Northern Ireland is a constituent country of the United Kingdom, lying in the northeast of the island of Ireland, covering 5,459 square miles (14,139 km²), about a sixth of the island's total area. It shares a border with the Republic of Ireland to the south and west. At the time of the UK Census in April 2001, its population was 1,685,000, constituting between a quarter and a third of the island's total population and about 3% of the population of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland consists of six of the nine counties of the historic Irish province of Ulster. In the UK, it is generally known as one of the four Home Nations that form the Kingdom.
As an administrative division of the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland was defined by the Government of Ireland Act 1920, and has had its own form of devolved government in a similar manner to Scotland and Wales. The Northern Ireland Assembly, established in 1998, has been suspended multiple times but was restored on 8 May 2007. Northern Ireland's legal system descends from the pre-1920 Irish legal system (as does the legal system of the Republic of Ireland), and is therefore based on common law. It is separate from the jurisdictions of England and Wales or Scotland.
The whole of Northern Ireland has a temperate maritime climate, rather wetter in the west than the east, although cloud cover is persistent across the region. The weather is unpredictable at all times of the year, and although the seasons are distinct, they are considerably less pronounced than in interior Europe or the eastern seaboard of North America. Average daytime maximums in Belfast are 6.5 °C (43.7 °F) in January and 17.5 °C (63.5 °F) in July. The damp climate and extensive deforestation in the 16th and 17th centuries resulted in much of the region being covered in rich green grassland.
With its improved international reputation, Northern Ireland has recently witnessed rising numbers of tourists who come to appreciate the area's unique heritage. Attractions include cultural festivals, musical and artistic traditions, countryside and geographical sites of interest, pubs, welcoming hospitality and sports (especially golf and fishing). Since 1987 pubs have been allowed to open on Sundays, despite some limited vocal opposition.