Northern Ireland is a province with the United Kingdom located north of the Republic of Ireland. It may also be classified as a country or region within the UK, terms which are in contention given the unique status and history of Northern Ireland. There is a population of nearly two million, which makes up less than a third of the island’s population, and only 3% of the UK’s population.
The region was historically Irish, and was colonized by the English, leading to a lot of Irish opposition. Historic tensions between the Roman Catholic south and the Protestant north of Ireland led to the political division within Ireland as an act of the British parliament in 1921. This led to a violent, long-lasting Civil War that was deeply divisive within the region.
The Unionists, typically Protestant, called for Northern Ireland to be incorporated into Britain. The Nationalists, typically Catholic, viewed the north of Ireland as British-occupied and sought to bring Ireland together as one nation, independent from Britain.
There were several decades of violence leading from the discrimination between the two sides. The Catholic communities were severely disadvantaged in terms of resources. Since the 1920’s, millions of people emigrated from Ireland to the United States, with over 25 million Scotch-Irish Americans currently living in the US.
Many complex connections remain between Northern Ireland and the UK and Ireland.
Efforts have been made to improve British and Irish relations, with Tony Blair’s speech to Irish Parliament and additional peace efforts made in 1998. Through much of the 20th century the north of Ireland was a dangerous place to travel, but it is now a safe destination with modern amenities.
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Belfast, the capital city, has developed into a vibrant modern UK destination. There are several notable towns and cities to visit in Northern Ireland. Other highlights include the scenic North Coast, with lush forests along the rugged coastline. The Marble Arch Caves and the Mourne Mountains have spectacular beauty.
The natural beauty of the North of Ireland is consistent with the romantic lore of the stunning green nature of the island.
Sports are very popular in Northern Ireland, with football as the major national sport. They retain many ties with Ireland in terms of sports, and may still participate together for the Olympics. Other popular sports include golf, rugby and cricket.
In addition to similarities in sports culture, Northern Ireland retains many cultural similarities with Ireland, while having a distinct British flavor.
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