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The northern province of Ireland, comprising the counties of Antrim, Down, Armagh, Cavan, Monaghan, Fermanagh, Donegal, Tyrone, and Londonderry. The Norman intrusion was both socially and geographically confined: Ulster remained the most Gaelic, and—from the perspective of English governors in Dublin—inaccessible part of Ireland until the plantation of 1609. The Ulster plantation embraced the six central and western counties of Ulster. The victory of the Williamite forces in Ireland by 1691 confirmed this territorial distribution, and opened the way to further British migration into Ulster. The mid‐ and late 18th cent. was characterized by economic growth throughout most of Ireland, and at this time Ulster emerged as the centre of the Irish linen industry, and Belfast developed as a significant industrial centre. By the time of the first Home Rule Bill (1886), there was broad support for the maintenance of a constitutional link with Britain. In 1920 the island was partitioned, with the six most unionist counties—the new Northern Ireland—obtaining a separate devolved parliament and government. However, the dominant unionist social and political culture of Northern Ireland came under increasing challenge from the nationalist minority. Between 1969 and 1994, in the context of a low‐grade civil war conducted between loyalist and republican paramilitaries and the Royal Ulster Constabulary and British army, an untenable position of unionist political predominance was gradually undermined. But the re‐introduction of a power‐sharing executive in 2007 has been accompanied by some encouraging signs of economic and social progress.

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