English was the language of the rulers; literature in Irish survived largely in oral tradition. Anglo-Irish literary movements of the 19th century sought to revive Gaelic culture and the Irish language. These movements linked literature with the cause of Irish political and cultural independence from Britain. The revival gained strength when Irish became an official language in 1922. At that time the island was divided politically into the Irish Free State, which became Ireland in 1949, and Northern Ireland. Today writers in Irish and English continue to find themes in the Irish landscape and in Irish history.
Irish literature reflects the bravado of Celtic heroes as well as the suffering and hardships the Irish people have experienced over the course of their history. Despite these hardships, wit and humor-often in the form of satire or irony-have characterized much of Irish literature. Another defining feature has been an exploration of the riches of language and an enjoyment of wordplay. A love of language is evident in Irish literature, from the early sagas to the 20th-century experiments of James Joyce.
Northern Ireland, administrative division of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, situated in the northeastern portion of the island of Ireland. The remaining portion of the island is part of the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland constitutes about 17 percent of the land area of Ireland and has 31 percent of the island's population. The capital of Northern Ireland is Belfast. Northern Ireland's population is deeply divided along religious and political lines. The schism between the Protestant majority and the Catholic minority extends deep into Northern Ireland's past and has strongly influenced the region's culture, settlement patterns, and politics.
By the 17th century, Protestant British settlers had subjugated the region's Catholic, Gaelic inhabitants.
The whole of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom until 1920, when the island was divided. Of the original 32 counties of Ireland, the 6 northeasterly counties became a British province officially known as Northern Ireland. The remaining 26 counties became independent in 1922 as the Irish Free State (later Eire, and subsequently the Republic of Ireland). Since then, most of the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland has identified with independent Ireland, and most of the Protestant majority with Britain. Catholics seeking integration with Ireland are often referred to as republicans or nationalists, while Protestants who want Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom are often called unionists or loyalists.
From 1921 to 1972 Northern Ireland had its own regional parliament that exercised considerable authority over local affairs. The Protestant, unionist majority dominated the parliament, which made the government unpopular with the Catholic, nationalist minority. Northern Ireland experienced a nearly continuous period of violent conflict between these two groups from the late 1960s through the mid-1990s. The violence extended beyond Ireland, as republican paramilitary groups-in particular the Irish Republican Army (IRA)-also struck targets in London and elsewhere in England. The clashes, bombings, and assassinations in this period were often referred to as “the troubles.” In 1972 the British government shut down Northern Ireland's regional parliament and governed the region directly from London. A 1998 accord known as the Good Friday Agreement restored some powers to a new provincial government.
The Protestant community often refers to Northern Ireland as Ulster. Catholics seldom use this name. For most Catholics the term Ulster is used only to refer to the historic Irish province of Ulster, which consisted of the current six counties and three other counties that are now in the Republic of Ireland. Catholics tend to refer to the territory as “the north of Ireland,” and those of strongly nationalist views also use the term “the six counties.”
II. Land and Resources
The total area of Northern Ireland is 14,160 sq km (5,467 sq mi), of which 628 sq km (242 sq mi) is inland water.
The maximum distance from north to south is 137 km (85 mi); from east to west it is 177 km (110 mi).