - Northern Ireland)". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 11 November 2009.  or "Acts of the Northern Ireland Assembly (and other primary legislation for Northern Ireland)". Office of Public Sector Information. Retrieved 11 November 2009. 
  90. ^ Fortnight, 1992 
  91. ^ Sir David Varney December (2007), Review of Tax Policy in Northern Ireland, London: Her Majesty's Stationary Office 
  92. ^ Department of Finance and Personnel (2007), The European Sustainable Competitiveness Programme for Northern Ireland, Belfast: Northern Ireland Executive 
  93. ^ a b A Aughey and D Morrow (1996), Northern Ireland Politics, London: Longman 
  94. ^ P Close, D Askew, Xin X (2007), The Beijing Olympiad: the political economy of a sporting mega-event, Oxon: Routledge 
  95. ^ a b Global Encyclopedia of Political Geography, 2009 
  96. ^ M Crenshaw (1985), "An Organizational Approach to the Analysis of Political Terrorism", Orbis 29 (3) 
  97. ^ P Kurzer (2001), Markets and moral regulation: cultural change in the European Union, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 
  98. ^ J Morrill, ed. (2004), The promotion of knowledge: lectures to mark the Centenary of the British Academy 1992-2002, Oxford: Oxford University Press 
  99. ^ a b F. Cochrane (2001), Unionist politics and the politics of Unionism since the Anglo-Irish Agreement, Cork: Cork University Press 
  100. ^ W V Shannon (1984), K M. Cahill, ed., The American Irish revival: a decade of the Recorder, Associated Faculty Press 
  101. ^ R Beiner (1999), Theorizing Nationalism, Albany: State University of New York Press 
  102. ^ a b How do other sports in the island cope with the situation? The Herald, 3 April 2008

Further reading

  • Jonathan Bardon, A History of Ulster (Blackstaff Press, Belfast, 1992), ISBN 0-85640-476-4
  • Brian E. Barton, The Government of Northern Ireland, 1920–1923 (Athol Books, 1980)
  • Paul Bew, Peter Gibbon and Henry Patterson The State in Northern Ireland, 1921–72: Political Forces and Social Classes, Manchester (Manchester University Press, 1979)
  • Tony Geraghty (2000). The Irish War. Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-7117-4. 
  • Robert Kee, The Green Flag: A History of Irish Nationalism (Penguin, 1972–2000), ISBN 0-14-029165-2
  • Osborne Morton, 1994, Marine Algae of Northern Ireland Ulster Museum, Belfast
  • Henry Patterson, "Ireland Since 1939: The Persistence of Conflict" (Penguin, 2006), ISBN 978-1-844-88104-8
  • Hackney, P. (Ed) 1992, Stewart's and Corry's Flora of the North-east of Ireland Third edition. Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen's University of Belfast, ISBN 0 85389 446 9(HB)
  • Betts, N.L. in Hackney, P. 1992, Stewart & Corry's Flora of the North-east of Ireland Third Edition, Institute of Irish Studies, The Queen's University of Belfast, ISBN 0 85389 446 9 (HB)

External links

Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

The Giant's Causeway
The Giant's Causeway

Northern Ireland is located on the island of Ireland and is one of the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom. Despite its former reputation as being violent and dangerous, the political situation is currently stable and the province is safe to visit. Northern Ireland has a vast array of attractions which are of interest to tourists, from stunning landscapes and scenery to vibrant cities and interesting remnants of the country's past.



The weather in Northern Ireland is notoriously unpredictable, and it is not uncommon to experience a full range of meteorological conditions in a single week. As with the rest of the island of Ireland and Great Britain, the province is particularly susceptible to rain. Similarly to England, the weather is a common topic of conversation.


The population of Northern Ireland is largely made up of two groups. Although there had always been population movements between the west of Scotland and the north-east of Ireland, during the 16th and 17th centuries there was an organised settlement of people from Scotland known as the Plantation of Ulster; most came to work on new plantations which had been established in the area. The indigenous Irish population was predominantly Roman Catholic (at a time when this was the only Western Christian religion), whilst Scottish settlers after the Reformation were predominantly Protestant.

The religious difference turned into a political split: most Protestants are unionists or (a stronger term) loyalists, supporting continued union with Great Britain, while most Catholics are nationalists or Republicans. Nationalists and Republicans both want a united Ireland, but Nationalists (politically affiliated with SDLP political party) stop at violence; whereas the Republican movement (politically affiliated with Sinn Fein political party) included violence as a means to a united Ireland up until 2004. Although segregation always existed, the situation reached boiling point in 1969 when the campaign for Civil Rights turned violent when protests were regularly attacked by loyalist supporters. That was the start of the period known euphamistically as "The Troubles." In 1972, British Forces fired live rounds rather than plastic bullets at unarmed peaceful civilian protesters. After the smoke had cleared 14 were laid to rest, on a day that has become known worldwide as "Bloody Sunday". The British Government gave reparations to the families of the victims. This was a major turning point in the support for the Republican movement as the civilian population felt they had nowhere left to turn. This also effectively re-polarised segregation along religious lines. Previously inactive paramilitary groups became re-established in the province, which sat precariously on the brink of civil war for many years.

In 1998, after years of sporadic negotiations between the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland and the paramilitary groups and local political parties, the Agreement was signed, signalling the end of violence in the province. This is often called the Belfast Agreement or the Good Friday Agreement after the place or day on which it was signed. Although there was an almost immediate drop in the level of terrorist acts and rioting, it took several years for stability to settle on the region and for agreement to be reached concerning the devolved government.


Most people visiting have heard of the varying allegiances of its people. However, to a traveller the people of Northern Ireland are friendly and warm towards visitors. You get the feeling that the people know the allegiances of each other, but to a traveller it can be hard to ascertain (at least until after the second pint of Guinness).

People can self-identify as Irish or British solely or Northern Irish. Similar divides exist in referring to places, for example, to Republicans and many nationalists, Londonderry is Derry, while to Loyalists and many unionists it is Londonderry.


The official languages for Northern Ireland are English, Irish and Ulster Scots. While used in various government and public organisations, Irish and Ulster Scots are rarely seen written and even less spoken. Nearly all education in the country is in English therefore there is no need to learn Irish, partly due to the fact that most non-Catholic schools do not teach it. Many Northern Irish people have little knowledge of Irish or Ulster Scots.

Although Northern Ireland is a small country, accents and dialects differ considerably throughout the country and even foreigners fluent in English may find it hard to understand people with certain accents. However most Northern Irish people will slow down and speak more clearly if they think you are having a hard time understanding them.

In schools English is taught as a literature subject rather than a language subject. In most Catholic schools and some grammar schools it is normal for students to be taught Irish (although not widely used) and therefore certain schools have bilingual signs etc. French, Spanish and German (sometimes Latin) are taught in most schools or at least a few of these languages will be taught mainly at secondary school level. Unfortunately for native English speakers there is often no desire for them to learn other languages therefore a lot of Northern Irish people won't be able to speak to you in your native language but will try and make their English more understandable for a foreigner.

Map of Northern Ireland
Map of Northern Ireland
County Antrim (Contae Aontroma) - Belfast is situated in County Antrim, as is the stunning North Coast and Giant's Causeway.
County Armagh (Contae Ard Mhacha) - Formerly the most militarised territory in Western Europe and home of the Navan Fort.
County Londonderry (or County Derry) (Contae Dhoire) - The city of Londonderry is located here.
County Down (Contae an Dúin) - The beautiful coastal resort of Bangor is found here. Also the Mourne Mountains - an area of outstanding natural beauty.
County Fermanagh (Contae Fhear Manach) - Largely rural county adjacent to the Irish border, famed for its numerous lakes.
County Tyrone (Contae Thír Eoghain) - A rural county, home to the Sperrin Mountains.

Cities and Towns

Northern Ireland is home to numerous cities and towns. Below is a list of nine of the most notable. Other urban areas are listed on their specific county article.

  • Belfast (Béal Feirste, "the Big Smoke") - The capital and largest city of Northern Ireland. It is also the second largest city on the island of Ireland (after Dublin, the capital of the Irish Republic), and the fifteenth largest in the United Kingdom. Shattered by more than three decades of paramilitary conflict, Belfast has undergone a renaissance in recent years and is now a vibrant, buzzing city. It has been voted the fourth best city in the UK for a city break in the Guardian/Observer travel awards.
  • Armagh (Ard Mhacha) - Ecclesiastical capital of Ireland; containing the headquarters of both the (Anglican) Church of Ireland, and the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland.
  • Derry (Doire, "the Maiden City") - (officially known as Londonderry) The second city of Northern Ireland and fourth city of Ireland is worth a visit for its famous stone city walls (which date from the 16th century and are the only complete city walls in Ireland).
  • Lisburn (Lios na gCearrbhach) - became a city as part of the Queen's Jubilee celebrations in 2002.
  • Newry (Iúr Cinn Trá)- became a city as part of the Queen's Jubilee celebrations in 2002.
  • Bangor (Beanchar) - A beautiful coastal resort in North Down with Ireland's largest marina and good shopping.
  • Coleraine (Cúil Raithin) - Situated on the River Bann in County Derry, 5 km from the sea and with an impressive history dating back to Ireland’s earliest known settlers, Coleraine today is a major gateway to the popular Causeway Coast area. Coleraine is an excellent shopping town and also has a major performance theatre located at the University of Ulster in the town.
  • Enniskillen (Inis Ceithleann) - picturesque main town of County Fermanagh, perfect for exploring the lakes around Lough Erne.
  • Omagh (An Ómaigh) - The Ulster American Folk Park is located here. This is an outdoor museum which tells the story of emigration from Ulster to America in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Giant's Causeway
Giant's Causeway
  • North Coast (Causeway Coast) - The north coast of Northern Ireland has some of the best scenery in Europe and has to be seen to be believed. This coastline is of outstanding natural beauty where breathtaking and rugged coastline merge into the romantic landscape of deep silent glens and lush forest parks. There are also spectacular waterfalls, dramatic castles and mysterious ruins. The world famous Giant's Causeway (Northern Irelands only UNESCO World Heritage site) with its array of hexagonal basalt columns and tales of ancient Irish giants, and 'Old Bushmills', the world's oldest licensed whiskey distillery, are just two attractions, which are a must for every visit to Northern Ireland. There are fantastic golf courses located at Portstewart, Castlerock and most notably at Portrush (Royal Portrush). Beautiful, unspoilt sandy beaches also extend along the coast.
  • The Mourne Mountains (Na Beanna Bóirche) - The Mourne Mountains are a walker’s paradise where old mountain tracks take you past lakes, rivers, woodland and up to the many fine peaks and the famous Mourne Wall. The Mournes also offer fine rock climbing opportunities. Slieve Donnard standing at 852 m (2,796 ft) is the highest mountain in the Mournes range and also the highest mountain in Northern Ireland. It offers spectacular views from the summit towards England, and Scotland.
  • Rathlin Island (Reachrainn) - Northern Ireland's only inhabited off-shore island, connected to the mainland by a regular ferry service.

Get in

Immigration and visa requirements

Northern Ireland has the same immigration and visa requirements as the rest of the UK.

  • Citizens of the European Union do not require a visa, and have permanent residency and working rights in the UK.
  • Citizens of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland also have permanent residency rights, but may require a work permit in some circumstances.
  • Citizens of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, Taiwan, the United States and Uruguay do not require a visa for visits of less than 6 months.
  • Most other countries will require a visa, which can be obtained from the nearest British Embassy, High Commission or Consulate.
  • There is no passport control on the land border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Visitors must carry the document that permits them entry to the UK (passport, visa, identity card or documentation, depending on nationality).
  • The UK also operates a Working Holidaymaker Scheme for citizens of the Commonwealth of Nations, and British dependent territories. This allows residency in the UK for up to 2 years, with limited working rights.

For more information of UK Immigration and visa requirements, see the UK's Home Office website [1].

By air

Northern Ireland's has three commercial airports, with the Belfast being the main gateway. A third airport in operates in Derry.

George Best Belfast City Airport [2] (airport code BHD): just 2 miles from Belfast city center, with magnificent views of the city of Belfast or Belfast Lough offered to passengers on approach and departure. The airport principally serves routes to domestic UK and Ireland, however bmi offers interline connections to its flights and those of the Star Alliance through Heathrow. These flights are code-shared with British Airways, therefore offering interline connections to its flights and those of the One World Alliance. Airlines using the airport include:

  • Aer Arann [3] to Cork
  • bmi [4] to London (Heathrow)
  • British Northwest Airlines [5] to Blackpool and the Isle of Man (Ronaldsway)
  • flybe [6] to Aberdeen, Birmingham, Bristol, Doncaster Sheffield (Robin Hood), Edinburgh, Exeter, Galway, Glasgow, Guernsey, Jersey, Leeds/Bradford, Liverpool (John Lennon), London (Gatwick), Newcastle, Paris (Charles-de-Gaulle), Southampton, Manchester, Newquay and Rennes.
  • Ryanair [7] to Nottingham (East Midlands), Glasgow (Prestwick), Liverpool (John Lennon) and London (Stansted).

The terminal is served every twenty to thirty minutes from 06.00 - 22.00 by the 600 Airport bus [8] (£1.30 single, £2.20 return). Depending on traffic, the journey to Belfast's Laganside and Europa Buscentres should take no more than fifteen minutes. Ask at the airport information desk for a free shuttle ride to the near-by Sydenham railway station for trains towards Bangor, Belfast and Portadown. Considering the airport's proximity to the city, taxis cost less than £10 to most parts of the city and are an economical choice for small groups.

The Airporter is an hourly shuttle from Belfast's two airports to Londonderry/Derry. The journey to Belfast City Airport takes roughly a two hours.

Belfast International Airport [9] (airport code BFS) Locally known as Aldergrove (after the Royal Air Force base that has been there since before the commercial airport was constructed), the international airport is further away from Belfast than the City Airport (but is close to the town of Antrim) offers significantly more international destinations.

  • Aer Lingus [10] to Amsterdam, Arrecife, Barcelona, Budapest, Geneva, Faro, London-Heathrow, Malaga, Milan, Munich, Nice, Paris (Charles-de-Gaulle) and Rome (Fiumincino)
  • Air Transat [11] to Toronto (Hamilton)
  • bmibaby [12] to Birmingham, Cardiff, Manchester and Nottingham (East Midlands)
  • Continental Airlines [13] to New York (Newark)
  • Easyjet [14] to Alicante, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin Schoenefeld, Bristol, Edinburgh, Faro, Gdansk, Geneva, Glasgow, Ibiza, Krakow, Liverpool (John Lennon), London (Gatwick), London (Luton), London (Stansted), Malaga, Newcastle, Nice, Palma-de-Mallorca, Paris (Charles-de-Gaulle), Prague, Rome (Ciampino) and Venice
  • Globespan [15] to Orlando (Sanford) and Toronto (Hamilton)
  • Jet2 [16] to Barcelona, Blackpool, Chambery, Gran Canaria, Ibiza, Leeds (Bradford), Malaga, Milan (Bergamo), Murcia, Palma-de-Mallorca, Pisa, Prague, Tenerife (South) and Toulouse
  • Manx2 [17] to the Isle of Man (Ronaldsway)
  • Wizz Air [18] to Warsaw and Katowice

The terminal is served up to thirty minutes from 05.35 - 23.20 by the 300 Airport bus [19] (£6 single, £9 return) to Belfast Laganside and Europa Buscentres. Depending on traffic, the journey to Belfast's Laganside and Europa Buscentres takes about forty-five minutes. Taxis should cost no more than £25-£30 to Belfast City Centre.

  • You can also do it a much cheaper way By Taking the 109A (hourly service Monday to Saturday) ULSTERBUS service to Antrim from the stand outside airport ,(Bus/Train Station which costs £2.60 one wayby bus ) then once you get off the bus in Antrim Go up the steps into the ajoining Train station and buy a Ticket to Belfast Great Victoria street station the train stops in Mossley west /Belfast Central/ Botanic /City Hospital then Great Victoria street which is combined with europa Bus centre Great Victoria street is on the same name street in Belfast and is much more "Central" than Central station and is around the corner from city hall which is 10 mins away by foot. Check for timetables for both Bus and rail Journeys by typing in 109A into search or click on Timetables for Ulsterbus and NI railways you will need the Londonderry-Coleraine -Ballymena-Antrim-Belfast Time table trains are usually every other Hour to Belfast so you might have to wait awhile at the station

The Airporter is an hourly shuttle from Belfast's two airports to Londonderry/Derry. The journey to Belfast International takes ninety minutes.

City of Derry Airport [20] (airport code LDY) an airport serving Derry, Tyrone, and Donegal in the Republic of Ireland.

  • Aer Arann [21] to Cork (via Dublin) and Dublin.
  • Ryanair [22] to Alicante, Birmingham, Glasgow (Prestwick), London (Luton), London (Stansted) and Liverpool (John Lennon).

Ulsterbus operates various scheduled services to and from the airport to the main Foyle Street bus depot in the City. Services also operate to and from Limavady. For details of Ulsterbus bus services visit The typical fare to the city centre is £2.70 and the journey takes approximately 20-30 minutes.

Taxis are available from the airport, with the typical fares to the city centre around £12, with the journey taking roughly 15 minutes.

By train

Despite decades of underinvestment and service cutbacks, Northern Ireland Railways [23] (a division of Translink, Northern Ireland's public transport operator) manages to maintain a small but increasingly reliable passenger rail network around the province, with four 'domestic' lines radiating out from Belfast.

Service is most frequent and reliable on the Portadown - Belfast - Bangor corridor, on which new trains offer frequent and fast suburban service. The line to Londonderry/Derry is exceptionally beautiful as it passes along the north coast after Coleraine, however travellers should note that the railway line is slower (two hours or more) than the equivalent Ulsterbus Goldline express coach (one hour and forty minutes). Contact NIR for information on tourist passes for exploring Northern Ireland by bus and train: with integrated bus and train stations in most major towns, the North is easily explored without a car.

The cross-border service to Dublin (with connections to other destinations in the Republic of Ireland) is offered by the Enterprise, a modern, comfortable and relatively fast train jointly operated by Northern Ireland Railways and Iarnród Éireann (who operate trains in the Republic of Ireland). The journey to Dublin takes around two hours, and there are eight trains a day, offering two classes of service.

By car

Roads link Northern Ireland with the Republic of Ireland. However, pay particular attention to road signs when driving in border areas. In some places the border, being based on county boundaries, runs along the middle of the road while in others it's possible to cross into the South and then back into the North again within several hundred yards. Fortunately both jurisdictions drive on the left though road signs and speed limits in the Republic are now metric (kilometres) while road signs in the North are all imperial (miles).

There are currently no border checks and there is complete freedom of movement between the North and Republic without a passport.

By boat

Ferries cross the Irish Sea from Great Britain to Larne or Belfast in Northern Ireland. All the operators listed below offer special promotions throughout the year, and some also offer through ticketing with rail and bus services at each end.

  • Stena Line offer two types of service from the Port of Belfast to Stranraer in Scotland, with up to six sailings a day. The HSS Stena Voyager is a high speed catamaran (the fastest ferry from Northern Ireland to Great Britain) and the Stena Caledonia is a more traditional and slower ferry. Stena offer 'rail and sail' tickets with Scotrail train connections to destinations in Scotland from Stranraer: the railway station is directly adjacent to the ferry terminal in Stranraer.
  • Stena Line also offer up to three sailings a day from Larne (accessible from Belfast by train or bus) to Fleetwood, near Liverpool.
  • Norfolk Line offer daytime and nightime crossings to Birkenhead, near Liverpool. Cabins and meals are available.
  • P&O sails ferries into Larne, from Troon and Cairnryan in Scotland. offers informed and independent advice on how to book combined train and ferry tickets from any railway station in Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Get around

By car

Northern Ireland's motorway system connects Belfast to Dungannon, Ballymena and Newtownabbey. All large towns and cities are well connected by road. The speed limits are:

Motorways and Dual Carriageways - 70 miles per hour (c. 112 km/h)

Other roads (outside urban areas) - 60 miles per hour (c. 96 km/h)

Urban areas (towns and cities) - 30 miles per hour (c. 48 km/h)

There is a comparatively high incidence of road accidents in Northern Ireland, and the province employs slightly different driving laws to the rest of the UK. One notable difference is that newly qualified drivers can be identified by 'R' plates which are displayed on the car for the first twelve months after their licence is issued. These plates are mandatory. Drivers displaying these plates are limited to 45 miles per hour (c. 72 kilometres per hour) on ALL roads, including dual carriageways and motorways. As with 'L' plates in the rest of the UK, drivers displaying 'R' plates are often the target of road rage and are not awarded a great deal of patience.

Car rental

Northern Ireland is not as well served by car rental companies as is the Republic. Some Irish car rental companies offer a drop off option in Belfast while others have locations in Belfast City.

By bus and train

See also Rail travel in Ireland

Translink operate the Northern Ireland public transport system.


English is spoken everywhere. There are slight variations of regional dialects. Ulster Scots and Irish are used in some small communities. Do be aware though that the Northern Irish tend to speak quite rapidly compared to most English speakers, and have a huge arsenal of local words that are frequently dropped into conversation by speakers of all ages and groups. Expect to become acquainted with words such as 'aye' (yes), 'wee' (little), 'cowp' (turn over, capsize, fall, pass out, fall asleep), 'thole' (be patient, wait, tolerate) 'wean' (literally 'wee one', meaning child), and 'crack' (spelled in Irish Gaelic as "craic", meaning a good time/fun/a laugh, with no connotations of any controlled substances whatsoever).


Giant's Causeway- World Heritage Site and National Nature Reserve. The Giants Causeway is essentially an area of coastline and cliffs with very unusual and distinctive volcanic stone formations. The name comes from the local Legend of Fionn McCool, as it was said that the rocks were once part of a bridge (or causeway) which ended in similar rocks directly across the sea, in Scotland, but the connecting rocks were torn down by Benandonner when Fionn's wife tricked him into believing that Fionn was huge. It is an interesting site to see but come prepared for a long and intense walk. (Best to wear waterproof clothing and strong sneakers). Giant's Causeway is split up into six sections in walking order : 1. The Camel 2. The Granny 3. The Wishing Chair 4. The Chimney Tops 5. The Giant's Boot and 6. The Organ. All six parts of Giant's Causeway are different in shape and form and truly are a sight to be seen.

Carrick-A-Rede- The name literally means the rock in the road. Carrick-A-Rede is a rope bridge connecting the mainland to a sort of island that salmon fishers first put up years ago for the really good salmon fishing, it became a tourist attraction because it was a rope bridge in a really windy area, and on some days it could be quite dangerous. It's really safe now, and staff monitor it, so before it gets really windy(/fun) they close it, for safety... You can run across the bridge if you wish, but it's recommended that you wait until no one else is on it, you aren't allowed to shake the bridge, but people have been known to (this author could name a few!) After crossing the bridge, there are beautiful greens and it is a spot for great pictures. The bridge closes soon before sun-down, so no matter how romantic it might seem to watch the sun set on a beautiful island, it gets closed too soon! On a good day, the coast of Scotland is clearly visible, so there's advantages to going during premium light hours. Additionally, the bridge is only open in the summer months, they take it down each winter, and before it's put up (in March(?)) they check it for safety.

Ulster American Folk Park- Northern Ireland Visitor Attraction in County Tyrone open air museum explaining story of emigration from Ulster to North America in 18th and 19th centuries. There is an Old World and New World in site. Sites include the Weaver's Cottage, A Blacksmith's forge, Crop Fields, log cabins, smoke houses, and herb gardens. Museum restaurant available, open daily for snacks and full meals.



The official currency of Northern Ireland is the pound sterling. Bank of England notes are used but the four Northern Irish banks print their own versions, which tend to be used more often (Bank of Ireland, Northern Bank, Ulster Bank, and First Trust). Northern Irish notes, while acceptable, are often refused in the rest of the UK due to lack of familiarity. For convenience they should be exchanged for specifically Bank of England notes before departure for the British mainland, and for euro when departing to the Republic of Ireland.

Northern Ireland does a large amount of trade with the Republic of Ireland (where the euro is used) and therefore many outlets in border areas and urban centres accept euro.

Virtually all shops and pubs in Derry and Newry will accept euro as payment. In addition, many major pubs and shopping outlets in Belfast city centre now accept euro. In particular, the pub company Botanic Inns Ltd and the shopping centre Castle Court can be cited as accepting payments for goods in euro. Many phone kiosks in Northern Ireland also accept euro, but by no means all outside Belfast itself.


A popular dish is the 'fry', called the Ulster Fry. It consists of eggs, bacon, tomatoes, sausages, potato bread and soda bread. Some versions include mushrooms or baked beans. Fry's are generally prepared as the name suggests, everything is fried in a pan. Traditionally lard was used, but recently due to health concerns, it has been replaced with oils such as canola and olive. Historically, it was popular with the working class.

Some shops on the north coast close to Ballycastle, sell a local delicacy called dulse. This is a certain type of seaweed, usually collected, washed and Sun-dried from the middle of Summer through to the middle of Autumn. Additionally, in August, the lamas fair is held in Ballycastle, and a traditional sweet, called "yellow man" is sold in huge quantities. As you can tell from the name, it's yellow in colour, it's also very sweet, and can get quite sticky. If you can, try to sample some yellow man, just make sure you have use of a toothbrush shortly after eating it... it'll rot your teeth!

The cuisine in Northern Ireland is similar to that in the United Kingdom as a whole, with dishes such as Fish and Chips a staple. Local dishes such as various types of stew and potato-based foods are also very popular.


The legal drinking age in Northern Ireland is 18. People at and above the age of 16 will be served beer and wine with meals as long as there is a consenting adult present. In general, restaurateurs are generally strict about this rule, while the operators of small local pubs and bars tend to be more relaxed.

Depending on their license, most bars stop serving alcohol at either 11PM or 1AM. Some clubs serve until later, and some bars have (illegal, but widely overlooked) "lock-ins" where the doors are locked at closing time, but people can stay and drink for longer. This only takes place at the discretion of the bar owner, and such events operate on an invitation-only basis.

  • Bushmills whiskey is made in the town of the same name on the north coast, and distillery tours are interesting and enjoyable. Belfast produces its own range of ales.

Stay safe

Despite a reputation as unsafe, Northern Ireland has one of the lowest crime rates among industrialized countries. According to statistics from the U.N. International Crime Victimization Survey (ICVS 2004), Northern Ireland has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe (lower than the United States and the rest of the United Kingdom), and even during the Troubles, the murder rate was still lower than in most large American cities. In fact, the results of the latest ICVS show that Japan is the only industrialized place safer than Northern Ireland. Almost all visitors experience a trouble-free stay.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland [] (formerly the Royal Ulster Constabulary or RUC) is the police force in Northern Ireland. Unlike the Garda Síochána in the Republic, the PSNI are routinely armed. Also, it is common to see the police using heavily armoured Land Rover vehicles, which can be alarming to some visitors. There is a visible police presence in Belfast and Derry, and the police are approachable and helpful. Almost all police stations in Northern Ireland are reinforced with fencing or high, blast-proof walls. It is important to remember that there was, at one time, a necessity for this type of protection and that is merely a visible reminder of the province's past.

It is important to note that visitors are highly unlikely to be involved in any matters related to the past conflict in Northern Ireland. Since the 1998 Belfast Agreement, all of the major paramilitary groups have either declared an end to their armed campaigns, or have declared permanent ceasefires. However, there still remains a minor threat from smaller offshoot groups such as the Real IRA (RIRA) who oppose the peace process and have carried out attacks since the signing of the Agreement (such as the 1998 bombing of Omagh). According to the Police Service of Northern Ireland, there were six recorded incidents where explosives posed a threat to life in 2006/2007.

As with most places, avoid being alone at night in urban areas. In addition, avoid wearing clothes that could identify you (correctly or not) as being from one community or the other (for example Celtic or Rangers football kits). Do not express a political viewpoint (pro-Nationalist or pro-Unionist) unless you are absolutely sure you are in company that will not become hostile towards you for doing so. Even then, you should be sure that you know what you're talking about! It would even be better if you acted that either you don't know about the conflict or don't care. Avoid political gatherings where possible. Many pubs have a largely cultural and political atmosphere (such as on the Falls Road, the mostly Republican main road in West Belfast, and the Newtownards Roads in predominantly Loyalist East Belfast), but expressing an opinion among good company, especially if you share the same view, will usually not lead to any negative consequences.

Traffic through many towns and cities in Northern Ireland tends to become difficult at times for at least a few days surrounding the 12th July due to the Orange Parades and some shops may close for the day or for a few hours. The parades have been known to get a bit rowdy but have vastly improved in recent years. Additionnaly, the last Saturday in August is known as "Black Saturday" which is the end of the marching season. There can be trouble at this time too, just stay away from anywhere that appears to be obviously sectarian towards either community, the trouble now usually happens between locals who know each other and are starting.


If you are dialling from one telephone in Northern Ireland to another, you do not need to add any area code. If dialling from the rest of the UK use the code (028). If dialling from elsewhere you can dial a Northern Ireland number by using the UK country code 44, followed by the Northern Ireland area code 28. If dialling from the Republic of Ireland, you can use the code (048), or you can dial internationally using the UK country code.

International phone cards are widely available in large towns and cities within Northern Ireland, and phone boxes accept payment in GBP£ and Euro.


Generally speaking, people from NI are welcoming, friendly and well-humored people, however that does not mean that, on occasion, there are no taboos. It is sometimes apparent in some of the more geographically 'politicised' areas of the Northern Ireland, that an insistence on a politicised conversation, especially concerning religious affiliation, may cause offence. Further on that issue, avoid bringing up issues like the IRA, UVF, UDA, INLA etc., or political parties as it will fare similarly as the above taboo. Other than that, there are no real dangers to causing tension among the Northern Irish people. As with virtually all cultures, don't do anything you wouldn't do at home. Also, Northern Irish people have a habit of gently refusing gifts or gestures you may offer them, do not be offended, because they really mean that they like the gesture, also you are expected to do the same, so as not to appear slightly greedy, it is a confusing system but is not likely to get you in trouble.

The terms which refer to the two communities in Northern Ireland have changed. During the Troubles, the terms 'Republican' and 'Loyalist' were commonplace. These are seen as slightly 'extreme', probably due to the fact that they were terms used by the paramilitaries. It is more common to use the terms 'Nationalist' and 'Unionist' today.

Social Issues

The people in Northern Ireland are generally warm and open - always ready with good conversation. Of course, being such a small, isolated Province has also led to a decidedly noticeable lack in social diversity.

Gay and lesbian travellers should be aware that Northern Ireland is not the most accepting place when it comes to homosexuality. This is not necessarily due to the people being adverse to it, but rather the fact that there are virtually no examples of any Gay and Lesbian communities outside Belfast. It should be noted, however, that parts of the capital (for example the University Quarter) are perfectly safe and accepting of Gay and Lesbian people, with both of Belfast's universities incorporating active LGBT societies.

It is also worth noting that the majority of people you will encounter will be white. It isn't unusual to go a few days without encountering any multiculturalism, apart from other visitors. Racism is not generally an issue. However, due to the openness and rather frank humour in Northern Ireland, small, sarcastic comments may be made about the issue, in jest, if a local encounters someone outside of his or her own nationality. It is best not to react to this, as it is most likely just a joke, and should be treated as such.

However, there have been issues of more severe racism in parts of the province in recent years. Belfast is the most ethnically diverse area, but even so the city is over 99% white. Typically, incidents of overt or violent racism have been confined to South Belfast, which has a higher mix of non-white ethnicities due to its location near Queen's University. The local rumour is that a recent speight of violence directed at people with a Chinese or South-East Asian appearance was the result of a Chinese Restaurant's refusal to pay protection money to the UDA (Ulster Defence Association) paramilitary group. Whether this is true or not, the fact is that non-white travellers should exercise a greater degree of caution in certain parts of Belfast. Visitors should remember that there are places to avoid in all cities and as Belfast is smaller than most, those areas may come to view more than in others.

This is a usable article. It gives a good overview of the region, its sights, and how to get in, as well as links to the main destinations, whose articles are similarly well developed. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:


Proper noun

Northern Ireland


Northern Ireland

  1. A six-county state occupying the northeastern part of the Island of Ireland, currently a constituent part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.


See also


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Familypedia

Wikipedia has a page called:

Northern Ireland is the portion (about one-sixth) of the island of Ireland that remained in the United Kingdom at the partition in 1921. The six counties — Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, and Tyrone. occupy the north-east corner of the island, and comprise six of the nine counties of the province of Ulster. The counties have no current administrative functions but are regularly used to particularise locations.

The remainder of the island became the Republic of Ireland, loosely known as just "Ireland".

Many of our categories and other pages take Ireland as a whole because it was not formally divided for most of its genealogically-relevant history. Contributors are welcome to create pages and categories dealing with one or other part exclusively where there seems to be value in the distinction.

This page is a "stub" and could be improved by additions and other edits.

This article uses material from the "Northern Ireland" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Simple English

Northern Ireland (Tuaisceart Éireann in Irish or Norlin Airlann in Ulster Scots) is a part of United Kingdom. It is part of an island in Western Europe called Ireland. In 1921 Ireland was split into two nations, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. The capital is Belfast. 1.7 million people live in Northern Ireland.


Northern Ireland has had many conflicts between some of the people who live there. Unionists, who are mostly Protestant, want the Northern Ireland to stay part of the United Kingdom. Nationalists, who are mostly Catholics, want the north of Ireland to leave the United Kingdom and have the whole island united as one country . Some people do not want to join the Republic of Ireland or remain part of the U.K. Instead, they want Northern Ireland to be an independent country. The population is made up of 52% Unionists and 48% Nationalists at the moment.

Sometimes people use other names for Northern Ireland. Unionists sometimes call it "Ulster" but this is not correct as three counties of Ulster are in the Republic of Ireland. Nationalists sometimes call it "the north" or "the six counties".


English is spoken by almost everyone in Northern Ireland. Another important language is Irish (sometimes called "Irish Gaelic" or "Gaelic") and a dialectual language known as Ulster Scots which comes from Eastern Ulster and Lowland Scotland. The Irish language became extinct in the 20th Century, but a revival, backed by Foras na Gaeilge, has lead to some usage especially in Belfast, the Glens of Antrim and counties Tyrone and Fermanagh. This revival has been driven largely through the creation of Irish-language schools. The Irish language is spoken by some nationalist (whether Catholic or Protestant) people. Ulster Scots is almost exclusive to areas of Belfast and mid-Antrim.

Some languages like Chinese, Urdu or Polish are becoming more common in Northern Ireland as people from other countries move to Northern Ireland.

Belfast Agreement

Since the Belfast Agreement, (sometimes called the Good Friday Agreement) of Friday, 10 April 1998, there has been mainly peace between the two sides of the community. This agreement was agreed by most of the people in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, as well as the Irish and British governments. It allows for the self-government of Northern Ireland and greater North-South co-operation and co-operation between Britain and Ireland. Additionally, it makes clear the right of the people of Northern Ireland to decide their constitutional future and select whether they are British or Irish citizens.

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