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jfos's avatar

Care to explain Northern Ireland vs. Ireland?

Asked by jfos (7362points) June 11th, 2010

Why are Ireland and Northern Ireland separate countries? I know that Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom, along with England, Scotland, and Wales, but why isn’t Ireland? I don’t mean it like, “Why are Canada and the US separate countries?”, but what is the historical reasoning behind the separation of the two Irelands? Were they previously united? What is the current relationship? Is there common currency, language, etc.?

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11 Answers

jfos's avatar

N.B.: This is purely for my intellectual betterment. That is, this isn’t an essay topic or an assignment of any kind. I’m just… half Irish and curious.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Catholics and Protestants. They think there is a difference. But aren’t they still just people?

prescottman2008's avatar

When Ireland finally won their independence from Great Britain in the 1920’s the northern counties grouped around Ulster, whose demographics were mainly protestant and not catholic elected not to join the country of Ireland and instead to remain part of the British empire.

growler's avatar

It’s a very long story with a lot of different perspectives. Ever since, oh, the 1600s or even earlier the English and Irish have had problems (on a large scale). In fact, it probably goes back as far as 1000 AD. In the late 1800s, things began to get worse, and around the time of WWI the Irish were close to getting home rule (having previously been conquered and ruled for a very long time by the English). When Britain went to war, the plan was scrapped. Thus began the Irish War for Independence and the Irish Civil War, followed by the Troubles, which lasted until the 90s.

The Troubles are a conflict between the Unionists (Protestants, mostly) and Republicans (Catholics for the most part). The Republicans declared independence and formed the Irish Free State (later the Republic) in the early 20th century, which lead to a long fight between the Irish and the British. Over the years it became a civil war. Now there’s peace, for the most part.

For an interesting perspective on the Irish Civil War, check out The Wind that Shakes the Barley.

and what @prescottman2008 said

jfos's avatar

Good answers.

Why does Northern Ireland want to remain a part of the United Kingdom, and why does Ireland want to be its own entity? There have to be some kind of pros/cons, other than religion…

prescottman2008's avatar

The people of Northern Ireland as a whole seem to feel they have more in common with England, Wales, and Scotland than with the people from the rest of the island of Ireland. Ireland has a distinctly different history and ancestry from England, Wales, and Scotland. They have a different language, different customs, etc. England kept them in virtual slavery for nearly 1000 years. They are a separate people. perhaps that’s why they wanted to be a separate country.

ipso's avatar

@growler & @prescottman2008 – elegant answers. Bravo.

@jfos I’ve found these helpful too:

Michael Collins (1996)
The General (1998)
In the Name of the Father (1994)
The Field (1990)
The Boxer (1997)
Irish Empire (2000)
This is My Father (1998)
Some Mother’s Son (1996)
Catholics (1973)
The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006)

The Departed (2006)
Gangs Of New York (2002)
Miller’s Crossing (1990)
In America (2002)
Far and Away (1991)
State of Grace (1990)
The Molly Maguires (1970)
The Quiet Man (1952)
Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)
The Playboys (1992)

ejk21405's avatar

I’m Irish just living south of the border. Yes, everyone has given you a fairly acccurate account. If you get a chance, i would read Tim Pat Coogan novels. Michael collins (the big fella), DeValera (the long Fella) to begin with or watch Michael Collins. It explains fairly well how Ireland became the the republic and the north became northern ireland. ‘On the Blanket-H-Block’ will give you an insight into the passion that Irish felt, this protest was also called ‘the dirty protest’ where prisioners refused food and to wear prison uniforms. ‘Some mothers son’ is based on this.

olly's avatar

I think you should consult Wikipedia. I’m not trying to be rude, it’s just the least biased source on the web considering anyone can edit it. I am from the North of Ireland. And from my phrasing you might already have guessed, am an Irish Nationalist. We learned the basics in History class.

The men who established the treaty in the 1920s that partitioned the Island wanted the entire Island to be freed, Britain didn’t allow that as they didn’t want to be seen to lose. The treaty had to be accepted because the alternative was all out war, and although we could keep fighting via Guerrilla warfare the British would win in the end. The new Irish govt. hoped then to achieve Unity via political means. The people in NI had no say in their fate, there was one referendum on the subject which Irish Nationalists refused to vote in due the fact that NI is in fact a Gerrymandered State meaning the vote for Unity would lose based on where the lines were drawn. That’s how I understand it anyway. At the moment due to the financial crisis there isn’t much of a call for Unity, but there might be in the future, Irish Catholics in NI are starting to out vote Unionists in a lot of areas.

Ps @prescottman I think I’ve more in common with people in the ROI, don’t believe everything you see in the news!

Thulenord's avatar

I came across an old Irish poem and saga one night at college. Tired of study I roamed the library stacks and settled down amid the books on Irish mythology. I learned that their clans were suspicious of each other, and didn’t like anybody very much. So they took to disparaging songs about the neighbors and distant strong men. Forget all the stories of every mother’s son being an Irish king. There were just the local bullies with their very long opinions of their endowments. One such from about the middle of the island, King Cooley, was roaring in his hall one night about his prowess, and his wife took the bait, or the meat and referred to his short shanks of the night previous. The king’s captain said, “No! Tis true, why last campaign to the Northern shores we came across ‘so-&-so’s’ great champion breeding bull….” And the measurements grew and grew. The queen, unimpressed said show me and Cooley with his men all ale’d up went off, and retreived the bull. The exploit became known as “Cooley’s Cattle Raid.” The rest is more myth, ill considered measurement, and history. The seeds of enmity north and south were sown. The buggerin’ English were an inconvenience to be dealt with later. Religion? There were better things to fight over as Cooley had established to his queen’s satisfaction. Irish history from the viking time, the Plantagenets, and all that is there and tragic stuff. But I’ll take a good story any day, as the Irish themselves will tell you that the English brought their language but the Irish taught them how to speak and write it. Great story tellers.

Thulenord's avatar

And while we’re at it, Thursday is St. Brendan’s Day, the Patron Saint of all Mariners. So don your Aram sweaters, get the pipe and git to the pub for great stories of the Blessed Isle, it’s brave men, hot women, and roaring halls at voyages’ end.

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