Difference Between Ireland and Northern Ireland

Edited by Diffzy | Updated on: September 12, 2023


Difference Between Ireland and Northern Ireland

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Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland each have their jurisdiction on the island of Ireland. While Northern Ireland is a part of the UK, the Republic of Ireland, which makes up the southern section of the country, is independent of it. The older of the two, Northern Ireland was established in 1921 from six counties in the northern Province of Ulster that desired to maintain their political unity with Great Britain. As a result, it is a member of the United Kingdom together with England, Scotland, and Wales. While Belfast is the regional capital, London is the UK’s national capital. Although executive power is given to the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, the British Monarch serves as the Head of State. A devolved administration is also in place, and it is run by the joint office of the first and deputy first ministers. The population of Northern Ireland is around 2 million. The Irish Free State, commonly known as Southern Ireland, gained complete independence and broke all political links with the United Kingdom in 1948, giving rise to the Republic of Ireland. Dubin serves as the Republic of Ireland’s capital. The Prime Minister (Taoiseach) of Ireland has executive authority, and the President of Ireland is the country’s head of state. In the Republic, there are roughly 4.5 million inhabitants. Following the separation, two opposing factions arose in Northern Ireland: Nationalists, a Catholic minority who want Ireland to be one unified country, and Unionists, a Protestant majority who want to remain a part of the unified Kingdom. The Irish Republican Army, a dangerous parliamentary Nationalist organization, as well as another half-dozen parliamentary groups on both opposing sides, were all born out of the conflict between the two factions. Violence has developed between the two since they first met.

Ireland Vs. Northern Ireland

Politically, Ireland is divided into two parts: the Republic of Ireland, also known as Ireland, and Northern Ireland, which together with Great Britain makes up the United Kingdom. Although officially, Ireland is divided into four provinces. It was agreed that Ireland would be divided into these two areas when it gained independence from Britain in 1921, with the division mostly based on religion. The majority of the 26 counties that make up the Republic of Ireland are Catholic. Northern Ireland’s six counties, which are part of the Ulster province, are predominately Protestant, hence, Britain would continue to govern over them.

Difference Between Ireland and Northern Ireland in Tabular Form

Parameters of ComparisonIrelandNorthern Ireland
IntroductionIreland is the twentieth-largest island in the globe and the third-largest island in Europe (Irish: Éire; Ulster Scots: Airlann). It is surrounded by hundreds of islands and islets and is located northwest of continental Europe.A region of the United Kingdom located in the northeast of the island of Ireland is known as Northern Ireland (Ulster-Scots: Norlin Airlann or Norlin Airlan). It is variously referred to as a province, country, or area of the UK.
GovernmentUnitary parliamentary republic.Consociational devolved government within a constitutional monarchy.
Time zoneGreenwich Mean Time (UTC)GMT (UTC + 0)
LanguagesGaelic, EnglishEnglish, Irish, Ulster Scots
CurrencyEuroPound sterling (GBP)
FlagThe Irish tricolorUnion Flag
Calling code+353+44

What is Ireland?

Ireland is an island located in northwest Europe and the North Atlantic Ocean. The North Channel, Irish Sea, and St. George’s Channel divide it from Great Britain to its east. Ireland is the third-largest island in Europe, the twentieth-largest in the globe, and the second-largest of the British Isles. Geographically speaking, the island of Ireland is split between Northern Ireland, which is a member of the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland, an independent state that occupies five-sixth of the island. Ireland is the second-most populous island in Europe after Great Britain as of 2022, with a total population of little over 7 million, including 5.1 million residents in the Republic of Ireland and 1.9 million in Northern Ireland. Ireland’s landscape is made up of multiple navigable rivers that stretch inland and relatively low-lying mountains that encircle a core plain. Its warm but variable environment, which is devoid of temperature extremes, is the cause of its rich vegetation. Up to the end of the Middle Ages, much of Ireland was covered with woodland. Currently, woodland covers 10% of the island, compared to a European average of around 33%, with non-native conifer plantations making up the majority of it. Irish winters are milder than one might think for such a northerly region, but summers are cooler than those in continental Europe due to the Atlantic Ocean's influence on the climate. There is a lot of cloud coverage and rain.

Late Antiquity and Early Medieval Times

Irish geography was first described in writing by classical Greco-Roman explorers. In contrast to the bigger island, which he dubbed Megale Brettania (“Great Britain”), Ptolemy referred to Ireland as Mikra Brettania (“Little Britain”) in his Almagest. Ptolemy refers to Ireland as lournia and Great Britain as Albion in his later work, Geography. These ‘new’ names were most likely the islands’ old names at the time. The early names, on the other hand, were probably created before actual contact with locals. Ireland was also known to the Romans as Hibernia, or Scotia, in its Latinized form. Ireland was inhabited by sixteen different nations in 100 AD, according to Ptolemy. Uncertainty exists over the connection between the Roman Empire and the ancient Irish kingdoms. Roman coins have, however, been discovered in a variety of locations, including Freestone Hill, an Iron Age site close to Gowran and Newgrange. Ireland remained a patchwork of rival kingdoms, but starting in the 7th century, the idea of a High King of Ireland helped to gradually establish a sense of national kingship. However, modern historians think the scheme was created in the 8th century to justify the status of powerful political groupings by projecting the origins of their rule into the distant past. While medieval Irish literature depicts an almost uninterrupted sequence of high kings stretching back thousands of years, modern historians believe the scheme was created.

Despite being formally under the high monarch's control, each Irish country had its king. The high king was chosen from among the provincial rulers and was in charge of Meath's royal realm as well. Tara Hill served as his ceremonial capital. Before the Viking Age, the idea was not a political reality, and even then it was not a consistent one.

The Kingdom of Ireland

Henry VIII of the Tudor dynasty, who was then the King of England, restored the title of King of Ireland in 1542. In the latter years of the 16th century, English rule was strengthened and extended in Ireland, setting the stage for the Tudor conquest. After the Nine Years’ War and the Flight of the Earls, nearly total conquest was accomplished by the beginning of the 17th century. The battles of struggles of the 17th century, such as the English and Scottish colonization in the Plantations of Ireland, the battles of the Three Kingdoms, and the Williamite War, helped to solidify this power.

Following the famine, a rise in industrial output and an uptick in trade brought about a series of construction booms. In the latter years of this century, the population skyrocketed, and Georgian Ireland’s architectural legacy was created. Ireland gained legislative independence from Great Britain for the first time since 1495, when Polyning’s Law was repealed in 1782. However, the British government still had the authority to choose the Irish government without the Irish parliament's approval.

What is Northern Ireland?

The United Kingdom’s Northern Ireland, also known as a country, province, or area, is located in the northeast of the island of Ireland. The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland have an open border to the south and west of each other. With a population of 1,903,100 in 2021, it accounted for 27% of the people living on the island of Ireland and almost 3% of the population of the UK. The Northern Ireland Act of 1998 established the Northern Ireland Assembly, which is in charge of several devolved policy issues while the UK Government retains control over others. Under the principles of the Belfast Agreement, the governments of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland collaborate in several sectors. Through the British-Irish Governmental Conference, the Republic of Ireland also participates in non-devolved governmental consultations.

When Ireland was divided in 1921 as a result of the Administration of Ireland Act, a devolved administration for the six northeastern counties was established. Northern Ireland had a majority of unionists who wished to stay in the United Kingdom, as envisaged by unionists and their backers in Westminster; they were typically the Protestant offspring of British colonial immigrants. Irish nationalists (often Catholics) who desired a unified, independent Ireland made up the majority in Southern Ireland (which became the Irish Free State in 1922) and a sizeable minority in Northern Ireland. Today, the former largely identify as British, while the latter typically identify as Irish, with a sizeable minority of people from various backgrounds claiming a Northern Irish or Ulster identity.

Violence was used both in support of and against partition as Northern Ireland was being created. Belfast’s capital city experienced significant intercommunal violence between Protestant Unionists and Catholic nationalist residents during the strife of 1920-22. More than 500 people were killed, and more than 10,000 people—mostly Catholics—became refugees. Northern Ireland experienced an uninterrupted run of Unionist Party governments over the following fifty years. Both populations engaged in informal mutual segregation, and the Unionist regimes were charged with oppressing the Irish nationalist and Catholic minority. There are intricate cultural ties between Northern Ireland, the rest of Ireland, and the rest of the UK, with Northern Ireland sharing the cultures of both Ireland and the UK. The Northern Ireland national football team is one prominent exception to the All-Ireland regulatory body and all-island squad system found in numerous sports. At the Commonwealth Games, Northern Ireland competes separately, while at the Olympic Games, athletes from Northern Ireland can represent either Great Britain or Ireland.

The Main Difference Between Ireland and Northern Ireland in Points

  • Northern Ireland is a part of the United Kingdom (UK), which is no longer a member of the European Union, while the Republic of Ireland is a sovereign state with a population of around 5 million and is a member of the EU.
  • Despite being separate countries, there isn't a physical border between them. However, given the numerous intricacies that surround Northern Ireland's status, the Brexit referendum of 2016 has raised potential issues in particular, for the border. There is no physical border in 2022, although issues with trade and immigration may affect the border in the future.
  • Ireland uses the Euro as its currency. On the other hand, Northern Ireland uses the Pound Sterling as its currency, just like the rest of the UK.
  • They are managed differently. Ireland’s 26 counties make up what is known as a “parliamentary constitutional republic.” The President of Ireland is the country’s head of state. On the other hand, Northern Ireland has served as the devolved government for Northern Ireland within the United Kingdom since 1998.
  • Dublin, the capital and largest city in Ireland, with a total urban population of 1,173,179. The Oireachtas, Ireland's national legislature, is housed in Leinster House in Dublin. On the other hand, with a population of 483418, Belfast is the second-biggest metropolis on the island of Ireland and the largest city in Northern Ireland. Belfast is also the location of the power-sharing assembly and devolved government for Northern Ireland.
  • Ireland’s official language is Irish. However, English is by far the more common tongue. However, there are still regions of Ireland where the Irish language is still spoken and is widely utilized at home. On the other hand, the de facto official language in Northern Ireland is English, which is spoken by practically the entire population. However, Irish is acknowledged as a regional minority language.


However, there is more to the difference between both of the countries. The traces of the differences are stated back from history and are still prevalent. The currencies, the language, the population, and many more are differently followed in both countries. Ireland is the world's twentieth-largest island and the third-largest island in Europe (Irish: Éire; Ulster Scots: Airlann). It is surrounded by hundreds of islands and islets and is located northwest of continental Europe. A region of the United Kingdom located in the northeast of the island of Ireland is known as Northern Ireland (Ulster-Scots: Norlin Airlann or Norlin Airlan). It is variously referred to as a province, country, or area of the UK.


  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Ireland
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ireland


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"Difference Between Ireland and Northern Ireland." Diffzy.com, 2024. Wed. 12 Jun. 2024. <https://www.diffzy.com/article/difference-between-ireland-and-northern-ireland>.

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