Unless you’re from Europe or have strong connections to the area, you might not even realize that Northern Ireland is technically separated from the Republic. While the rest of the world may subconsciously categorize the two into just plain old Ireland, the truth of the matter is that there are some serious differences. While some aspects may be almost exactly the same, others change the way that the entire country is run. Whether you’re Irish or a foreigner, keep on reading to find out some interesting differences between the two neighboring countries. Who knows, it might make your life easier should you decide to visit the other side!
Perhaps the most significant differing aspect, upon first glance, is the physical size of the two territories. The Republic of Ireland is about five times larger than its northern counterpart! Although the two nations share the small island, the size difference is immediately noticeable. For those of you who like to keep specific numbers, the Republic of Ireland covers roughly 27,000 square miles, compared to Northern Ireland’s puny 5,400 square miles. However, don’t judge a book by its cover! Although Northern Ireland is much smaller, it still has strong traditions and proud customs, as well as great tourist spots, as you’ll later see.
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9 Currency and Economy
After you take in the astounding difference in the size of these two countries, perhaps the next noticeable difference is the currency used. Currently, the Republic of Ireland uses the Euro, while its northern counterpart uses the sterling pound, the same as England and the rest of the United Kingdom. With that being said, it should be noted that there is only a very slight difference between the values of the two bills right now, making the two almost equal. In terms of economy, the Republic focuses heavily on its oil deposits as well as renewable energy innovation, while Northern Ireland depends more on the service industry.
8 International Recognition
In terms of international recognition, the Republic of Ireland takes the win. Not only is it recognized as its own sovereign nation, it actually plays a very important part in terms of global relations, particularly in Europe. As a member of the United Nations, the Republic of Ireland plays a major role in the happenings of the modern world. However, it prefers military neutrality during conflicts. By comparison, Northern Ireland has not received international recognition and remains apart of the United Kingdom. While it has no international relations of its own, it understandably identifies closely with the affairs of Britain.
7 Ireland generally refers to the Republic.
Who gets the benefit of the general term? In countries that share a name, such as North and South Korea, one of them almost always rises above the other to be the country that people assume that you are referring to when you use the general term. In the case of the Koreas, South Korea takes that win. With the Irelands, it is the Republic that is generally referred to as good old Ireland. There are multiple reasons behind this generality, including the Republic’s larger size and international recognition. However, Northern Ireland is still a prevalent area that has influence over the affairs of both the UK and Europe as a whole.
6 Metric vs. Imperial measurements
Another important difference is that Northern Ireland, similar to America, uses the interesting imperial system. Specifically, all the road signs in Northern Ireland feature miles per hour instead of kilometers. Nowadays, it’s one of the only countries in the world to still hold on to the traditional method of measurement. The Republic of Ireland, on the other hand, uses the metric system of kilometers like the majority of the world. While the reasoning behind this is unclear, we can imagine that it could turn out to be quite inconvenient for the citizens to get used to the other system should they go to either side for a visit.
5 Tourist spots
While Northern Ireland has given off the weaker impression on this list so far, there’s no doubt that it features some of the world’s most beautiful sight-seeing destinations. First up, it features the famous, rustic Dunlap Castle, a beautiful structure right on the drop-off to the sea. Secondly, it also has natural beauties such as the valleys known as the Glens of Antrim as well as the gorgeous and rugged Rathlin Island. With that being said, the Republic of Ireland also holds some seriously nice tourist attractions, primarily the Cliffs of Moher and the jaw-dropping city of Dublin. Although the tourist attractions differ between the two countries, they hold the similarity of beauty between them.
When you think of Irish cuisine, the words “potato” and “cabbage” probably popped into your mind. While it's definitely true that these two foods are considered traditional staples in both the Republic and Northern Ireland, they do have some differences in the delicacies that they prefer. In the Republic, famous dishes include black pudding, horse-meat sandwich, open-crab sandwich, as well as (preferably home-cooked) bacon and cabbage. By contrast, Northern Ireland prefers caramel shortbread, potato bread, and Irish stew. Again, the differences in this category can both be summarized into one similarity: absolutely delicious.
One aspect that is clearly defined between these two regions is religion. While the two both fall under the majority of Christianity, Northern Ireland specifically is constantly in turmoil between the Catholics. By comparison, the Republic of Ireland is calmer in the sense that the majority belongs to the Roman Catholic Church. Furthermore, freedom of religion is heavily advertised in the Republic, while Northern Ireland focuses more on the conflicts between their two major parties. In fact, the controversy is so great in the northern parts that dozens of peace walls and other physical barriers were erected in order to keep the two communities separate.
In terms of politics, the two regions are fairly different upon first glance. As a part of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland falls under the rule of the prime minister of the UK. It follows England’s rule as a constitutional monarchy and holds most of the same laws and rulings. The Republic of Ireland, on the other hand, considers itself a parliamentary constitutional republic, with both regional rulers and a central government. The two are trading partners and the governments usually are on the same side of a dispute. Although the two seem drastically different, it is important to remember that the Republic’s government is modeled largely after that of the UK.
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Lastly, although the difference is slight in most cases, there is a cultural difference between the Republic and Northern Ireland. Generally speaking, Northern Ireland takes after England in terms of recreational activities, popular food items, social behaviors, and culture as a whole. The Republic of Ireland, on the other hand, almost makes it a point to be individualized from the UK. For example, Ireland always uses its own unique sports teams in events such as the Olympics and the World Cup, while Northern Ireland will sometimes compete as one with the British team. (Although there are instances where Northern Ireland has a team of its own.)