Northern Ireland (Irish: Tuaisceart Éireann [ˈt̪ˠuəʃcəɾˠt̪ˠ ˈeːɾʲən̪ˠ] (listen); Ulster-Scots: Norlin Airlann) is a part of the United Kingdom in the north-east of the island of Ireland that is variously described as a country, province or region. Northern Ireland shares an open border to the south and west with the Republic of Ireland. In 2021, its population was 1,903,100, making up about 27% of Ireland's population and about 3% of the UK's population. The Northern Ireland Assembly, established by the Northern Ireland Act 1998, holds responsibility for a range of devolved policy matters, while other areas are reserved for the UK Government. The government of Northern Ireland cooperates with the government of the Republic of Ireland in several areas under the terms of the Belfast Agreement. The Republic of Ireland also has a consultative role on non-devolved governmental matters through the British–Irish Governmental Conference (BIIG).
and largest city
|Regional and minority languages||Ulster Scots|
|Ethnic groups |
|Government||Consociational devolved legislature within unitary constitutional monarchy|
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
|• Secretary of State||Chris Heaton-Harris|
|• House of Commons||18 MPs (of 650)|
|Legislature||Northern Ireland Assembly|
|3 May 1921|
|18 July 1973|
|17 July 1974|
|19 November 1998|
|14,130 km2 (5,460 sq mi)|
• 2021 census
|135/km2 (349.6/sq mi)|
|• Total||£45.724 billion|
|• Per capita||£24,007|
|Currency||Pound sterling (GBP; £)|
|Time zone||UTC (Greenwich Mean Time)|
• Summer (DST)
|UTC+1 (British Summer Time)|
|Date format||dd/mm/yyyy (AD)|
|ISO 3166 code||GB-NIR|
Northern Ireland was created in 1921, when Ireland was partitioned by the Government of Ireland Act 1920, creating a devolved government for the six northeastern counties. As was intended by unionists and their supporters in Westminster, Northern Ireland had a unionist majority, who wanted to remain in the United Kingdom; they were generally the Protestant descendants of colonists from Britain. Meanwhile, the majority in Southern Ireland (which became the Irish Free State in 1922), and a significant minority in Northern Ireland, were Irish nationalists (generally Catholics) who wanted a united independent Ireland. Today, the former generally see themselves as British and the latter generally see themselves as Irish, while a Northern Irish or Ulster identity is claimed by a significant minority from all backgrounds.
The creation of Northern Ireland was accompanied by violence both in defence of and against partition. During the conflict of 1920–22, the capital Belfast saw major communal violence, mainly between Protestant unionist and Catholic nationalist civilians. More than 500 were killed and more than 10,000 became refugees, mostly Catholics. For the next fifty years, Northern Ireland had an unbroken series of Unionist Party governments. There was informal mutual segregation by both communities, and the Unionist governments were accused of discrimination against the Irish nationalist and Catholic minority. In the late 1960s, a campaign to end discrimination against Catholics and nationalists was opposed by loyalists, who saw it as a republican front. This unrest sparked the Troubles, a thirty-year conflict involving republican and loyalist paramilitaries and state forces, which claimed over 3,500 lives and injured 50,000 others. The 1998 Good Friday Agreement was a major step in the peace process, including paramilitary disarmament and security normalisation, although sectarianism and segregation remain major social problems, and sporadic violence has continued.
The economy of Northern Ireland was the most industrialised in Ireland at the time of partition, but soon began to decline, a decline exacerbated by the political and social turmoil of the Troubles. Its economy has grown significantly since the late 1990s. The initial growth came from the "peace dividend" and increased trade with the Republic of Ireland, continuing with a significant increase in tourism, investment, and business from around the world. Unemployment in Northern Ireland peaked at 17.2% in 1986, but dropped back down to below 10% in the 2010s, similar to the rate of the rest of the UK.
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 many sports, Ireland fields a single team, with the Northern Ireland national football team being an exception to this. 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.