Society of Ireland

Separatism, rebellion and partition

The partition of Ireland (Irish: criochdheighilt na hEireann) was the division of the island of Ireland into two distinct territories, Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, and the now Republic of Ireland, an independent state. Partition occurred when the British Parliament passed the Government of Ireland Act 1920 creating Northern Ireland and what was then Southern Ireland. From 1801 to 1920 the whole island had formed a constituent country of the United Kingdom. Before then it was the separate Kingdom of Ireland. The Act of 1920 was intended to create two self-governing territories within Ireland that remained within the UK. The Act also contained provisions for co-operation between the two territories and for the eventual reunification of Ireland. However, partition was reinforced in 1922 when what was intended to be Southern Ireland separated from the United Kingdom as the Irish Free State. Since partition began, a key aspiration of Irish nationalists has been to bring about a united Ireland, with the whole island forming one independent state. This goal conflicts with that of unionists in Northern Ireland, whose objective is to remain part of the United Kingdom. The British and Irish governments have agreed, under the 1998 Belfast Agreement, that the status of Northern Ireland will not change without the consent of the majority there.



ESHSI, Department of Modern History, Trinity College, Dublin, Republic of Ireland Contact: Membership Secretary