Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. The nation is part of the United Kingdom, along with England, Scotland and Wales.
Northern Ireland's history has been marked by sectarian violence, although in recent years, its political parties have been working toward compromise and the two sides now make up a power-sharing government.
Marching Season, a yearly series of Protestant celebrations, takes place during the spring and early summer.
Political Groups (selected)
The Democratic Unionist Party (DUP)
Formed in 1971 by Ian Paisley, a Protestant preacher. Historically, it has attracted support from working-class Protestants.
Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP)
The party attracts middle-class Catholic support and aims to achieve the reunification of Ireland through democratic means.
Advocates for a united Ireland free from British rule or a British presence.
Irish Republican Army
Founded in 1919 as a paramilitary group fighting for an independent Ireland. In 1969, the IRA split into the Official IRA and the Provisional IRA (the former rejected violence while the latter favored being an armed force). In 2005, the Provisional IRA announced that its military campaign was over, and its weapons would be scrapped.
1920 - The Government of Ireland Act splits the country into two separate political units, with Belfast as the capital of the north and Dublin as the capital of the south.
1949 - The Ireland Act establishes an independent Republic of Ireland in the south.
The six counties of Northern Ireland remain a part of the United Kingdom.
January 30, 1972 - Thousands of people take part in a civil rights march in Derry. After a disturbance, the British Army fires shots into the crowd, killing 13 people (in addition, one injured man dies four months later). This day comes to be known as Bloody Sunday.
March 1972 - In the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, British Prime Minister Ted Heath suspends the Northern Ireland Parliament, imposing Direct Rule from London.