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NORTHERN IRELAND



The territory now known as Northern Ireland (Tuaisceart Eireann in Irish), was historically known as Ulster, one of the four historic provinces of Ireland.
When the southern 26 counties of southern Ireland left the union in 1921, the northern six countries-mostly populated by Protestants-opted to remain a part of the United Kingdom.
The six original counties (Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Tyrone, and Derry) have today been replaced by 26 District Council Areas (equivalent to unitary authorities in England and Wales).
Belfast, population 274,000, is the capital and major city.
Other cities include Derry, Armagh, Newry and Lisburn.
Northern Ireland occupies about one-sixth of the area of the island of Ireland, covering 5,399 square mi (13,843 square km) and sharing the UK's only land boundary with another member of the EU.
Its 1.7 million people speak mostly English but also maintain a tradition of speaking the local dialects of Irish Gaelic and Ulster Scots (a dialect of English brought over by Scottish settlers in the 17th century).
Belfast has a large Chinese immigrant population, making Chinese the second-largest language group after English.
Most of the population is divided religiously and politically between a Protestant majority who are mostly Unionist (favoring continued membership in the United Kingdom) and a Catholic minority who are mostly (but not entirely) nationalist (favoring union with the Republic of Ireland).
Tensions emerging from this divide became violent between the 1960s and 1990s, the period known as "The Troubles," and although quieter in the mid-2000s, the conflict has yet to be fully resolved.
The landscape of Northern Ireland consists mostly of low hills.
There are two areas of low mountains: the Mournes, from South Down to Strangford Lough in the east, and the Sperrins in the northwest.
The Mournes are granite massifs, with deposits of gold, and include the highest point in Northern Ireland (Slieve Donard, 2,798 ft or 848 m).
The northeast, in Antrim, is also significantly hillier, the result of ancient volcanism that has left behind one of the most interesting geologic features in the United Kingdom, the Giant's Causeway.
These geometric pillars face the North Channel, which separates Ireland from Scotland at the nearest point by only 13 mi (21 km).
Much of the center and western part of Northern Ireland are lowlands, much of this occupied by several large lakes, including the largest lake in the UK, Lough Neagh (153 square mi or 396 square km), and the long series of lakes, Upper and Lower Lough Erne, the waters of which ultimately flow out into the Atlantic through County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland.
The rivers Bann and Blackwater feed Lough Neagh, but only the Bann flows out the other side.
Other important rivers include the Foyle on the northwest border and the Lagan, which flows through Belfast into the Belfast Lough.
Northern Ireland had its own parliament from 1921 to 1973, when it was suspended because of The Troubles.
The struggles began as Catholic minority protests against discrimination in housing and jobs and representation in government.
Much of the violence was led by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and its political wing, Sinn Fein.
The death toll since 1969 has surpassed 3,600.
In April 1998, the Good Friday Agreement was signed, which created a new Northern Ireland Assembly and called for formal cooperation between the governing institutions of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The assembly was created in 1999, but its history has been rocky, and direct rule from London was instituted once again in October 2002.
New elections were held in November 2003, but the assembly remained suspended.

NORTHERN IRELAND Images


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