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Facts


Population: 1,875 million(2017)
Area: 14 130 km²
Capital City: Belfast


About Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom in the north-east of the island of Ireland, variously described as a country, province or region. 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{2fe8f91664049b7b6b65c36172398bfdf2c805bb1b1baf56c840e2d1f3c88940} of the island’s total population and about 3{2fe8f91664049b7b6b65c36172398bfdf2c805bb1b1baf56c840e2d1f3c88940} of the UK’s population. Established by the Northern Ireland Act 1998 as part of the Good Friday Agreement, the Northern Ireland Assembly holds responsibility for a range of devolved policy matters, while other areas are reserved for the British government. Northern Ireland co-operates with the Republic of Ireland in some areas, and the Agreement granted the Republic the ability to “put forward views and proposals” with “determined efforts to resolve disagreements between the two governments”.
The country is known for its Norman castles, glacial valleys and mountains, Celtic and Christian monuments, and coastal links golf courses. Capital city Belfast is home to the political murals of the 20th-century ‘Troubles’ conflict, and the Titanic Quarter, showcasing the redeveloped dockyards where the famous ship was built and a contemporary museum, Titanic Belfast.


Currency

As part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland’s currency is the pound sterling (£).
One pound sterling consists of 100 pence.
Notes are £5, £10, £20, £50 and £100.
Coins are 1p, 2p, 5p, 10p, 20p, 50p, £1 and £2.


Climate


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 highest maximum temperature recorded was 30.8 °C (87.4 °F) at Knockarevan, near Garrison, County Fermanagh on 30 June 1976 and at Belfast on 12 July 1983. The lowest minimum temperature recorded was −18.7 °C (−1.7 °F) at Castlederg, County Tyrone on 23 December 2010.


Languages


English is spoken as a first language by almost all of the Northern Ireland population. It is the de facto official language and the Administration of Justice (Language) Act (Ireland) 1737 prohibits the use of languages other than English in legal proceedings.
Under the Good Friday Agreement, Irish and Ulster Scots (an Ulster dialect of the Scots language, sometimes known as Ullans), are recognised as “part of the cultural wealth of Northern Ireland”. Two all-island bodies for the promotion of these were created under the Agreement: Foras na Gaeilge, which promotes the Irish language, and the Ulster Scots Agency, which promotes the Ulster Scots dialect and culture. These operate separately under the aegis of the North/South Language Body, which reports to the North/South Ministerial Council.


Economy


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. Government subsidies account for 20{2fe8f91664049b7b6b65c36172398bfdf2c805bb1b1baf56c840e2d1f3c88940} of the economy’s revenue.
Seventy percent of the economy’s revenue comes from the service sector. Apart from the public sector, another important service sector is tourism, which rose to account for over 1{2fe8f91664049b7b6b65c36172398bfdf2c805bb1b1baf56c840e2d1f3c88940} of the economy’s revenue in 2004. Tourism has been a major growth area since the end of the Troubles. Key tourism attractions include the historic cities of Derry, Belfast and Armagh and the many castles in Northern Ireland. More recently, the economy has benefited from major investment by many large multi-national corporations into high tech industry. These large firms are attracted by government subsidies and the skilled workforce in Northern Ireland.
The local economy has seen contraction during the Great Recession. In response, the Northern Ireland Assembly has sent trade missions abroad. The Executive wishes to gain taxation powers from London, to align Northern Ireland’s corporation tax rate with the unusually low rate of the Republic of Ireland.


Education


Unlike most areas of the United Kingdom, in the last year of primary school, many children sit entrance examinations for grammar 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{2fe8f91664049b7b6b65c36172398bfdf2c805bb1b1baf56c840e2d1f3c88940} of the total number) are integrated schools and thirty-two (7.2{2fe8f91664049b7b6b65c36172398bfdf2c805bb1b1baf56c840e2d1f3c88940} of the total number) are Irish language-medium schools.
The main universities in Northern Ireland are Queen’s University Belfast and Ulster University, and the distance learning Open University which has a regional office in Belfast.


Religion


At the 2011 census, 41.5{2fe8f91664049b7b6b65c36172398bfdf2c805bb1b1baf56c840e2d1f3c88940} of the population identified as Protestant/non-Roman Catholic Christian, the biggest of these denominations being the Presbyterian Church (19{2fe8f91664049b7b6b65c36172398bfdf2c805bb1b1baf56c840e2d1f3c88940}), the Church of Ireland (14{2fe8f91664049b7b6b65c36172398bfdf2c805bb1b1baf56c840e2d1f3c88940}) and the Methodist Church (3{2fe8f91664049b7b6b65c36172398bfdf2c805bb1b1baf56c840e2d1f3c88940}), 41{2fe8f91664049b7b6b65c36172398bfdf2c805bb1b1baf56c840e2d1f3c88940} as Roman Catholic, and 0.8{2fe8f91664049b7b6b65c36172398bfdf2c805bb1b1baf56c840e2d1f3c88940} as non-Christian, while 17{2fe8f91664049b7b6b65c36172398bfdf2c805bb1b1baf56c840e2d1f3c88940} identified with no religion or did not state one. In terms of community background (i.e. religion or religion brought up in), 48{2fe8f91664049b7b6b65c36172398bfdf2c805bb1b1baf56c840e2d1f3c88940} of the population came from a Protestant background, 45{2fe8f91664049b7b6b65c36172398bfdf2c805bb1b1baf56c840e2d1f3c88940} from a Catholic background, 0.9{2fe8f91664049b7b6b65c36172398bfdf2c805bb1b1baf56c840e2d1f3c88940} from non-Christian backgrounds, and 5.6{2fe8f91664049b7b6b65c36172398bfdf2c805bb1b1baf56c840e2d1f3c88940} from non-religious backgrounds.


Culture


Northern Ireland shares both the culture of Ireland and the culture of the United Kingdom. Those of Catholic background tend to identity more with Irish culture, and those of Protestant background more with British culture. This has caused the two communities to become pillarised.
Parades are a prominent feature of Northern Ireland society, more so than in the rest of Ireland or in Britain. Most are held by Protestant fraternities such as the Orange Order, and Ulster loyalist marching bands. Each summer, during the “marching season”, these groups have hundreds of parades, deck streets with British flags, bunting and specially-made arches, and light large towering bonfires. The biggest parades are held on 12 July (The Twelfth). There is often tension when these activities take place near Catholic neighbourhoods, which sometimes leads to violence.
Since the end of the Troubles, Northern Ireland has witnessed rising numbers of tourists. Attractions include cultural festivals, musical and artistic traditions, countryside and geographical sites of interest, public houses, welcoming hospitality and sports (especially golf and fishing). Since 1987 public houses have been allowed to open on Sundays, despite some opposition.
The Ulster Cycle is a large body of prose and verse centring on 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 on the reign of Conchobar mac Nessa, who is said to have been king of Ulster around the 1st century. 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.


Governance


Since 1998, Northern Ireland has had devolved government within the United Kingdom, presided over by the Northern Ireland Assembly and a cross-community government (the Northern Ireland Executive). The UK Government and UK Parliament are responsible for reserved and excepted matters. Reserved matters comprise listed policy areas (such as civil aviation, units of measurement, and human genetics) that Parliament may devolve to the Assembly some time in the future. Excepted matters (such as international relations, taxation and elections) are never expected to be considered for devolution. On all other governmental matters, the Executive together with the 90-member Assembly may legislate for and govern Northern Ireland. Devolution in Northern Ireland is dependent upon participation by members of the Northern Ireland executive in the North/South Ministerial Council, which coordinates areas of co-operation (such as agriculture, education and health) between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Additionally, “in recognition of the Irish Government’s special interest in Northern Ireland”, the Government of Ireland and Government of the United Kingdom co-operate closely on non-devolved matters through the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference.


Elections to the Northern Ireland Assembly are by single transferable vote with five Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) elected from each of 18 parliamentary constituencies. In addition, eighteen representatives (Members of Parliament, MPs) are elected to the lower house of the UK parliament from the same constituencies using the first-past-the-post system. However, not all of those elected take their seats. Sinn Féin MPs, currently seven, refuse to take the oath to serve the Queen that is required before MPs are allowed to take their seats. In addition, the upper house of the UK parliament, the House of Lords, currently has some 25 appointed members from Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland itself forms a single constituency for elections to the European Parliament.
The Northern Ireland Office represents the UK government in Northern Ireland on reserved matters and represents Northern Ireland’s interests within the UK Government. Additionally, the Republic’s government also has the right to “put forward views and proposals” on non-devolved matters in relation to Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Office is led by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, who sits in the Cabinet of the United Kingdom.


Stay Safe


Northern Ireland has changed greatly in the years since the peace agreement was signed in 1998, though its troubles have not entirely ceased. There remains a high incidence of terrorist incidents in Northern Ireland, with the UK Home Office defining the current threat level as ‘severe’ terrorism threat levels. Tourists, however, are not the target of such terrorist incidents and therefore are highly unlikely to be affected. Visitors should be aware that there is a significant risk of disruption caused by incidents of civil unrest during the contentious ‘marching season’ which takes place each year over the summer months. The US State Department advises visitors to Northern Ireland to remain ‘alert’ during their visit and to keep themselves abreast of political developments.
This being said, it should be remembered that most visits to Northern Ireland are trouble free and visitors are unlikely to frequent the areas that are usually affected by violence. Northern Ireland has a significantly lower crime rate than the rest of the United Kingdom, with tourists being less likely to encounter criminality in Belfast than any other UK capital.
In fact, Northern Ireland has one of the lowest crime rates among industrialized countries. According to statistics from the U.N. International Crime Victimisation Survey (ICVS 2004), Northern Ireland has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe (lower than the United States and the rest of the United Kingdom), and even during the Troubles, the murder rate was still lower than in most large American cities (though this does not take into account the vastly lower population figures). In fact, the results of the latest ICVS show that Japan is the only industrialized place safer than Northern Ireland. Almost all visitors experience a trouble-free stay.


Pickpockets and violent crime are rare so you can generally walk around the main streets of Belfast or any other city or town without fear during the day.
When taking tours to nature spots, do be careful as well especially in the Carrick-a-Rede where the cliffs are very deep and come without fences to protect people from falling. Be careful too at the Giant’s Causeway as the rocks may be slippery at times.


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