Is Northern Ireland safe to visit? (what you need to know)

You may be wondering, is Northern Ireland safe to travel? We’re here to set the record straight and tell you all you need to know.

Due to the complex history of Northern Ireland and the recent period of conflict known as The Troubles, tourists may want to know whether Northern Ireland is safe or dangerous to visit.

Indeed, since we have grown into one of Ireland’s most significant tourism websites, we have had some emails asking questions such as ‘Is Northern Ireland Dangerous?’ and ‘Is Northen Ireland Safe to visit?’ Someone even asked us ‘How do I go to Northern Ireland and stay safe?’

We can understand why people would ask such questions. If all we heard about a place was a few negative news stories, we would certainly do our research before visiting.

Unfortunately, there have been many instances over the past 50 or so years that have given Northern Ireland a bit of a reputation. I grew up in Northern Ireland and have seen pretty much all the negative news that made headlines around the world. However, Northern Ireland has moved on from the dark days of the conflict.

Today, it is a very peaceful and safe place to live. In fact, it is the safest region of the U.K., and it’s capital, Belfast, is much safer to visit than other U.K. cities, including Manchester and London.

Why was Northern Ireland considered unsafe for many decades?

Northern Ireland is home to many amazing sights and depictions of the dark history can be seen all over.
Credit: Tourism NI

If you want to understand why Northern Ireland was considered unsafe for many decades, it is essential to learn a little bit about its history.

The history of Northern Ireland is very complicated and quite lengthy. In short, the whole island of Ireland was once part of the United Kingdom. In 1922, the 26 counties which now make up the Republic of Ireland, became an independent country and Northern Ireland remained part of the United Kingdom.

Thus, Ireland, as an island, has been divided into two separate administrative areas, having different laws, governments, and currencies. The division of Ireland was mainly a headcount between Catholics and Protestants. Protestants have long had a strong association with British traditions, and the Catholic population had more of an affiliation with Irish traditions.

The majority of Protestants (who were predominately unionist) resided in Northern Ireland. As such, the British decided to keep that part of Ireland in the United Kingdom. The rest of Ireland became independent.

Murals can be seen across the country, depicting the dark and violent past we had.
Credit: ahousemouse.blogspot.com

However, there was a significant minority of Catholics still living in Northern Ireland after partition under an administration which favoured the Protestant majority. There was mistrust between the two communities, and the Catholic community felt as if they were being treated as ‘second-class citizens’ by the Stormont Government.

Tensions cumulated in The Troubles, a violent civil war. It was four decades filled with bombings, battles, riots, and murders that consumed the small province since the 1960s. During The Troubles, Northern Ireland was a dangerous place for tourists to visit.

This bloody violence continued to varying degrees, hitting its peak in the mid-1970s, including the nationalist hunger striker deaths in prison, up until the Good Friday Agreement was endorsed by the majority of people in 1998.This agreement aimed to ensure rights for all the people of Northern Ireland and respect their traditions.

Did the 1998 agreement achieve peace?

Stormont is the divisive seat of power, and one of the main reasons why people ask is Northern Ireland safe.

Northern Ireland has changed dramatically in the years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed in 1998. However, its troubles have not entirely ceased. There have been outbreaks of violence since the agreement, but these have been sporadic and not directed at tourists.

Due to the occasional crimes committed by paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, the U.K. Home Office defines the current terrorism threat level as ‘severe.’

However, it must be pointed out that Tourists are not the target of any terrorist incidents and therefore are highly unlikely to be affected or caught up in any conflict while visiting Northern Ireland. Besides that, there haven’t been any reported incidents of radical Islamic terrorism in Northern Ireland.

Belfast is a city not to be missed, so don't ask is Northern Ireland safe, it is and well worth a visit.
Credit: Tourism NI

Probably the only risky time to travel to Northern Ireland is during the marching season in June/July climaxing with the annual Orange March on July 12th. Most of the parades that take place during this day are very peaceful. Still, if tourists do visit Northern Ireland during this time, it’s best to avoid areas close to where marches take place.

Overall, the Good Friday Agreement was a significant step towards peace for Northern Ireland, and today it is almost the same as any other modern country in Europe.

Is Northern Ireland safe for visitors today?

You may ask yourself is Northern Ireland safe, it is and a lot of the sights delve deep into the country's history.

Northern Ireland is extremely safe for tourists to visit. In fact, when Northern Ireland is compared to the rest of the world, it has one of the lowest crime rates among industrialised countries.

According to statistics from the U.N. International Crime Victimisation Survey (ICVS 2004), Northern Ireland has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe (lower than the United States and the rest of the United Kingdom).

Japan is the only industrialised place safer than Northern Ireland. Almost all visitors experience a trouble-free stay.

So much security has been put in place since The Troubles to prevent the conflict that trouble is kept to a minimum.

People often wonder is Northern Ireland safe? Well it is, and the sights are not to be missed out on.

When political crime does happen, it is usually inter-communal violence or crime committed by paramilitaries which are never directed towards tourists.

Indeed, there hasn‘t been any indication of foreigners or tourist areas being targeted by terrorists.

Our advice would be to treat Northern Ireland as if you are visiting any other place in Europe. By taking the standard safety precautions to stay safe and out of danger, you should be absolutely fine.

An Overview of Northern Ireland’s Safety

Should You Visit Northern Ireland?

Ask yourself no more is Northern Ireland safe and is Northern Ireland dangerous. Northern Ireland is an absolutely stunning place with extremely friendly people. We think it would be a shame if you visited the island of Ireland without heading north of the border! If you visit, you won’t regret it!

Check out our Northern Irish Bucket List to start planning your adventure!

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If you liked this article, why not download our eBook: The Irish Bucket List: 101 places to see in Ireland before you die (eBook)

Stevie Haughey is an Irish author and entrepreneur from Belfast. Since starting Ireland Before You Die from his university bedroom in 2014, he has grown Ireland Before You Die to a website with over 1 million readers per month. In 2019, Stevie was nominated for Northern Ireland’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award. He loves exploring Ireland and is enthusiastic about sharing his experiences with others. In his spare time, Stevie enjoys photography, sports and writing.