History of Northern IrelandAlthough it is situated in the north-east corner of the Island of Ireland, Northern Ireland is today one of the four countries of the United Kingdom. For hundreds of years during the history of Ireland, the entire island was under English rule. However, there was a strong resistance movement, and by the late 19th century, the majority of people living in Ireland wanted the English to grant self-rule to the Irish people. During this time, there was a popular movement for Home Rule, which would grant the Irish autonomy in their internal affairs without splitting up the United Kingdom. However, there was a minority of the population, mostly centered around the northern region of Ulster, which vehemently opposed this idea. Called Unionists, they rallied against Home Rule and wished to remain subjects of the United Kingdom.
The conflict of Ireland began when these two groups who were so strongly ideologically opposed to one another began to fight. The Unionists in the North wished to remain part of the British Empire because many of them were descended from Protestant English and Scottish settlers who came over from Great Britain to live on the Island. Thus, they had a very different cultural and religious background than the mostly Roman Catholic population of the rest of Ireland. This religious divide continues to be one of the most recognizable differences between Ireland and Northern Ireland today. Ireland was partitioned into Northern and Southern parts after the First World War, and the southern region went on to become what is today the Republic of Ireland.
Despite periodic outbreaks of violence, Northern Ireland was mostly peaceful until the 1960s. This is when the period of time referred to as The Troubles began. The Troubles was a period of often violent political conflict which occasionally spilled over into Great Britain and mainland Europe. This period of civil strife was marked by attacks and bombings which killed and wounded many people in Northern Ireland. This continued until the Good Friday Accord of 1998 ended most of the violence. Even so, sporadic cases of violence still occur to this day.