(Tuaisceart Éireann, Norlin Airlann)
Population: 1,789,000 million
Currency: British sterling
Going into Northern Ireland’s political past is not something one feels completely qualified to talk about, but as an Englishman, it affected me in two ways. As a child who spent his Christmases in London, I remember at least two times when we had to clear the streets because of an IRA bomb threat. In my 20s, I actually lived there with my Northern Irish girlfriend. She lived in a Catholic area, which in Northern Ireland generally means a poor area- this didn’t mean they were uneducated, in fact it was the first time I had seen such educated people living in such conditions. Down the road were the protestant areas and here lampposts and house windows were adorned with pictures of the British queen and British flags flapped in the wind atop of houses. It was a surreal sight and though it is most likely still there, things have calmed down a lot. In the late 90s, Tony Blair negotiated a ceasefire and the IRA has generally honored it. Now the country is one of the top destinations to visit in the British Isles.
Though people are increasingly distancing themselves from the sectarianism of the past, the Northern Irish are either Protestant or Catholic. The Protestants want to stay part of Britain and the Catholics want to reunite with Ireland. There is more to it than it, but those are the bare facts. Because of the identity attached to each religion, particularly within Catholicism, there are some deeply religious people. That doesn’t mean they don’t like to have fun. The Northern Irish, like the southern Irish, love drinking. When I was there pubs often ignored opening and closing hours, leaving there doors open well into the morning.
Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland and according to some one of the up and coming places on the British Isles. The guidebook Frommer listed it as one of the top 12 places to visit in Europe. Much of this has to do with the Good Friday agreement that ended the worst of the conflict. Since then foreign investors have pumped money into the city, giving its people a confidence it hadn’t had in years. Now among the traditional pubs- many of which are well worth going to- there are a host of clubs, cafes and restaurants.
Tennant Vital Festival joined the festival circuit in 2002. It may not enjoy the prestige of other festivals on the British Isles, but it still attracts some big names. In 2011, Eminem and Kaiser Chief headlined.
Two of the most popular sports in Ireland are the Gaelic sports of Hurling and Gaelic football. When I was in Northern Ireland, the town I was living in had qualified for a Gaelic Football cup final and the buzz around was similar to what happens in an English town when their soccer team reaches an FA Cup final. Soccer is also popular, but all their best players play in England or Scotland. The national team reached the quarter-finals of the 1986 World Cup and boast one of the best players that has ever played the game; George Best.
Story By World By Shotglass
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Special thanks to our contributors:
Simon Arms (Berlin, Germany) for story editing.