Northern Ireland Fast Facts

Map: Belfast, Northern Ireland

(CNN)Here's a look at Northern Ireland. For many years, Northern Ireland has been split over the question of whether it should remain part of the United Kingdom or become part of Ireland.

Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. The nation is part of the United Kingdom, along with England, Scotland and Wales.

Other Facts

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

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.
Sinn Féin
Advocates 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.
July 21, 1972 - Bloody Friday - The IRA sets off 19 bombs in Belfast, killing nine people.
1973 - A power-sharing arrangement called the Sunningdale Agreement is approved but a general strike in opposition to the agreement causes the deal to fall apart.
August 27, 1979 - Eighteen British soldiers are killed in two bombings. The same day, Lord Louis Mountbatten, a British admiral, and Queen Elizabeth II's cousin, dies after an IRA bomb explodes on his fishing boat.
May 1981 - Activist and hunger striker Bobby Sands dies of starvation in prison. His death sparks riots across Northern Ireland.
November 15, 1985 - Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Garret FitzGerald, the Irish prime minister, sign the Anglo-Irish Agreement, calling for collaboration between the British and Irish governments on matters related to politics, security and legal affairs in Northern Ireland. The agreement also calls for the promotion of cross-border cooperation.
1988 - The Irish peace process continues with a series of groundbreaking talks between SDLP leader John Hume and Ge