These two opposing views are linked to deeper cultural divisions. Unionists are predominantly Protestant, descendants of mainly Scottish, English, Welsh and Huguenot settlers as well as Old Gaelic Irishmen who had converted to one of the Protestant denominations. Nationalists are overwhelmingly Catholic and descend from the population predating the settlement, with a minority from Scottish Highlanders as well as some converts from Protestantism. Discrimination against nationalists under the Stormont government (1921–1972) gave rise to the nationalist civil rights movement in the 1960s.
Some Unionists argue that any discrimination was not just due to religious or political bigotry, but also the result of more complex socio-economic, socio-political and geographical factors. Whatever the cause, the existence of discrimination, and the manner in which Nationalist anger at it was handled, were a major contributing factor which led to the long-running conflict known as the Troubles. The political unrest went through its most violent phase between 1968 and 1994.
As of 2007, 36% of the population define themselves as Unionist, 24% as Nationalist and 40% define themselves as neither. According to a 2009 opinion poll, 69% express longterm preference of the maintenance of Northern Ireland's membership of the United Kingdom (either directly ruled or with devolved government), while 21% express a preference for membership of a united Ireland. This discrepancy can be explained by the overwhelming preference among Protestants to remain a part of the UK (91%), while Catholic preferences are spread across a number of solutions to the constitutional question including remaining a part of the UK (47%), a united Ireland (40%), Northern Ireland becoming an independent state (5%), and those who "don't know" (5%).
Official voting figures, which reflect views on the "national question" along with issues of candidate, geography, personal loyalty and historic voting patterns, show 54% of Northern Ireland voters vote for Pro-Unionist parties, 42% vote for Pro-Nationalist parties and 4% vote "other". Opinion polls consistently show that the election results are not necessarily an indication of the electorate's stance regarding the constitutional status of Northern Ireland.
Most of the population of Northern Ireland are at least nominally Christian. The ethno-political loyalties are allied, though not absolutely, to the Roman Catholic and Protestant denominations and these are the labels used to categorise the opposing views. This is, however, becoming increasingly irrelevant as the Irish Question is very complicated. Many voters (regardless of religious affiliation) are attracted to Unionism's conservative policies, while other voters are instead attracted to the traditionally leftist, nationalist Sinn Féin and SDLP and their respective party platforms for democratic socialism and social democracy.
For the most part, Protestants feel a strong connection with Great Britain and wish for Northern Ireland to remain part of the United Kingdom. Many Catholics however, generally aspire to a United Ireland or are less certain about how to solve the constitutional question.
Politics of Northern Ireland. Since 1998, Northern Ireland has devolved government within the United Kingdom.
The Government and Parliament of the United Kingdom are responsible for reserved and excepted matters. Reserved matters are a list of policy area (such as civil aviation, units of measurement, and human genetics), which the Westminster Parliament may devolve to the Northern Ireland Assembly at some time in future. Excepted matters (such as international relations, taxation and elections) are never expected to be considered for devolution. Elections in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland law. Background English law in England and Wales;Northern Ireland law in Northern Ireland;Scots law in Scotland.
Northern Ireland is a common law jurisdiction. Although its common law is similar to that in England and Wales, and partially derives from the same sources, there are some important differences in law and procedure between Northern Ireland and England and Wales. Governance. Irish nationality law. Irish nationality law is contained in the provisions of the Irish Nationality and Citizenship Acts 1956 to 2004 and in the relevant provisions of the Irish Constitution.
A person may be an Irish citizen through birth, descent, marriage to an Irish citizen or through naturalisation. The law grants citizenship to individuals born in Northern Ireland under the same conditions as those born in the Republic of Ireland. Acquisition of citizenship At birth A person born on the island of Ireland on or after 1 January 2005:. A person who is entitled to become an Irish citizen becomes an Irish citizen if: he or she does any act that only Irish citizens are entitled to do; orany act that only Irish citizens are entitled to do is done on his of her behalf by a person entitled to do so. Dual citizenship is permitted under Irish nationality law. Before 2005 Historical provisions Citizenship and nationality. Counties of Northern Ireland. Counties. Northern Ireland flags issue. The Northern Ireland flags issue is one that divides the population along sectarian lines.
Depending on political allegiance, people identify with differing flags and symbols, some of which have, or have had, official status in Northern Ireland. Common flags Symbols.