Northern Ireland

3.4368663594532 (1085)
Posted by kaori 02/28/2009 @ 23:01

Tags : northern ireland, united kingdom, europe, world

News headlines
Northern Ireland dole queues nearly double in the last year - Belfast Telegraph
By Lindsay Fergus Northern Ireland's dole queues have lengthened by a massive 90.5% in the last year, new Government figures show. An additional 21900 people were claiming unemployment benefits last month, compared to the same period in 2008....
How the bubble burst in N Ireland - BBC News
House prices in Northern Ireland tumbled by 40% last year. But that only partially deflated a bubble that had been inflating for five years. In 2006 alone, house prices had jumped by 48%, far more than any other part of the UK....
mcilroy seeks to rediscover form - BBC Sport
Rory mcilroy hopes a return to his native Northern Ireland for the Irish Open will revive his early-season form. After five consecutive top-20 finishes on the US Tour, he finished 58th at the Verizon Heritage event before missing the cut at the Players...
Sinn Fein politician's house petrol-bombed - Reuters
DUBLIN (Reuters) - Supporters of suspected dissident nationalists petrol-bombed the home of a senior Sinn Fein politician in Northern Ireland in the early hours of Monday. It is the third time the home of Mitchell McLaughlin, a member of Northern...
Has recession bottomed out for Northern Ireland? - Belfast Telegraph
By Simon Ross Hopes that Northern Ireland's economy downturn had bottomed out received a boost today with a number of upbeat assessments. Positive views of the local economy, the housing market and retail sales suggested that the long awaited “green...
Irish journalist says she will not disclose Real IRA sources - guardian.co.uk
"It is disgraceful that in the so-called new Northern Ireland a journalist could face imprisonment or have their safety compromised over the protection of sources." Belfast recorder Tom Burgess said earlier today that he was "provisionally minded" to...
£17m plan for new NHS dentists - BBC News
Almost 40 new NHS dentists are to be appointed to tackle the chronic shortage in Northern Ireland. Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said he had awarded a £17m contract for the provision of additional dentists "where they were most needed"....
College stars to face Ireland and Northern Ireland - Soccer America
[US UNDER-23 WOMEN] The US under-23 women's national team will face Ireland's women's national team on Wednesday in Dublin and Northern Ireland's women's national team in Belfast on Wednesday. For the US roster ... [US UNDER-23 WOMEN] The US under-23...
NBA Northern Ireland joins calls to examine astonishing level of ... - Farming UK
Finishers across Northern Ireland, and the Republic of Ireland (ROI), are angry that their slaughter cattle prices are moving backwards at the same time as those in Britain inch upwards, says the National Beef Association's Northern Ireland chairman,...
Suspense novel contrasts ominous plot against the beauty of ... - Mass Media Distribution LLC (press release)
After Larissa O'Connor's husband dies under mysterious circumstances, she receives an intriguing letter signed "the Celtic Crow," which beckons her to a picturesque village in Northern Ireland. In the town of Cushendall, the dark mansion Dalriada...

Northern Ireland

Location of Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland (Irish: Tuaisceart Éireann, Ulster Scots: Norlin Airlann) is a country that is part of the United Kingdom situated in the north-east of the island of Ireland. It shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west. At the time of the 2001 UK Census, its population was 1,685,000, constituting between a quarter and a third of the island's total population and about 3% of the population of the UK.

Northern Ireland consists of six of the traditional nine counties of the historic Irish province of Ulster. It was created as a distinct administrative subdivision of the UK on 3 May 1921 under the Government of Ireland Act 1920, though its constitutional roots lie in the 1800 Act of Union between Great Britain and Ireland. For over 50 years it had its own devolved government and parliament. These institutions were suspended in 1972 and abolished in 1973, to be replaced in 1998 and 1999, after earlier repeated attempts to restore devolution, by the present-day Northern Ireland Executive and Northern Ireland Assembly. The Assembly operates on consociational democracy principles requiring cross-community support.

Northern Ireland was for many years the site of a violent and bitter ethno-political conflict ("The Troubles") between those claiming to represent Nationalists, who are predominantly Roman Catholic, and those claiming to represent Unionists, who are predominantly Protestant. In general, Nationalists want Northern Ireland to be politically reunited with the rest of Ireland, while Unionists, who form a small majority, want it to remain part of the United Kingdom. In general, Unionists consider themselves British (or "Ulstermen") and Nationalists see themselves as Irish, though these identities are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Since the signing of the Belfast Agreement (or "Good Friday Agreement") in 1998, most of the paramilitary groups involved in the Troubles have ceased their armed campaigns.

For events before 1922 see Ulster or History of Ireland.

The area that is now Northern Ireland has had a diverse history. From serving as the bedrock of Irish resistance in the era of the plantations of Queen Elizabeth and James I in other parts of Ireland, it became the subject of major planting of Scottish and English settlers after the Flight of the Earls in 1607 (when the Gaelic aristocracy fled to Catholic Europe).

The all-island Kingdom of Ireland (1541—1800) merged into the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland in 1801 under the terms of the Act of Union, under which the kingdoms of Ireland and Great Britain merged under a government and monarchy based in London. In the early 20th century, Unionists led by Sir Edward Carson opposed the introduction of Home Rule in Ireland. Unionists were in a minority on the island of Ireland as a whole, but were a majority in the northern province of Ulster, a very large majority in the counties of Antrim and Down, small majorities in the counties of Armagh and Londonderry, with substantial numbers also concentrated in the nationalist-majority counties of Fermanagh and Tyrone. These six counties, containing an overall unionist majority, would later form Northern Ireland.

The clash between the House of Commons and House of Lords over the controversial budget of Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd-George produced the Parliament Act 1911, which enabled the veto of the Lords to be overturned. Given that the Lords had been the unionists' main guarantee that a home rule act would not be enacted, because of the majority of pro-unionist peers in the House, the Parliament Act made Home Rule a more likely prospect. Opponents to Home Rule, from Conservative Party leaders like Andrew Bonar Law to militant unionists in Ireland, threatened the use of violence, producing the Larne Gun Running incident in 1914, when they smuggled thousands of rifles and rounds of ammunition from Imperial Germany for the Ulster Volunteers. The prospect of civil war in Ireland loomed.

In 1914, the Third Home Rule Act, which contained provision for a temporary partition, received the Royal Assent. Its implementation was suspended for the duration of the intervening First World War, which was expected to last only a few weeks, but, in fact, lasted four years.

By the end of the war, the Act was seen as dead in the water, with public opinion in the majority nationalist community having moved from a demand for home rule to something more substantial: independence. David Lloyd George proposed in 1919 a new bill which would divide Ireland into two Home Rule areas, twenty-six counties being ruled from Dublin, six being ruled from Belfast, with a shared Lord Lieutenant of Ireland appointing both executives and a Council of Ireland, which Lloyd George believed would evolve into an all-Ireland parliament.

The island of Ireland was partitioned in 1921 under the terms of the Government of Ireland Act 1920. Six of the nine Ulster counties in the north-east formed Northern Ireland and the remaining three counties (including County Donegal, despite it having a large Protestant minority as well as it being the most northern county in all of Ireland) joined those of Leinster, Munster and Connacht to form Southern Ireland. Whilst Southern Ireland had only a brief existence between 1921 and 1922, a period dominated by the Anglo-Irish War and its aftermath, Northern Ireland was to continue on.

Northern Ireland provisionally became an autonomous part of the Irish Free State on 6 December 1922. However, as expected, the Parliament of Northern Ireland chose, under the terms of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, to opt out of the Irish Free State the following day. Shortly after Northern Ireland had exercised its opt out of the Irish Free State, a Boundary Commission was established to decide on the territorial boundaries between the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. Though leaders in Dublin expected a substantial reduction in the territory of Northern Ireland (with nationalist border areas moving to the Free State), the Boundary Commission decided against this; in fact the unpublished report had recommended that land should be ceded from Southern Ireland to Northern Ireland. To prevent argument, this report was suppressed, and the initial 6-county border was approved by the Dáil in Dublin on 10 December 1925 by a vote of 71 to 20.

In June 1940, to encourage the Irish state to join with the Allies, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill indicated to the Taoiseach Éamon de Valera that the United Kingdom would push for Irish unity, but believing that Churchill could not deliver, de Valera declined the offer. (The British did not inform the Northern Ireland government that they had made the offer to the Dublin government, and De Valera's rejection was not publicized until 1970).

The Ireland Act 1949 gave the first legal guarantee to the Parliament and Government that Northern Ireland would not cease to be part of the United Kingdom without consent of the majority of its citizens.

The Troubles, starting in the late 1960s, consisted of about thirty years of recurring acts of intense violence between elements of Northern Ireland's nationalist community (principally Roman Catholic) and unionist community (principally Protestant) during which 3,254 people were killed. The conflict was caused by the disputed status of Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom and the domination of the minority nationalist community, and discrimination against them, by the unionist majority. The violence was characterised by the armed campaigns of paramilitary groups, including the Provisional IRA campaign of 1969-1997 which was aimed at the end of British rule in Northern Ireland and the creation of a new "all-Ireland" or "thirty-two county", Irish Republic, and the Ulster Volunteer Force, formed in 1966 in response to the perceived erosion of both the British character and unionist domination of Northern Ireland. The state security forces--the British Army and the police (the Royal Ulster Constabulary)--were also involved in the violence. The British government's point of view is that its forces were neutral in the conflict, trying to uphold law and order in Northern Ireland and the right of the people of Northern Ireland to democratic self-determination. Irish republicans, however, regarded the state forces as "combatants" in the conflict, alleging collusion between the state forces and the loyalist paramilitaries as proof of this. The "Ballast" investigation by the Police Ombudsman has confirmed that British forces, and in particular the RUC, did collude with loyalist paramilitaries, were involved in murder, and did obstruct the course of justice when such claims had previously been investigated, although the extent to which such collusion occurred is still hotly disputed, with some Unionists claiming that reports of collusion are either false or highly exaggerated. See also the section below on Collusion by Security Forces and loyalist paramilitaries.

As a consequence of the worsening security situation, autonomous regional government for Northern Ireland was suspended in 1972. Alongside the violence, there was a political deadlock between the major political parties in Northern Ireland, including those who condemned violence, over the future status of Northern Ireland and the form of government there should be within Northern Ireland. A plebiscite within Northern Ireland on whether it should remain in the United Kingdom, or form part of a united Ireland, was held in 1973. The vote went heavily in favour (98.9%) of maintaining the status quo with approximately 57.5% of the total electorate voting in support, but only 1% of Catholics voted following a boycott organised by the SDLP.

The Troubles were brought to an uneasy end by a peace process which included the declaration of ceasefires by most paramilitary organisations and the complete decommissioning of their weapons, the reform of the police, and the corresponding withdrawal of army troops from the streets and from sensitive border areas such as South Armagh and Fermanagh, as agreed by the signatories to the Belfast Agreement (commonly known as the "Good Friday Agreement"). This reiterated the long-held British position, which had never before been fully acknowledged by successive Irish governments, that Northern Ireland will remain within the United Kingdom until a majority votes otherwise. Bunreacht na hÉireann, the constitution of the Irish state, was amended in 1999 to remove a claim of the "Irish nation" to sovereignty over the whole of Ireland (in Article 2), a claim qualified by an acknowledgement that Ireland could only exercise legal control over the territory formerly known as the Irish Free State. The new Articles 2 and 3, added to the Constitution to replace the earlier articles, implicitly acknowledge that the status of Northern Ireland, and its relationships within the rest of the United Kingdom and with Ireland, would only be changed with the agreement of a majority of voters in both jurisdictions Ireland (voting separately). This aspect was also central to the Belfast Agreement which was signed in 1998 and ratified by referenda held simultaneously in both Northern Ireland and the Republic. At the same time, the British Government recognised for the first time, as part of the prospective, the so-called "Irish dimension": the principle that the people of the island of Ireland as a whole have the right, without any outside interference, to solve the issues between North and South by mutual consent. The latter statement was key to winning support for the agreement from nationalists and republicans. It also established a devolved power-sharing government within Northern Ireland where the government must consist of both unionist and nationalist parties.

These institutions were suspended by the British Government in 2002 after Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) allegations of spying by people working for Sinn Féin at the Assembly (Stormontgate). The resulting case against the accused Sinn Féin member collapsed.

Politicians elected to the Assembly at the 2003 Assembly Election were called together on 15 May 2006 under the Northern Ireland Act 2006 for the purpose of electing a First Minister of Northern Ireland and a deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland and choosing the members of an Executive (before 25 November 2006) as a preliminary step to the restoration of devolved government in Northern Ireland.

Following the election held on 7 March 2007, devolved government returned to Northern Ireland on 8 May 2007 with DUP leader Ian Paisley and Sinn Féin deputy leader Martin McGuinness taking office as First Minister and Deputy First Minister, respectively.

Northern Ireland has devolved government within the United Kingdom. There is a Northern Ireland Executive together with the 108 member Northern Ireland Assembly to deal with devolved matters with the UK Government and UK Parliament responsible for reserved matters. Elections to the Assembly are by single transferable vote with 6 representatives elected for each of the 18 Westminster constituencies.

Northern Ireland elects 18 MPs to the House of Commons; only 13 take their seats, however, as the 5 Sinn Fein MPs refuse to take the oath to serve the Queen that is required of all MPs. The Northern Ireland Office represents the UK government in Northern Ireland on reserved matters and represents Northern Irish interests within the UK government. The Northern Ireland office is led by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who sits in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom.

Northern Ireland is a distinct legal jurisdiction, separate from England and Wales and Scotland.

The main political divide in Northern Ireland is between Unionists who wish to see Northern Ireland continue as part of the United Kingdom and Nationalists or Republicans who wish to see Northern Ireland join the rest of Ireland, independent from the United Kingdom. These two opposing views are linked to deeper cultural divisions. Unionists are overwhelmingly Protestant, descendants of mainly Scottish, English, Welsh and Huguenot settlers as well as indigenous Irishmen who had converted to one of the Protestant denominations. Nationalists are predominantly Catholic and descend from the population predating the settlement, with a minority from Scottish Highlanders as well as some converts from Protestantism. Discrimination against nationalists under the Stormont government (1921–1972) gave rise to the nationalist civil rights movement in the 1960s. Some Unionists argue that any discrimination was not just because of religious or political bigotry, but also the result of more complex socio-economic, socio-political and geographical factors. Whatever the cause, the existence of discrimination, and the manner in which Nationalist anger at it was handled, was a major contributing factor which led to the long-running conflict known as the Troubles. The political unrest went through its most violent phase between 1968 and 1994.

The population of Northern Ireland was estimated as being 1,759,000 on 10 December 2008. In the 2001 census, 45.6% of the population identified as belonging to Protestant denominations (of which 20.7% Presbyterian, 15.3% Church of Ireland), 40.3% identified as Catholic, 0.3% identified with non-Christian religions and 13.9% identified with no religion. In terms of community background, 53.1% of the Northern Irish population came from a Protestant background, 43.8% came from a Catholic background, 0.4% from non-Christian backgrounds and 2.7% non-religious backgrounds. The population is forecast to pass the 1.8 million mark by 2011.

36% of the present-day population define themselves as Unionist, 24% as Nationalist and 40% define themselves as neither. According to a 2007 opinion poll, 66% express long term preference of the maintenance of Northern Ireland's membership of the United Kingdom (either directly ruled or with devolved government), while 23% express a preference for membership of a united Ireland. This discrepancy can be explained by the overwhelming preference among Protestants to remain a part of the UK (89%), while Catholic preferences are spread across a number of solutions to the constitutional question including remaining a part of the UK (39%), a united Ireland (47%), Northern Ireland becoming an independent state (6%), and those who "don't know" (7%). Official voting figures, which reflect views on the "national question" along with issues of candidate, geography, personal loyalty and historic voting patterns, show 54% of Northern Ireland voters vote for Pro-Unionist parties, 42% vote for Pro-Nationalist parties and 4% vote "other". Opinion polls consistently show that the election results are not necessarily an indication of the electorate's stance regarding the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.

Most of the population of Northern Ireland are at least nominally Christian. The ethno-political loyalties are allied, though not absolutely, to the Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations and these are the labels used to categorise the opposing views. This is, however, becoming increasingly irrelevant as the Irish Question is very complicated. Many voters (regardless of religious affiliation) are attracted to Unionism's conservative policies, while other voters are instead attracted to the traditionally leftist, nationalist Sinn Féin and Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) and their respective party platforms for Democratic Socialism and Social Democracy. For the most part, Protestants feel a strong connection with Great Britain and wish for Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. Catholics generally aspire to a United Ireland, or are less certain about how to solve the constitutional question. In the 2007 survey by Northern Ireland Life and Times, 39% of Northern Irish Catholics supported Northern Ireland remaining a part of the United Kingdom, either by direct rule (4%) or devolved government (35%).

Protestants have a slight majority in Northern Ireland, according to the latest Northern Ireland Census. The make-up of the Northern Ireland Assembly reflects the appeals of the various parties within the population. Of the 108 MLA's, 55 are Unionists and 44 are Nationalists (the remaining nine are classified as "other"). The largest single religious denomination is the Roman Catholic Church, which comprises a plurality, followed by the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, the Church of Ireland (Anglican) and the Methodist Church.

People from Northern Ireland can hold British and/or Irish citizenship.

As a result of the Agreement, the Constitution of Ireland was amended so that people born in Northern Ireland are entitled to be Irish citizens on the same basis as people from any other part of the island of Ireland.

Neither government, however, extends its citizenship to all persons born in Northern Ireland. Both governments exclude some people born in Northern Ireland (e.g. certain persons born in Northern Ireland neither of whose parents is a UK or Irish national).

In general, Protestants in Northern Ireland see themselves primarily as being British, while Roman Catholics regard themselves primarily as being Irish. Several studies and surveys performed between 1971 and 2006 show this.

This does not however, account for the complex identities within Northern Ireland, given that many of the population regard themselves as "Ulster" or "Northern Irish", either primarily, or as a secondary identity. A 1999 survey showed that 51% of Protestants felt "Not at all Irish" and 41% only "weakly Irish" where 77% of Catholics polled said they felt "strongly Irish".

Recently, however, in spite of the religious and traditional conflict of beliefs between unionist and nationalist political parties operating within the NI Assembly, the NI Executive had its first meeting after a staunch 152-day abstention from meeting on Thursday the 20th of November, 2008. This was significant because MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) that were part of the Executive were receiving funding for work that wasn't being carried out, and also, a large political backlog of work was left to be done by the largely inactive Executive.

The current First Minister and deputy First Minister for the NI Executive are Peter Robinson (Democratic Unionist Party) and Martin McGuinness (Sinn Féin). These positions, however, only differ in name and are equally important and authoritative.

Northern Ireland comprises a patchwork of communities whose national loyalties are represented in some areas by flags flown from lamp posts. The Union Flag and the former Northern Ireland Flag are flown in some loyalist areas, and the Tricolour, adopted by republicans as the flag of Ireland in 1848, is flown in some republican areas. Even kerbstones in some areas are painted red-white-blue or green-white-orange (or gold), depending on whether local people express unionist/loyalist or nationalist/republican sympathies.

The only official flag is the Union Flag. The Northern Ireland flag was officially the former Governmental Northern Ireland banner (also known as the "Ulster Banner" or "Red Hand Flag") and was based on the arms of the former Parliament of Northern Ireland, and was used by the Government of Northern Ireland and its agencies between 1953 and 1972. Since 1972, it has no official status. It remains, however used uniquely to represent Northern Ireland in certain sporting events. The arms from which the Ulster Banner derives were themselves based on the flag of Ulster.

The Union Flag and the Ulster Banner are mainly used by Unionists. Nationalists generally eschew symbols which uniquely represent Northern Ireland; some instead use the Tricolour, the Irish National Flag, particularly at sporting events. Many people, however, prefer to avoid flags altogether because of their divisive nature. Paramilitary groups on both sides have also developed their own flags. Some unionists also occasionally use the flags of secular and religious organisations to which they belong.

The Irish Rugby Football Union and the Church of Ireland have used the Flag of St. Patrick. However, it is felt by some to be a loyalist flag, as it was used to represent Ireland when the whole island was part of the UK and is used by some British army regiments. Foreign flags are also found, such as the Palestinian flags in some Nationalist areas and Israeli flags in some Unionist areas, which represent general comparisons made by both sides with conflicts in the wider world. This is also true during matches with Scottish teams. Some will take on the persona of either Israel or Palestinians when playing against Northern Ireland teams.

The United Kingdom national anthem God Save the Queen is often played at state events in Northern Ireland. At some cross-community events, however, the Londonderry Air (also known as Danny Boy) may be played as a neutral substitute.

At the Commonwealth Games, the Northern Ireland team uses the Ulster Banner as its flag and Danny Boy / A Londonderry Air is used as its national anthem. The Northern Ireland football team also uses the Ulster Banner as its flag but uses God Save The Queen as its national anthem. Major Gaelic Athletic Association matches are opened by the Ireland national anthem, Amhrán na bhFiann (The Soldier's Song), which is also used by some other all-Ireland sporting organisations. Since 1995, the Ireland national rugby union team has used a specially commissioned song, Ireland's Call, in place of, or alongside, the Ireland national anthem at international matches.

Northern Irish murals have become well-known features of Northern Ireland, depicting past and present divisions, both also documenting peace and cultural diversity. Almost 2,000 murals have been documented in Northern Ireland since the 1970s (see Conflict Archive on the Internet/Murals).

Northern Ireland was covered by an ice sheet for most of the last ice age and on numerous previous occasions, the legacy of which can be seen in the extensive coverage of drumlins in Counties Fermanagh, Armagh, Antrim and particularly Down. The centrepiece of Northern Ireland's geography is Lough Neagh, at 151 square miles (392 km²) the largest freshwater lake both on the island of Ireland and in the British Isles. A second extensive lake system is centred on Lower and Upper Lough Erne in Fermanagh. The largest island of Northern Ireland is Rathlin, off the Antrim coast. Strangford Lough is the largest inlet in the British Isles, covering 150 km² (58 sq mi).

There are substantial uplands in the Sperrin Mountains (an extension of the Caledonian fold mountains) with extensive gold deposits, granite Mourne Mountains and basalt Antrim Plateau, as well as smaller ranges in South Armagh and along the Fermanagh–Tyrone border. None of the hills are especially high, with Slieve Donard in the dramatic Mournes reaching 849 metres (2,785 ft), Northern Ireland's highest point. Belfast's most prominent peak is Cave Hill. The volcanic activity which created the Antrim Plateau also formed the eerily geometric pillars of the Giant's Causeway on the north Antrim coast. Also in north Antrim are the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge, Mussenden Temple and the Glens of Antrim.

The Lower and Upper River Bann, River Foyle and River Blackwater form extensive fertile lowlands, with excellent arable land also found in North and East Down, although much of the hill country is marginal and suitable largely for animal husbandry.

The valley of the River Lagan is dominated by Belfast, whose metropolitan area includes over a third of the population of Northern Ireland, with heavy urbanisation and industrialisation along the Lagan Valley and both shores of Belfast Lough.

The whole of Northern Ireland has a temperate maritime climate, rather wetter in the west than the east, although cloud cover is persistent across the region. The weather is unpredictable at all times of the year, and although the seasons are distinct, they are considerably less pronounced than in interior Europe or the eastern seaboard of North America. Average daytime maximums in Belfast are 6.5 °C (43.7 °F) in January and 17.5 °C (63.5 °F) in July. The damp climate and extensive deforestation in the 16th and 17th centuries resulted in much of the region being covered in rich green grassland.

Highest maximum temperature: 30.8 °C (87.4 °F) at Knockarevan, near Garrison, County Fermanagh on 30 June 1976 and at Belfast on 12 July 1983.

Lowest minimum temperature: -17.5 °C (0.5 °F) at Magherally, near Banbridge, County Down on 1 January 1979.

These counties are no longer used for local government purposes; instead there are twenty-six districts of Northern Ireland which have different geographical extents, even in the case of those named after the counties from which they derive their name. Fermanagh District Council most closely follows the borders of the county from which it takes its name. Coleraine Borough Council, on the other hand, derives its name from the town of Coleraine in County Londonderry.

Although counties are no longer used for governmental purpose, they remain a popular means of describing where places are. They are officially used while applying for an Irish passport, which requires one to state one's county of birth. The name of county then appears in both Irish and English on the passport's information page, as opposed to the town or city of birth on the United Kingdom passport. The Gaelic Athletic Association still uses the counties as its primary means of organisation and fields representative teams of each GAA county.

Many people inside and outside Northern Ireland use other names for Northern Ireland, depending on their point of view. These are grouped under sectarian headings below, however, most of these phrases are often also used as synonyms for Northern Ireland in non-sectarian contexts.

Notwithstanding the ancient realm of Dál Riata which extended into Scotland, disagreement on names, and the reading of political symbolism into the use or non-use of a word, also attaches itself to some urban centres. The most famous example is whether Northern Ireland's second city should be called "Derry" or "Londonderry".

Choice of language and nomenclature in Northern Ireland often reveals the cultural, ethnic and religious identity of the speaker. The first Deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland, Seamus Mallon, was criticised by unionist politicians for calling the region the "North of Ireland" while Sinn Féin has been criticised in some Irish newspapers for still referring to the "Six Counties".

Those who do not belong to any group but lean towards one side often tend to use the language of that group. Supporters of unionism in the British media (notably the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Express) regularly call Northern Ireland "Ulster". Some nationalist and republican-leaning media outlets in Ireland almost always use "North of Ireland" or the "Six Counties".

Government and cultural organizations in Northern Ireland, particularly those pre-dating the 1980s, often use the word "Ulster" in their title; for example, the University of Ulster, the Ulster Museum, the Ulster American Folk Park, the Ulster Orchestra, and BBC Radio Ulster.

Many news bulletins since the 1990s have opted to avoid all contentious terms and use the official name, Northern Ireland. The North is still used by some news bulletins in the Republic, to the annoyance of some Unionists. Bertie Ahern, the previous Taoiseach, now almost always refers to Northern Ireland in public, having previously only used The North. For Northern Ireland's second largest city, broadcasting outlets which are unaligned to either community and broadcast to both use both names interchangeably, often starting a report with "Londonderry" and then using "Derry" in the rest of the report. However, within Northern Ireland, print media which are aligned to either community (the News Letter is aligned to the unionist community while the Irish News is aligned to the nationalist community) generally use their community's preferred term. British newspapers with unionist leanings, such as the Daily Telegraph, usually use the language of the unionist community. In its style guide, The Guardian recommends using "Derry" and "Co Derry", and "not Londonderry". The media in the Republic use the names preferred by nationalists. Whether this is all an official editorial policy or a personal preference by the writers is unknown.

The division in nomenclature is seen particularly in sports and religions associated with one of the communities. Gaelic games use Derry, for example. Nor is there clear agreement on how to decide on a name. When the nationalist-controlled local council voted to re-name the city "Derry" unionists objected, stating that as it owed its city status to a Royal Charter, only a charter issued by the Queen could change the name. The Queen has not intervened on the matter and thus the council is now called "Derry City Council" while the city is still officially "Londonderry". Nevertheless, the council has printed two sets of stationery - one for each term - and their policy is to reply to correspondence using whichever term the original sender used.

At times of high communal tension, each side regularly complains of the use of the nomenclature associated with the other community by a third party such as a media organisation, claiming such usage indicates evident "bias" against their community.

Northern Ireland's legal and administrative systems have evolved from those in place in pre-partition United Kingdom, and were developed by its devolved government from 1922 until 1972. From 1972 until 1999 (except for brief periods), laws and administration relating to Northern Ireland have been handled directly from Westminster. Between the years 1999 and 2002, and since May 2007, devolution has returned to Northern Ireland.

The Northern Ireland economy is the smallest of the four economies making up the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland has traditionally had an industrial economy, most notably in shipbuilding, rope manufacture and textiles, but most heavy industry has since been replaced by services, primarily the public sector. Tourism also plays a big role in the local economy. More recently the economy has benefited from major investment by many large multi-national corporations into high tech industry. These large organisations are attracted by government subsidies and the skilled workforce in Northern Ireland. Despite the presence of many multi-national corporations, the largest employer in the country is the Government.

Northern Ireland is served by three airports - Belfast International near Antrim, George Best Belfast City in East Belfast, and City of Derry in County Londonderry.

Major sea ports at Larne and Belfast carry passengers and freight between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

The cross-border European Route E01 is a major EU-funded cross-border route that will eventually upgrade the road connecting the ports between Larne in Northern Ireland and Rosslare in the Republic of Ireland.

With its improved international reputation, Northern Ireland has recently witnessed rising numbers of tourists who come to appreciate the country's unique heritage. Attractions include cultural festivals, musical and artistic traditions, countryside and geographical sites of interest, pubs, welcoming hospitality and sports (especially golf and fishing). Since 1987 pubs have been allowed to open on Sundays, despite some limited vocal opposition.

The Ulster Cycle is a large body of prose and verse centring around the traditional heroes of the Ulaid in what is now eastern Ulster. This is one of the four major cycles of Irish Mythology. The cycle centres around the reign of Conchobar mac Nessa, who is said to have been king of Ulster around the time of Christ. He ruled from Emain Macha (now Navan Fort near Armagh), and had a fierce rivalry with queen Medb and king Ailill of Connacht and their ally, Fergus mac Róich, former king of Ulster. The foremost hero of the cycle is Conchobar's nephew Cúchulainn.

The Mid Ulster dialect of English spoken in Northern Ireland shows influence from Scotland, with the use of such Scots words as wee for 'little' and aye for 'yes'. Some jocularly call this dialect phonetically by the name Norn Iron. There are supposedly some minute differences in pronunciation between Protestants and Catholics, the best known of which is the name of the letter h, which Protestants tend to pronounce as "aitch", as in British English, and Catholics tend to pronounce as "haitch", as in Hiberno-English. However, geography is a much more important determinant of dialect than ethnic background. English is spoken as a first language by almost 100% of the Northern Irish population, though under the Good Friday Agreement, Irish and Ulster Scots (one of the dialects of the Scots language), sometimes known as Ullans, have recognition as "part of the cultural wealth of Northern Ireland".

The Irish language is the native language of the whole island of Ireland. It was spoken predominantly throughout what is now Northern Ireland before the settlement of Protestants from Great Britain in the 17th Century. Most placenames throughout Northern Ireland are anglicised versions of their Gaelic originals. These Gaelic placenames include thousands of lanes, roads, townlands, towns, villages and all of its modern cities. Examples include Belfast- derived from Béal Feirste, Shankill- derived from Sean Cill and Lough Neagh- derived from Loch nEathach.

In Northern Ireland the Irish language has long been associated with Irish nationalism. The language was seen as a common heritage and indeed the object of affection by many prominent 19th century Protestant republicans and Protestant unionists. There are three main dialects in the island of Ireland—Ulster, Munster and Connaught. Speakers of each dialect often find others difficult to understand. Speakers in Northern Ireland speak the Ulster dialect.

The early years of the 20th century, the language became a political football throughout Ireland as Republican activists became increasingly linked with it. In the 20th century, the language became in Unionist eyes increasingly polarised for political ends and many in that community would blame Sinn Féin in this regard. After Ireland was partitioned, the language was largely rejected in the education system of the new Northern Ireland. It is argued that the predominant use of the English language may have served to exacerbate the Troubles.

The erection by some Local District Councils of legal bilingual street names (English/Irish), invariably in predominantly Catholic/Nationalist/Republican districts, may be perceived as creating a 'chill factor' by Unionists and as such not conducive to fostering good cross community relationships. However other regions in the United Kingdom, such as Wales and Scotland, enjoy the use of Bilingual signs in Welsh and Scots Gaelic respectively. Because of this, nationalists in Northern Ireland argue for equality in this regard. In responses to the 2001 census in Northern Ireland 10% of the population claimed "some knowledge of Irish", 4.7% to "speak, read, write and understand" Irish. It was not asked as part of the census but in a poll, 1% of respondents said they speak it as their main language at home. Following a public consultation, the decision was taken not to introduce specific legislation for the Irish language at this time, despite 75% of the (self-selecting) respondents stating that they were in favour of such legislation.

Ulster Gaelic/Ulster Irish or Donegal Gaelic/Irish, is the dialect which is nearest to Scots Gaelic. Some words and phrases of the dialect are shared with Scots Gaelic. The dialects of East Ulster - those of Rathlin Island and the Glens of Antrim - were very similar to the Scots Gaelic dialect formerly spoken in Argyll, the part of Scotland nearest to Rathlin Island. The Ulster Gaelic is the most central dialect of Gaelic, both geographically and linguistically, of the once vast Gaelic speaking world, stretching from the south of Ireland to the north of Scotland. At the beginning of the 20th century, Munster Irish was favoured by many revivalists, with a shift to Connaught Irish in the 1960s, which is now the preferred dialect by many in Ireland. Many younger speakers of Irish experience less confusion with dialects due to the expansion of Irish-language broadcasting (TG4) and the exposure to a variety of dialects. There are fewer problems regarding written Irish as there is a standardised spelling and grammar, created by the Irish Government, which was supposed to reflect a compromise between various dialect forms. However, Ulster Irish speakers find that Ulster forms are generally not favoured by the standard.

The dialect is often stigmatised in the non Ulster counties of Ireland, although all learners of Irish in Northern Ireland use this form of the language. Self-instruction courses in Ulster Irish include Now You’re Talking and Tús maith. The writer Séamus Ó Searcaigh RIP, once warned about the Irish Government's attempts at producing a Caighdeán or Standard for the Gaelic language in Ireland in 1953, when he wrote that what will emerge will be "Gaedhilg nach mbéidh suim againn inntí mar nár fhás sí go nádúrtha as an teangaidh a thug Gaedhil go hÉirinn" (A Gaelic which is of no interest to us, for it has not developed naturally from the language brought to Ireland by the Gaels). The Ulster Irish dialect is spoken throughout the area of the historical nine county Ulster, in particular the Gaeltacht region of County Donegal and the Gaeltacht Quarter of West Belfast. Mayo Irish has strong ties with Donegal Irish.

Ulster Scots comprises varieties of the Scots language spoken in Northern Ireland. Aodán Mac Poilín states that "While most argue that Ulster-Scots is a dialect or variant of Scots, some have argued or implied that Ulster-Scots is a separate language from Scots. The case for Ulster-Scots being a distinct language, made at a time when the status of Scots itself was insecure, is so bizarre that it is unlikely to have been a linguistic argument." Approximately 2% of the population claim to speak Ulster Scots, however the number speaking it as their main language in their home is negligible. Classes at colleges can now be taken but for a native English speaker " is comparatively accessible, and even at its most intense can be understood fairly easily with the help of a glossary." The St Andrews Agreement recognises the need to "enhance and develop the Ulster Scots language, heritage and culture".

There are an increasing number of ethnic minorities in Northern Ireland. Chinese and Urdu are spoken by Northern Ireland's Asian communities; though the Chinese community is often referred to as the "third largest" community in Northern Ireland, it is tiny by international standards. Since the accession of new member states to the European Union in 2004, Central and Eastern European languages, particularly Polish, are becoming increasingly common.

The most common sign language in Northern Ireland is British Sign Language (BSL), but as Catholics tended to send their deaf children to schools in Dublin (St Joseph's Institute for Deaf Boys and St. Mary's Institute for Deaf Girls), Irish Sign Language (ISL) is commonly used in the Nationalist community. The two languages are not related: BSL is in the British family (which also includes Auslan), and ISL is in the French family (which also includes American Sign Language).

Education in Northern Ireland differs slightly from systems used elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Unlike most areas of the United Kingdom, in the last year of Primary school, children can sit the eleven plus transfer test, and the results determine whether they attend grammar schools or secondary schools. This system is due to be changed in 2008 amidst some controversy, with the exception of North Armagh where the Dickson Plan is in effect.

Northern Ireland's state (controlled) schools are open to all children in Northern Ireland, although in practice are mainly attended by those from Protestant or non-religious backgrounds. There is a separate publicly funded school system provided for Roman Catholics, although Roman Catholics are free to attend state schools (and some non-Roman Catholics attend Roman Catholic schools). Integrated schools, which attempt to ensure a balance in enrolment between pupils of Protestant, Roman Catholic and other faiths (or none) are becoming increasingly popular, although Northern Ireland still has a primarily de facto religiously segregated education system. In the Primary School Sector, forty schools (8.9% of the total number) are Integrated Schools and thirty two (7.2% of the total number) are Gaelscoileanna.

There are two main universities in Northern Ireland - The Queen's University of Belfast, and the University of Ulster.

To the top



Parliament of Northern Ireland

Ulster banner.svg

The Parliament of Northern Ireland was the home rule legislature of Northern Ireland, created under the Government of Ireland Act 1920, which existed from 22 June 1921 to 30 March 1972, when it was suspended. It was subsequently abolished under the Northern Ireland Constitution Act 1973.

The Parliament of Northern Ireland was bicameral, consisting of a House of Commons with 52 seats, and an indirectly-elected Senate with 26 seats. The Sovereign was represented by the Governor, who granted Royal Assent to Acts of Parliament in Northern Ireland, but executive power rested with the Prime Minister, the leader of the largest party in the House of Commons.

The House of Commons had 52 members, of which 48 were for territorial seats and four were for graduates of Queen's University, Belfast (until 1969, when the four university seats were replaced by an additional 4 territorial seats). The Government of Ireland Act prescribed that elections to the House of Commons should be by single transferable vote (STV), though the Parliament was given power to alter the electoral system from three years after its first meeting. The STV system was the subject of criticism from grassroots Unionists but because the three-year period ended during the Labour government of 1924, the Stormont government decided not to provoke the known egalitarian sympathies of many Labour backbenchers and held the second election on the same basis. The loss of eight Unionist seats in that election caused great acrimony and in 1929 the system was changed to first-past-the-post for all territorial constituencies, though STV was retained for the university seats.

The boundary changes were not made by an impartial boundary commission but by the Unionist government, for which it was accused of gerrymandering. The charges that the Stormont seats (as opposed to local council wards) were gerrymandered against Nationalists is disputed by historians(since the number of Nationalists elected under the two systems barely changed), though it is agreed that losses under the change to single-member constituency boundaries were suffered by independent unionists, the Liberals and the Northern Ireland Labour Party. Population movements were so small that these boundaries were used almost everywhere until the Parliament was dissolved in 1972. In 1968 the government abolished the Queen's University constituency (long after university constituencies had been abolished at Westminster) and created four new constituencies in the outskirts of Belfast where populations had grown. This change helped the Unionists, as they held only two of the University seats but won all four of the newly-created seats. There had, however, long been calls from outside Unionism to abolish the graduate franchise (and other anomalies) and to have "one person one vote".

The Senate was a last-minute addition to the Parliament, after the original plans for a single Senate covering both the Stormont and Dublin Parliaments were overtaken by events.

Twenty-four senators were elected by the House of Commons using the single transferable vote. The elections were carried out after each general election, with 12 members elected for two parliaments each time. The other two seats were held ex officio by the Lord Mayor of Belfast and the Mayor of Derry. The Senate generally had the same party balance as the House of Commons, though abstaining parties and very small parties were not represented. Because of this, and its dependence on the House of Commons for election, it had virtually no political impact.

Initially the Parliament met in Belfast's City Hall but moved immediately to the Presbyterian Church's Assembly's College (later Union Theological College), where it remained during the period 1921-32. The Commons met in the College's Gamble Library and the Senate in the Chapel. In 1932, Parliament moved to the new purpose-built Parliament Buildings, designed by Arnold Thornley, at Stormont, on the eastern outskirts of the city. The city boundaries were extended slightly to include Stormont within the capital city. "Stormont" came to be a nickname referring both to the Parliament itself and to the Northern Ireland government.

The British monarch was meant to have been represented in both Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. However the replacement of Southern Ireland by the Irish Free State led to the abolition of the post of Lord Lieutenant. Instead, a new office - Governor of Northern Ireland - was created on 12 December 1922.

Stormont was given power to legislate over almost all aspects of Northern Ireland life, with only a few matters excluded from its remit: succession to the Crown, making of peace or war, armed forces, honours, naturalisation, some central taxes and postal services were the most important (a full list is in section 4 of the Government of Ireland Act 1920). The Parliament did not try to infringe the terms of the Government of Ireland Act; on only one occasion did the United Kingdom government advise the King to withhold Royal Assent. This was the Local Government Act (Northern Ireland) which abolished proportional representation in local government elections; the issue was referred to London and Royal Assent was eventually given. The output of legislation was high for a devolved Parliament, though some of the Acts were adaptations of recently-passed acts by the United Kingdom parliament. Stormont was an innovator in much of its legislation. It was nominally prohibited by section 16 of the Schedule to the Irish Free State (Agreement) Act 1922 from making any law which directly or indirectly discriminated against a religion, although this provision had little effect.

The 1921 general election was explicitly fought on the issue of partition, being in effect a referendum on approval of the concept of a Northern Ireland administration. Thereafter general election timing was up to the Prime Minister. Elections almost always took place at a time when the issue of partition had been raised in a new crisis. This generally guaranteed the loyalty of Protestant voters to the Unionist Party. Independent Unionist candidates and the Northern Ireland Labour Party were usually accused of being splitters or dupes of the Nationalists.

The 1925 general election was called in order to tie in with the expected report of the Boundary Commission required by the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1922. The Boundary Commission was expected to recommend the transfer of many border areas to the Irish Free State, and the Unionist election slogan was "Not an Inch!". They lost eight seats in Belfast and County Antrim, where the issue of the border had far less resonance. Sinn Féin had fought in 1921 but by 1925 was suffering the effects of its split over the Anglo-Irish Treaty. Éamon de Valera's Sinn Féin fought as Republicans but won only two seats. The border was never changed.

A minor row erupted in 1925 when the elections for the Senate took place. Eleven Unionists and one Labour Senator were elected, despite there being a block of three composed of two non-abstaining Nationalists and a dissident Unionist. The latter three had mailed their votes, but due to a public holiday and the practices of the postal service, they arrived an hour after the election. Requests for a recount were denied. (It is doubtful whether the three votes would have been sufficient to elect a Senator under the election system, since they would not have achieved a complete single transferable vote quota alone and the Unionist votes were likely to transfer so heavily to each other that the Nationalist candidate would not reach quota throughout the rounds of counting.) From later in 1925 to 1927, the Nationalist Party members took their seats for the first time.

With the 1929 general election the Unionists dumped the hated proportional representation system blamed for their bad performance in 1925. The new boundaries set the pattern for politics until Stormont was abolished; the Unionists never fell below 33 seats. The 1938 general election was called when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Neville Chamberlain was negotiating a settlement of outstanding disputes with Éamon de Valera, whose new constitution laid claim to Northern Ireland, and the 1949 election was called when the Irish government declared itself a republic.

During the Second World War, the Stormont government called on Westminster to introduce conscription several times, as this was already the case in Great Britain. The British government consistently refused, remembering how a similar attempt in 1918 had backfired dramatically as nationalist opposition made it unworkable. Much of the population of serving age were either in essential jobs or had already joined up voluntarily, making the potential yield of conscription low.

1965 saw a significant change in that the Nationalists accepted office as the Official Opposition. This was intended as a reward for the attempts made by Terence O'Neill to end discrimination against Roman Catholics and normalise relations with the Republic. However, the Unionists split over O'Neill's tentative reforms at the 1969 general election and Ian Paisley's Protestant Unionist Party began to win by-elections. The new nationalist party, the Social Democratic and Labour Party, withdrew from Stormont in July 1971 over the refusal of an inquiry into Royal Ulster Constabulary actions in Derry.

Stormont was abolished just six weeks after Bloody Sunday when the Unionist government refused to hand over responsibility for law and order to Westminster. In its 50-year history, only one piece of legislation was passed that originated from the Nationalists (concerning wildlife). In October 1971, as the Troubles worsened, Gerard Newe had been appointed as a junior minister at Stormont, in an attempt to improve community relations. Fifty years after it came into existence, Newe was the first Catholic to serve in a Northern Ireland government, but due to the fact that he was neither an MP nor a Senator his appointment could last only six months.

Northern Ireland, Mexico, Liberia and Sweden are alone in the democratic world in having spent more than half the 20th century under one-party rule. The influence of the Orange Order in the governance of Northern Ireland was far-reaching. All of the six prime ministers of Northern Ireland were members of the Order, as were all but three cabinet ministers until 1969. Three of the ministers later left the Order, one because his daughter married a Catholic, one to become Minister of Community Relations in 1970, and the third was expelled for attending a Catholic religious ceremony. Of the 95 Stormont MPs who did not become cabinet ministers, 87 were Orangemen. Every unionist senator, with one exception, between 1921 and 1969 was an Orangeman. One of these senators, James Gyle, was suspended from the Order for seven years for visiting nationalist MP Joe Devlin on his deathbed.

A fully digitised copy of the parliament's debates (187,000 printed pages of Parliamentary Debates) is available online.

To the top



Northern Ireland national football team

Gerry Armstrong, The scorer of Northern Ireland's winning goal over Spain in the 1982 World cup

The Northern Ireland national football team represents Northern Ireland in international football. In such events, the individual countries of the United Kingdom compete separately, but do not participate in the Olympic Games. Before 1921, all of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom and was represented by a single side, the Ireland national football team, of which Northern Ireland is the continuation; The Republic of Ireland is represented by a separate team.

On 18 February 1882, two years after the founding of the Irish FA, Ireland made their international debut against England, losing 13-0 in a friendly played at Bloomfield Park in Belfast. This remains the record win for England and the record defeat for the Northern Ireland team. On 25 February 1882 Ireland played their second international against Wales at the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham and an equaliser from Johnston became Ireland’s first ever goal.

In 1884 Ireland competed in the inaugural British Home Championship and lost all three games. Ireland did not win their first game until 19 February 1887, a 4-1 win over Wales in Belfast. Between their debut and this game, they had a run of 14 defeats and 1 draw, the longest run without a win in the 1800s. Despite the end of this run, heavy defeats continued. On 3 March 1888 they lost 11-0 to Wales and three weeks later on 24 March they lost 10-2 to Scotland. Further heavy defeats came on 15 March 1890 when they lost 9-1 to England, on 18 February 1899 when they lost 13-2 to England and on 2 February 1901 when they lost 11-0 to Scotland.

In 1899 the Irish FA also changed its rules governing the selection of non-resident players. Before then the Ireland team selected its players exclusively from the Irish League, in particular the three Belfast-based clubs Linfield, Cliftonville and Distillery. On 4 March 1899 for the game against Wales, McAteer included four Irish players based in England. The change in policy produced dividends as Ireland won 1-0. Three weeks later, on 25 March one of these four players, Archie Goodall, aged 34 years and 279 days, became the oldest player to score in international football during the 19th century when he scored Ireland’s goal in a 9-1 defeat to Scotland.

In 1920 Ireland was partitioned into Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. In 1922, Southern Ireland gained independence as the Irish Free State, later to become a republic under the name of Ireland. Amid these political upheavals, a rival football association, the Football Association of Ireland, emerged in Dublin in 1921 and organised a separate league and international team. In 1923, at a time when the home nations had withdrawn from FIFA, the FAI was recognised by FIFA as the governing body of the Irish Free State on the condition that it changed its name to the Football Association of the Irish Free State. The Irish FA continued to organise its national team on an all-Ireland basis.

Between 1928 and 1946 the IFA were not affiliated to FIFA and the two Ireland teams co-existed, never competing in the same competition. However on 8 March 1950, in a 0-0 draw with Wales at the Racecourse Ground, Wrexham, the IFA fielded a team that included four players who were born in the Irish Free State. As well as being part of the qualifier for the 1950 FIFA World Cup. All four players had previously played for the FAI in their qualifiers and as a result had played for two different associations in the same FIFA World Cup tournament.

After complaints from the FAI, FIFA intervened and restricted players' eligibility based on the political border. In 1953 FIFA ruled neither team could be referred to as Ireland, decreeing that the FAI team be officially designated as the Republic of Ireland, while the IFA team was to become Northern Ireland. The IFA objected and in 1954 was permitted to continue using the name Ireland, and to select players from throughout the island in the non-FIFA regulated British Home Championship.

After the Good Friday Agreement, players holding either a British or Irish passport, but otherwise eligible for Northern Ireland, could play for the national team Briefly in 2006, a FIFA ruling stated NI players must carry British passports due to difficulties for match commissioners, but it was quickly modified to state that players must merely prove their eligibility to the IFA In 2008, the rules were changed meaning holding a passport did not automatically qualify players as eligible, players eligible for Northern Ireland who wished to declare for the Republic, or vice versa, must have been resident in the target country for two years, or have family ties. Due to the 2008 rule changes, goalkeeper Maik Taylor is said to be unique among Northern Ireland national team players in never having had a background in the country.

Until the 1950s, the major competition for Northern Ireland/Ireland was the British Home Championship. The team had won the competition eight times, taking the title outright on three occasions, they were the last winners of the now defunct competition held in 1984, and hence still are the British champions, and the trophy remains the property of the Irish FA. This is much celebrated by their fans.

Northern Ireland's best World Cup performance was in their first appearance in the competition, the 1958 World Cup, where they reached the quarter-finals after beating Czechoslovakia 2-1 in the play-off. They were knocked out by France, losing 4-0. In the 1958 competition Northern Ireland became the smallest country to have qualified for the World Cup, a record that stood until Trinidad & Tobago qualified for the 2006 World Cup. Northern Ireland remains, however, the smallest country to have qualified for more than one World Cup, and the smallest country to have reached the World Cup quarter-finals.

Northern Ireland also qualified for the 1982 World Cup, again reaching the quarter-finals after topping the first stage group, having beaten Spain, the hosts 1-0. In 1982, Norman Whiteside became the youngest ever player in the World Cup finals, a record that still stands. In the 1986 World Cup, they reached the first round. Billy Bingham, a member of the 1958 squad, was manager for both of these tournaments. They have not qualified for any other World Cups.

The side have yet to participate in their first European Championship finals. This is in despite of the fact that Northern Ireland beat the former West Germany 1-0 home and away in qualifiers for Euro 84. More recently, David Healy broke the record for goals scored in one Euro campaign, previously held by Davor Suker of Croatia, by scoring 13 times in Northern Ireland's brave, but ultimately doomed, attempt to qualify for Euro 2008. Healy scored thrice against Spain, twice against Sweden, 5 times against Liechtenstein, once against Denmark, once against Latvia, and also scored against Iceland. He also became the first player ever to score 2 hat tricks for Northern Ireland.

Lawrie Sanchez was appointed in January 2004 after a run of ten games without a goal under the previous manager Sammy McIlroy, which was a world record for any international team. That run ended after his first game in charge, a 1-4 defeat to Norway in a friendly in February 2004. The run of sixteen games without a win ended after his second game, a 1-0 victory in a friendly over Estonia, with a largely experimental side, in March 2004.

On 7 September 2005 Northern Ireland beat England 1-0 in a 2006 World Cup Qualifier at Windsor Park. David Healy scored the winner in the 73rd minute. Almost a year later, on 6 September 2006, Northern Ireland defeated Spain 3-2 in a qualifier for Euro 2008, with Healy scoring a hat-trick. In the following match, Healy became the only Northern Irish player to score two hat-tricks after scoring all of Northern Ireland's goals in their 3-1 win over Liechenstein. Healy also scored a brace in the 2-1 victory over Sweden in the same qualification group. Healy scored thirteen out of Northern Ireland's fifteen Euro 2008 qualification goals in seven matches, and was the leading goalscorer in the competition.

The team have also won the Home Championship 8 times, including 5 shared.

Northern Ireland are to begin a campaign to qualify for the 2010 World cup; they were seeded in the third pot.

Some of Northern Ireland's fans have been perceived as sectarian by opposing elements in Northern Irish society. Neil Lennon, the former captain, and current coach, of Celtic F.C., was given a death-threat, due to his association with Celtic F.C.. Lennon had been subject to boos and jeers from some supporters while playing for Northern Ireland in Windsor Park.

Steps have been taken to eradicate the sectarian element within the support, and these have proved to be very successful. Lennon has been quick to heap praise on the Northern Ireland fans, and in particular "Football For All" Outstanding Achievement Award Winner Stewart MacAfee, for the work they have carried out to create a more inclusive atmosphere at international games.

Northern Ireland play their home matches at Windsor Park, Belfast, home of Linfield F.C., which they have use of on a one hundred and eight year year lease, giving the owners 15% of revenue, including gate receipts and TV rights..

There was a proposal to build a multisports stadium for Northern Ireland at the disused Maze prison outside Lisburn for the use of Rugby, Gaelic games and football. This plan was given an "in principle" go-ahead by the Irish Football Association. However, it was opposed by fans, over 85% of whom in a match day poll conducted by the Amalgamation of Northern Ireland Supporters' Clubs ("AONISC") preferred to stay at a smaller new or redeveloped ground in the city of Belfast . The AONISC organised a protest against the move to the Maze at the game against Estonia in March 2006.

The issue assumed ever greater urgency by 2007, following a series of inspections which questioned the suitability of Windsor Park to host international football. Following a reduction of capacity due to the closure of the Railway Stand, the IFA made it known that they wished to terminate their contract for the use of the stadium. A report on health and safety in October 2007 indicated that the South Stand might have to be closed for internationals, which would further reduce the stadium's capacity to 9,000. In April 2008, Belfast City Council announced that they had commissioned Drivers Jonas to conduct a feasibility study into the building of a Sports Stadium in Belfast which could accommodate international football, which was followed at the beginning of May 2008 by speculation that the Maze Stadium project was going to be radically revised by Peter Robinson, the Finance and Personnel Minister in the Northern Ireland Assembly, so that any construction might be used for purposes other than football, rugby union and GAA sports. Given the time that is needed to build a new stadium, in the absence of significant work improving Windsor Park, Northern Ireland may be forced to play their home games at a venue outside Northern Ireland for a period. Everton FC's Goodison Park in Liverpool has been touted as a possible alternative.

Since the defeat of England in 2005 there has been an increase of national pride in the team, with demand for tickets outstripping supply. Tongue-in-cheek songs such as "We're not Brazil, we're Northern Ireland" (sung rather ironically to the tune of Battle Hymn of the Republic), 'It's Just Like Watching Brazil' and 'Stand up for the Ulstermen' are popular at home matches.

Northern Ireland's supporters were awarded the Brussels International Supporters Award, for their charity work, general good humour and behaviour and efforts to stamp out sectarianism. Representatives of the Amalgamation of Official Northern Ireland Supporters' Clubs received the award from UEFA and EU representatives prior to the Northern Ireland versus Spain game at Windsor Park in September 2006. The team have various supporters' clubs and the Our Wee Country fans' website.

The following players have also recently been called up to the Northern Ireland squad.

To the top



Source : Wikipedia