Northern Ireland (known also as Ulster) occupies the northern fifth of Ireland. It is a part of Great Britain. The boundary was established in 1921. It is 412 kilometres long and cuts through many farms, houses, settlements and about 180 roads. Its origins go back to the 17th century. At that time much of Ireland was controlled from Britain, and during the century many Scottish farming families were settled in the northern part of Ireland known as Ulster. They were protestant by religion and so had a different religious and cultural background to the Catholic Irish. Catholics were not allowed to build churches, to vote, to hold public office or to own land ("Penal Laws"). Quite understandably the Irish people hated being ruled from London, and finally fighting broke out between them and the British. As a result of the rebellion the Irish people gained their independence and formed their own state with its government in Dublin. As the Protestants in the North did not want to become a minority in a Catholic country, it was agreed between the British and the Irish Governments that the Island would be divided.
Today there are serious social, political, and religious problems. The Catholics want a united Ireland: the Protestants, holding the best jobs and the most important political positions want to keep up the union with Great Britain. The fighting of radical organizations on both sides, especially of the IRA (Irish Republican Army), has led to terrorism and terrible bloodshed.
Geography & Environment
Northern Ireland is made up of the six northern counties of the island of Ireland, following political partition in the 1920s. The landscape is generally low rolling hill country with lakes, some forested areas and the Sperrin and Mourne mountain ranges. County Down is famous for its rounded 'Drumlin' hills and Strangford Lough, a picturesque sea Lough with numerous tiny islets. The Glens of Antrim and the Antrim coastline (north east) are areas of outstanding natural beauty, with high sea cliffs, dramatic views, secluded valleys. The Mourne mountains (south) offer wilderness grandeur. Lough Neagh is one of Europe's largest lakes and the centre of a thriving eel fishery since the Middle Ages. The Lough is linked to the River Shannon in the Republic of Ireland by a recently restored canal now used by pleasure craft. The Province's indented coastline has many bays providing good anchorages for yachts.
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