northernIreland NORTHERN IRELAND

With beautiful natural landscapes and unspoilt country sides, Northern Ireland is one of the four Home Nations of Great Britain.  

The country is composed of six counties – Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone (commonly dubbed “Ulster”) – and 26 districts that originated from the boroughs of Belfast and Londonderry. The national language is English, however, at least 234,800 residents of the country are able to speak, write, or read Irish-Gaelic.

There are 14,279 non-white people living in Northern Ireland out of a population of 1.68 million, equating to less than 1% of the population. Those of Chinese descent are the largest non-white community at 4,145 residents in the country. Combined Asian communities (including Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi) have 2,679 residents, and Black communities are numbered at 1,136 residents.

Northern Ireland’s religious population was recorded in 2004 as being 43.8% Catholic (737,412 residents), and 53% Protestant (895,377 residents). While most of the country is divided by opposing views of religion, in contemporary times it is not necessarily a relevant issue in terms of division. Still, most Protestants in Northern Ireland feel a strong connection to Great Britain, and Catholics support a unification of Ireland.

The dialect of English spoken in Northern Ireland is called the Mid-Ulster Dialect, which has been largely influenced by the regional accents of the West Midlands and Scotland. The Northern Irish accent is distinct from Hiberno-English (a form of English spoken in Ireland), and has been given the phonetic nickname “Norn Iron”. English is more widely spoken in Northern Ireland than Irish-Gaelic. Under the Good Friday Agreement, Irish and Ulster Scots dialect (also known as Ullans) have the recognition of being part of the cultural wealth of Northern Ireland.

Supposedly, there are small differences in pronunciation between Protestants and Catholics. Many claim that the pronunciation of the letter h is the most significant example, with Protestants pronouncing the letter as “aitch” (similar to the British-English enunciation) and Catholics pronouncing the letter as “haitch” (similar to Hiberno-English); regardless, geography is more of a determining factor in regional dialect and not religion as some claim.

Chinese and Urdu are spoken by the Asian communities of Northern Ireland, and although the Chinese population is usually considered to be the third largest community within the country, it is quite small by UK or even international standards. Polish is also becoming increasingly widespread throughout Northern Ireland, following the inclusion of Poland to the European Union in 2004.

Under the terms listed in the Government of Ireland Act of 1920, Northern Ireland had a partially self-governing political system that made it an integral part of the United Kingdom. However, after the various incidents of sectarian violence between extremist Protestant and Catholic groups that occurred in the years 1969 to 1972, Great Britain suspended the country’s parliament; Northern Ireland was thereafter governed from London.

Despite its past history of violence and conflicts between Protestants and Catholics, Northern Ireland is gaining an influx in tourism from around the world in recent years. The unique heritage, beautiful scenery and cosmopolitan cities such as Belfast and Londonderry, has attracted rising numbers of international tourists. Cultural and musical festivals, artistic traditions, countryside, natural geographic wonders, pubs, sports such as golfing and fishing, and welcoming generosity from locals are all attributing factors to this rise in tourism.


NORTHERN IRELAND: ETHNIC PROFILE

In the 2001 UK census, it was estimated that the population of Northern Ireland was 1,685,267, although it is believed that this number has gradually increased since then.  


Place of Birth (population):

  • Northern Ireland: 1,534,268 (91.0%)
  • England: 61,609 (3.7%)
  • Republic of Ireland: 39,051 (2.3%) 
  •  Elsewhere (internationally): 20,204 (1.2%) 
  •  Scotland: 16,772 (1.0%) 
  •  Elsewhere (in the EU): 10,355 (0.6%)  
  •  Wales: 3,008 (0.2%)

Ethnicity (population):

  •   White: 1,670,988 (99.15%) 
  •  Chinese: 4,145 (0.25%) 
  •  Mixed Race: 3,319 (0.20%) 
  •  Irish Traveller: 1,710 (0.10%) 
  •  Indian: 1,567 (0.09%) 
  •  Other: 1,290 (0.08%) 
  •  Pakistani: 666 (0.04%) 
  •  Black African: 494 (0.03%) 
  •  Other Black: 387 (0.02%) 
  •  Black Caribbean: 255 (0.02%) 
  •  Bangladeshi: 252 (0.01%) 
  •  Other Asian: 194 (0.01%)

Religion (population):

  •  Protestant/Other Christian: 895,377 (53.1%) 
  •  Roman Catholic: 737,412 (43.8%) 
  •  None: 45,909 (2.7%) 
  •  Other Religions/Philosophies: 6,569 (0.4%)

These figures for Northern Ireland show how there is extremely little ethnic diversity within the country, with one of the lowest numbers for ethnic minorities living within the UK. Less than 1% of the 1.68 million residents living Northern Ireland are non-white, and ethnic minorities who are living in the country are sometimes the targets of racial attacks. These incidents of racist violence are not just against ethnic minority groups, but also include any person who is considered to be an “outsider” of the country.

However, many steps are currently being taken to support ethnic minorities living in Northern Ireland. The Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities provides services and support to the ethnic population in the country, through anti-racism and equality training programmes, migrant worker support, and refugee community development. Similarly, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland is another independent organisation that was established through the Northern Ireland Act of 1998. The public body seeks to eliminate discrimination and racism in Northern Ireland, replacing the operations of the Commission for Racial Equality in Northern Ireland. 


 

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