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Is Ireland Part of the UK? A Guide to Ireland’s Identity

Have you ever wondered, “Is Ireland a part of the UK?” Then you have come to the right place. 

The relationship between Ireland and the UK is a long and complex one that has evolved over centuries.

As an Irish person, I do not expect people to have an in-depth knowledge of the ins and outs of Anglo Irish history. 

However, there is some information that is fundamental to know about Ireland in general.

Let’s be honest, you don’t want to be caught red faced by asking a very obvious wrong question.

In this article, we will cover all you need to know about Ireland’s relationship to the United Kingdom.

We’ll look at how the geography, history, and current situations of these two nations affect their relationship with each other.

After reading this you can be confident about your Irish and geographical and political knowledge. 

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Understanding the Geographical Entities

Aerial view of Ireland with parts of England, Wales and Scotland.
Aerial view of the island of Ireland with parts of England, Wales and Scotland. (Image: Anton Balazh via Shutterstock)

Ireland and the UK – Definitions and Key Differences

First, let us set the scene by naming the main players: the UK, Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Isles. Each term represents different groupings of countries on these North Atlantic islands.

The UK, which stands for the United Kingdom, is a sovereign state made up of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. 

On the other hand, Great Britain is the biggest island in the British Isles. It is made up of England, Scotland, and Wales, but not Northern Ireland.

(For some sporting events, such as the Olympics, Great Britain is used instead of the UK. In this case, Northern Ireland is also included. However, people from Northern Ireland have dual Irish British nationality and can decide which country to play for.)

And then, we have Ireland – a unique entity in itself. 

It is an island with two distinct parts.

The Republic of Ireland, which is its own country, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. 

The whole island is home to about 7 million people.

Map of the British Isles. (Map Image: claudiodivizia, created in

Lastly, the British Isles, a geographical term, which like an all-encompassing embrace, includes all of the above plus many other islands, including the Channel Islands.

Note: While the British Isles is a geographic term, it is not one particularly liked by many Irish. 

What Constitutes the UK?

Map of the United Kingdom.
Map of the United Kingdom. (Map Image: juliars, created in

With the aforementioned information in our pocket, it’s clear that Ireland, as a whole, is not part of the UK. 

England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland make up the four countries that make up the UK. 

Still, England and Ireland are not completely cut off from each other. 

The UK includes Northern Ireland, which comprises the six northern counties of the island.

The Divided Ireland: A Brief Historical Perspective

Pre-1921: Ireland and the UK

Did Ireland belong to the UK?

Casting our gaze back in time, the Emerald Isle and the UK were indeed part of the same entity under the British Empire for several centuries. 

Ireland was under British rule for a long time. Without going into historical detail here, there have been many times of unrest and rebellion. 

This led up to the most important event, the Easter Rising of 1916.

Post-1921: The Separation and its Aftermath

After the Easter Rising, in 1922, the Irish Free State came into being. 

It was a separate country from the UK. 

This did not include the six northern counties, which chose to stay in the UK and make Northern Ireland instead. 

And yes, Ireland kept its status as a country separate from the UK even during the World Wars. 

(Ireland remained neutral during the wars and is not a member of NATO.)

Ireland and Northern Ireland: Current Status

The Island of Ireland with map of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The Island of Ireland with map of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. (Map Image: Clker-Free-Vector-Images from pixabay, created in

Is Ireland a Country?

To put it simply – yes Ireland is its own sovereign country. 

The Republic of Ireland is a fully independent country with its own government (led by the taoiseach, the Irish prime minister), capital city (Dublin), and head of state.

Ireland does not have a royal family, unlike the UK and some European neighboring countries. 

The Irish are proud of their country and heritage, which has distinct differences to British culture. 

General Tip:

One big faux pas to avoid is calling an Irish person British. This generally doesn’t go down all that well…..

Understanding Northern Ireland

Is Northern Ireland part of the UK?

Northern Ireland is still a part of the UK, even though it has its own devolved government (since 2007) and its capital is in Belfast. 

It is its own entity within the United Kingdom and shares the island of Ireland with southern Ireland, known as the Republic of Ireland.

Ireland and Northern Ireland: Key Differences

So, if you are trying to tell the difference between Ireland and Northern Ireland, remember that they are two different places, each with its own rules and culture. 

Dublin is the capital city of the Republic of Ireland. It is not in the UK.

Belfast is the capital in Northern Ireland and is part of the UK.

Ireland and the UK: Interactions and Implications

Living and Working Conditions

Even though Ireland and the UK are far apart, a lot of people go back and forth between them. 

Irish people do not need settled status to live and work in the UK. 

In the same way, British people enjoy the same privileges in Ireland.

Travel Implications and Travel Tips

There is good news for Irish and UK citizens who like to travel back and forth between the countries. 

You do not need a passport to go between the UK and Ireland as generally there are no routine passport checks in place. 

However we strongly advise you to have photographic identification with you to avoid any unnecessary complications.

It is worth keeping in mind that this does not cover visa requirements. Ireland does not automatically let people into the country with UK visas.

Ireland and the European Union

Map of the key attractions in the Republic of Ireland.
Map of the key attractions in the Republic of Ireland. Maps of the country sometimes exlude Northern Ireland as shown here. (Image: Beskova Ekaterina via Shutterstock)

Ireland’s Position in the EU

Ireland has stayed a member of the European Union (EU) even though there has been a lot of talk about Brexit. 

Remember, Ireland is part of the EU, not the UK.

Northern Ireland and the EU

This is a really complicated matter. 

Even though Northern Ireland is still a part of the UK, it has a different status after Brexit. 

The UK, including Northern Ireland, formally left the EU at the end of January 2020.

Northern Ireland follows EU rules for goods and keeps its borders with the Republic open, so it is really part of the EU’s customs union.

Comparative Aspects of Ireland and the UK

Due to their shared history, Ireland and the UK have a lot in common. This includes for example driving on the left, plug socket types and other cultural ties. 

But there are differences in areas like health care, the legal system, and the way the government works. 

Brexit has made things even more complicated, especially when it comes to border issues and economic ties.

Irish Culture and Language

Let us finish up by talking about the language spoken in Ireland. 

Even though most people speak English, the Irish language, called Gaelic, is still alive and well, especially in the Gaeltacht areas. 

It is a proud sign of the rich culture of Ireland.

Ireland’s Complex Relationship with the UK and EU

We have seen that the question “Is Ireland part of the UK?” can not be answered with a simple yes or no. 

It is kind of like asking if a shamrock is the same thing as a four-leaf clover. 

Ireland and the UK have a lot in common, but Ireland also has its own identity that is different from the UK. However, they will always be linked by history.

Is Ireland in the UK FAQs

Is Dublin part of the UK or Ireland? 

Dublin is the capital city of the Republic of Ireland. It is known for its beautiful old buildings and lively culture. Even though the Republic of Ireland is close to the UK and has historical ties to it, it is a separate sovereign state from the UK.

Is the UK part of Ireland? 

No, Ireland and the UK are not the same thing. Northern Ireland is part of the UK, but the Republic of Ireland is an independent country that is not part of the UK.

What is the currency in Ireland?

Ireland is in the EU and is a member of the Eurozone. Since January 1 2002, people have been able to pay using the Euro in Ireland. 

What is the currency in Northern Ireland?

Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom and has a different currency to the Republic of Ireland. 

In Northern Ireland, the currency is the British Pound Sterling. 

For useful information about tips and tricks about what money to use in Ireland both north and south of the border, we recommend checking out our Ireland Currency Guide.

Euro Coins
Euro Coins. (Photo:

Which part of Ireland is under the UK? 

Northern Ireland, which is made up of the six counties in the north of Ireland, is a part of the United Kingdom. 

Northern Ireland shares the island of Ireland with its southern neighbor, but it has its own government that is separate from the UK government.

Why is Ireland part of the British Isles? 

“British Isles” is a geographical term that refers to all the islands in the area, including Great Britain, all of Ireland, and many smaller islands nearby. 

In spite of the name, it has nothing to do with politics per se, and the Republic of Ireland is a separate country from the UK.

Is Ireland part of the UK for tax purposes? 

The Republic of Ireland has its own tax system, which is different from the one in the UK. 

It means that for tax purposes, Ireland is not the same as the UK. 

Instead, Ireland has its own tax laws and rates, which are handled by the Irish government.

Are the IRA still active?

In 2005, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), which played a big role in the Troubles in Northern Ireland, said it would stop its armed campaign. 

But some small groups that call themselves IRA are still going strong, but they do not have as much support as the original IRA.

Independent Ireland

A map of some of the tourist highlights on the island of Ireland.
A map of some of the tourist highlights on the island of Ireland. Note that there are four provinces in Ireland and that only some of the counties in Ulster are part of Northern Ireland. (Image: Designifty via Shutterstock)

Through this in-depth look, we hope to have helped you understand Ireland’s unique position in relation to the UK and the EU. 

It is a relationship that mixes history, politics, and culture, which makes it both interesting and hard to understand. 

Now you know enough about Ireland, Northern Ireland, and the UK to answer questions about them. 

So, the next time someone asks, “Is Ireland part of the UK?” you can answer, “No, but it is a little complicated…”

Do you want to know what Ireland is famous for? Then discover some of the things Ireland is best known for here.