Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in the north-east of the island of Ireland. It is variously described as a country, province, or region of the United Kingdom, amongst other terms. Northern Ireland shares a border to the south and west with the Republic of Ireland. In 2011, its population was 1,810,863, constituting about 30% of the island’s total population and about 3% of the UK’s population. 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 Republic of Ireland on some policy areas, while other areas are reserved for the British Government, though the Republic of Ireland “may put forward views and proposals” with “determined efforts to resolve disagreements between [the two governments]”
Northern Ireland was created in 1921, when Ireland was partitioned between Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland by an act of the British parliament. Unlike Southern Ireland, which would become the Irish Free State in 1922, the majority of Northern Ireland’s population were unionists or loyalists, who wanted to remain within the United Kingdom. Most of these were the Protestant descendants of colonists from Great Britain; however, a significant minority, mostly Catholics, were nationalists or republicans who wanted a united Ireland independent of British rule. Today, the former generally see themselves as British and the latter generally see themselves as Irish; some people from both communities describe themselves as Northern Irish.Historically, Northern Ireland was marked by discrimination and hostility between these two communities in what Nobel Peace Prize-winner David Trimble called a “cold house” for Catholics. In the late 1960s, conflict between the two communities, and involving state forces, erupted into three decades of violence known as the Troubles, which claimed over 3,000 lives and caused over 50,000 casualties. The Good Friday Agreement in 1998 was a major step in the peace process although sectarianism and religious segregation still remain major social problems.
Northern Ireland has historically been the most industrialised region of the island. After declining as a result of the political and social turmoil of the Troubles,its economy has grown significantly since the late 1990s. This is partly due to a “peace dividend” and partly due to links and increased trade with the Republic of Ireland, easier freedom of movement due to the ending of British Army security checkpoints and a sharp decrease in security alerts. This has resulted in a significant increase in tourism, investment and business from around the world. Unemployment in Northern Ireland peaked at 17.2% in 1986, dropping to 6.1% for June–August 2014 and down by 1.2 percentage points over the year, similar to the UK figure of 6.2%. 58.2% of those unemployed had been unemployed for over a year.
Prominent artists and sports persons from Northern Ireland include Van Morrison, Rory McIlroy, Joey Dunlop and George Best. Some from that part of the island prefer to identify as Irish (e.g., poet Seamus Heaney and actor 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.