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Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom in the north-east of the island of Ireland. It is variously described as a country, province or region of the UK, amongst other terms. Northern Ireland shares a border to the south and west with the Republic of Ireland.

As of 2011, its population was 1,810,863, constituting about 30% of the island's total population and about 3% of the population of the United Kingdom.

Famous for its beautiful tourist attractions and coastlines, including the Giants Causeway, the Harland & Wolff shipyard that built the Titanic and birthplace of iconic artists, writers and sports persons such as Van Morrison, CS Lewis and George Best, the country also is also known for its conflict.

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 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" with "determined efforts to resolve disagreements between (the two governments)"

Northern Ireland was created in 1921, when Ireland was partitioned between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland by an act of the British parliament. Unlike Southern Ireland, which would become the Irish Free State in 1922, the majority of the population of Northern Ireland wanted to remain within the United Kingdom (see unionism and loyalism). Most of these were the Protestant descendants of colonists from Great Britain. However, a significant minority wanted a united Ireland independent of British rule (see Irish nationalism and republicanism), and most of these were Catholics.

Today, the former generally see themselves as British and the latter generally see themselves as Irish, although some people from both communities describe themselves as Northern Irish. In the late 1960s, conflict between the two communities, and involving state forces, erupted into three decades of violence known as The Troubles, which claimed over 3,500 lives. The Good Friday Agreement in 1998 was a major step in the peace process although sectarianism still remains a major social problem.

The Troubles - A Brief Timeline

1688: William of Orange arrives

The British invite William of Orange, a Protestant prince from the Netherlands, to rule England and Scotland. When he arrives in Britain James II - the ruling, Catholic king - is deposed and flees to Ireland. In 1690 William defeats James at the Battle of the Boyne, in north-eastern Ireland, after which the Protestants who fought alongside William are known as Orangemen. The battle is commemorated every July 12 with Orange marches.

1916: The Easter Rising

Centuries of political and religious battles over whether Northern Ireland should remain part of the UK culminate in the Easter Rising on April 24 when of Irish rebels seize strategic buildings in Dublin, notably the general post office. About 20,000 British soldiers enter the city and fire on the rebels. The fighting lasts for five days and the rebels are forced to surrender. Seventy are sentenced to death and 15 are executed, fuelling support for Sinn Féin.

1919-1922: The war of independence, and partition

Under the leadership of Michael Collins the IRA uses violence to force Britain to negotiate. The Government of Ireland Act is introduced, along with two parliaments, one in Dublin and one in Belfast. The settlement establishes the Irish Free State, ruled by the Dublin parliament, but leaves Northern Ireland part of the UK. Violence escalates as Catholics oppose partition.

1969: The Troubles begin in Northern Ireland

The Royal Ulster Constabulary attacks a Catholic civil rights protest. Counter-demonstrations by Protestant loyalists - so called for their "loyalty" to British rule - lead to escalating violence. Frustrated by what they see as the passivity of the IRA's leadership, some members form a new group, which they call the Provisional IRA.

1971-72: Internment and Bloody Sunday

Nearly 2,000 people are interned, or arrested and held without trial, in a bid to prevent further attacks on British troops. After internment is introduced, on August 9 1971, violent protests follow that leave 17 dead. The move increases support for the IRA. On January 30 1972, British soldiers shoot dead 13 men and injure 14 others, one of them fatally, during a civil rights march in Derry against internment on what will become known as Bloody Sunday. Thousands of people sign up to the IRA. Amid increasing violence, the Belfast parliament is suspended and Northern Ireland is ruled directly from London.

The 1980s: Hunger strikes

Bobby Sands, the IRA leader held at the Maze prison, dies after refusing food for 66 days. Nine others die of starvation between May 12 and August 20 1981. Many people believe them to be martyrs to the struggle for independence, and around 10,000 people attend Bobby Sands' funeral. Support for the political wing of the IRA increases.

1993-94: Independence declared and another ceasefire

Downing Street issues a declaration that the people of Northern Ireland should be free to decide their own future. Sinn Fein is offered a seat in parliament as long as IRA violence ends. The IRA declares a complete cessation of military activities on August 31 1994.

July 1995: Riots over marches

Violent protests spread across Northern Ireland when police block a key Orange Order parade near Portadown, an Orange heartland. Police back down after four nights of Protestant riots across Northern Ireland and the parade passes through Portadown's main Catholic district, triggering three nights of Catholic riots and IRA gun attacks, some of which became violent. The protests and rioting continued into 2013.

April 1998: The Good Friday agreement

The Good Friday agreement is reached on April 10 1998. It includes a devolved parliament and a role for the Republic of Ireland in Northern Ireland affairs. Democratic Unionists oppose the deal as giving too much power to Catholics.


Belfast City Hall flag protests: Belfast City Council votes to only fly the Union Jack frpom Belfast City Hall on designated days. Since 1906, it had been flown every day of the year. This sparked protests by loyalists throughout Northern Ireland.

The Flag dispute is ongoing.

This content has been sourced from Wikipedia and edited by our team.