The six counties
The historic six counties, the basis of local government until 1973, are still recognised for various purposes:
- County Antrim (including Belfast)
- County Armagh
- County Down
- County Fermanagh
- County Londonderry / County Derry
- County Tyrone.
From 1973 to 2015 Northern Ireland was divided into 26 districts for local government purposes, replacing the historic six counties.
Current council areas
Under the Local Government (Boundaries) Act (Northern Ireland) 2008, the 26 districts were reduced to 11 with effect from 1 April 2015:
- North Down and Ards
- Antrim and Newtownabbey
- Lisburn and Castlereagh
- Newry, Mourne and Down
- Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon
- Mid and East Antrim
- Causeway Coast and Glens
- Mid Ulster
- Derry and Strabane
- Fermanagh and Omagh
Main towns and cities
Northern Ireland was left out of the Sexual Offences Act 1967 and sex between men remained illegal until the Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1982 which set an age of consent of 21, the same as in the rest of the UK at that time. There had been a previous attempt at decriminalisation, via the draft Homosexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 1978, but this had failed because "a substantial body of opinion" in the province was opposed to it.
The change was a result of the judgement in the European Court of Human Rights case of Dudgeon v United Kingdom (1981) in which the ECtHR held that a prohibition on homosexual acts was a breach of Article 8 of the Convention.
The age of consent for gay male sexual conduct was lowered to 18 under the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 so as to be in line with England and Wales). The age of consent was lowered again to 17 for gay male sexual conduct to be in line with heterosexual and lesbian sexual conduct, by the Sexual Offences (Amendment) Act 2000, Section 1.
In 2008 the age of consent for all individuals was lowered to 16 under the Sexual Offences (Northern Ireland) Order 2008 so it is now in line with the rest of the UK.
In October 2012, a motion calling for equal marriage was rejected by the Northern Ireland Assembly.
In January 2017 the Northern Ireland assembly was suspended following failure to reach agreement between the two main parties. The issue of same-sex marriage has been one of the points of difference between the parties.
On 9 July 2019, the House of Commons voted by 383 to 73 in favour of introducing same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland.
The main LGBT campaigning organisation in Northern Ireland is the Northern Ireland Gay Rights Association (NIGRA), founded 1975.
QueerSpace is a volunteer-led organisation serving Northern Ireland's LGBT community.
Cara-Friend provides information, support, and befriending.
- Paul Johnson, Homosexuality and the European Court of Human Rights, Page 97
- http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-northern-ireland-19780261 BBC News item
- Reiss Smith, "MPs vote for equal marriage in Northern Ireland", Pink News, 9 July 2019.
- http://www.rainbow-project.org/assets/publications/lgbt%20directory.pdf (PDF file)