Queen marks Northern Ireland’s centenary

Queen Elizabeth II released a statement on Monday on Northern Ireland’s centenary.

“A century ago, the Government of Ireland Act came into effect, and today marks a significant centenary for both the United Kingdom and Ireland. This anniversary reminds us of our complex history, and provides an opportunity to reflect on our togetherness and our diversity,” the message said.

The Government of Ireland Act came into effect this day 100 years ago, May 3, 1921, and created Northern Ireland by partitioning the island of Ireland.

The 32 original counties of the island of Ireland were split into two. The counties of Antrim, Armagh, Derry, Down, Fermanagh, and Tyrone together created Northern Ireland, while remaining counties created the Irish Free State that then became the Republic of Ireland.

There is some disagreement as to when exactly Northern Ireland was created, with other dates also given, but today is often referenced as the birth of the region.

The Queen continued: “In Northern Ireland today, there is, perhaps, more than ever, a rich mix of identities, backgrounds and aspirations, and an outward-looking and optimistic mindset. The political progress in Northern Ireland and the peace process is rightly credited to a generation of leaders who had the vision and courage to put reconciliation before division. But above all, the continued peace is a credit to its people, upon whose shoulders the future rests.

“It is clear that reconciliation, equality and mutual understanding cannot be taken for granted, and will require sustained fortitude and commitment. During my many visits to Northern Ireland, I have seen these qualities in abundance, and look forward to seeing them again on future occasions.

“I also wish to recognise the important contribution made by our friends and closest neighbours towards the success of Northern Ireland. I look back with fondness on the visit Prince Philip and I paid to Ireland, 10 years ago this month. I treasure my many memories, and the spirit of goodwill I saw at first hand.

“Across generations, the people of Northern Ireland are choosing to build an inclusive, prosperous, and hopeful society, strengthened by the gains of the peace process. May this be our guiding thread in coming years.

“I send my warmest good wishes to the people of Northern Ireland.”

She signed the letter with: “Elizabeth R.”

The Troubles

The UK suffered a 30-year, low-intensity conflict both in Northern Ireland and the wider UK, called The Troubles. This conflict pitted Northern Irish republican nationalists, who wanted unification with the Republic of Ireland, against Northern Irish unionists, who wanted to remain in the UK.

Thousands died and tens of thousands were injured across Northern Ireland, the wider UK, and the Republic of Ireland. The conflict came to an end with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson also released his own message, saying that the 100th year since the Government of Ireland Act was a “very significant national anniversary”.

“Throughout 2021, in its centenary year, the Government will continue to showcase all the brilliant things Northern Ireland contributes to the rest of the UK and the world, from its world-class fintech industry and research capabilities, to its inspiring young people, and its vibrant culture of arts and sport,” he said.

“It is also important that we pause to reflect on the complex history of the last 100 years. People from all parts of Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and across the globe, will approach this anniversary in different ways, with differing perspectives.

“While this is a moment of shared reflection, it is also an important opportunity to come together to celebrate Northern Ireland and build towards a better and even brighter future for all its people.

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