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Northern Ireland consists of six counties: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Tyrone and Londonderry. These form two-thirds of the historical province of Ulster - three other majority-Catholic counties were retained by the republic: Cavan, Monaghan and Donegal. From a Unionist perspective, the term "Ulster" suggests a greater level of distinctiveness from the Republic of Ireland than the term "Northern Ireland". The protestant or unionist collective term Ulster, is deliberately provocative to nationalists. Returning the favor, catholics say they are from 'Derry' - droping 'london' in order to disassociate themselves with the United Kingom. Republicans also don't like the name Northern Ireland, preferring instead the North of Ireland (implying Ireland is still one entity) or sometimes even 'the Six Counties'.

On 01 February 2020, the United Kingdom is no longer part of the EU. Hardcore Brexiteers celebrated noisily in London and other places, but small groups gathered at the border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic for mutual consolation. One phrase that was persistently mentioned by many revealed a side-effect London did not count on: an increased call for Irish reunification.

Ive been born and reared along the border, said Declan Fearon, a man in his late sixties, and chairperson of the lobby group Border Communities Against Brexit (BCAB). I lived through all the excesses of the Troubles that came about because of how the border divided the community here. I know what it has been like. And Im here to ensure that this legacy is never left to my grandchildren, he added.

Under the revised Ireland Protocol of the Withdrawal Agreement, that was published by the European Commission on 17 October, 2019, articles seem to indicate a border between the EU and the UK will be positioned north of Northern Ireland, eliminating fears for a hard border on the island.

Almost 20 years after from the Good Friday peace agreement, Northern Irish politics is still dominated by nationalism and unionism. Moderate parties rarely fare well. Under the terms of a 1998 peace accord which brought stability to the region the two parties - Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Fein - must share power. The devolved government at Stormont collapsed after a financial scandal boiled over into wider disputes between the pro-British DUP and republican party Sinn Fein. Since Sinn Fein pulled out of the executive in January 2017 the territory has been managed by its civil service, without ministerial direction. An election will be called if the executive was not reformed by 13 January 2020 as legislation allowing the civil service to run the region will expire.

Negotiations to revive Stormont snagged on disagreements over the provision for Irish language in the province and a controversial mechanism which gave minority movements the power to veto legislation. A draft deal was released 09 January 2020 jointly by British secretary of state for Northern Ireland Julian Smith and Ireland's foreign minister Simon Coveney, reflecting the Republic's role as co-guarantor of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement which ended the region's 30-year conflict known as "The Troubles".

Northern Ireland's government reopened for the first time in three years on 10 January 2020 after rival parties rallied around a new power-sharing deal aimed at helping the province face the challenges of Brexit. The new deal, entitled New Decade New Approach, was published by the Irish Deputy Prime Minister Simon Coveney and by the Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith on January 9. On January 10, politicians gathered in the parliamentary buildings in Stormont, Belfast, to choose a new Executive. Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), was appointed as first minister and Republican Sinn Feins Michelle ONeill will serve as her deputy.

Sinn Fein, the Irish nationalist party, fell just short of becoming the largest party in March 04, 2017 elections for the Northern Ireland Assembly. The Democratic Unionist Party led with 28 seats, just one more than Sinn Feins total. The Democratic Unionists were narrowly on top with 28.1 percent, down 1 point from the last election 10 months ago. Sinn Fein trailed with 27.9 percent, up 4 points, the narrowest sectarian gap in Northern Ireland electoral history. At stake in the outcome from the snap election was the revival or demise of power-sharing between Irish Catholics and British Protestants, the central objective of the US-brokered Good Friday peace accord nearly two decades ago.

The DUP topped the polls in the May 2016 devolved election, winning 38 seats. Sinn Fein, the former party of the Irish Republican Army, finished second. The two parties - sworn enemies throughout the Troubles - have controlled the power-sharing government for almost a decade. Nearly 56 percent of people in Northern Ireland voted in the June 2016 referendum for Britain to remain in the European Union. But the government in Belfast was split: Sinn Fein advocated remaining; the DUP spent almost half a million pounds backing the Leave campaign.

In Northern Ireland winter is the season for political crises. True to form, on 10 January 2017, Martin McGuinness, from the Irish republican party Sinn Fein, resigned as deputy first minister, triggering fresh elections. His resignation automatically removed Arlene Foster, the leader of the pro-British Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), as the First Minister cannot hold the position without a co-equal Deputy First Minister. Sinn Fein, once the political arm of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), has governed with the rival DUP for 10 years under power-sharing arrangements that put an end to three decades of sectarian violence.

Many feared that Northern Ireland will have no government in place at arguably the most important moment in its modern history: Brexit. This year's crisis could prove to be the most serious since the Good Friday peace agreement was signed in 1998. Unusually the current difficulties have nothing to do with flags, parades or the legacy of the 30-year-long Troubles that cost more than 3,000 lives. At the core are fundamental questions about whether nationalists and unionists can work together in a devolved government.

The Assembly elections - the second in 10 months - took place on 02 March 2017. The Democratic Unionist Party won Northern Ireland's parliamentary elections, edging ahead of Sinn Fein by a single seat. At 65 percent, voters turned out in their highest numbers in the vote, the UK's first regional election since last summer's Brexit referendum. Unionist candidates, Protestants' preferred choice, captured less than half the seats for the first time. The DUP won 28 of the 90 seats, but the surging Sinn Fein almost wiped out the 10-seat advantage that the unionists had secured in elections a year ago. The result means pro-British unionist parties will no longer command a majority leadership for the first time since the province was created in 1921. The parties had three weeks to form a government to avoid Northern Ireland's devolved power returning to the UK Parliament at Westminster for the first time in a decade.

Northern Ireland polled more europhilic than other other region in the UK before the 23 June 2016 Brexit referendum. With the results in, its Remain vote of 55.7 per cent was the third strongest in the country. There were already calls for independence in response to the nation being taken out of the EU against its will. Irish nationalist leaders in Northern Ireland also called for a poll on leaving the United Kingdom and uniting with Ireland. Declan Kearney, Sinn Fein's national chairman, delivered a strongly-worded statement after the referendum in which he stated English voters had "dragged Northern Ireland out of the EU". "English votes have overturned the democratic will of Northern Ireland." The party will now press for the calling of a border poll under the under the provisions of the Good Friday Agreement, he said.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny had warned throughout the campaign that there could be a return of border controls but Northern Secretary Theresa Villiers, who campaigned for a 'Leave' vote, denied this. The future of the Common Travel Area (CTA) was in question in light of the UK referendum. Ireland had a common travel area with Britain since the foundation of the State. In practice, Irish citizens are treated the same as the British for issues like social welfare, work and pensions.

Taoiseach [Prime Minister] Enda Kenny has warned that Common membership of the EU project is part of the glue holding the peace process together. Intelligence sharing between Belfast and Dublin and cross-border policing would be disrupted by Brexit, he fears. An exit from the EU could well see a dangerous revival of angry Catholic nationalist sentiment leading to a resurgence of terrorism and conflict, warn analysts.

Prominent Northern Ireland businessman Len OHagan warned leaving the EU would prompt a terrible mess on the island of Ireland requiring, new legislation for UK citizens living and working in the Republic of Ireland. New legislation for people from the Republic living and working in the north. New legislation to cover a huge raft of laws covering everything from mobile roaming charges to working time directives and agreements with the Republic on electricity, security and a raft of other key partnerships.

Northern Ireland would lose economically more from leaving the EU than any other part of the UK. Sixty-one percent of goods exported form Northern Ireland go to the EU. And 87 percent of farm income in mostly rural Northern Ireland comes from EU subsidies. Aside from the economic arguments, an exit from the EU risks undermining the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland that ended decades-long civil conflict between pro-British Unionist Protestants and nationalist Catholics. EU funds have helped fund the peace.

Northern Ireland voted to remain in the European Union, and many fear that the UK's exit could pose significant economic and political problems, especially around the circuitous 300-mile border long border with the Irish Republic. Irish EU Commissioner Phil Hogan has called for the whole island of Ireland to be treated as a single unit by the European Union. This would ensure the freedom of goods and people on the island and avoid a border for customs or immigration. But Foster - whose party backed Leave - has rejected calls for an all-Ireland forum on Brexit and played down fears of post-Brexit problems. Critics have accused the DUP leader of failing to appreciate the potential risks faced by Northern Ireland.

The rift between the coalition partners seems so deep that even fresh elections are unlikely to solve the problem. With the number of seats in the assembly decreasing from 108 to 90, (a move that has been on the agenda for some time in an effort to reduce the strain on public finances) and smaller parties hoping to take advantage of widespread discontent with the status quo in Belfast, the election campaign could be a bitter one with little sign of how a government can be formed at the end of it.

Ireland wants a provision in the Brexit deal allowing Northern Ireland to rejoin the European Union if it ever unites with Ireland, Prime Minister Enda Kenny said in a joint press conference with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker on 23 February 2017. The provision would echo language in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that allows Northern Ireland to join Ireland if a majority of people from both countries support it. "If at some future time, whenever that might be, that it [reunification] were to occur that Northern Ireland would have ease of access to join as a member of the European Union we want that language to be inserted into the negotiated treaty, the negotiated outcome," Kenny stated.

Kenny said a hard border would be against Irelands national interests, and pledged that the government would fight any attempt to recreate one. The European Union does not want a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland following Brexit, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said. "We don't want to have hard borders between Northern Ireland and the Republic. We want the Good Friday agreement not being put under risks and we want land borders being as open as possible," Juncker told reporters after the meeting with Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny.


The Christianity which had been a vital force in the eighth century had died into asceticism and superstition in the twelfth. Its head, the Coarb, or Archbishop of Armagh, sank into the hereditary chieftain of a clan. Hardly a trace of any central authority remained to knit the tribes into a single nation, though the King of Ulster claimed supremacy over his fellow-kings of Munster, Leinster, and Connaught; and even within these minor kingships the regal authority was little more than a name. The one living thing in the social and political chaos was the sept, or tribe, or clan, whose institutions remained those of the earliest stage of human civilization.

At the time of Henry the Second's accession in 1154, Ireland was full of Englishmen, who had been kidnaped and sold into slavery, in spite of royal prohibitions and the spiritual menaces of the English Church. The slave-trade afforded a legitimate pretext for war, had a pretext been needed by the ambition of Henry the Second; and within a few months of that king's coronation John of Salisbury was dispatched to obtain the Papal sanction for his invasion of the island. The enterprise, as it was laid before Pope Hadrian IV., took the color of a crusade. The isolation of Ireland from the general body of Christendom, the absence of learning and civilization, the scandalous vices of its people, were alleged as the grounds of Henry's action. It was the general belief at the time that all islands fell under the jurisdiction of the Papal See, and it was as a possession of the Roman Church that Henry sought Hadrian's permission to enter Ireland.

Hadrian by his bull approved the enterprise as one prompted by "the ardor of faith and love of religion," and declared his will that the people of Ireland should receive Henry with all honor, and revere him as their lord. The Papal bull was produced in a great council of the English baronage, but the opposition was strong enough to force on Henry a temporary abandonment of his schemes, and his energies were diverted for the moment to plans of continental aggrandizement.

Nothing but the feuds and weakness of the Irish tribes enabled the adventurers to hold the districts of Drogheda, Dublin, Wexford, Waterford, and Cork, which formed what was known as the "English Pale." Had the Irish driven their invaders into the sea, or the English succeeded in the complete conquest of Ireland, the misery of its after-history might have been avoided. All lawlessness, the ferocity, the narrowness of feudalism, broke out unchecked in the horde of adventurers who held the land by their sword. With the renewal of the French wars, and the outburst of the Wars of the Roses, Ireland was again left to itself. The policy of Henry the Seventh threw power without stint into the hands of the nobles of the Pale.

Henry VIII had resolved to take Ireland seriously in hand, and he had Cromwell to execute his will. Skeffington, the new Lord Deputy, brought with him a train of artillery, which worked a startling change in the political aspect of the island. The castles which had hitherto sheltered rebellion were battered into ruins. Not only were the Englishmen of the Pale at Henry's feet, but the kerns of Wicklow and Wexford sent in their submission; and for the first time in men's memory an English army appeared in Munster and reduced the South to obedience.

The one mode of civilizing Ireland and redresssing its chaotic misrule which presented itself to their minds, was that of destroying the whole Celtic tradition of the Irish peoplethat of "making Ireland English" in manners, in law, and in tongue. The Deputy, Parliament, judges, sheriffs, which already existed within the Pale, furnished a faint copy of English institutions; and these, it was hoped, might he gradually extended over the whole island. The English language and mode of life would follow, it was believed, the English law. The one effectual way of bringing about such a change as this lay in a complete conquest of the island, and in its colonization by English settlers; but from this course, pressed on him as it had been by his own lieutenants and by the settlers of the Pale, even the iron will of Henry shrank.

In many parts of Ireland, which were at one time and another colonised with English, the colonists became absorbed in the native population; but in Ulster, where the Scottish blood was strong, this union had not taken place. It was perhaps the stern Calvinism of these Scots, which long survived, that prevented the colony from mixing with the surrounding people, and being absorbed by them as the Jews of the northern kingdom became merged in the surrounding "heathen." The history of the Presbyterian Church is therefore an important part of the story of the Scot in Ulster; in fact, for many years the history of Ulster, as far as it has a separate history, is chiefly ecclesiastical. It must be so; for this is a story of Scotsmen and of the first half of the seventeenth century, and at that time the history of Scotland is the history of the Scottish Church. Church polity, Church observance, Church discipline, fill all the chronicles, and must have formed the public life of the people.

In 1613, after an interval of twenty-seven years, a Parliament met at Dublin, to which were summoned members from many northern towns, such as Dungannon and Coleraine, which were certainly then boroughs rather in embryo than in reality. This Parliament repealed a law of Queen Mary, which was intended to prevent the Scots from settling in Ireland; the Scots thus aimed at being the Western Islesmen, who infested and plundered Northern Ulster. Two years later there met a convocation of clergy, which proceeded to draw up a Confession of Faith for the Episcopal Church of Ireland, as an establishment separate from that of England. The Irish clergy were at this time strongly tinged with Puritanism, and the result was that a Confession was adopted much more Calvinistic, and therefore nearer that of the Scottish Church than was the Thirty-nine Articles. The formation and growth of the Presbyterian Church was also much aided by Archbishop Ussher, the Primate of Ireland. Ussher is remembered as the most learned Englishman of a learned age; but better worth recording even than his learning is his broad-minded toleration.

Thus was Ulster filled with Scotsmen, and the simple forms of the Scottish Church established in the North of Ireland. But the "golden peaceable age" of Archbishop Ussher could not last long. In 1633, Thomas Wentworth, afterwards Earl of Strafford, began his celebrated term of office as LordDeputy of Ireland, and with him came Laud's polity in matters ecclesiastic. The Calvinistic Confession of Faith was altered; the bishops tinged with Puritanism were deposed, and High Churchmen placed in their stead; a High Commission Court was established in Dublin; and conformity to the Established Church was enforced by pains and penalties. Then Wentworth's hand fell heavily on the Presbyterians, laity and clergy. Many of the latter had to flee and take refuge in Scotland, where they again found churches, after that country revolted against Episcopacy in 1637. Many of the laity, too, returned to the West of Scotland, helping in this way to bind the two countries together.

The forty years between the defeat of the Irish at Kinsale, on the 2nd January, 1601-2, and the great War or Rebellion which broke out on the 23rd October, 1641, have been represented as the period of the greatest peace, improvement, and prosperity known in Ireland since the days of the first invasion. And so it was in one sense; but in another the period of the greatest misery. There was prosperity, but it was among the supplanting strangers misery among the displanted and transplanted Irish. There was peace, but it was the peace of despair, because there remained no hope except in arms, and their arms were taken from them.

On 23 October 1641 the Irish of Ulster rose in arms. Accord1ng to the scheme of the Parliament for suppressing the Irish Rebellion, 2,500,000 acres of Irish lands to be forfeited, were offered as security to those who should advance moneys towards raising and paying a private army for subduing the rebels in Ireland. The Parliament, by the Act of 26th September, 1653, for satisfying the Adventurers, the army, and the public creditors, reserved all the forfeited property in cities and boroughs for the State. In the early part of the war, in hopes to induce merchants and traders, English and foreign (provided they were Protestants), to whom houses in seaport towns were more useful than lands, to advance funds, the Parliament of England offered the principal seaport towns in Ireland for sale.

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Page last modified: 24-02-2020 18:18:22 ZULU