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Monday, March 15, 1999 Published at 14:30 GMT

Northern Ireland facts and figures

Area: 14,120 sq km


Population (1993): 1,631,800.

The Search for Peace
Northern Ireland is the second most sparsely populated part of the UK after Scotland, with 317 people per square mile (122 per square kilometre).

Ulster's population is much younger than the national average, with particularly large differences in the 5-15, 45-65 and over-80 age ranges. There are no significant ethnic minorities (e.g, black, Asian or Chinese).


Participation in further and higher education is high - 79% of youngsters continue their schooling past the age of 16 - and examination attainment levels are good.

Around 30% of Northern Ireland's pupils who stayed on at school after the age of 16 gained two or more A levels, the highest level in the UK.

Education historically tends to have been split on a sectarian basis but there are increasing attempts to integrate schools.


Due to Ulster's historic problems, investment levels have been poor. This has led to the highest levels of unemployment in the UK and the lowest figures for gross domestic product figure in the UK (81.6 compared with a UK average of 100).

Northern Ireland has a very different class distribution to the UK, with a larger number in unskilled and skilled manual occupations.

Since the beginning of 1997 however, millions of pounds have been invested in Northern Ireland's economy by companies convinced the peace process will work.

Outside Belfast and Londonderry, Ulster is predominantly rural and has a strong agricultural economy with dairy products and beef both important.

Belfast and Dublin are connected by a good rail line and trains also connect Ulster's capital with Londonderry and the ferry port of Larne, which links with Stranraer in Scotland.

The main M1 motorway runs west from Belfast as far as Dungannon and there are dual carriageway trunk roads to Londonderry and the Irish border.

The two communities

Protestants outnumber Catholics although there has been significant inter-marriage.

In the 1991 census, 38.4% of the population regarded themselves as Catholic, 50.6% as Protestant while 3.8% professed no religion and 7.3% refused to say.

Catholics are in the majority in some parts of Ulster - Derry city, County Fermanagh, County Armagh and parts of Belfast - while making up less than 10% of the population in other areas: Larne and the County Antrim coast, Bangor and North Down, east Belfast.

Protestants are overwhelmingly Presbyterian and have religious, cultural and familial links with Scotland.

An important part of the Unionist community's culture are the Orange Lodges - being a meeting place for ordinary Protestant men. The nationalist community is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. In recent years there has been an increase in tit-for-tat church and lodge burnings.

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In this section

Key events since the Good Friday Agreement

Splinter groups threaten peace

Punishment beatings: A grip of fear

LVF link to Red Hand terrorists

The long search for peace

Two centuries of tradition

Inside the Orange Order

Continuity IRA - the struggle goes on?

Northern Ireland facts and figures

A fond farewell to Northern Ireland

The Good Friday Agreement in full