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Northern Ireland

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Facts & Figures

Status: Part of United Kingdom

First Minister: (suspended Oct. 14, 2002)

Land area: 5,452 sq mi (14,121 sq km)

Population (1998 est.): 1,688,600

Capital and largest city (2003 est.): Belfast, 484,800 (metro. area), 246,200 (city proper)

Monetary unit: British pound sterling (£)

Language: English

Religions: Presbyterian, Church of Ireland, Roman Catholic, Methodist.

Major sources and definitions

Index
  1. Northern Ireland Main Page
  2. Hostilities Between Catholic and Protestant Communities Mount
  3. Steps Toward Peace
  4. A New Coalition Government
  5. Britain Resumes Direct Rule Of Northern Ireland
  6. An Agreement for a Power-Sharing Government
  7. Belfast Riots Injure 32 Police Officers

Geography

Northern Ireland is composed of 26 districts, derived from the boroughs of Belfast and Londonderry and the counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry, and Tyrone. Together they are commonly called Ulster, though the territory does not include the entire ancient province of Ulster. It is slightly larger than Connecticut.

Government

Northern Ireland was an integral part of the United Kingdom, but under the terms of the Government of Ireland Act in 1920, it had a semiautonomous government. In 1972, however, after three years of sectarian violence between Protestants and Catholics that resulted in more than 400 dead and thousands injured, Britain suspended the Ulster parliament. The Ulster counties were governed directly from London after an attempt to return certain powers to an elected assembly in Belfast.

As a result of the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, a new coalition government was formed on Dec. 2, 1999, with the British government formally transferring governing power to the Northern Irish parliament. David Trimble, Protestant leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) and winner of the 1998 Nobel Peace Prize, became first minister. The government has been suspended four times since then; it has remained suspended since Oct. 14, 2002.

History

Ulster was part of Catholic Ireland until the reign of Elizabeth I (1558–1603) when, after suppressing three Irish rebellions, the Crown confiscated lands in Ireland and settled the Scots Presbyterians in Ulster. Another rebellion in 1641–1651, brutally crushed by Oliver Cromwell, resulted in the settlement of Anglican Englishmen in Ulster. Subsequent political policy favoring Protestants and disadvantaging Catholics encouraged further Protestant settlement in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland did not separate from the South until William Gladstone presented, in 1886, his proposal for home rule in Ireland. The Protestants in the North feared domination by the Catholic majority. Industry, moreover, was concentrated in the North and dependent on the British market. When World War I began, civil war threatened between the regions. Northern Ireland, however, did not become a political entity until the six counties accepted the Home Rule Bill of 1920. This set up a semiautonomous parliament in Belfast and a Crown-appointed governor advised by a cabinet of the prime minister and 8 ministers, as well as a 12-member representation in the House of Commons in London.

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