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Northern Ireland has two national museums: the Ulster Museum in Belfast, which houses a collection of Irish antiquities; and the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum in Holywood, County Down.
Northern Ireland's gross domestic product in 1992 was about $18.3 billion. In general, the economy of Northern Ireland is based on agriculture and manufacturing and is closely tied to that of Great Britain as a whole; almost half of manufacturing output is sold to the rest of Britain; one quarter is sold locally. Northern Ireland has been particularly hard hit by the decline of traditional industries like shipbuilding, on which much of its prosperity and many jobs depended. The lack of economic opportunities, particularly for young people, played a role in the sectarian conflicts of the 1970s. At the same time, however, the threat of terrorism hindered efforts to attract investment and create new jobs in the 1980s. Considerable public expenditure has been devoted to urban renewal in Belfast and Londonderry. Various agencies have been established to attract new companies and encourage small business, backed by tax and other incentives. Helped by moves towards a peaceful settlement of the sectarian violence, several important new investments were announced in the early 1990s.
Public finance comes predominantly from taxes (50 percent in 1994) and government grants in aid from Great Britain (41 percent); Northern Ireland also received considerable funding from the European Union.
Small farms predominate in Northern Ireland, and production generally includes both crops and livestock. Livestock on farms in the early 1990s numbered approximately 1.5 million cattle, 2.6 million sheep, 588,000 pigs, and 12.3 million poultry. The leading crops in the country were potatoes, barley, hay, oats, turnips, apples, and pears.
Forestry and Fishing
Northern Ireland is sparsely forested, but the state afforestation program has made considerable progress, and in the early 1980s about 60,000 cu m (about 2.1 million cu ft) of timber were felled annually. The annual catch of fish and shellfish in the early 1990s was about 15,000 metric tons. Saltwater fishing is centered on the eastern coast, principally off Newcastle; the most important species caught include herring, whiting, and scallops. Freshwater fisheries operate in Lough Neagh, Lough Erne, and Upper Lough Erne; the species caught include salmon, trout, eel, and pollan.
Mining and Manufacturing
Mining and quarrying are relatively unimportant economic activities in Northern Ireland. They employed only about 6200 workers in the late 1980s. The chief minerals are basalt, sand and gravel, peat, chalk, limestone, and granite.
Manufacturing is a major source of the national product. In the early 1990s the industrial output of Northern Ireland was about 18 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP). Manufacturing and construction accounted for about one-fifth of the employed work force.
Traditionally, the leading industries of Northern Ireland have been the manufacture of textiles and clothing. Linen is the most important textile manufactured; cotton cloth and fabrics woven of synthetic fibers rank next in importance. Shipbuilding and the manufacture of aircraft also are major industries; large shipyards are located in Belfast. Other manufactures include textile machinery, electrical and electronic equipment, processed food, liquor, tobacco products, and chemicals.
About 80 percent of Northern Ireland's external trade is with Great Britain, and the British pound is the legal tender of Northern Ireland. A large portion of the exports to Great Britain is transshipped to other countries, however. Northern Ireland exports linen goods, textiles, clothing, machinery, and food, notably meat, potatoes, and dairy products. Imports consist chiefly of petroleum and other fuels, raw materials and metals, produce, and an assortment of manufactured goods.
Transportation and Communications
Northern Ireland has about 23,730 km (about 14,745 mi) of roads, including 113 km (70 mi) of motorway. The Northern Ireland Railways Company provided passenger service on 357 km (222 mi) of railroad track. Daily steamship and airline services connect Belfast with the rest of the United Kingdom.
Northern Ireland has three daily newspapers, the Belfast Telegraph, the Irish News, and the News Letter, all published in Belfast. In the early 1990s they had a combined daily circulation of about 272,000.
The system of labor relations in Northern Ireland is based on the same principles as that of Great Britain. A major proportion of trade unionists in Northern Ireland are members of trade unions with headquarters in Great Britain.
Northern Ireland, an integral part of Great Britain, elects members (now 17) to the British House of Commons. In recent years some of those elected have chosen not to go to London (usually in order to protest the domestic situation). The Government of Ireland Act, passed by the British Parliament in 1920 and modified by several subsequent agreements between Northern Ireland and Great Britain, is the country's basic constitutional document. In 1972, however, because of political and religious strife, London imposed direct rule. A 1973 act gave Northern Ireland much local autonomy, while Great Britain retained control over defense, foreign policy, currency, tariffs, and communications. In January 1974, direct rule was relinquished, but it was reimposed again that same year. The office of governor and the Northern Ireland Parliament were abolished, and the secretary of state for Northern Ireland became the head of government. The 78-member assembly that met from 1982 to 1986 had only reviewing and consulting responsibility. In 1985, an agreement granted the Republic of Ireland a limited role in governing Northern Ireland and set up an intergovernmental conference of British and Irish cabinet ministers.
The highest court is the Supreme Court of Judicature of Northern Ireland, which consists of the High Court, the Court of Appeal, and the Crown Court. Lower courts include county courts with criminal and civil jurisdiction and magistrates' courts for minor offenses.
Northern Ireland is divided into 26 districts for the purposes of local government. Each district is run by a council responsible for a variety of administrative functions.
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