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Why is the Republic of Ireland not part of the United Kingdom?

The children were curious about the piece of land next to Northern Ireland. What is it? Why is it not part of the United Kingdom?
In a drama session we acted out what happened. We learnt that this country is called the Republic of Ireland. In pairs one took on the role of the United Kingdom and the other was the Republic of Ireland. We acted out the fighting between the two (talking about how to act out fighting safely!) and eventually the children decided it would get tiring. The children were excellent at acting out that the 2 nations decided to stop fighting but were not really good friends. Lastly we used whiteboards to create a treaty saying that the Republic of Ireland could be free and no longer part of the United Kingdom.
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