Are you fascinated by the world famous Giant’s Causeway, or the Harland & Wolff shipyard in Belfast where the Titanic was built? Maybe you want to walk along the Walls of Derry, or Londonderry depending on your political persuasion, or sample the delights of the beautiful North Antrim coastline? Or perhaps you simply want to trace your family’s lineage in this unique part of the world? Whatever your reason for taking an avid interest in visiting Northern Ireland, the truth is that it is not misplaced.
Here at Moving2Ireland, we know that it is sometimes hard to be aware of all the details that differentiate Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland, as well as fully understanding the complex details of this part of the world. That is why we have created this guide to help answer some of the questions you may have.
Is visiting Northern Ireland different to visiting the Republic of Ireland?
Yes, Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and as a result is distinct from the Republic of Ireland. This means that it has a completely separate currency, political system and even international football team! If you are looking at a map of Ireland, Northern Ireland is the region located in the most north-easterly part of the island. However, it should be noted that although Northern Ireland is distinct from the Republic, a section of the population, generally but not exclusively members of the Catholic community, identify as Irish and share many of the cultural outlooks as their neighbours south of the border.
So, people identify as either Irish or British in Northern and Ireland?
Yes and no. Residents of Northern Ireland often identify as either Irish or British, and under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement (1998), all Northern Irish residents are entitled to both Irish and British passports. However, while it is true that a majority of Northern Irish residents will identify as either Irish or British, it is also a fact that many people in the region identify as both Irish and British and often Northern Irish too. While others may see themselves as just being Northern Irish. As with many aspects of life in Northern Ireland, identity is a very complex issue to understand fully.
In recent decades, and especially since the EU expanded in 2004, Northern Ireland has become a much more multicultural place to live with citizens from all over the world now calling cities and towns like Belfast, Derry or Newry home. The increase in the number of immigrants to Northern Ireland has both helped diversify the region and provide it with a more outward looking perspective on the world.
How big is Northern Ireland?
Good question! In terms of land mass, Northern Ireland is approximately 14,130 square kilometers spread over six counties from County Derry in the northwest to County Down in the south east of the region. As of 2018, the population of Northern Ireland was approximately 1.8 million people which means that it contains 28.3 percent of the total population and 16.75 percent of the total area of the island of Ireland.
Is it easy to travel to when visiting Northern Ireland?
Yes, there are numerous direct air routes into Belfast from Britain as well as some North American and European links. In addition, travel time from Dublin Airport is under two hours. There are several ferry routes from Scotland and the north of England as well.
OK, I land in Dublin, is it easy to get to Belfast and other parts of Northern Ireland from there?
In a word, yes. One of the most important legacies of the Good Friday Agreement is that there is no hard or visible border separating Northern Ireland from the Republic of Ireland to the south. Unfortunately, the ongoing uncertainty around Brexit could affect the progress made in this respect but this won’t be fully known until the negotiations are complete.
In addition, an improved transport network makes it easier for those driving to commute the approximately 90 minute journey from the island of Ireland’s two biggest cities. Many people live in Belfast and commute to work in Dublin or other towns and cities in the Republic of Ireland daily. In addition, there are a number of train and bus routes connecting both cities, as well as other towns north and south.