Top 10 AMAZING Facts About NORTHERN IRELAND
We may have touched on the Republic of Ireland in a past Archive, but we’re taking our travels a little north to the home of the Green and White Army. So join us on our journey through Norman castles and glacial valleys as we cover the top 10 Amazing facts about Northern Ireland!
Forming of Northern Ireland
The history of Ireland dates back a lot further than that of Northern Ireland, but since we discussed it in a prior Irish installment, we’re going to focus on the creation of the northeastern political unit. A year after Ireland declared its independence from the British in 1919, the Government of Ireland Act 1920 was put into place by the British government, creating a dual government system that divided the north from the south. With the new act in place, the Northern Ireland government took formation and, in May of 1921, elections for the newly formed parliament were held. Though the partition of the north and south detailed in the Anglo-Irish Treaty was desired by many, a general disdain for it among Catholics in the north and Protestants in the south led to the 1922 Civil War and continued periods of violence and unrest.
Over the course of 30 years, Irish unionists and nationalists engaged in a struggle over whether or not Northern Ireland would stay with the United Kingdom or separate and join the Republic of Ireland. Starting with the October 5th, 1968 civil rights march in Londonderry, which erupted into a violent skirmish, the Troubles saw the deployment of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, once a part of the Official Irish Republican Army, against British opposition, seeking complete Irish unification. Over the course of the Troubles, 3,600 civilians, activists, and soldiers lost their lives, including the 13 on Bloody Sunday. Despite an attempt at quelling the fighting with the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement, it wasn’t until 1998 that the conflict saw resolution. The Good Friday Agreement kept Northern Ireland a part of the United Kingdom while creating the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive democratic institutions and focused on co-operation between Northern and Southern Ireland.
Sunday Bloody Sunday
The memory of the 1972 massacre in Londonderry will continue to live on thanks to the Irish rock band, U2, but it’s also an event not easily forgotten. During a peaceful protest march on January 30th, 1972 against British internment of alleged Irish nationalists, British forces fired into the crowd, killing 13 civilians and protesters and wounding upwards of 17 with gunfire and vehicle impacts. Though peaceful in nature, the British had banned the march and sent paratroopers in to contain the situation. Rather than simply break the movement up, the troopers seemed to move throughout the streets of Derry, firing indiscriminately into crowds. After the massacre, claims of bomb threats were never substantiated, though, in April of the same year, the British government exonerated the troops involved in the killing.
The RMS Titanic
The sinking of the RMS Titanic on April 14th, 1912 during her maiden voyage was a tragedy that struck both the United Kingdom and the United States, but it may have hit closer to home in Belfast in Northern Ireland. The British passenger liner sank in the North Atlantic Ocean on its trek from Southampton to New York City, but it was at the Harland and Wolff shipyard in Belfast that the vessel was erected. On the coast of Belfast, the mighty vessel was designed by Northern Irelander Thomas Andrews, who also went down with the ship. You can find exhibits of the RMS Titanic across the globe, such as the exhibit of artifacts at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Nevada, but they all pale in comparison to the Titanic Belfast attraction, which is known as being the world’s largest attraction revolving around the liner.
Northern Ireland World Records
In June of 2016, Chris Loughridge, a Norn Iron windsurfer, attempted to break the Guinness World Record for fastest crossing, and though he failed to meet Guinness’ requirements, Loughridge can rest easy – many of his fellow countrymen have broken many records. In 2010, pilot Adrian Leonard broke the record for most Rubik’s Cubes solved on a unicycle at 28. Since then, his record was beaten by an American, but Northern Irelanders do still hold records for riveting 11,209 rivets within 9 hours, having the most effective electronic sniper detector, largest song and dance routine at a single location, and the longest band bracelet, which was achieved by 7-year-old Ben Mooney.
At 18 miles or roughly 28 kilometers long and 7 miles or 11 kilometers wide, the freshwater lake of Lough Neagh borders five of Northern Ireland’s six counties. Outside of being large and an attractive feature of Northern Ireland, Lough Neagh is the source for approximately 40% of the region’s drinking water, with future plans to increase that number. Along with drinking water, the large liquid body also provides a region of heavy eel exporting. Outside of Northern Ireland, its 151.4 sq-mi surface area ranks it as the 31st largest lake in all of Europe and the largest body of water within the United Kingdom.
Cuisine of Norn Iron
If you’re going to be surrounded by historic structures, you might as well use them – or at least that’s what Tayto, a manufacturer of Norn Iron’s favorite snacks and crisps seemed to think when it converted the 500-year-old castle of the O’Hanlon clan into a manufacturing plant. Crunchy treats aside, Northern Ireland is also known for local specialties like champ or poundies, a dish of mashed potatoes with a heaping of butter, warm milk, and spring onions; a seaweed snack known as dulse; potato bread farl; vegetables rolled in fatty brisket trimmings; and a dish we can all get behind - steak and Guinness pies. Also, you can expect to see quite a few stews and soups on menus.
The Strangest of Laws
If you’re known to carry eggs and potatoes with you on your travels, you may need to stray from visiting Northern Ireland. The Marketing of Eggs Act of 1957 and the Marketing of Potatoes Act of 1964 are two of the region’s zaniest laws, but it doesn’t stop there. In 2009, Mary McAleese made illegal the verbal defamation of any matters held sacred by religion. Long before McAleese was backing religion, the 1965 Sunday Observance Act imposed laws solidifying Sunday as the “Lord’s day.” Attached to the act, tickets sold for non-religious purposes would incur a 50 pound ($61) fine. Up until 2006, it was even illegal to pretend to partake in witchcraft or any other sorcery.
The Haunted North
There’s nothing like exploring a region’s history, and what can be more of a historical journey than checking out some of the allegedly most haunted places in it? In Northern Ireland, there’s BallyGally Castle Hotel, where the spirit of Lady Isabella Shaw is said to roam the halls, knocking on guests’ doors and the sobbing of an infant is heard in the aptly named “ghost room”; or Grace Neill’s, a Donaghadee pub that boasts itself as the oldest in Ireland and home to poltergeist activity and spectral footsteps of former owner, Grace Neill. In Belfast the York Road Railway Station is even believed to be brimming with paranormal imprints, thought to be of a man who was killed during an attempted robbery.
Fame of Northern Ireland
From squaring off against Batman to outrunning velociraptors, celebrities of Northern Ireland have been through it all. That’s right, we’re talking about Northern Ireland’s Liam Neeson and Norn Iron-born Sam Neill, but they’re only two of many stars to call this land home. Sharing roots with Neeson and Neill are Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Hamlet star Kenneth Branagh, Game of Thrones actors Conleth Hill and Ian Beattie, Fifty Shades of Grey mannequin Jamie Dornan, singer Van Morrison, Thin Lizzy guitarist Eric Bell, survivalist Bear Grylls, golfer Rory Mcllroy, and footballers Brendan Rodgers, Neil Lennon, David Healy, and George Best.