CNN Editorial Research
Here is an overview of Northern Ireland. For many years Northern Ireland was divided over 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 1.895 million (June 2020).
According to the 2011 census, the most recent survey available, the population is 49% Protestant and other Christian, 45% Catholic, 6% non-religious, and 1% did not state their religion.
Northern Ireland’s history has been marked by sectarian violence, although in recent years its political parties have worked towards compromise and the two sides now form a power-sharing government.
Between 1968 and 1998, sectarian violence, often referred to as “The Troubles”, claimed more than 3,500 lives.
Marching Season, an annual series of Protestant celebrations, takes place in spring and early summer.
Political groups (selected)
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)
Formed in 1971 by Ian Paisley, a Protestant preacher. Historically, it attracted the support of working-class Protestants.
Social Democratic and Labor Party (SDLP)
The party attracts Catholic support from the middle class and aims to achieve the reunification of Ireland by democratic means.
Defenders of 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 preferred to be an armed force). In 2005, the Provisional IRA announced that its military campaign was over and its weapons would be scrapped.
1920 – The Irish Government Act divides the country into two distinct political units, with Belfast as the northern capital and Dublin as the southern capital.
1949 – The Ireland Act establishes an independent Republic of Ireland in the south. The six counties of Northern Ireland are still part of the United Kingdom.
January 30, 1972 – Thousands of people take part in a civil rights march in Derry. After a riot, the British army fires shots into the crowd, killing 13 people (in addition, an injured person dies four months later). This day is known as Bloody Sunday.
March 1972 – The day after Bloody Sunday, British Prime Minister Ted Heath suspends the Parliament of Northern Ireland, 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 deal called the Sunningdale Accord is approved, but a general strike against the deal causes the deal to fall through.
August 27, 1979 – Eighteen British soldiers are killed in two bombardments. On the same day, Lord Louis Mountbatten, British admiral and cousin of Queen Elizabeth II, died after an IRA bomb exploded on his fishing boat.
May 1981 – Activist and hunger striker Bobby Sands is starving to death in prison. His death sparks riots across Northern Ireland.
November 15, 1985 – Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Garret FitzGerald, the Prime Minister of Ireland, sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement, calling for collaboration between the British and Irish governments on matters relating to politics, security and legal affairs in Northern Ireland North. 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 Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams.
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 inquiry into the event.
April 10, 1998 – The Belfast Agreement, also known as the Good Friday Agreement, is signed, restoring Northern Ireland to self-government and paving the way for the creation of its own power-sharing government with an assembly of 108 members.
August 15, 1998 – IRA militants bomb a market in the town of Omagh. The explosion kills 29 people. At the time, it was the deadliest terrorist attack in the history of the conflict.
December 2, 1999 – Under the Belfast Agreement, Britain relinquishes its dominance over Northern Ireland.
2007 – The British Army is ending its military operation in Northern Ireland, 38 years after sending troops to support police forces amid sectarian violence. At one time, around 27,000 troops 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, overwhelmingly blaming British soldiers.
June 27, 2012 – Martin McGuinness, a former IRA commander, meets Queen Elizabeth and shakes her hand, a gesture that signifies progress as the UK and Northern Ireland continue to mend relations.
June 17-18, 2013 – The G8 summit is held in Northern Ireland.
September 29, 2015 – The Northern Ireland Public Prosecution Service announces that it will not pursue criminal proceedings against Sinn Féin leader Adams and six others suspected of having played a role in the 1972 kidnapping and death of a widow of Belfast. The mother-of-10 was allegedly targeted because she feared spying for the British military.
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 to the Police Service of Northern Ireland.
May 7, 2016 – The Northern Ireland Assembly election takes place. 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 voted to remain tied to the European Union in the Brexit referendum. While voters in Northern Ireland, London and Scotland overwhelmingly choose to stay, large numbers of voters in Wales and the rest of England are choosing to leave. In the end, Leave voters won with a 51.89% majority.
January 2017 – Following the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister Martin McGuinness, the UK government faces a snap election for the power-sharing administration of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
March 2, 2017 – The Northern Ireland Assembly election takes place. The Democratic Unionists won 28 seats while Sinn Féin won 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 shooting 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 protesters James Wray and William McKinney and the attempted murder of four other men. Sixteen other ex-paratroopers and two former official IRA members will face no action.
October 22, 2019 – Northern Ireland’s restrictive abortion and same-sex marriage laws expire. The changes were forced through by lawmakers in Westminster, who had given Northern Ireland a deadline until October 21 to restore its assembly at Stormont or get laws changed directly from London.
January 11, 2020 – Arlene Foster is reinstated as First Minister of Northern Ireland in a power-sharing deal that ended more than three years of political stalemate. The region has been without a legislature since 2017, but Foster – the leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) – is confirmed as prime minister after the two main parties endorsed a new deal proposed by the UK and Irish governments.
January 29, 2021 – The European Commission announces that it could use the clause to impose controls on exports to Northern Ireland – which, unlike mainland Britain, is still part of the single market – to prevent vaccines from leaving Ireland and to enter Great Britain via Northern Ireland. Hours later, Brussels backed down from the threat amid furious protests from the UK and Ireland.
April 28, 2021 – After the majority of her assembly colleagues sign a letter of no confidence, Foster announces that she will step down as leader of the DUP and prime minister.
May 14, 2021 – Edwin Poots was elected leader of the DUP, officially taking power on May 27.
June 17, 2021 – DUP member Paul Givan becomes Northern Ireland’s youngest Prime Minister after being appointed to the post by Poots. Due to infighting within the party over his decision to appoint Givan as prime minister, Poots announces his resignation. Givan later learns that he must step down once Poots’ replacement takes over.
June 22, 2021 – The DUP names Sir Jeffrey Donaldson as its new leader.
May 7, 2022 – Sinn Fein overtook the DUP in voting for the province’s 90-member National Assembly, winning the most seats, 27, and securing the highest share of first-preference votes. As the largest party in the assembly, Sinn Fein will now be allowed to appoint a prime minister for the first time.
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