A province of the United Kingdom that occupies the north-eastern part of Ireland, comprised of six counties of Ulster; population 1,775,000 (est. 2008); capital, Belfast.
Northern Ireland, which comprises six of the counties of Ulster, was established as a self-governing province in 1920. Northern Ireland has always been dominated by Unionist parties, which represent the Protestant majority. Many members of the Roman Catholic minority favour union with the Republic of Ireland. Discrimination against the latter group led to violent conflicts and (from 1969) the presence of British army units in an attempt to keep the peace. Terrorism and sectarian violence by the Provisional IRA and other paramilitary groups, both Republican and Loyalist, resulted in the imposition of direct rule from Westminster in 1972. Multiparty talks begun in 1996 led to an agreement between most political parties in 1998. In 1999 a devolved parliament was inaugurated, with representation from both Nationalist and Unionist groups. British troops left the province in 2007