The land is mountainous and has few natural resources. It comprises 26 districts. English is the official language. The majority of the population is Protestant, and nearly 40% is Catholic. Farming (livestock, dairy products, cereals, potatoes) is the largest single occupation. Heavy industry is concentrated in and around Belfast, one of the chief ports of the British Isles. Machinery and equipment manufacturing, food processing, and textile and electronics manufacturing are the leading industries; papermaking, furniture manufacturing, and shipbuilding are also important. Northern Ireland's fine linens are famous.
The Northern Ireland Assembly has limited devolved powers from the British Parliament, and often has been suspended since its establishment in 1999. The government is based on a power-sharing arrangement that requires that its members include a minimum number of both Protestants and Catholics, and that those members have the support of the representatives elected by their respective communities. Northern Ireland has 18 representatives in the British Parliament.
Northern Ireland's relatively distinct history began in the early 17th cent., when, after the suppression of an Irish rebellion, much land was confiscated by the British crown and "planted" with Scottish and English settlers. Ulster took on a Protestant character as compared with the rest of Ireland; but there was no question of political separation until the late 19th cent. when William Gladstone presented (1886) his first proposal for Home Rule for Ireland. The largely Protestant population of the north feared domination under Home Rule by the Catholic majority in the south. In addition, industrial Ulster was bound economically more to England than to the rest of Ireland.
Successive schemes for Home Rule widened the rift, so that by the outbreak of World War I civil war in Ireland was an immediate danger. The Government of Ireland Act of 1920 attempted to solve the problem by enacting Home Rule separately for the two parts of Ireland, thus creating the province of Northern Ireland. However, the Irish Free State, now the Republic of Ireland (see Ireland, Republic of), which was established in 1922, refused to recognize the finality of the partition; and violence erupted frequently on both sides of the border.
The late 1960s marked a new stage in the region's troubled history. The Catholic minority, which suffered economic and political discrimination, had grown steadily through immigration from the Republic. In 1968 civil-rights protests by Catholics led to widespread violence. Prime Minister Terence O'Neill had sought to end anti-Catholic bias as part of his policy of fostering closer ties between Ulster and the Irish Republic, but opponents within his ruling Unionist party forced his resignation in Apr., 1969. His successor, James Chichester-Clark, was unable to restrain the growing unrest and in August called in British troops to help restore order.The IRA and Sectarian Struggle
At the end of 1969 a split occurred in the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which is the illegal military arm of the Sinn Fein party; the new "provisional" wing of the IRA was made up of radical nationalists. Brian Faulkner became leader of the Unionist party and prime minister of Northern Ireland in Mar., 1971, and began a policy of imprisoning IRA and other militants. However, the IRA and the Ulster Defense Association, a Protestant terrorist group, continued and even intensified their activities.
On Mar. 30, 1972, the British prime minister, Edward Heath, suspended the government and appointed William Whitelaw secretary of state for Northern Ireland. Westminster's direct rule over the province was renewed in Mar., 1973. An assembly was formed in June, 1972, with the Unionist party, a moderate pro-British group, in the majority. In November the Unionist party formed a coalition with the Social Democratic Labour party (SDLP), the major Catholic group, and the nonsectarian Alliance party. A Northern Ireland Executive was formed to exercise day-to-day administration.
In late 1973, the British prime minister, the head of the Executive, and the Irish Republic's prime minister agreed to form a Council of Ireland to promote closer cooperation between Ulster and the Republic. However, both the IRA and Protestant extremists sought to destroy the Executive and the Council, as they found power-sharing between Protestants and Catholics unacceptable. In 1974, hard-line Ulster Protestants won 11 of the province's 12 seats in the British House of Commons and pledged to renegotiate Ulster's constitution in order to end the Protestant-Catholic coalition and progress toward a Council of Ireland.
In May, 1974, militant Protestants sponsored a general strike in the province, and the Northern Ireland Executive collapsed on May 28. The British government then took direct control of the province with the passage of the Northern Ireland Act of 1974. Meanwhile, bombings and other terrorist activities had spread to Dublin and London. In 1979 Lord Mountbatten was assassinated by the IRA, and in 1981 protests broke out in Belfast over the death by hunger strike of Bobby Sands, an IRA member of Parliament.
Throughout most of the 1980s and 1990s terrorist violence by the IRA and other groups remained a problem. An assembly formed in 1982 to propose plans for strengthening legislative and executive autonomy in Northern Ireland was dissolved in 1986 for its lack of progress. In 1985, an Anglo-Irish accord sought to lay the groundwork for talks between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Dublin agreed not to contest Northern Ireland's allegiance to Great Britain in exchange for British acknowledgment of the Republic's interest in how Northern Ireland is run. A 1993 Anglo-Irish declaration offered to open negotiations to all parties willing to renounce violence, and in 1994 the IRA and, later, Protestant paramilitary groups declared a cease-fire. Formal talks began in 1995. A resumption of violence (1996) by the IRA threatened to derail the peace process, but negotiations to seek a political settlement went ahead.
In July, 1997, the IRA declared a new cease-fire, and talks begun in September of that year included Sinn Féin. The result was an accord reached in 1998 that provided for a new Northern Ireland Assembly as well as a North-South Ministerial Council to deal with issues of joint interest to the province and the Irish Republic. The Republic of Ireland also agreed to give up territorial claims on Northern Ireland. The formation of a new government was slowed, however, by disagreement over the disarmament of paramilitary groups, but in Dec., 1999, a multiparty government was formed after further negotiations, and Britain ended direct rule of the province. Ulster Unionist leader David Trimble became leader of the Northern Irish government.
In Feb., 2000, however, Britain suspended self-government after the IRA refused to agree to disarm, but subsequent concessions by the IRA led to the resumption of self-government in May. Continued resistance by the IRA to disarming has threatened self-government and led Trimble to resign on July 1, 2001. Subsequently, Britain twice suspended the Northern Irish government in an attempt to avoid its complete collapse. Negotiations on disarming the IRA and other paramilitary groups, however, were relatively fruitless until late 2001, when the IRA began disarming; Trimble subsequently returned to office.
The arrests in 2002 of Sinn Féin government members for intelligence gathering for the IRA threatened the power-sharing government once again, leading Britain to suspend home rule once more, but in 2005 charges against the alleged spies, one of whom was a long-time government informant, were dropped, raising questions about the entire affair. The May, 2003, elections that would have reestablished the assembly were suspended by the British government. The ostensible reason was the insufficient specificity of the IRA's commitment to the peace process, but Trimble and the moderate Unionists also seem likely to suffer losses if the elections were held. Disagreements over the way the IRA's disarming was being handled continued.
When the elections were held in Nov., 2003, the more extreme Protestant and Catholic parties, Ian Paisley's Democratic Unionists and the Sinn Féin, outpolled their more moderate counterparts. Home rule remained suspended, but in early 2004 Britain, the Irish Republic, and Northern Irish political parties began a "review" of the 1998 agreement in hopes of reestablishing a Northern Irish government. Subsequent accusations that the IRA was involved in criminal activities threatened any future participation of Sinn Féin in a government. In Apr., 2005, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams called on the IRA to abandon the use of arms and restrict its activities to politics, and an independent report affirmed in September that the IRA had decommissioned its weapons.
In Apr., 2006 the British and Irish governments called for the Northern Irish assembly to begin formation of an executive in May and complete the work before the end of November; if they failed to do so, the members of the assembly would no longer receive their salaries. The assembly reconvened in May, but there was no quick progress in forming an executive. However, talks in October produced some progress, and the November deadline was pushed back to Mar., 2007. In Jan., 2007, Sinn Féin agreed to back the Protestant-dominated Northern Irish police force.
In March, elections for the assembly led to strong showings by the Democratic Unionists and Sinn Féin, and later in the month the two parties agreed to form a power-sharing government in May. Ian Paisley became first minister. Also in May the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), the oldest Protestant paramilitary group, announced that it was renouncing violence; it did not plan then, however, to decommission its weapons, but by June, 2009, it had decommissioned its weapons. British troops ended their military mission in Northern Ireland, which began in 1969, in July, 2007.
UDA factional clashes during the summer of 2007 led to a demand that they decommission their arms or lose funding for a loyalist project associated with the UDA; the social development minister's insistence on the deadline and cutoff of funds led to tensions in the North Irish executive in Oct., 2007, with the DUP and Sinn Féin supporting a more lenient approach to the UDA. In November the UDA announced that its fighters' weapons were being put beyond use (but not decommissioned), and in Jan., 2010, it announced that it had decommissioned its weapons. Violence by republican and unionist splinter groups, some of them operating as criminal gangs, remains a problem.
Paisley retired as first minister and was succeeded by Peter Robinson, the new DUP leader, in June, 2008. A dispute over the devolution of justice and policing powers subsequently deadlocked the executive, and it continued through 2009. Peter Robinson's tenure as first minister was threatened in late 2009 by a personal and political scandal involving his wife, who had obtained money from property developers for her lover.
See A. Blacam, The Black North (1938); M. Wallace, Northern Ireland: Fifty Years of Self-Government (1971); P. Arthur, Northern Ireland Since 1968 (1988); B. Rowthorn, Northern Ireland: The Political Economy of Conflict (1988); F. Gaffikin, Northern Ireland: The Thatcher Years (1990); E. Collins, Killing Rage (with M. McGovern, 1999); G. Mitchell, Making Peace (1999); P. Taylor, Loyalists (1999).
The early pre-Roman inhabitants of Britain (see Stonehenge) were Celtic-speaking peoples, including the Brythonic people of Wales, the Picts of Scotland, and the Britons of Britain. Celts also settled in Ireland circa 500 BC. Julius Caesar invaded and took control of the area in 55–54 BC. The Roman province of Britannia endured until the 5th century AD and included present-day England and Wales. Germanic tribes, including Angles, Saxons, and Jutes, invaded Britain in the 5th century. The invasions had little effect on the Celtic peoples of Wales and Scotland. Christianity began to flourish in the 6th century. During the 8th and 9th centuries, Vikings, particularly Danes, raided the coasts of Britain. In the late 9th century Alfred the Great repelled a Danish invasion, which helped bring about the unification of England under Athelstan. The Scots attained dominance in Scotland, which was finally unified under Malcolm II (1005–34). William of Normandy (see William I) took England in 1066. The Norman kings established a strong central government and feudal state. The French language of the Norman rulers eventually merged with the Anglo-Saxon of the common people to form the English language. From the 11th century, Scotland came under the influence of the English throne. Henry II conquered Ireland in the late 12th century. His sons Richard I and John had conflicts with the clergy and nobles, and eventually John was forced to grant the nobles concessions in the Magna Carta (1215). The concept of community of the realm developed during the 13th century, providing the foundation for parliamentary government. During the reign of Edward I (1272–1307), statute law developed to supplement English common law, and the first Parliament was convened. In 1314 Robert the Bruce (see Robert I) won independence for Scotland. The house of Tudor became the ruling family of England following the Wars of the Roses (1455–85). Henry VIII (1509–47) established the Church of England and incorporated Wales as part of England.
The reign of Elizabeth I (1558–1603) began a period of colonial expansion; in 1588 British forces defeated the “invincible” Spanish Armada. In 1603 James VI of Scotland ascended the English throne, becoming James I, and established a personal union of the two kingdoms. The English Civil Wars erupted in 1642 between Royalists and Parliamentarians, ending in the execution of Charles I (1649). After 11 years of Puritan rule under Oliver Cromwell and his son (1649–60), the monarchy was restored with Charles II. In 1689, following the Glorious Revolution, Parliament proclaimed the joint sovereigns William III and Mary II, who accepted the British Bill of Rights. In 1707 England and Scotland assented to the Act of Union, forming the kingdom of Great Britain. The Hanoverians ascended the English throne in 1714, when George Louis, elector of Hanover, became George I of Great Britain. During the reign of George III, Great Britain's North American colonies won independence (1783). This was followed by a period of war (1789–1815) with Revolutionary France and later with the empire of Napoleon. In 1801 legislation united Great Britain with Ireland to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. Britain was the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution in the late 18th century, and it remained the world's foremost economic power until the late 19th century. During the reign of Queen Victoria (1837–1901), Britain's colonial expansion reached its zenith, though the older dominions, including Canada and Australia, were granted independence (1867 and 1901, respectively).
The U.K. entered World War I allied with France and Russia in 1914. Following the war, revolutionary disorder erupted in Ireland, and in 1921 the Irish Free State (see Ireland) was granted dominion status. Six counties of Ulster, however, remained in the U.K. as Northern Ireland. The U.K. entered World War II in 1939. Following the war, the Irish Free State became the Irish republic and left the Commonwealth. India also gained independence from the U.K. Throughout the postwar period and into the 1970s, the U.K. continued to grant independence to its overseas colonies and dependencies. With UN forces, it participated in the Korean War (1950–53). In 1956 it intervened militarily in Egypt during the Suez Crisis. It joined the European Economic Community, a forerunner of the European Union, in 1973. In 1982 it defeated Argentina in the Falkland Islands War. As a result of continuing social strife in Northern Ireland, it joined with Ireland in several peace initiatives, which eventually resulted in an agreement to establish an assembly in Northern Ireland. In 1997 referenda approved in Scotland and Wales devolved power to both countries, though both remained part of the U.K. In 1991 the U.K. joined an international coalition to reverse Iraq's conquest of Kuwait (see Persian Gulf War). In 2003 the U.K. and the U.S. attacked Iraq and overthrew the government of
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Territory (pop., 2006: 192,898), northern Australia. It covers an area of some 520,902 sq mi (1,349,129 sq km). Its capital is Darwin; the only other sizable town is Alice Springs. Most of the people are of European descent; about one-fifth are Australian Aboriginals. It consists mainly of tableland, with the Simpson Desert in the southeast and the Arnhem Land plateau in the north. It was inhabited by Aboriginals for thousands of years; they held Ayers Rock (Uluru) as central to their culture. The coast was explored by the Dutch in the 17th century and surveyed in the early 19th century by Matthew Flinders. First included as part of New South Wales, it was annexed to South Australia in 1863. It reverted to being under direct control of the Commonwealth of Australia in 1911. The northern parts were bombed by the Japanese in World War II and occupied by Allied troops. It was granted self-government within the Commonwealth in 1978. It remains sparsely inhabited; its economy rests on cattle farming, mining, government services, and a growing tourism industry.
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Part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland occupying the northeastern portion of the island of Ireland. Area: 5,461 sq mi (14,144 sq km). Population (2001): 1,685,267. Capital: Belfast. It is bounded by the republic of Ireland, the Irish Sea, the North Channel, and the Atlantic Ocean. Northern Ireland is often referred to as the province of Ulster. The people are descended from indigenous Irish and immigrants from England and Scotland. Language: English (official). Religions: Protestantism (the majority) and Roman Catholicism (a minority). Currency: pound sterling. Northern Ireland's industries include engineering, shipbuilding (which has been in severe decline), automobile manufacturing, textiles, food and beverage processing, and clothing. The service industry employs about three-fourths of the workforce, and manufacturing employs less than one-fifth of workers. Agriculture is important, with most farm income derived from livestock. Northern Ireland shares most of its history with the republic of Ireland, though Protestant English and Scots immigrating in the 16th–17th centuries tended to settle in Ulster. In 1801 the Act of Union created the United Kingdom, which united Great Britain and Ireland. In response to mounting Irish sentiment in favour of Home Rule, the Government of Ireland Act was adopted in 1920, providing for two partially self-governing units in Ireland: the northern six counties constituting Northern Ireland and the southern counties now making up the republic of Ireland. In 1968 civil rights protests by Roman Catholics sparked violent conflicts with Protestants and led to the occupation of the province by British troops in the early 1970s. The Irish Republican Army (IRA) mounted a prolonged campaign of violence in an effort to force the withdrawal of British troops as a prelude to Northern Ireland's unification with Ireland. In 1972 Northern Ireland's constitution and parliament were suspended, bringing the province under direct rule by the British. Violence continued for three decades before dropping off in the mid-1990s. In 1998 talks between the British government and the IRA resulted in a peace agreement that provided for extensive Home Rule in the province. In 1999 power was devolved to an elected assembly, though the body was hampered by factional disagreements. Sporadic sectarian strife continued in the early 21st century, as the IRA gradually carried out decommissioning (disarming).
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