This is a simple guide to whether Ireland is a part of the UK or not. I wrote this post because the topic can be pretty complicated for non-Irish people. To make matters worse, other articles on the subject seem to start off with long-winded history lessons. I’ll try and get to the point before diving into detail.
First of all, you have to understand that the island of Ireland is split into two different countries.
- The Republic of Ireland.
- Northern Ireland.
These are two separate countries. They both use different currencies and they both have different governments and laws.
The Republic of Ireland is NOT a part of the UK. It is a completely independent nation that has no sovereign ties with the UK, Great Britain or England. It is no longer under English rule.
However, Northern Ireland is a part of the UK.
So, just so we’re clear here:
- The Republic of Ireland is an independent country that is not a part of the United Kingdom.
- Northern Ireland is a country that is a part of the United Kingdom.
Or, if you prefer a visual description:
As you can see, only Northern Ireland is a part of the UK. The rest of the island of Ireland is completely independent.
Why are people confused by this?
The confusion stems from the fact that most people use the word “Ireland” to describe the Republic of Ireland. This is because “Ireland” is actually the official name of the state.
The “Republic of Ireland” is a legal description of the country. It is not an official name. This legal description was adopted in 1949, twelve years after the Irish constitution was ratified. This description is typically used when people want to avoid any ambiguity.
Article 4 of the Constitution of Ireland states the following:
The name of the State is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland.
Essentially, this means that “Ireland” is the official name of both the geographical island and the sovereign nation.
Why doesn’t Ireland use the “Republic of Ireland” as its official name?
That’s fighting talk, my friend.
The history of Ireland and its partition into two separate countries is a complex one. It is far too complex for me to explain in any detail.
However, let’s just say that the people of Ireland have always felt that the two countries should be reunited at some point. Whether that happens next week or three decades from now is a moot point.
Many people feel as though the island of Ireland belongs to the Irish. In their eyes, the north is currently occupied by a foreign nation (Britain).
There is a large population of Irish people who were born in Northern Ireland. Although they grew up in the United Kingdom, they have Irish passports and they identify as being Irish. Many of these people would like to see Northern Ireland reunited with the independent Irish nation in the south.
The partition of Ireland in 1921 was extremely controversial. So controversial, in fact, that it caused a civil war. Giving up our claim to the name “Ireland” would have been interpreted as a sign that we were willing to accept this partition and abandon the many Irish people who lived in Northern Ireland.
When did Ireland leave the UK?
Ireland left the United Kingdom on December 6th, 1922, after it officially became the Irish Free State. At that point, Ireland became a self-governing dominion that was no longer a part of the UK.
To mark this change, the UK later renamed itself as “the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland” in 1927.
Was Ireland ever a part of Great Britain?
No. Ireland has never been a part of Great Britain. Great Britain is a geographical term that refers to Scotland, Wales and England. Great Britain is an island that lies to the east of Ireland.
Although a sovereign state called the Kingdom of Great Britain existed between 1707 and 1801, Ireland was never a part of this kingdom. Instead, the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland shared a legislative union. The Kingdom of Ireland was a client state that England had brought under its control.
However, this was a personal union, not a real union. A real union is where both states share the same governmental institutions. This was not the case between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Kingdom of Ireland. In fact, the Kingdom of Ireland even had its own parliament.
How did Ireland become a part of the UK?
After the Irish rebellion of 1798 was quashed, Britain decided that it was time to tighten its grip on Ireland even further. Subsequently, it passed the 1800 Acts of Union. This disbanded the Parliament of Ireland and united the two kingdoms under the official name of the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.”
A timeline of events.
A quick timeline of events:
- 1169: The Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland takes place.
- 1177: King Henry II declares his son as the Lord of Ireland.
- 1536: Henry VIII of England decides to reconquer Ireland after English influence dwindles on the island.
- 1541: Henry VIII upgrades Ireland from a lordship to the Kingdom of Ireland. He also declares himself the King of Ireland.
- 1606: The Ulster Plantation begins. English forces confiscate Irish land and give it to British settlers.
- 1798: The Irish Rebellion of 1798 is bloodily suppressed.
- 1801: The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland is formed.
- 1916: The Easter Rising: An armed insurrection by Irish republicans is defeated by the British.
- 1919: The Irish War of Independence begins between the IRA and British forces.
- 1921: A truce brings the Irish War of Independence to an end.
- 1921: The island of Ireland is partitioned into the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. Consequently, the Irish Free State leaves the UK and becomes a self-governing dominion.
- 1922-1923: The Irish Civil War occurs.
- 1927: The UK renames itself as “the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”
- 1937: A new constitution is ratified. As a result, the Irish Free State becomes officially known as Ireland.
- 1949: Ireland leaves the British Commonwealth and declares itself a republic. In addition, it adopts “the Republic of Ireland” as a legal description.
Quick questions and answers.
Frequently asked questions about this topic:
How long was Ireland a part of the United Kingdom?
Ireland was a part of the UK for 121 years. However, England had brought the island of Ireland under its control long before that.
Is Dublin a part of the United Kingdom?
No. Dublin is the capital city of the Republic of Ireland, which is an independent nation. Therefore, it is not a part of the UK.
Is Belfast a part of the United Kingdom?
Yes. Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland. Therefore, it is a part of the United Kingdom.
Is Northern Ireland a part of Great Britain?
No. Great Britain is a geographical term that refers to the land mass that contains England, Wales and Scotland.
Is Ireland in the British Isles?
The British Isles is a dated geographical term that refers to the islands of Ireland and Great Britain. However, the term is controversial and the government of Ireland does not recognize it. Moreover, the Irish Embassy in London discourages its use. To avoid stirring up any drama, you can call it “Britain and Ireland” instead.
Will Ireland remain as part of the EU after the UK leaves?
Yes. Ireland will remain as a member of the European Union after the UK has left. Northern Ireland, however, will leave the EU. Although both sides have said that they do not want there to be a hard border between the two countries, this is still a complex issue that may take some time to iron out.
In conclusion: No, Ireland is not part of the UK. It is a completely sovereign nation that is independent from Westminster. However, a part of the island of Ireland is in the United Kingdom. This “part” refers to the country of Northern Ireland.