Have you ever wondered why on the west side of Britain, there is an island called by two names? Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland? 

In this article, we will discuss this often confusing fact about Ireland.

A Brief History of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland

Geographically speaking, Ireland is composed of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. However, politically speaking, Northern Ireland is part of the UK, while the Republic of Ireland is different, and a sovereign country on its own. 

Since the 13th century, Ireland has been under the rule of Great Britain, and the many Catholics in the country suffered a lot from Great Britain whose main religion is Protestantism. 

Ireland became two separate countries after it broke free from its shackles from Britain. At the beginning of the 20th century, the country was partitioned into two to avoid a civil war. The northern part of Ireland decided to stay under Britain’s rule due to its predominantly protestant population.

On the other hand, the southern part of Ireland, a bigger part of Ireland, became the Irish Free State, later the Republic of Ireland. Thus, the two became different countries. Northern Ireland’s capital city became Belfast, while in the Republic of Ireland, the capital city is Dublin. 

What’s the Difference? 

Aside from being two different countries and sovereign, below are other differences between the two parts of Ireland. 


One of the main reasons for the partition of Ireland is due to religion. The predominant religion in Ireland is Christianity. However, when it comes to Christian denominations, the two have very different majorities. In Northern Ireland, the largest Christian denomination is Protestant Christianity. Meanwhile, in the Republic of Ireland, the majority of the population belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. 

In recent years, freedom of religion has been better practiced and is entrenched in the laws of both sides of Ireland. 

Geopolitics and Governance

Northern Ireland has a devolved government under the UK. Thus Northern Ireland is under the UK’s constitutional monarchy, responsible to the Prime Minister of the UK, and their head of state is the British monarch.  On the other hand, the Republic of Ireland’s government is a constitutional republic with a parliamentary system, thus, they have a president. 

When it comes to geopolitics, Northern Ireland’s foreign relations are only through the UK. Thus, it does not usually have a representative in various global organizations such as the United Nations. Meanwhile, the Republic of Ireland has been a member of the UN since the 1950s.

Moreover, since Northern Ireland is part of the UK when the UK decided to exit from the European Union (EU), it became a big issue for the country. 


Currencies in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland are also different. Like in most EU countries, the Republic of Ireland uses the euro as its official currency. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland uses the sterling pound as its official currency. For people traveling between the two regions, this might seem confusing, especially since some areas in northern Ireland also accept the euro. 

Want to begin your journey as an international student in Ireland? Check out MSM Unify’s list of courses to begin. If you want to learn more about the top scholarships being offered in Ireland, check out our article on this topic.

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