Is Dublin in the UK or the EU? Here’s Everything You Need to Know in 2024

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Curious if Dublin is in the UK? Keep reading for an overview of the geography of the British Isles.

I’ll admit that when I first moved to Ireland in 2020, I didn’t know much about Irish history or the political boundaries in the region. Despite having watched Netflix’s “Derry Girls” and read Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe, I had only a vague awareness of Northern Ireland. 

Still, I learned a lot about Irish history while living in Wicklow and Cork. Now, I routinely meet people who aren’t aware that Ireland is not a part of the United Kingdom or have questions about the basic geography of the area. I wanted to address these questions as completely and succinctly as possible for the casual visitor to Ireland or the UK. 

For the purposes of this post, I will refer to the Republic of Ireland by its full name or sometimes simply as “Ireland.” I will refer to Northern Ireland only by its full name. 

Table of Contents
So, is Dublin in the UK?
The British Isles Explained 
🇮🇪 The Republic of Ireland
🇬🇧 Northern Ireland 
🇬🇧 Great Britain 
Where to Learn More About Irish History
FAQs
Conclusion

A map of the United Kingdom showing that the UK consists of Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England. Dublin is not located in the UK.
The United Kingdom

So, is Dublin in the UK?

The quick answer to this question is no, Dublin is not in the United Kingdom. Dublin is part of the European Union. 

The longer answer is that Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland, a sovereign country that is not part of the United Kingdom. Instead, Ireland is part of the EU and – importantly – remained part of the EU even after Brexit. 

Northern Ireland is a separate country that is part of the UK but also located on the same island as Ireland, separated by a “soft” border. Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland, and it is part of the UK. 

If you were to ask a local in Ireland if Ireland is part of the UK, you can expect a very bristly response (don’t actually do this; just take my word for it). This is because England first invaded Ireland in 1169, after which point it ruthlessly colonized Ireland over the course of hundreds of years. Ireland was considered the “laboratory for the British empire.” 

Ireland became a sovereign country in the 1920s, following the 1916 Easter Rising rebellion. 

An old timey- map of the British Isles. The map simply shows Great Britain and Ireland, and Northern Ireland is not shown.
An older map of the British Isles. This map doesn’t show Northern Ireland, so it must predate 1921.

The British Isles Explained 

I want to start by stating off the bat that the geographical term “British Isles” is a bit controversial. The British Isles, which includes the archipelago off of the coast of France, namely Great Britain and Ireland. 

You can read some public comments in what is presumably an old issue of The Guardian, in response to the question, “Some of my Irish friends are unhappy with the use of the geographical term, the British Isles. Is there an alternative name?” My favorite response is the first one on the list from David Male: “THE islands of Ireland.”

So, to be clear, there is no political term that lumps together Ireland and the UK (except for “Europe,” I suppose). But, the geographical term, British Isles, does include the entirety of both the island of Ireland and the island of Great Britain

A map of the British Isles shows that Scotland, England, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Ireland are all part of the British Isles.
The British Isles

The Island of Ireland 

I should start this section by stating that very few people would ever refer to the “Island of Ireland” (they would just say “Ireland”) but I find it useful for illustrative purposes. Also, I once saw it painted on the side of a boat docked in Cork Harbor, so at least one other person has used it before me. 

Two countries make up the island of Ireland: the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The Republic of Ireland makes up about 83% of the landmass of the island, and Northern Ireland comprises the remaining ~17%. 

Importantly (and perhaps a bit confusingly), there is no “hard” border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. You can freely drive between these two countries, you’ll simply notice some signs indicating that you have entered Northern Ireland. 

The lack of a border dates back to the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, which ended The Troubles, a 30 year period of conflict in Northern Ireland. During The Troubles, there were checkpoints, surveillance towers, and other security apparatuses placed near the border with the Republic of Ireland. The removal of security installations at the border was part of the Good Friday Agreement. 

The border between Ireland and Northern Ireland was a major complicating factor during Brexit, when the UK was working to remove itself from the EU. 

A map of the Island of Ireland, which shows both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Together, these two countries make up the Island of Ireland.
The Island of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland

When people think of “Ireland” they’re typically picturing the Republic of Ireland. As a reminder, the Republic of Ireland is a member of the European Union. As a sovereign country in Europe, Ireland joined the European Union in 1973 and its membership was unaffected when the UK withdrew from the EU in 2020. 

Ireland’s currency is the euro, and it has been using the euro since 1999. 

Notably, Ireland is not a part of the Schengen area. Of the 27 countries that make up the European Union, 23 of them have joined together to form the largest free travel area in the world. Typically, when you visit any one of these countries, you are issued a Schengen Visa, which covers all of its constituent countries. 

Ireland, Bulgaria, Cyprus, and Romania are all EU countries that are not part of the Schengen Area. Further, there are a few countries that are part of the Schengen Area without being members of the EU; they are Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. 

A sunny day in Dublin. Several pedestrians walk across a stone bridge over the River Liffey, and houses are visible in the background
Dublin, Ireland

Northern Ireland 

Northern Ireland is a country on the northern tip of the island of Ireland, notably a separate country from the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland was first created in 1921, when the Republic of Ireland was partitioned following the 1920 Government of Ireland Act.

Starting in the 1960s, Northern Ireland was the site of a 30 year bloody conflict known as The Troubles. During The Troubles, an estimated 3,532 people died, about half of them civilians. The Troubles were famously resolved with the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. 

The capital of Northern Ireland is Belfast, and it’s also home to the Titanic Museum, the Giant’s Causeway, and Derry (or Londonderry, depending on who you ask). Like the rest of the UK, Northern Ireland’s currency is the Great British Pound. Euros are also generally accepted by small vendors, but often at a slightly inflated exchange rate. 

Hexagonal stone columns along the Causeway Coast in Northern Ireland. These hexagonal columns extend into the sea.
The Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland

Quick Recap: What’s the Difference Between Ireland and Northern Ireland?

Despite the similarities in their name, Ireland and Northern Ireland are two separate countries. They are both located on the island of Ireland, and they share a “soft” border that is not openly surveilled by either country. 

I once asked an Irish woman how she would refer to people living in Northern Ireland and she said she’d just call them “Irish.” 

Great Britain 

The other island that makes up the British Isles is Great Britain, a larger island to the east of Ireland. Great Britain consists of three countries: England, Scotland, and Wales. The entirety of Great Britain is part of the United Kingdom, and none of the countries are members of the European Union. 

A map of Great Britain which shows that its constituent countries include Scotland, England, and Wales. Ireland and Northern Ireland are not part of Great Britain.
The Island of Great Britain

England

England makes up approximately 62% of the island of Great Britain, and its capital city is London. In addition to being a major global metropolitan area, London is also the capital of the United Kingdom. London’s known history dates back to approximately 1750 BC, during the Bronze Age. 

Scotland 

Scotland makes up the northern tip of Great Britain, with a population of about 5.4 million people. The capital city of Scotland is Edinburgh, a beautiful city that’s home to Edinburgh Castle and many of the country’s most important cultural institutions. 

Scotland is also the most mountainous area in Great Britain, home to a pine forest and the remarkably beautiful Scottish Highlands. I spent a few days hiking in the Highlands when I completed the West Highland Way with a friend in 2023. 

Wales

Wales is the small portion of Great Britain nearest to Ireland’s southwest coast. It includes the incredible Snowdonia National Park, which sees approximately 3.7 million visitors each year

Like the rest of Great Britain, Wales is part of the United Kingdom. It is known for its distinct culture and language, though English is also spoken widely.  

Pedestrians walk along the sidewalks in central London. Big Ben and the London Eye ferris wheel are visible in the background.
Big Ben in London, England

Where to Learn More About Irish History

If you’re interested in learning more about Irish history, there are a number of books that can offer great overviews. Of course, Ireland’s history spans many, many centuries, so decide ahead of time if you’re more interested in modern history or earlier periods. For a dry but reasonably thorough overview, you can always start by reading the Ireland Wikipedia Page

My favorite book about The Troubles is Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe. It’s an engaging, imminently compelling, and very human look at the conflict and some of its key players over the years. Although the book is set in Northern Ireland, it is a great overview of the complexity of the conflict and the ways it probably impacted those living in Ireland during that period. 

For an overview of modern Irish history, another popular read is We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland by Fintan O’Toole. Part memoir, part national history, We Don’t Know Ourselves is said to be a remarkable book that reads like a novel. I haven’t yet read this one, but it’s on my list to read soon and it has great reviews.  

To learn about Ireland from a collection of Irish voices over the past century, check out Ireland: The Autobiography: Eyewitness Accounts of Irish Life Since 1916. I picked this book up at a shop in Kinsale and finally read it last year. Some of the stories are dull, but others were very interesting and told stories I’m not sure I would have heard otherwise. 

Finally, the fictional TV show “Derry Girls” is set in Northern Ireland during The Troubles. The characters are delightful, and it includes references to a few key moments during this period in Irish history. You might not learn the dates or context of the conflict, but the show tries to capture the ways the conflict impacted civilians on the ground. 

A selection of books on the shelf of a bookstore in Kinsale, Ireland. The titles include "We Don't Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland Since 1958" by Fintan O'Toole and "Making Sense of a United Ireland: Should It Happen? How Might it Happen?" by Brendan O'Leary.
The Irish History section at Bookstór in Kinsale, Ireland

FAQs: Is Dublin in the UK?

Still have questions about Irish geography? Here are the answers to some of the most common queries from other travelers. 

Is Ireland part of the UK yes or no?

No, Ireland is not part of the UK. The Republic of Ireland is a sovereign country that is a member of the European Union. Northern Ireland is a separate country, and Northern Ireland is part of the United Kingdom. Thus, the EU and the UK have a land border on the island of Ireland – and this was one of the key complications during the Brexit negotiations. 

Is Dublin or Belfast in the UK?

The city of Belfast is in Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom and therefore not part of the European Union. Dublin is not located in Northern Ireland and is not part of the UK. For reference, the countries that make up the UK are England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. 

Which country is Dublin located in?

Dublin is the capital city of Ireland, and Ireland is a member of the European Union. Dublin is not located in Northern Ireland, nor is it a part of the UK. The capital city of Northern Ireland is Belfast. 

A classical building for the Irish Independent, with "Sunday Independent" and "Evening Herald" on either side. A few pedestrians walk along the sidewalk, and bikes are locked to metal poles on the sidewalk.
A street in central Dublin, Ireland

Conclusion: Is Dublin in the UK?

I’ve found that many people mistakenly assume that Dublin is in the UK because of its proximity to Great Britain. After moving to Ireland, I was made aware of just how frustrating and upsetting this confusion is for people living in Ireland. Not only is Ireland its own country, it fought incredibly hard for that distinction following hundreds of years of British occupation. 

So, to be a conscientious traveler, it’s important to remember that Ireland is, in fact, a sovereign nation and not a part of the UK. Ireland is a member of the European Union, and its membership was unchanged by the Brexit vote and the UK’s subsequent withdrawal from the EU.