Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. It is questionable whether Northern Ireland is a country. Some call it a province. Northern Ireland has the Republic of Ireland to the south. The border between Northern Ireland and the Republic is over 130 miles.
The North Atlantic Ocean is adjacent to Northern Ireland. The North Channel separates Northern Ireland from Scotland. The Irish Sea lies to the south. In it one can find the Isle of Man.
Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. This city has a third of Northern Ireland’s 1 800 000 people. The name of the city is derived from Beal Feirste as in Valley of the River Feirste. The second city of Northern Ireland is Derry. Derry is derived from the Irish word ‘doire’ meaning oakwood.
Strictly speaking Armagh is a city too since it contains a cathedral. In point of fact it has two cathedrals.
There are six counties in Northern Ireland. These can be remembered by the mnemonic Fat Lad – Fermanagh, Armagh, Tyrone, Londonderry, Antrim and Down. Many prefer to call the county Derry rather than Londonderry. Therefore some would render the mnemonic Fat Dad.
Lough Neagh is a large lake in the middle of Northern Ireland. Neagh is pronounced ‘nay’. An ancient legend has it that a giant picked up a sod of earth and that created the lake. He flung the earth and it landed in the sea creating the Isle of Man. Lough is pronounced with a guttural for the ‘gh’ like the Scottish ‘loch.’
People have lived here for millennia. Celts came. There were various waves of invasion. The Celts were pagans and followed their own faith. The Gaels were the last Celtic invaders. There were various kingdoms often at war against each other. People were semi-itinerant since the land was not very suitable for tillage.
Ireland was divided into several kingdoms. One of these was Ulster – which is the eastern part of what we now call Northern Ireland. There was also Tyrone – the Land of Owen – the west. There were other realms around such as Breifne. There was a high king in Tara. This title did not belong to a dynasty. People regularly fought for the crown. It was a battle royal.
St Patrick arrived in the 5th century AD. He brought the Christian faith. He founded Armagh Cathedral. Armagh is the religious capital of the whole of Ireland.
In the 9th century AD the Vikings and Danes started to raid. They founded some settlements.
In the 12 century AD Anglo-Normans and Cambro-Normans came over. They settled the eastern part of the land. The capital of the whole of Ireland was Dublin. Ireland was connected to England and Wales politically. The King of England was Lord of Ireland. English and Welsh immigrants introduced the English language to Ireland. However, most people in Ireland spoke Irish. The Gaelic Church was abolished and the Roman Catholic Church was founded.
The hereditary Gaelic rulers continued to rule their tribes. They exercised authority on behalf of the king. This was indirect rule.
In the late 13th century Edward the Bruce led an insurrection against the crown. He styled himself High King of Ireland. However, he was beaten. His brother Robert became King of Scots.
In the 16th century the government abolished the Roman Catholic Church and set up the Church of Ireland. However, the government’s writ did not extend far beyond the east coast. Most people remained Catholics. Around this time Henry VIII followed a policy of surrender and regrant. Native Irish chieftains renounced their chieftainship and in were given heritable titles. The Irish system of inheritance was by the family electing their leader. The system copied form the English was primogeniture – the eldest son inherited even if he was a nincompoop.
In the late 16th century there was a rebellion against the Crown. Hugh O’Neill led a revolt in Ulster. He was finally vanquished in 1607. He fled to Spain.
After The Great O’Neill was put to flight the monarch sent over English, Welsh and Scots settlers. These immigrants were almost exclusively of the Protestant faith. They supplanted Catholics who had rebelled against the government. Ireland was divided into counties at this time.
Some of the livery companies in London invested money in expanding the city of Derry. In gratitude to these companies the immigrants renamed the city Londonderry. Until then Derry had been part of County Coleraine. After this the county was called County Londonderry but many prefer to call it County Derry. The eastern half of Ulster was then mainly populated by Scots and English immigrants. The people who had been living there already were Catholics almost to a man and mainly Irish speaking.
In the 1640s there was the English Civil War. This spilt over into Ireland. Most Catholics backed Charles I. Catholics were the majority. Most Protestants supported the English Parliament. In 1641 Catholics in Ulster attacked the Protestant immigrants and Portadown and slew many.
In 1649 the English Civil War ended. Cromwell became Lord Protector of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. He crossed the sea. In Ireland there were many Royalists – enemies of Cromwell. Oliver Cromwell bested the Royalists. At the Siege of Drogheda his soldiers killed hundreds of civilians. They were English Catholics.
Cromwell could not pay his New Model Army. He therefore confiscated land from Royalists. In Ireland most people had been Royalists. Land was forfeit and granted to Parliamentarian soldiers from England. Henry Cromwell – Oliver Cromwell’s son – became Lord Deputy of Ireland – ruling the country on Oliver Cromwell’s behalf.
Cromwell was very anti-Catholic. The Irish Parliament was elected. Only rich landowners could vote. These people were mostly Protestants of recent immigrant descent. They passed discriminatory laws against the Catholics.
In 1688 a Catholic became king. He was James II. In Derry the Protestant community refused to accept James II soldiers. Thirteen apprentice boys slammed the gates of the city as James II’s men approached. A siege began. This lasted for months and many people starved to death. James II’s supporters were called Jacobites – as in Jacobus is James in Latin. James II men built a boom across the River Foyle to prevent ships bringing supplies or reinforcements to the city.
Finally a ship called Mountjoy broke the boom and relieved the city. James II’s men retreated.
In November 1688 William of Orange landed in England. William was the Stadholder of the Netherlands. He was the nephew of James II and also his son-in-law. William of Orange was a Protestant. He had been invited by the Immortal Seven – leading Whig and Tory politicians and a bishop.
James II fled as William advanced. The English Parliament said that James II had abdicated the throne. They proclaimed William to be king and his wife Mary to be queen as joint sovereigns. William of Orange was now William III. King James II went to Ireland where was a Catholic he was assured of fervent support.
William III went to Ireland. He landed in the north and marched south. James II decided to stop his enemy’s advance at the River Boyne. A battle took place there on 1 July 1690. William III won despite having a heart attack. James II retreated. He was called ‘James the shit’ by his men whom he had abandoned. He then took ship for France.
Protestant mastery in Ireland was assured. However, the Protestants of the north were not so sure that Great Britain would always back them up.
The Church of Ireland was the state religion. This comprised no more than 20% of the population. There were other Protestants such as Presbyterians. They were discriminated against but not so severely as the Catholic majority. In Ulster Protestants were in a majority. In the 18th century French Protestants arrived. They set up the linen trade.
Most people were farmers. Some landlords were exploitative. There was Ulster custom whereby tenants had some security of tenure.
There was agrarian terrorism. People attacked unpopular landlords. Clandestine organisations existed such as whiteboys and Defenders. Sometimes they were sectarian.
Many people emigrated from the north of Ireland. They sailed from Derry to America. In 1788 Derry commemorated the siege and there were good communal relations.
In the 1780s the Irish Volunteers were formed. This was due to the war against France. They were to defend the realm in case the French invaded. The Volunteers also demanded legislative independence for Ireland. They got it.
In the 1790s there was another war against France. Revolutionary nostra became popular. The United Irishmen was formed in 1793. They started a revolt in 1798. This jacquerie devolved into a sectarian bloodbath.
In 1801 the Act of Union became law. The Protestant majority in the north-eastern six counties of Ireland came to be pro-Union. The Industrial Revolution spread to this portion of Ireland.
In the 1830s Daniel O’Connell led the Repeal Association. He was a Catholic from the South and he wanted the Act of Union to be terminated. Unionists mobilized to oppose this. In the end O’Connell’s campaign did not bear fruit.
The famine struck in the 1840s many people died. Catholic emigration continued. More Catholics moved to Derry in particular.
In 1867 there was an attempted uprising by the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB). They called themselves the Fenians. Fenian became an opprobrious term for a Catholic. Sectarian divisions deepened.
In the 1880s the Home Rule Party was the main nationalist party. Parnell led it. In east Ulster unionists said that if Home Rule were passed their portion of Ireland should be excluded from the provisions of such a bill. They hoped to scupper Home Rule for the whole of Hibernia. In the end the Home Rule bill was defeated in the House of Commons.
Nationalists and particularly republicans began to oppose loyalist parades. There was regular rioting around the marching season – July.
The Liberal Party had been significant in the north of Ireland until that time. In 1886 most Liberals in Ireland became Liberal Unionists. They allied with the Conservative Party. Over the next 30 years they gradually merged with the Conservatives.
North-east Ireland was divided between nationalists who wanted Home Rule and unionists who did not. In 1893 there was another Home Rule Bill. People founded Young Ulster. This was a paramilitary organization dedicated to fighting any bid to impose Home Rule on Ulster. In the end the bill was beaten in the House of Lords.
Belfast gained city status in the late 19th century. It was a centre of ship building. It was very industrialised. The city was bigger than Dublin.
A Home Rule bill was introduced in Parliament in 1912. In 1913 the Ulster Volunteer Force was founded to stop it. They imported guns from Germany. The Irish Volunteers were formed that year to defend the liberties of all the people of Ireland.
In 1914 the First World War broke out. Many men volunteered for the British military.
In 1916 the Irish Volunteers staged a rising in Dublin. They were thrashed and became known as the Irish Republican Army (IRA). A desultory irregular conflict followed.
Sectarian violence flared in the north of Ireland. A Government of Ireland Act was passed in 1920. A separate Home Rule Parliament was founded for Northern Ireland. It met in July 1921. The rest of Ireland left the UK in December 1921.
In the 1920s Northern Ireland struggled with unemployment and sectarianism. The Catholic minority faced unofficial discrimination.
The Parliament of Northern Ireland was housed in Stormont. This was completed in 1930. The Unionist Party won elections.
American troops arrived in Ulster in the Second World War. In the 1950s there was some IRA violence. In the 1960s nationalist politicians and other radicals campaigned for an end to discrimination. Loyalist thugs attacked them. The IRA weighed in. In 1969 an irregular conflict erupted. It sputtered on until the late 1990s.
The highest mountain in Northern Ireland is Slieve Donard in COunty Down. The capital is Belfast. The River Lagan is the longest river. There are lots of lakes in Fermanagh. The largest is Lough Erne.
A Londonderry Air was considered Northern Ireland’s song. Some consider it to be the Star of the County Down. At football matches God Save the Queen is sung.
The Flag of Northern Ireland has a white field. There is a red Cross of St George. There is a red hand in the centre on a white six pointed star. The hand is covered by a crown. The points of the star denote the six counties.
Bushmills whiskey is produced here. Note that Irish whiskey has an e in it. Scotch whisky does not.
There is an Ulster fry. This cooked breakfast includes wheatie bread.
Northern Ireland has a devolved administration within the UK. The First Minister is Arlene Foster.
English is the official language. Some people speak a dialect called Ulster Scots. There are some people who can speak Irish.
Derry is the second largest city. It is the main city in the west.
Football is very popular in Northern Ireland. Rugby is played there too. There are also many golf courses.
The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) is also prominent in Northern Ireland.
- Which island is Northern Ireland on?
- What was the original language here?
- When did the English arrive?
- What is the religious capital?
- How many counties are there in Northern Ireland?
- What are the two mnemonics for the counties?
- What is the alternative name for Derry?
- What does Tyrone mean?
- Which ocean is Northern Ireland beside?
- Which area of the sea separates this land from Great Britain?
- Who led a revolt here in the 13th century?
- What happened to Hugh O’Neill?
- Which side did most people in Ireland take in the English Civil Wars?
- Which English ruler defeated the Irish Royalists?
- When did the Siege of Derry begin?
- Who won the Battle of the Boyne?
- Which Catholic king was defeated in 1690?
- When was the Act of Union enacted?
- Which organization started a revolt in 1798?
- Who was Daniel O’Connell?
- What is the northern province of Ireland called?
- What is the capital city of Northern Ireland?
- What is the largest lake?
- Which river bisects Derry?
- What are the two main songs of Northern Ireland?
- When was the Parliament of Northern Ireland set up?
- Who were Liberal Unionists?
- What year was the first Home Rule bill?
- What problems did Northern Ireland face in the 1920s?
- Which foreign troops came here in the 1940s?
- Draw the flag of Northern Ireland?
- WHat is the highest mountain here?
- What is the second city?
- What is the longest river?
- When did the recent conflict break out?
- Who is First Minister?