Thursday 4 August 2011

36 - 'The 32 county Ireland is history!'

Map of the British Isles, showing the UK and Ireland
May 31, 2011

We had a band over last week from Missouri - from Kansas City, in fact.  Yes, I know - there are two Kansas Cities - the other one in Kansas.  And while The Elders were over here, lots of nasty weather was hitting Kansas and Missouri - the whole area.  These guys have the right idea of how to tour Ireland, though.  They not only brought a great support band - the all-girl Searson, from Ottawa, Canada - but they also brought a hundred or so fans from US, Canada and other places, with them.  I think that's a great way to tour - and you've plenty of helpers when you need them, eh?

Now, here's one of my pet hates.  I received a couple of emails this week asking me to check my WHOIS details for two websites I own.  All the information was correct, except for one thing - apparently they think that I live in some mythical country called GB.  In case you think this actually IS a country, let me assure you that there is NO such country as GB.  It stands for Great Britain, obviously, but Great Britain is the name of an island comprising three separate countries - England, Wales and Scotland.  These three countries, together with Northern Ireland - where I live! - make up a state known as the United Kingdom, or UK.

I live in the province of Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom (until further notice!), along with the three countries which make up the island of Great Britain.  I also live in Ulster, which is not quite the same as Northern Ireland.  Norn Iron has only six counties, whereas the province of Ulster has a total of nine counties.  The other three counties - Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan - are Ulster counties, but they are part of the political entity of the Republic of Ireland, or Ireland for short.  

So, in case you're still confused, I live in Northern Ireland - a political entity, which is geographically a part of the whole island of Ireland but, politically, is a component of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland - the UK.  Our currency, unlike the south of Ireland, is the same as that of the rest of the UK - the pound.  There is actually no such thing as a GB pound, it's a UK pound!  In the rest of Ireland - and in most of Europe - the currency is the euro but, if you come to visit us 'north of the border', our banks and major stores will be happy to take your euros from you! 

So, six counties of the ancient province of Ulster also make up the political province of Northern Ireland - part of the UK, but separated from Great Britain by the North Channel and the Irish Sea.  The other 3 counties of Ulster are joined with the provinces of Munster, Leinster and Connaught, to make up the Republic of Ireland.  But back in history, Ireland was actually made up of five provinces, not four!  The fifth province was called Mide, or Meath, and is represented by the counties of Meath and Westmeath, which are part of Leinster now - though it used to be a bit bigger than that and included parts of other counties, too.  

Mide, or Meath, means 'middle, because it was in the centre of the country, in between the other provinces - Ulster to the north, Connaught to the west, Leinster and Munster to the south.  Mide was much smaller than the other provinces, but it's status came from the fact that it contained the Hill of Tara, from where the high King of Ireland ruled, surrounded by warriors who defended Ireland against raiders and invaders from whatever quarter.

The whole island of Ireland has traditionally been divided into 32 counties - six in the north and 26 in the south, but in recent years, due to shifts in the population, etc. there have been some changes.  In 1994 County Dublin became four separate entities: Dublin City Council replaced the former Dublin Corporation, and new districts of Fingal (in the north), Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown in the south east and South County Dublin in the south west, make up what used to be County Dublin.  Also, County Tipperary, being quite large geographically, has been divided administratively since 1898, into north and south.

So, today, instead of 26 counties in the Republic, there are really 30!  

Northern Ireland, meanwhile, dropped the whole county thing in 1973, in favour of administrative District Councils - currently 26 of them.  At the moment, County Down, for example, is composed of all of North Down, Castlereagh, Ards District and Down District, plus parts of Newry & Mourne, Banbridge, Lisburn and Belfast.  These districts are possibly soon to be reduced to eleven, or seven, which would bring us back to a situation similar to what we started off with - six counties, plus Belfast City!  The reforms are currently on hold, but, any way you look at it, the 32 county Ireland is now history!

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