Ireland, integral part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern
Ireland, situated in the northeastern portion of the island of Ireland.
Northern Ireland is bounded on the north and northeast by the North Channel, on
the southeast by the Irish Sea, and on the south and west by the Republic of
Ireland. It includes Rathlin Island in the North Channel and several smaller
offshore islands. Northern Ireland is also known as Ulster, because it
comprises six of the nine counties that constituted the former province of
Ulster. The total area of Northern Ireland is 14,148 sq km (5463 sq mi).
Land and Resources
Ireland has an extreme northern to southern extension of about 135 km (about 85
mi) and an extreme eastern to western extension of about 175 km (about 110 mi).
The shoreline is characterized by numerous irregularities and is about 530 km
(about 330 mi) long. The major indentations are Lough Foyle in the north and
Belfast, Strangford, and Carlingford loughs in the east. A striking feature of
the northern coast is the Giant's Causeway, a rock formation consisting of
thousands of closely placed, polygonal pillars of black basalt.
country consists mainly of a low, flat plain in the approximate center of which
is Lough Neagh (about 390 sq km/about 150 sq mi), the largest lake in the
British Isles. Other important lakes are Lough Erne and Upper Lough Erne. Apart
from several isolated elevations, three major areas of considerable height are
the Sperrin Mountains in the northwest, the Antrim Plateau along the
northeastern coast, and the Mourne Mountains in the southeast. The highest
point in the country is Slieve Donard (852 m/2796 ft), a peak in the Mourne
chief rivers are the Foyle River, which forms part of the northwestern boundary
and flows into Lough Foyle at Londonderry, and the Upper Bann and Lower Bann
rivers. The former rises in the Mourne Mountains and empties into Lough Neagh;
the latter flows out of Lough Neagh to the North Channel. Among the many other
rivers are the Main, Blackwater, Lagan, Erne, and Bush. Because of the generally
flat terrain, drainage is poor, and the areas of marshland are extensive.
climate of Northern Ireland is mild and damp throughout the year. The
prevailing westerly winds from the Gulf Stream are largely responsible for the
lack of extreme summer heat and winter cold. The average annual temperature is
approximately 10њ C (50њ F); temperatures average about 14.4њ C (about 58њ F)
in July and about 4.4њ C (about 40њ F) in January. Rainfall is distributed
evenly during the year. The annual precipitation frequently exceeds 1016 mm (40
in) in the north and is about 760 mm (about 30 in) in the south. The level of
humidity is high.
most valuable natural resources of Northern Ireland are its fertile soil and
rich pasturelands. Natural waterpower is abundant. The chief minerals are
basalt, limestone, sand and gravel, granite, chalk, clay, and shale; bauxite,
iron ore, and coal also are found in small amounts. Peat is important as a
general, the plants and animals of Northern Ireland are similar to those of the
island as a whole. The only distinctive plant is a species of wild orchid,
Spiranthes stricta, found in the valleys of the Upper and Lower Bann rivers.
Distinctive species of animal life include the pollan, a freshwater variety of
whitefish found in Lough Neagh and Lough Erne.
majority of the people are of Scottish or English ancestry and are known
commonly as the Scotch-Irish. The remainder of the population is Irish,
principally native to Ulster.
is the sole official language. Unlike the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland
does not encourage the use of the Gaelic language.
population of Northern Ireland (1992 preliminary) was 1,610,300. The overall
density was about 113 persons per sq km (about 295 per sq mi). The population
is unevenly distributed, with greater concentrations in the eastern half. It is
almost equally divided between urban and rural dwellers.
capital and largest city of Northern Ireland is Belfast (population, 1991
preliminary, 279,237), which is surrounded by heavy industries including
shipbuilding and textiles. The other major city in Northern Ireland is
Ireland is divided into 26 districts. Each district is governed by an elected
affiliation has been a key determinant in Northern Ireland's history, politics,
and social life since the 17th century. At various times it has determined
access to voting and jobs, standards of living, and education. In modern times
it has come to symbolize the differences between the descendants of the
original Irish inhabitants and those of the settler community. The descendants
of the Scottish and English settlers are predominantly Protestant; those of the
original Irish inhabitants are overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. In the early
1990s, almost 51 percent of the population regarded themselves as Protestant,
and almost 39 percent as Roman Catholic. The Roman Catholics are the largest
single denomination. The largest Protestant denominations are the Presbyterian,
the Church of Ireland, and the Methodist. Unlike England, Northern Ireland has
no established, or state, church. The Church of Ireland, at one time a branch of
the Church of England, was disassociated from the state in 1871.
in Northern Ireland is free and compulsory for children between the ages of 5
and 15. The educational system is essentially similar to that of England. In
the early 1990s Northern Ireland had nearly 1100 primary schools, annually
attended by approximately 191,000 pupils and staffed by more than 8200
teachers. Secondary and special schools numbered about 275 and were attended by
about 147,000 students taught by 10,300 instructors. The country has two
universities: Queen's University of Belfast, founded as Queen's College in
1845, and the University of Ulster (1984), with campuses in Coleraine, Belfast,
Jordanstown, and Londonderry. The total annual university enrollment in the
early 1990s was about 17,000. Two colleges, the Belfast College of Technology
(1901) and the Union Theological College (1978), are in Belfast.
Northern Ireland was culturally indistinguishable from the remainder of
Ireland. However, with the waves of colonization from England and Scotland
during the 17th century, the northeastern province of Ulster evolved a
distinctive cultural identity. The settlers, who came to form a majority in the
region, were British in culture and tradition, and Protestant in religion;
their descendants are committed to keeping the province constitutionally allied
with Great Britain. The Irish inhabitants, in a minority and for centuries
politically and economically marginalized, had as their goal the reunification
of the island of Ireland. In addition, Northern Ireland is considerably more
urbanized and industrialized than the Republic of Ireland.
Ireland shares the early cultural glories of all Ireland. To Ulster belongs one
of the two great cycles of Irish myths that contain the exploits of CЯ Chulainn
and the tragic story of Deirdre (see Gaelic Literature). There is a thriving
theatrical movement in Belfast, and much literary activity. Belfast is the base
of Opera Northern Ireland, which presents seasons at the Grand Opera House in
the city, and also tours the province. A ballet company is based in the
capital, as is the Belfast Philharmonic Society, one of Britain's leading
choral societies. The Ulster Symphony Orchestra is among the leading orchestras
of Britain. Queen's University hosts the annual Belfast Festival.
Ireland has two national museums: the Ulster Museum in Belfast, which houses a
collection of Irish antiquities; and the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in
Holywood, County Down.
Ireland's gross domestic product in 1992 was about $18.3 billion. In general,
the economy of Northern Ireland is based on agriculture and manufacturing and
is closely tied to that of Great Britain as a whole; almost half of
manufacturing output is sold to the rest of Britain; one quarter is sold
locally. Northern Ireland has been particularly hard hit by the decline of
traditional industries like shipbuilding, on which much of its prosperity and
many jobs depended. The lack of economic opportunities, particularly for young
people, played a role in the sectarian conflicts of the 1970s. At the same
time, however, the threat of terrorism hindered efforts to attract investment
and create new jobs in the 1980s. Considerable public expenditure has been
devoted to urban renewal in Belfast and Londonderry. Various agencies have been
established to attract new companies and encourage small business, backed by
tax and other incentives. Helped by moves towards a peaceful settlement of the
sectarian violence, several important new investments were announced in the
finance comes predominantly from taxes (50 percent in 1994) and government
grants in aid from Great Britain (41 percent); Northern Ireland also received
considerable funding from the European Union.
farms predominate in Northern Ireland, and production generally includes both
crops and livestock. Livestock on farms in the early 1990s numbered
approximately 1.5 million cattle, 2.6 million sheep, 588,000 pigs, and 12.3
million poultry. The leading crops in the country were potatoes, barley, hay,
oats, turnips, apples, and pears.
Ireland is sparsely forested, but the state afforestation program has made
considerable progress, and in the early 1980s about 60,000 cu m (about 2.1
million cu ft) of timber were felled annually. The annual catch of fish and
shellfish in the early 1990s was about 15,000 metric tons. Saltwater fishing is
centered on the eastern coast, principally off Newcastle; the most important
species caught include herring, whiting, and scallops. Freshwater fisheries
operate in Lough Neagh, Lough Erne, and Upper Lough Erne; the species caught
include salmon, trout, eel, and pollan.
and quarrying are relatively unimportant economic activities in Northern
Ireland. They employed only about 6200 workers in the late 1980s. The chief
minerals are basalt, sand and gravel, peat, chalk, limestone, and granite.
is a major source of the national product. In the early 1990s the industrial
output of Northern Ireland was about 18 percent of the gross domestic product
(GDP). Manufacturing and construction accounted for about one-fifth of the
employed work force.
the leading industries of Northern Ireland have been the manufacture of
textiles and clothing. Linen is the most important textile manufactured; cotton
cloth and fabrics woven of synthetic fibers rank next in importance.
Shipbuilding and the manufacture of aircraft also are major industries; large
shipyards are located in Belfast. Other manufactures include textile machinery,
electrical and electronic equipment, processed food, liquor, tobacco products,
80 percent of Northern Ireland's external trade is with Great Britain, and the
British pound is the legal tender of Northern Ireland. A large portion of the
exports to Great Britain is transshipped to other countries, however. Northern
Ireland exports linen goods, textiles, clothing, machinery, and food, notably
meat, potatoes, and dairy products. Imports consist chiefly of petroleum and
other fuels, raw materials and metals, produce, and an assortment of
Ireland has about 23,730 km (about 14,745 mi) of roads, including 113 km (70
mi) of motorway. The Northern Ireland Railways Company provided passenger
service on 357 km (222 mi) of railroad track. Daily steamship and airline
services connect Belfast with the rest of the United Kingdom.
Ireland has three daily newspapers, the Belfast Telegraph, the Irish News, and
the News Letter, all published in Belfast. In the early 1990s they had a
combined daily circulation of about 272,000.
system of labor relations in Northern Ireland is based on the same principles
as that of Great Britain. A major proportion of trade unionists in Northern
Ireland are members of trade unions with headquarters in Great Britain.
Ireland, an integral part of Great Britain, elects members (now 17) to the
British House of Commons. In recent years some of those elected have chosen not
to go to London (usually in order to protest the domestic situation). The
Government of Ireland Act, passed by the British Parliament in 1920 and
modified by several subsequent agreements between Northern Ireland and Great
Britain, is the country's basic constitutional document. In 1972, however,
because of political and religious strife, London imposed direct rule. A 1973
act gave Northern Ireland much local autonomy, while Great Britain retained
control over defense, foreign policy, currency, tariffs, and communications. In
January 1974, direct rule was relinquished, but it was reimposed again that
same year. The office of governor and the Northern Ireland Parliament were
abolished, and the secretary of state for Northern Ireland became the head of
government. The 78-member assembly that met from 1982 to 1986 had only
reviewing and consulting responsibility. In 1985, an agreement granted the Republic
of Ireland a limited role in governing Northern Ireland and set up an
intergovernmental conference of British and Irish cabinet ministers.
highest court is the Supreme Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland, which
consists of the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Crown Court. Lower
courts include county courts with criminal and civil jurisdiction and
magistrates' courts for minor offenses.
Ireland is divided into 26 districts for the purposes of local government. Each
district is run by a council responsible for a variety of administrative
Ulster Unionist Party governed Northern Ireland from 1921 to 1972. More
recently, the party has split into two groups; the Official Unionist and the
Democratic Unionist; the latter are opposed to any compromise on Northern
Ireland's future in relation to Great Britain and the most hostile to the
Republic of Ireland. The other main political parties are the Social Democratic
and Labour Party, which supports peaceful reunification with Ireland, the
Alliance Party, and Sinn Fein, the political wing of the outlawed Irish
Republican Army. Until 1994 Sinn Fein was excluded from talks between Britain
and the Republic of Ireland on the future of Northern Ireland because it
refused to denounce violence. However, its candidates participated in local and
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