Relationship with Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland (Irish: Tuaisceart Eireann pronounced [?t??u??c???t?? ?e????n??] ( listen), Ulster Scots: Norlin Airlann or Norlin Airlan) 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. 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".
Northern Ireland was partitioned from the rest of Ireland in 1921, during the Irish War of Independence, by an Act of the British Parliament. Unlike the rest of the island, the majority of its population 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. 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. The creation of Northern Ireland was marked by violence between these two main communities and involving state forces, which occasionally resurfaced over the following decades. In the late 1960s the conflict erupted into three decades of violence known as The Troubles, which lasted until the late 1990s and claimed over 3,500 lives. The Good Friday Agreement in 1998 was a major step in the peace process.
Northern Ireland has traditionally been the most industrialised region of the island. After declining as a result of the political and social turmoil of the Troubles in the second half of the 20th century, its economy 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 from 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 and Liam Neeson. 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 athletes from Northern Ireland may compete for either Great Britain or Ireland at the Olympic Games.
During the 19th century, legal reforms started in the late 18th century removed statutory discrimination against Catholics and progressive programmes enabled tenant farmers to buy 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 and Unionist Party leaders such as Andrew Bonar Law and by 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 in the northern province of Ulster they were a very large majority in County Antrim and County Down, with small majorities in County Armagh and County Londonderry. There were substantial unionist minorities in the mainly-nationalist counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone. 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.
During the Home Rule Crisis the possibility was discussed of a "temporary" partition of these six counties from the rest of Ireland. In 1914, the Third Home Rule Act received Royal Assent. However, its implementation was suspended before it came into effect owing to the outbreak of the First World War, and the Amending Bill to partition Ireland was abandoned. 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. Events had however overtaken the government. In the general election of 1918, the pro-independence Sinn Fein won 73 of the 105 parliamentary seats in Ireland and unilaterally established the First Dail, 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 during the war of independence between Ireland and British forces. 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, with the right to opt out of it.