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Northern Ireland Fast Facts


CNN Editorial Research

Here’s a look at Northern Ireland. For many years, Northern Ireland has been split over the question of whether it should remain part of the United Kingdom or become part of Ireland.

Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. The nation is part of the United Kingdom, along with England, Scotland and Wales.

The population is approximately 1.894 million (June 2019).

According to the 2011 Census, the most recent survey available, the population is 49% Protestant and other Christian, 45% Catholic, 6% are non-religious and 1% did not state their religion.

Other Facts

Northern Ireland’s history has been marked by sectarian violence, although in recent years, its political parties have been working toward compromise and the two sides now make up a power-sharing government.

Between 1968 and 1998, sectarian violence, often called “The Troubles,” left more than 3,500 people dead.

Marching Season, a yearly series of Protestant celebrations, takes place during the spring and early summer.

Political Groups (selected)

The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)
Formed in 1971 by Ian Paisley, a Protestant preacher. Historically, it has attracted support from working-class Protestants.

Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP)
The party attracts middle-class Catholic support and aims to achieve the reunification of Ireland through democratic means.

Sinn Féin
Advocates for a united Ireland free from British rule or a British presence.

Irish Republican Army
Founded in 1919 as a paramilitary group fighting for an independent Ireland. In 1969, the IRA split into the Official IRA and the Provisional IRA (the former rejected violence while the latter favored being an armed force). In 2005, the Provisional IRA announced that its military campaign was over, and its weapons would be scrapped.


1920 – The Government of Ireland Act splits the country into two separate political units, with Belfast as the capital of the north and Dublin as the capital of the south.

1949 – The Ireland Act establishes an independent Republic of Ireland in the south. The six counties of Northern Ireland remain a part of the United Kingdom.

January 30, 1972 – Thousands of people take part in a civil rights march in Derry. After a disturbance, the British Army fires shots into the crowd, killing 13 people (in addition, one injured man dies four months later). This day comes to be known as Bloody Sunday.

March 1972 – In the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, British Prime Minister Ted Heath suspends the Northern Ireland Parliament, imposing Direct Rule from London.

July 21, 1972 – Bloody Friday – The IRA sets off 19 bombs in Belfast, killing nine people.

1973 – A power-sharing arrangement called the Sunningdale Agreement is approved but a general strike in opposition to the agreement causes the deal to fall apart.

August 27, 1979 – Eighteen British soldiers are killed in two bombings. The same day, Lord Louis Mountbatten, a British admiral, and Queen Elizabeth II’s cousin, dies after an IRA bomb explodes on his fishing boat.

May 1981 – Activist and hunger striker Bobby Sands dies of starvation in prison. His death sparks riots across Northern Ireland.

November 15, 1985 – Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Garret FitzGerald, the Irish prime minister, sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement, calling for collaboration between the British and Irish governments on matters related to politics, security and legal affairs in Northern Ireland. The agreement also calls for the promotion of cross-border cooperation.

1988 – The Irish peace process continues with a series of groundbreaking talks between SDLP leader John Hume and Gerry Adams, president of Sinn Féin.

August 1994 – The IRA announces a ceasefire.

January 1998 – Citing new evidence in the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre, Prime Minister Tony Blair announces a new investigation into the event.

April 10, 1998 – The Belfast Agreement, also known as the Good Friday Agreement, is signed, restoring self-government to Northern Ireland, and setting the stage to create their own power-sharing government with a 108-member Assembly.

August 15, 1998 – IRA militants bomb a market in the town of Omagh. The explosion kills 29 people. At the time, it is the single deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the conflict.

December 2, 1999 – Per The Belfast Agreement, Britain relinquishes its rule over Northern Ireland.

2007 – The British Army ends its military operation in Northern Ireland, 38 years after troops were first dispatched to support police forces amid sectarian violence. At one point, approximately 27,000 soldiers were stationed in Northern Ireland.

June 15, 2010 – The results of the Saville Inquiry, a 12-year investigation into the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre are released, placing blame overwhelmingly on the British soldiers.

June 27, 2012 – Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander, meets with Queen Elizabeth and shakes her hands, a gesture that signifies progress as the UK and Northern Ireland continue to repair relations.

June 17-18, 2013 – The G8 summit is held in Northern Ireland.

September 29, 2015 – Northern Ireland’s Public Prosecution Service announces that it will not pursue criminal charges against Sinn Féin leader Adams and six other people who had been suspected of playing a role in the 1972 abduction and death of a Belfast widow. The mother of 10 was reportedly targeted because of fears that she was spying for the British army.

November 10, 2015 – A 66-year-old man is arrested in Northern Ireland in connection with an investigation into the “Bloody Sunday” shooting deaths of 14 people in Derry in 1972, according the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

May 7, 2016 – The Northern Ireland Assembly election is held. The Democratic Unionists win 38 seats while Sinn Féin wins 28 seats in the power-sharing government.

June 23, 2016 – The majority of voters in Northern Ireland cast ballots to remain tied to the European Union in the Brexit referendum. While voters in Northern Ireland, London and Scotland predominantly choose to remain, large numbers of voters in Wales and the rest of England choose to leave. Ultimately the leave voters prevail with a 51.89% majority.

January 2017 – Following the resignation of deputy first minister Martin McGuinness, the British government faces snap elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly power-sharing administration.

March 2, 2017 – The Northern Ireland Assembly election is held. The Democratic Unionists win 28 seats while Sinn Féin wins 27 seats. The size of the Assembly is reduced from 108 members to 90.

March 14, 2019 – Prosecutors announce that a former British soldier will stand trial for firing on civil rights protesters in Northern Ireland on January 30, 1972, an event known as the Bloody Sunday massacre. The army veteran has been charged with the murder of demonstrators James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murders of four other men. Sixteen other ex-paratroopers and two former members of the Official IRA will face no action.

October 22, 2019 – Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion and same-sex marriage laws come to an end. The changes were imposed by lawmakers in Westminster, who had given Northern Ireland a deadline until October 21 to restore its assembly at Stormont or have the laws changed directly from London.

January 11, 2020 – Arlene Foster is restored as Northern Ireland’s first minister as part of a power-sharing deal that ended more than three years of political deadlock. The region has been without a legislative assembly since 2017, but Foster — the head of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) — is confirmed as first minister after the two main parties endorsed a new agreement put forward by the British and Irish governments.

January 29, 2021 The EU Commission announces it could invoke the clause to impose controls on exports to Northern Ireland — which unlike mainland Britain, remains part of the Single Market — to prevent vaccines traveling out of Ireland and into Britain via Northern Ireland. Hours later, Brussels backs down from the threat amid furious protestations from UK and Irish.

April 28, 2021 – After the majority of her colleagues in assembly sign a letter of no confidence, Foster says she will step down as DUP lead and first minister.

May 14, 2021 – Edwin Poots is elected leader of the DUP, officially taking power on May 27.

June 17, 2021 – DUP member Paul Givan becomes Northern Ireland’s youngest first minister after being nominated to the post by Poots. Due to party infighting over his decision to nominate Givan as first minister, Poots announces his resignation. Givan is later told he must resign once Poots’ replacement takes over.

June 22, 2021 – The DUP names Sir Jeffrey Donaldson as its new leader.

Article Topic Follows: CNN - Europe/Mideast/Africa

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