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Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland ( , Ulster Scots: Norlin Airlann or Norlin Airlan) is a part of the United Kingdom in the north-east of the island of Ireland. It shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west. As of 2001, 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. Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, Northern Ireland is largely self-governing. According to the agreement, Northern Ireland co-operates with the rest of Ireland from which it was partitioned in 1921 on some policy areas, while other areas are reserved for the Government of the United Kingdom, though the Republic of Ireland "may put forward views and proposals".[1]

Northern Ireland was for many years the site of a violent and bitter inter-communal conflict the Troubles which was caused by divisions between nationalists, who are predominantly Roman Catholic, and unionists, who are predominantly Protestant. Unionists want Northern Ireland to remain as a part of the United Kingdom, and generally see themselves as British, [2] while nationalists wish for it to be politically reunited with the rest of Ireland, independent of British rule, and generally see themselves as Irish.[3][4][5][6] Additionally, people from both sides of the community may describe themselves as Northern Irish.[7] Since 1998, most of the paramilitary groups involved in the Troubles have ceased their armed campaigns.

Northern Ireland has traditionally been the most industrialized region of the island. After declining as a result of political and social turmoil in the second half of the 20th century, it has grown significantly since the 1990s. This is in part due to a "peace dividend," and in part due to links and increased trade with the Republic of Ireland.

Prominent artists and sports persons of Northern Ireland include Van Morrison, Rory McIlroy and George Best. Others from that part of the island prefer to define themselves as Irish, e.g. Seamus Heaney. Cultural links between Northern Ireland, the rest of Ireland and the rest of the UK are complex, with Northern Ireland sharing both the culture of Ireland and the culture of the United Kingdom. In most sports, the island of Ireland fields a single team, a notable exception being association football. Northern Ireland competes separately at the Commonwealth Games and people from Northern Ireland may compete for either Great Britain or Ireland at the Olympic Games.

Contents


History

The region that is now Northern Ireland was the bedrock of the Irish war of resistance against English programmes of colonialism in the late 16th century. The English-controlled Kingdom of Ireland had been declared by the English king Henry VIII in 1542, but Irish resistance made English control fragmentary. Following Irish defeat at the Battle of Kinsale, though, the region's Gaelic, Roman Catholic aristocracy fled to continental Europe in 1607 and the region became subject to major programmes of colonialism by Protestant English (mainly Anglican) and Scottish (mainly Presbyterian) settlers. Between 1610 and 1717 perhaps as many as 100,000 Lowlanders came across from Scotland, and by the latter date there were some five Scots to every three Irishmen and one Englishman in Ulster.[8] A rebellion in 1641 by Irish aristocrats against English rule resulted in a massacre of settlers in Ulster in the context of a war breaking out between England, Scotland and Ireland fuelled by religious intolerance in government. Victories by English forces in that war and further Protestant victories in the Williamite War in Ireland toward the close of the 17th century solidified Anglican rule in Ireland. In Northern Ireland, the iconic victories of the Siege of Derry (1689) and the Battle of the Boyne (1690) in this latter war are still celebrated today by the Unionist community (both Anglican and Presbyterian).

Following the victory of 1691, and contrary to the terms of the Treaty of Limerick, a series of penal laws was passed by the Anglican ruling class in Ireland. Their intention was to materially disadvantage the Catholic community and, to a lesser extent, the Presbyterian community. In the context of open institutional discrimination, the 18th century saw secret, militant societies develop in communities in the region and act on sectarian tensions in violent attacks. These events escalated at the end of the century following an event known as the Battle of the Diamond, which saw the supremacy of the Anglican and Presbyterian Peep o'Day Boys over the Catholic Defenders and leading to the formation of the (Anglican) Orange Order. A rebellion in 1798 led by the cross-community Belfast-based Society of the United Irishmen and inspired by the French Revolution sought to break the constitutional ties between Ireland and Britain and unite Irishmen and -women of all communities. Following this, in an attempt to quell sectarianism and force the removal of discriminatory laws (and to prevent the spread of French-style republicanism to Ireland), the government of the Kingdom of Great Britain pushed for the two kingdoms to be merged. The new state, formed in 1801, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, was governed from a single government and parliament based in London.

Between 1717 and 1775 some 250,000 people from Ulster emigrated to the American colonies.[9] It is estimated that there are more than 27 million descendants of the Scots-Irish migration now living in the U.S.[10]

Partition of Ireland

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

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

Unionists were in a minority on the island of Ireland as a whole, but were a majority in the northern province of Ulster and a very large majority in County Antrim and County Down, with small majorities in County Armagh and County Londonderry. There were substantial numbers also concentrated in County Fermanagh and County Tyrone.[11] These six counties would later constitute Northern Ireland. All of the remaining 26 counties which later became the Republic of Ireland were overwhelmingly majority-nationalist.

In 1914, the Third Home Rule Act, which contained provision for a "temporary" partition of these six counties from the rest of Ireland, received Royal Assent. However, its implementation was suspended before it came into effect owing to the outbreak of the First World War. The war was expected to last only a few weeks but in fact lasted four years. By the end of the war (during which the 1916 Easter Rising had taken place), the act was seen as unimplementable. Public opinion in the majority "nationalist" community (who sought greater independence from Britain) had shifted during the war from a demand for home rule to one for full independence. In 1919, David Lloyd George proposed a new bill which would divide Ireland into two Home Rule areas: twenty-six counties being ruled from Dublin and six being ruled from Belfast. Straddling these two areas would be a shared Lord Lieutenant of Ireland who would appoint both governments and a Council of Ireland, which Lloyd George believed would evolve into an all-Ireland parliament.[12] Events had however overtaken government. In the general election of 1918, the pro-independence Sinn F in won 73 of the 105 parliamentary seats in Ireland and established an extrajudicial parliament in Ireland.

Ireland was partitioned between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland in 1921 under the terms of Lloyd George's Government of Ireland Act 1920[13] during the war of independence between Ireland and Britain. At the conclusion of that war on 6 December 1922, under the terms of the resulting treaty, Northern Ireland provisionally became an autonomous part of the newly independent Irish Free State.

Northern Ireland

Government of Northern Ireland]] (1922 1972)

However, as expected, the Parliament of Northern Ireland resolved the following day[14] to opt out of the Irish Free State at the earliest possible opportunity (they had one month to do so). Shortly afterwards, a commission was established to decide on the territorial boundaries between the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. Owing to the outbreak of civil war in the Free State, the work of the commission was delayed until 1925. Leaders in Dublin expected a substantial reduction in the territory of Northern Ireland, with nationalist areas moving to the Free State. However the commission decided against this and its report recommended that some small portions of land should be ceded from the Free State to Northern Ireland. To prevent argument, this report was suppressed and, in exchange for a waiver to the Free State's obligations to the UK's public debt and the dissolution of the Council of Ireland (sought by the Government of Northern Ireland), the initial six-county border was maintained with minor changes.

In June 1940, to encourage the Irish state to join with the Allies, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill indicated to the Taoiseach amon de Valera that the United Kingdom would push for Irish unity, but believing that Churchill could not deliver, de Valera declined the offer.[15] (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

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.[16] 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.[17] From 1967 to 1972 the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association, modelling itself on the US civil rights movement, led a campaign of civil resistance to anti-Catholic discrimination in housing, employment, policing, and electoral procedures (the franchise being limited to property-owning rate-payers, thereby excluding most Catholics). However NICRA's campaign, and the reaction to it, proved to be a precursor to a more violent period.[18] As early as 1969, armed campaigns of paramilitary groups began, including the Provisional IRA campaign of 1969 1997 which was aimed at the end of British rule in Northern Ireland and the creation of a 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 (loyalists are against the union of Ireland). 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]

Peace process

The Troubles were brought to an uneasy end by a peace process which included the declaration of ceasefires by most paramilitary organisations and the complete decommissioning of their weapons, the reform of the police, and the corresponding withdrawal of army troops from the streets and from sensitive border areas such as South Armagh and Fermanagh, as agreed by the signatories to the Belfast Agreement (commonly known as the "Good Friday Agreement"). This reiterated the long-held British position, which had never before been fully acknowledged by successive Irish governments, that Northern Ireland will remain within the United Kingdom until a majority votes otherwise. The Constitution of Ireland 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 referendums held simultaneously in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. At the same time, the British Government recognised for the first time, as part of the prospective, the so-called "Irish dimension": the principle that the people of the island of Ireland as a whole have the right, without any outside interference, to solve the issues between North and South by mutual consent.[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, which must consist of both unionist and nationalist parties.

These institutions were suspended by the British Government in 2002 after Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) allegations of spying by people working for Sinn F in at the Assembly (Stormontgate). The resulting case against the accused Sinn F in 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 F in, 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 F in 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, and the current deputy First Minister is Martin McGuinness of Sinn F in.

Politics

Background

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 Old Gaelic 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.[24]

Some Unionists argue that any discrimination was not just due to religious or political bigotry, but also the result of more complex socio-economic, socio-political and geographical factors.[25] Whatever the cause, the existence of discrimination, and the manner in which Nationalist anger at it was handled, were 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.[26]

As of 2007, 36% of the population define themselves as Unionist, 24% as Nationalist and 40% define themselves as neither.[27] According to a 2009 opinion poll, 69% express longterm preference of the maintenance of Northern Ireland's membership of the United Kingdom (either directly ruled or with devolved government), while 21% express a preference for membership of a united Ireland.[28] This discrepancy can be explained by the overwhelming preference among Protestants to remain a part of the UK (91%), while Catholic preferences are spread across a number of solutions to the constitutional question including remaining a part of the UK (47%), a united Ireland (40%), Northern Ireland becoming an independent state (5%), and those who "don't know" (5%).[29]

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 F in and Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and their respective party platforms for Democratic Socialism and Social Democracy.[30]

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 2009 survey by Northern Ireland Life and Times, 47% of Northern Irish Catholics supported Northern Ireland remaining a part of the United Kingdom, either by direct rule (8%) or devolved government (39%).[30]

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").

Governance

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

Since 1998, Northern Ireland has devolved government within the United Kingdom. The UK Government and UK Parliament are responsible for reserved and excepted matters. Reserved matters are a list of policy area (such as civil aviation, units of measurement, and human genetics), which Parliament may devolve to Northern Ireland Assembly at some time in future. Excepted matters (such as international relations, taxation and elections) are never expected to be considered for devolution. On all other matters, the Northern Ireland Executive together with the 108-member Northern Ireland Assembly may legislate and govern for Northern Ireland. Additionally, devolution in Northern Ireland is dependent upon participation by members of the Northern Ireland executive in the North/South Ministerial Council, which co-ordinates areas of co-operation (such as agriculture, education and health) between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

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

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

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

Citizenship and identity

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.[31][32][33][34][35][36][37][38] This does not however account for the complex identities within Northern Ireland, given that many of the population regard themselves as "Ulster" or "Northern Irish", either as a primary or secondary identity.

A 2008 survey found that 57% of Protestants described themselves as British, while 32% identified as Northern Irish, 6% as Ulster and 4% as Irish. Compared to a similar survey 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.[39][40]

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

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

As a result of the Agreement, the Constitution of the Republic of Ireland was amended. The current wording provides that people born in Northern Ireland are entitled to be Irish citizens on the same basis as people from any other part of the island of Ireland.[41]

Neither government, however, extends its citizenship to all persons born in Northern Ireland. Both governments exclude some people born in Northern Ireland, in particular persons born without one parent who is a British or Irish citizen. The Irish restriction was given effect by the Twenty-seventh amendment to the Irish Constitution in 2004. The position in UK nationality law is that most of those born in Northern Ireland are UK nationals, whether or not they so choose. Renunciation of British citizenship requires the payment of a fee, currently 229.[42]

Geography and climate

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

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 , Northern Ireland's highest point. Belfast's most prominent peak is Cavehill. The volcanic activity which created the Antrim Plateau also formed the eerily geometric pillars of the Giant's Causeway on the north Antrim coast. Also in north Antrim are the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Mussenden Temple and the Glens of Antrim.

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

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

The whole of Northern Ireland has a temperate maritime climate, rather wetter in the west than the east, although cloud cover is persistent across the region. The weather is unpredictable at all times of the year, and although the seasons are distinct, they are considerably less pronounced than in interior Europe or the eastern seaboard of North America. Average daytime maximums in Belfast are in January and 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.

Counties

Northern Ireland consists of six historic counties: County Antrim, County Armagh, County Down, County Fermanagh, County Londonderry,[44] 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. Most districts are based around large towns, for instance Coleraine Borough Council derives its name from the town of Coleraine in County Londonderry.

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 original system of car registration numbers largely based on counties still remains in use. In 2000 the telephone numbering system was restructured into an 8 digit scheme with the first digit reflecting the county.

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

Cities, towns, and villages

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

Towns (settlements with at least 4,500 inhabitants) in Northern Ireland:

Demography

The population of Northern Ireland has increased annually since 1978. The population in 2010 was estimated to be just under 1.8 million,[45] up from just under 1.7 million in the 2001 UK census. This constitutes just under 3% of the population of the United Kingdom (62 million) and just over 28% of the population of the island of Ireland (6.3 million).

In terms of ethnicity, the population of Northern Ireland is almost entirely white (99.15%). 91% of people are Northern Ireland born, with 4.8% being born in the elsewhere in UK and 2.3% being born in the Republic of Ireland. Irish Travellers accounted for 0.1% of the population. The largest non-white ethnic groups were Asians (0.4%), of which Chinese accounted for 60.7%, Indian for 23% and Pakistani for 9.8% of the total. Black people of various origins accounted for 0.06% of the population of Northern Ireland and people of mixed ethnicity accounted for 0.2%.[46]

In the 2001 census, 45.6% of the population identified as belonging to Protestant or other non-Roman Catholic denominations. The largest of these denominations were the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Church of Ireland and the Methodist Church in Ireland being 20.7%, 15.3% and 3.5% of the total population respectively. The largest single denominations is the Roman Catholic Church, to which is the 40.3% of the population identified. Additionally, 6.1% of the population are Christian or Christian related and 0.3% identified with non-Christian religions, while 13.9% identified with no religion.[47] In terms of community background (i.e. one's own religion or the religion one was brought up in), 53.1% of the Northern Ireland's 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 in the same census.[48]

Symbols used in Northern Ireland

The logo for the Northern Ireland assembly is based on the flower of the flax plant.[49]

Northern Ireland comprises a patchwork of communities whose national loyalties are represented in some areas by flags flown from flagpoles or lamp posts. The Union 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, depending on whether local people express unionist/loyalist or nationalist/republican sympathies.[50]

The official flag is that of the state having sovereignty over the territory, i.e. the Union Flag.[51] The former Northern Ireland flag, also known as the "Ulster Banner" or "Red Hand Flag", is a banner derived from the coat of arms of the Government of Northern Ireland until 1972. Since 1972, it has had no official status. The Union Flag and the Ulster Banner are used exclusively by unionists. UK flags policy states that in Northern Ireland, "The Ulster flag and the Cross of St Patrick have no official status and, under the Flags Regulations, are not permitted to be flown from Government Buildings."[52][53]

The Irish Rugby Football Union and the Church of Ireland have used the Saint Patrick's Saltire or "Cross of St Patrick". This red X on a white field was created in the 18th century and was used to represent Ireland in the flag of the United Kingdom of Britain and Ireland. It is still used by some British army regiments. Foreign flags are also found, such as the Palestinian flags in some Nationalist areas and Israeli flags in some Unionist areas.

The United Kingdom national anthem of "God Save the Queen" is often played at state events in Northern Ireland. At the Commonwealth Games and some other sporting events, the Northern Ireland team uses the Ulster Banner as its flag - notwithstanding its lack of official status - and the Londonderry Air (usually set to lyrics as Danny Boy), which also has no official status, as its national anthem.[54][55] The Northern Ireland football team also uses the Ulster Banner as its flag but uses "God Save The Queen" as its national anthem.[56] Major Gaelic Athletic Association matches are opened by the Irish national anthem, "Amhr n na bhFiann (The Soldier's Song)", which is also used by most other all-Ireland sporting organisations.[57] Since 1995, the Ireland rugby union team has used a specially commissioned song, "Ireland's Call" as the team's anthem. The Irish national anthem is also played at Dublin home matches, being the anthem of the host country.[58]

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).

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
Free Derry mural
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 F in has been criticised in some Irish newspapers for still referring to the "Six Counties".[59]

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".[60] 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, often use the word "Ulster" in their title; for example, the University of Ulster, the Ulster Museum, the Ulster Orchestra, and BBC Radio Ulster.

Although some news bulletins since the 1990s have opted to avoid all contentious terms and use the official name, Northern Ireland, the term "The North" remains commonly used by broadcast media in the Republic, to the annoyance of some Unionists. Bertie Ahern, the former 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. However the more left-wing Guardian recommends in its style guide using "Derry" and "Co Derry", and "not Londonderry".[61]

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.

Unionist/Loyalist

  • Ulster, strictly speaking, refers to the province of Ulster, of which six of nine historical counties are in Northern Ireland. The term "Ulster" is widely used by the Unionist community and the British press as shorthand for Northern Ireland, and is also favoured by Ulster nationalists.[62] 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.[63]
  • The Province refers literally to the historic Irish province of Ulster but today is used by some as shorthand for Northern Ireland. The BBC, in its editorial guidance for Reporting the United Kingdom, states that "the Province" is an appropriate secondary synonym for Northern Ireland, while "Ulster" is not. It also suggests that "people of Northern Ireland" should be preferred to "British", and the term "mainland" should be avoided in reference to Great Britain in relation to Northern Ireland.[64]

Nationalist/Republican

  • North of Ireland (Tuaisceart na h ireann) or North-East Ireland (Oirthuaisceart ireann)- to emphasise the link of Northern Ireland to the rest of the island, and so by implication playing down Northern Ireland's links with Great Britain.[65]
  • The Six Counties (na S Chontae) language used by republicans e.g. Sinn F in, 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.)[66] 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.[67]
  • 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 D il was the last legitimate government of Ireland and that all governments since have been foreign imposed usurpations of Irish national self-determination.[68]
  • Fourth Green Field (An Cheathr Gort Glas). 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.

Other

  • The North (An Tuaisceart) used to describe Northern Ireland in the same way that "The South" is used to describe the Republic.
  • Norn Iron 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 Northern Ireland, 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.[69][70][71] The choice of term can be controversial and can reveal the writer's political preferences.[70] This has been noted as a problem by several writers on Northern Ireland, with no generally recommended solution.[69][70][71]

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[72] and the UK Statistics Authority[73] describe the United Kingdom as being made up of four countries, one of these being Northern Ireland. Other pages[74] on the same websites refer to Northern Ireland specifically as a "province" as do publications of the UK Statistics Authority.[75] The website of the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency also refers to Northern Ireland as being a province[76] as does the website of the Office of Public Sector Information[77] and other agencies within Northern Ireland.[78] Publications of HM Treasury[79] and the Department of Finance and Personnel of the Northern Ireland Executive,[80] on the other hand, describe Northern Ireland as being a "region of the UK". The UK's submission to the 2007 United Nations Conference on the Standardization of Geographical Names defines the UK as being made up of two countries (England and Scotland), one principality (Wales) and one province (Northern Ireland).[81]

Unlike England, Scotland and Wales, Northern Ireland has no history of being an independent country or of being a nation in its own right.[82] Some writers describe the United Kingdom as being made up of three countries and one province[83] or point out the difficulties with calling Northern Ireland a country.[84] Authors writing specifically about Northern Ireland dismiss the idea that Northern Ireland is a "country" in general terms,[69][71][85][86] and draw contrasts in this respect with England, Scotland and Wales.[87] 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.[82] 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[71][88][89] and is in contrast to England, Scotland and Wales.[90]

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.[70][84] 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.[88]

"Region" is used by several UK government agencies and the European Union. Some authors choose this word but note that it is "unsatisfactory".[70][71] Northern Ireland can also be simply described as "part of the UK", including by UK government offices.[72]

Economy and transport

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

Northern Ireland is served by three airports Belfast International near Antrim, George Best Belfast City integrated into the railway network at Sydenham in East Belfast, and City of Derry in County Londonderry.

Major 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 ireann (Irish Rail), Northern Ireland Railways co-operates in providing the joint Enterprise service between Dublin Connolly and Belfast Central. Main railway lines linking to and from Belfast Great Victoria Street railway station and Belfast Central are:

Main motorways are:

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

Culture

An Ulster fry, served in Belfast, Northern Ireland
An Ulster fry, served in Belfast, Northern Ireland
The Twelfth is a Bank & Public Holiday and an annual Protestant event, involving Orange parades
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 R ich, former king of Ulster. The foremost hero of the cycle is Conchobar's nephew C chulainn.

Languages

English

Multilingual sign in English, Irish, and Ulster Scots
Multilingual sign in English, Irish, and Ulster Scots
The dialect of English spoken in Northern Ireland shows influence from the lowland Scots language.[91] 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".[92]

Irish

Areas in Northern Ireland where more than one third of the population can speak Irish, according to the 2001 Census
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.[93] It was spoken predominantly throughout what is now Northern Ireland before the Ulster Plantations 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 B al 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 F in in this regard. After Ireland was partitioned, the language was largely rejected in the education system of the new Northern Ireland. It is argued[94] that the predominant use of the English language may have served to exacerbate the Troubles.

The erection by some district councils of bilingual street names (English/Irish),[95] invariably in predominantly Catholic/Nationalist/Republican districts, is sometimes claimed to create a 'chill factor' for Unionists and is thus resisted on the grounds that it harms community relationships. However in Wales and Scotland, bilingual signs are widely and uncontroversially used, in English with Welsh or Scots Gaelic respectively. There is in any case an obligation on the UK, under human rights instruments such as the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, to have signage displayed in minority languages where there are sufficient numbers of speakers, so Irish-language users 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",[96] 4.7% to "speak, read, write and understand" Irish.[96] 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.[97] 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.[98]

Ulster Irish[99] or Donegal Irish,[99] 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 T s maith. The writer S amus Searcaigh, once warned about the Irish Government's attempts at producing a Caighde n or Standard for the Irish language in Ireland in 1953, when he wrote that what will emerge will be "Gaedhilg nach mb idh suim againn innt mar n r fh s s go n d rtha as an teangaidh a thug Gaedhil go h irinn" (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 of West Belfast.[100] Mayo Irish has strong ties with Donegal Irish.

Ulster Scots

Ulster Scots comprises varieties of the Scots language spoken in Northern Ireland. Approximately 2% of the population claim to speak Ulster Scots,[101] however the number speaking it as their main language in their home is negligible.[97] Classes at colleges can now be taken[102] 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."[103] The St Andrews Agreement recognises the need to "enhance and develop the Ulster Scots language, heritage and culture".[104]

Sign languages

Two sign languages are used in Northern Ireland: Northern Ireland Sign Language (NISL) also known as British Sign Language (NI-BSL) and Irish Sign Language (ISL).

The most common sign language in Northern Ireland is Northern Ireland Sign Language (NISL), but as (in the past) Catholic families tended to send their deaf children to schools in Dublin (St Joseph's School for Deaf Boys and St. Mary's School for Deaf Girls), Irish Sign Language (ISL) is commonly used among many older deaf people from Catholic families. The two languages are not related: NISL has a large component from the British family (which also includes Auslan) with many borrowings from American Sign Language, while ISL has some influence from the French family (which also includes American Sign Language).

Northern Ireland Sign Language is described as being related to Irish Sign Language (ISL) at the syntactic level while the lexicon is based on British Sign Language (BSL)[105] and American Sign Language (ASL).

the British Government recognises only British Sign Language and Irish Sign Language as the official sign languages used in Northern Ireland.[106][107]

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.

Sport

In Northern Ireland, sport is popular and important in the lives of many people. Sports tend to be organised on an all-Ireland basis and Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland often field a single team.[108] The most notable exception is association football, which has separate governing bodies for each jurisdiction.[108]

Field sports

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. However, the best Northern Irish players tend to play for clubs in the English or Scottish leagues. There is also an all-island tournament, the Setanta Cup, which includes six IFA Premiership teams and six teams from the Republic of Ireland's premier league. Despite Northern Ireland's small population, its international team qualified for the World Cup in 1958, 1982 and 1986, making it to the quarter-finals in 1958 and 1982.

The six counties of Northern Ireland are among the nine governed by the Ulster branch of the Irish Rugby Football Union, the governing body of rugby union in Ireland. Ulster is one of the four professional provincial teams in Ireland and competes in the Celtic League and European Cup and won the European Cup in 1999. In international competitions, the Ireland national rugby team recent successes include four Triple Crowns between 2004 and 2009 and a Grand Slam in 2009 in the Six Nations Championship.

The Ireland national rugby league team has participated in the Emerging Nations Tournament (1995), the Super League World Nines (1996), the World Cup (2000 and 2008), European Nations Cup (since 2003) and Victory Cup (2004). The Ireland A rugby leage team compete annually in the Amateur Four Nations competition (since 2002) and the St Patrick's Day Challenge (since 1995).

The Ireland cricket team 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. One of Ireland's regular international venues is Stormont in Belfast.

Gaelic games include Gaelic football, hurling, handball and rounders. Of the four, football is the most popular in Northern Ireland. Players play for local clubs with the best being selected for their county teams. The Ulster GAA is the branch of the Gaelic Athletic Association that is responsible for the nine counties of Ulster, which include the six of Northern Ireland. These nine county teams participate in the Ulster Senior Football Championship, Ulster Senior Hurling Championship, All-Ireland Senior Football Championship and All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship. Recent successes for Northern Ireland's teams include Armagh's 2002 All-Ireland Senior Football Championship win and Tyrone's wins in 2003, 2005 and 2008.

Golf

Perhaps Northern Ireland's most notable successes in professional sport have come in golf. Northern Ireland has contributed more major champions in the modern era than any other European country, with three in the space of just 14 months from the US Open in 2010 to the Open Championship in 2011. Notable golfers include Fred Daly (winner of The Open in 1947), Ryder Cup players Ronan Rafferty and David Feherty, leading European Tour professionals David Jones, Michael Hoey (a winner on Tour in 2011) and Gareth Maybin, as well as three recent major winners Graeme McDowell (winner of the US Open in 2010, the first European to do so since 1970), Rory McIlroy (winner of the U.S. Open in 2011) and Darren Clarke (winner of The Open in 2011).[109][110] Northern Ireland has also contributed several players to the Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup team, including Alan Dunbar and Paul Cutler who played on the victorious 2011 team in Scotland.

The Golfing Union of Ireland, the governing body for men's and boy's amateur golf throughout Ireland and the oldest golfing union in the world, was founded in Belfast in 1891. Northern Ireland's golf courses include the Royal Belfast Golf Club (the earliest, formed in 1881), Royal Portrush Golf Club, which is the only course outside Great Britain to have hosted The Open Championship, and Royal County Down Golf Club (Golf Digest magazine's top-rated course outside the United States).[111][112]

Snooker

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

Education

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

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

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

Media and communications

The BBC has a division called BBC Northern Ireland with headquarters in Belfast. As well as broadcasting standard UK-wide programmes, BBC NI produces local content, including a news break-out called BBC Newsline. The ITV franchise in Northern Ireland is Ulster Television (UTV). The state-owned Channel 4 and the privately-owned Channel 5 also broadcast in Northern Ireland and access is also available to satellite and cable services.[113] All Northern Ireland viewers must obtain a UK TV licence to watch live television transmissions.

RT , the national broadcaster of the Republic of Ireland, is available over the air to some parts of Northern Ireland via reception overspill[114] and via satellite or cable. After the digital switchover, RT and the Irish-language channel, TG4, will be available over the air from signals broadcast inside Northern Ireland.[115]

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

The Belfast Telegraph is the leading newspaper, and UK and Irish national newspapers are also available. There is a range of local newspapers such as the News Letter and the Irish News.[116]

Northern Ireland uses the same telecommunications and postal services as the rest of the United Kingdom at standard domestic rates and there are no mobile roaming charges between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.[117][118] People in Northern Ireland who live close to the border with the Republic of Ireland may inadvertently switch over to the Irish mobile networks, causing international roaming fees to be applied.[119] Northern Ireland can be called from the Republic of Ireland at trunk rates, as opposed to international rates, using the 048 prefix.

See also

Lists

References

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)
  • 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. ISBN 0-900761-28-8
  • Henry Patterson, "Ireland Since 1939: The Persistence of Conflict" (Penguin, 2006), ISBN 978-1-84488-104-8
  • 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

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