Introduction to Northern Ireland
Remember that blockbuster film that had you swooning over Leo and Kate? (Hint: it’s on a boat!) Well, you can thank little old Northern Ireland in part for that. You see, the capital Belfast was where the famous Titanic was built. But that’s not this country’s only claim to fame; Northern Ireland is also the place where St Patrick set up camp in the 5th century. After returning to Ireland for a second time, St Patrick lived in the little town of Armagh.
Neighbouring the Republic of Ireland and west of Scotland, Northern Ireland was first established as a country in 1921 when a partition was created between the north and south of Ireland. Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom, but it is largely self-governing and cooperates with Ireland on some policies. There’s still a bit of a divide in the community about the issue of whether the north and south should be unified, so it’s best not to bring this up in a pub.
If you’re travelling to Northern Ireland from the south, you will notice a few differences. First of all, if you’re driving you’ll notice they use imperial measurements instead of metric (i.e. miles, not kilometres). Because it’s part of Britain, you’ll also use the British Pound as currency here, instead of Euros. You’ll also notice the Northern Irish have quite a different accent – it’s very sing-songy. At first, you might just have to smile and nod. Another thing to note, wherever you’re coming from, it’s best to not talk about the Troubles as the conflict was called. Or religion at all, for that matter. With a split of 60 percent Protestant and 40 percent Catholic, you really don’t know who you’re talking to and how they’ll react. While those days of the Troubles are well and truly over since the ceasefire and Belfast Agreement of 1998, it’s still a touchy subject.
The Northern Ireland of today is a totally different place to the bombings and newsflashes of the Eighties. Belfast has a happening nightlife, an awesome foodie scene and a skyline that is constantly developing. Derry has become a cultural hub with artists flocking to the area. And the many lovely towns and villages are still just as lovely as always.