The 3rd May 1921 sees the official birthday of Northern Ireland.  It is the date that saw Northern Ireland created as a legal entity under the Government of Ireland Act. 

Just like 100 years ago there will not be street parties or fanfare, and the people of Northern Ireland will see little difference as they mark this amazing Centenary.


On the stroke of midnight Sunday 2 May 2021 our wee country will be 100 years old. As an Institution we will be beginning our year of Centenary Celebrations and ask you to join us in the next years as we mark the first 100 years and look forward to the next.

We have called our Centenary Programme- ICONIC– ILOI Celebration of Northern Ireland’s Cententary. The theme of our Celebrations will be all things that are iconic about Northern Ireland. The term iconic means “widely known and acknowledged especially for distinctive excellence” and that is what we believe about our wee country. It is distinctive and it is excellent and some of the excellence we have seen in sports, culture, and a host of other fields sets us apart.

No other country of this size or population has given so much to the world. It was always a distinct region from prehistoric times to the present. It was a land that forged frontiers men and women who shaped other countries like the United States.

This land with its links to Scotland fused its people into something more – they were no longer Scots or Irish or English they were Ultonians the people of what was eventually to become Northern Ireland. 

While we as unionists and most vocally the ILOI called for the retention of the whole of Ireland within the United Kingdom and saw Partition as a compromise, an appeasement of Irish Nationalism and a betrayal of our co-religionists in the South of Ireland, we did come to love the new state that it created.

In many ways it legislated for the reality that the North-Eastern part of Ireland was always separate in religious, ethnic, economic and political terms. Today that is still very much the case.

It is that distinctiveness that makes Northern Ireland iconic, and our commemorations will underscore that and also celebrate all that is iconic about our wee country. 

So from the Ulster fry, to the sporting genius of George Best from the lambeg drum to our world class bands and all that is best about here, we will be taking a year to enjoy and reflect on all that Northern Ireland has produced and done.  

It is a time to recognise and celebrate the achievements of this small but proud country on a world stage.  From our industrial heritage, sporting achievements, great military leaders and fighting spirit to eminent writers and authors through to our rich culture heritage. 

So, let’s remember Northern Ireland’s successes over the last 100 years but also leave a legacy that helps to facilitate our young people to build a future and set a vision for the next 100 years.

The official start of Northern Ireland was outlined in the Government of Ireland Act 1920 which gained royal assent the previous year, on 23 December 1920. The act set out plans for separate parliaments in Belfast and Dublin but it did not stipulate a specific date for the legislation to come into full force.

In the end it was 3 May, and like many official events, the confirmation of the date was broadcast in the London Gazette which recorded a meeting of the Privy Council on 24 March 1921, attended by King George V, which settled on the early May date.

The day after Northern Ireland was created in law, measures were put in place for the next stages:

  • an election on 24 May
  • first meeting of new parliament in Belfast on 7 June
  • state opening of parliament on 22 June

As an Institution we will be following that timetable for some of our events with our Twelfth celebrations reflecting the Centenary.