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Flag Coat of arms
AnthemAmhrán na bhFiann  
The Soldier's Song
Location of  Ireland  (green)

– on the European continent  (light green & grey)
– in the European Union  (light green)  —  [Legend]

(and largest city)
53°20.65′N 6°16.05′W / 53.34417°N 6.2675°W / 53.34417; -6.2675
Official language(s) Irish, English
Ethnic groups  90.0% Irish, 7.5% Other White, 1.3% Asian, 1.1% Black, 1.1% mixed, 1.6% unspec.[1][2]
Demonym Irish
Government Constitutional democratic republic and Parliamentary democracy
 -  President (Uachtarán) Mary McAleese
 -  Taoiseach Brian Cowen, TD
 -  Tánaiste Mary Coughlan, TD
Independence from the United Kingdom 
 -  Declared 24 April 1916 
 -  Ratified 21 January 1919 
 -  Recognised 6 December 1922 
 -  Current constitution 29 December 1937 
EU accession 1 January 1973
 -  Total 70,273 km2 (120th)
27,133 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 2.00
 -  2009 estimate 4,460,000 [3] 
 -  2006 census 4,239,848 (121st)
 -  Density 60.3/km2 (139th)
147.6/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2009 (IMF) estimate
 -  Total $174 billion[4] (53rd)
 -  Per capita $39,441[4] (8th)
GDP (nominal) 2009 (IMF) estimate
 -  Total $226 billion [4] (35th)
 -  Per capita $51,128[4] (6th)
HDI (2006) 0.965[5] (very high) (5th)
Currency Euro ()[6] (EUR)
Time zone WET (UTC+0)
 -  Summer (DST) IST (WEST) (UTC+1)
Drives on the left
Internet TLD .ie[b]
Calling code 353
a. ^ Article 4 of the Constitution of Ireland and Section 2 of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948 – the constitutional name of the state is Ireland; the supplementary legal description is the Republic of Ireland, but is deprecated by the state.
b. ^ The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.

Ireland[7] (pronounced /ˈaɪrlənd/  ( listen), locally [ˈaɾlənd], Irish: Éire, pronounced [ˈeːɾʲə]  ( listen)), described as the Republic of Ireland (Irish: Poblacht na hÉireann),[8] is a country in northwestern Europe. The modern sovereign state occupies about five-sixths of the island of Ireland, which was partitioned into two jurisdictions on 3 May 1921.[9] It is a parliamentary democracy and a republic. It is bordered to the northeast by Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom, and is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean: particularly, the Irish Sea to the east, St George's Channel to the southeast, and the Celtic Sea to the south.

The state, initially named the Irish Free State, was established in 1922,[10] as a dominion within the British Commonwealth, and gained increasing sovereignty through the Statute of Westminster and the abdication crisis of 1936.[11] A new constitution was introduced[12] in 1937 that declared an entirely sovereign state and named it simply as Ireland.[13] In 1949, the last formal link with the UK[14] was severed when Ireland declared itself a republic and formally ceased to be a dominion: consequently it left the then British Commonwealth,[15] having already ceased to participate in that organisation for several years.

During British rule and initial independence Ireland was one of the poorest countries in Western Europe and had high emigration, but in contrast to many other states in the period remained financially solvent as a result of low government expenditure. The protectionist economy was opened in the late 1950s and Ireland joined the European Economic Community (now the European Union) in 1973. An economic crisis led Ireland to start large-scale economic reforms in the late 1980s. Ireland reduced taxation and regulation dramatically compared to other EU countries.[16]

Ranked as the 31st economic power in the world, by 2006 Ireland had the sixth highest gross domestic product per capita and the eighth highest per capita considering purchasing power parity,[17][18] although by 2008 the country was being linked to the PIGS economies, and has the fifth highest Human Development Index rank in the world. The country also has the highest quality of life in the world, ranking first in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Quality-of-life index. Ireland was ranked sixth on the Global Peace Index. Ireland also has high rankings for its education system, political freedom and civil rights, press freedom (ranked first in 2009) and economic freedom (ranked fourth in 2009); it is also ranked fifth from bottom on the Failed States Index, being one of the most "Sustainable" states in the world. Ireland is a member of the EU, the OECD, and the United Nations.



Article 4 of the Constitution of Ireland, which was adopted in 1937, provides that:

The name of the State is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland.[19]

For all official purposes, including international treaties and in other legal documents, where the language of the documents is English, the name of the country is Ireland. The same is true in respect of the name Éire for documents written in Irish. Institutions of the European Union follow the same practice. Since Irish became an official language of the Union on 1 January 2007, name plates for the state at EU meetings read as Éire - Ireland, just as the two names are used on Irish passports.[20]

The Republic of Ireland Act 1948 provided a supplementary description of the state as "the Republic of Ireland" (Irish: Poblacht na hÉireann).[8] The Act was to change Ireland to a republic rather than a form of constitutional monarchy and transferred authority from the monarch to the elected president. No change of name took place due to that act, and in 1989 the Irish Supreme Court rejected an extradition warrant that used the name "Republic of Ireland". Justice Walsh ruled: "if the courts of other countries seeking the assistance of this country are unwilling to give this State its constitutionally correct and internationally recognised name, then in my view, the warrants should be returned to such countries until they have been rectified."[21]

The current sovereign state has been known by a range of other names, all of which are still sometimes used unofficially. The whole island was unilaterally proclaimed an independent republic by rebels in 1916 called the Irish Republic (Irish: Poblacht na hÉireann). Following the 1918 general election, that proclamation was ratified by the Irish Deputies of its First Dáil Parliament. Between 1921 and 1922, when the British government legislated to establish Ireland as an autonomous region of the United Kingdom, it was named Southern Ireland. Following the Anglo-Irish Treaty, from 1922 until 1937, as a dominion in the British Commonwealth, it was styled as the Irish Free State (Irish: Saorstát Éireann). That name was abolished with the adoption of the current Irish constitution. Other colloquial names such as the Free State, Twenty-Six Counties and The South (a name frequently used by people in Northern Ireland) are also often used.


The Irish state came into being as the result of Irish partition in 1921 which divided the island of Ireland into Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland. In December 1922, the former seceded from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland to become the Irish Free State while the latter opted to remain within the United Kingdom.[22] In December 1937 the state was renamed Ireland[13] and on Easter Monday 1949 Ireland left the British Commonwealth to become a republic.

Irish independence from Britain in 1922 was preceded by the 1916 Easter Rising and the War of Independence, when Irish volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army took over sites in Dublin and Galway under terms expressed in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. The seven signatories of this proclamation, Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, Thomas Clarke, Sean MacDiarmada, Joseph Plunkett, Eamonn Ceannt and James Connolly, were executed by the British, along with nine others, and thousands were interned precipitating the Irish War of Independence.

Early background

From the Act of Union on 1 January 1801 until 6 December 1922, Ireland had been part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. During the Great Famine from 1845 to 1849 the island's population of over 8 million fell by 30 percent. Under British rule, one million Irish died of starvation and another 1.5 million emigrated,[23] which set the pattern of emigration for the century to come and would result in a constant decline up to the 1960s.

From 1874, but particularly from 1880 under Charles Stewart Parnell, the Irish Parliamentary Party moved to prominence through widespread agrarian agitation (via the Irish Land League) that won improved tenant land reforms in the form of the Irish Land Acts, and with its attempts to win two Home Rule Bills, which would have granted Ireland limited national autonomy within the United Kingdom. These nevertheless led to the “grass-roots” control of national affairs under the Local Government (Ireland) Act 1898 previously in the hands of landlord dominated grand juries of the Protestant Ascendancy.

Home Rule statute

Home Rule seemed certain when the Parliament Act 1911 abolished the veto of the House of Lords, and John Redmond secured the Third Home Rule Act 1914. The Unionist movement, however, had been growing since 1886 among Irish Protestants after the introduction of the first home rule bill, fearing that they would face discrimination and lose economic and social privileges if Irish Catholics were to achieve real political power.

Though Irish unionism existed throughout the whole of Ireland, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century unionism was particularly strong in parts of Ulster, where industrialisation was more common in contrast to the more agrarian rest of the island. (Any tariff barriers would, it was feared, most heavily hit that region.) In addition, the Protestant population was more strongly located in Ulster, with unionist majorities existing in about four counties.

Mounting resistance

Under the leadership of the Dublin-born Sir Edward Carson of the Irish Unionist Party and the northerner Sir James Craig of the Ulster Unionist Party, unionists became strongly militant in order to oppose the Coercion of Ulster. After the Home Rule Bill passed parliament in May 1914, to avoid rebellion with Ulster, the British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith introduced an Amending Bill reluctantly conceded to by the Irish Party leadership, providing for the temporary exclusion of Ulster from the workings of the bill for a trial period of six years, with an as yet undecided new set of measures to be introduced for the area to be temporarily excluded.

Though it received the Royal Assent and was placed on the statute books in 1914, the implementation of the Third Home Rule Act was suspended until after the Great War. (The war at that stage was expected to be ended by 1915, not the four years it did ultimately last.) For the prior reasons of ensuring the implementation of the Act at the end of the war, Redmond and his Irish National Volunteers supported the Allied cause, and 175,000 joined Irish regiments of the 10th (Irish), 16th (Irish), while Unionists joined the 36th (Ulster) divisions of the New British Army.[24]

Signature page of the Anglo-Irish Treaty.

In January 1919, after the December 1918 general election, 73 of Ireland's 106 MPs elected were Sinn Féin members who refused to take their seats in the British House of Commons. Instead, they set up an Irish parliament called Dáil Éireann. This Dáil in January 1919 issued a Declaration of Independence and proclaimed an Irish Republic. The Declaration was mainly a restatement of the 1916 Proclamation with the additional provision that Ireland was no longer a part of the United Kingdom. The new Irish Republic was recognised internationally only by the Russian Soviet Republic.[25] The Republic's Aireacht (ministry) sent a delegation under Ceann Comhairle Seán T. O'Kelly to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, but it was not admitted.

Establishment of Irish Free State

After the bitterly fought War of Independence and truce called in July 1921, representatives of the British government and the Irish treaty delegates, led by Arthur Griffith, Robert Barton and Michael Collins, negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty in London from 11 October – 6 December 1921. The Irish delegates set up headquarters at Hans Place in Knightsbridge and it was here in private discussions that the decision was taken at 11.15am on 5 December to recommend the Treaty to Dáil Éireann. The Second Dáil Éireann narrowly ratified the Treaty for the Irish side.

In accordance with the Treaty, on 6 December 1922 the entire island of Ireland became a self-governing British dominion called the Irish Free State (Irish: Saorstát Éireann). However, Northern Ireland exercised its right under the Treaty to opt out of the new dominion and rejoined the United Kingdom on 8 December 1922. It did so by making an Address to the King requesting "that the powers of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State shall no longer extend to Northern Ireland.”[26]

The Treaty was not entirely satisfactory to either side. The Irish Free State was a constitutional monarchy over which the British monarch reigned. The Irish Free State had a Governor-General, a bicameral parliament, a cabinet called the "Executive Council" and a prime minister called the President of the Executive Council.

Irish Civil War

The Irish Civil War was the direct consequence of the creation of the Irish Free State. Anti-Treaty forces, led by Éamon de Valera, objected to the fact that acceptance of the Treaty abolished the Irish Republic of 1919 to which they had sworn loyalty, arguing in the face of public support for the settlement that the "people have no right to do wrong". They objected most to the fact that the state would remain part of the British Commonwealth and that members of the Free State Parliament would have to swear, what the Anti-Treaty side saw as, an oath of fidelity to the British King. Pro-Treaty forces, led by Michael Collins, argued that the Treaty gave "not the ultimate freedom that all nations aspire to and develop, but the freedom to achieve it".

At the start of the war, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) split into two opposing camps: a pro-treaty IRA and an anti-treaty IRA. The pro-Treaty IRA disbanded and joined the new Irish Army. However, through the lack of an effective command structure in the anti-Treaty IRA, and their defensive tactics throughout the war, Collins and his pro-treaty forces were able to build up an army with many tens of thousands of WWI veterans from the 1922 disbanded Irish regiments of the British Army, capable of overwhelming the anti-Treatyists. British supplies of artillery, aircraft, machine-guns and ammunition boosted pro-treaty forces, and the threat of a return of Crown forces to the Free State removed any doubts about the necessity of enforcing the treaty. The lack of public support for the anti-treaty forces (often called the Irregulars) and the determination of the government to overcome the Irregulars contributed significantly to their defeat.

In the Northern Ireland question, Irish governments started to seek a peaceful reunification of Ireland and have usually cooperated with the British government in the violent conflict involving many paramilitaries and the British Army in Northern Ireland known as "The Troubles". A peace settlement for Northern Ireland, the Belfast Agreement, was approved in 1998 in referendums north and south of the border. As part of the peace settlement, Ireland dropped its territorial claim to Northern Ireland. The peace settlement is currently being implemented.

1937 Constitution

On 29 December 1937, a new constitution, the Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann), came into force. It replaced the Constitution of the Irish Free State and called the state "Ireland", or, in the Irish language, "Éire".[13] The former Irish Free State government had taken steps to formally abolish the Office of Governor-General some months before the new Constitution came into force.[27] Although the Constitution of Ireland established the office of President of Ireland, between 1937 and 1949 Ireland was not technically a republic. This was because the principal key role possessed by a head of state, that of symbolically representing Ireland internationally remained vested under statutory law, in the British King as an organ of the Irish government. The King's title in the Irish Free State was exactly the same as it was elsewhere in the British Empire, being:

  • From 1922 to 1927 – By the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India; and
  • 1927–1937 – By the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India.

Ireland remained neutral during World War II, a period it described as The Emergency. The position of King ceased with the passage of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948, which came into force on 18 April 1949 when the office of President of Ireland replaced that of the King. The Act declared that the state could be described as a republic. Later, the Crown of Ireland Act was formally repealed in Ireland by the Statute Law Revision (Pre-Union Irish Statutes) Act, 1962.

Ireland was technically a member of the British Commonwealth after independence until the declaration of a republic on 18 April 1949. Under the Commonwealth rules at the time, a declaration of a republic automatically terminated membership of the Commonwealth (this rule was changed 10 days after Ireland declared itself a republic, with the London Declaration of 28 April 1949). Ireland therefore immediately ceased to be a member and did not subsequently reapply for membership when the Commonwealth later changed its rules to allow republics to join the Commonwealth. Ireland joined the United Nations in 1955.

Economic opening

Irish population during the twentieth century

From the 1920s Ireland had high trade barriers such as high tariffs, particularly during the Economic War with Britain in the 1930s, and a policy of import substitution. A high number of residents emigrated. In the 1950s, 400,000 (a seventh of the population) emigrated.[28] It became increasingly clear that economic nationalism was unsustainable. While other European countries enjoyed fast growth, Ireland suffered economic stagnation, emigration, and other ills.[28]

The policy changes were drawn together in Economic Development, an official paper published in 1958 that advocated free trade, foreign investment, productive (rather than mainly social) investment, and growth rather than fiscal restraint as the prime objective of economic management.[28] Ireland joined the European Economic Community (now the European Union) in 1973.

During the 1970s, the population increased for the first time since independence, by 15 percent for the decade. National income increased at an annual rate of about 4 percent. Employment increased by around 1 percent per year, but the state sector amounted to a large part of that. Public sector employment was a third of the total workforce by 1980. Budget deficits and public debt increased, leading to the crisis in the 1980s.[28]

Recent history

By the 1980s, underlying economic problems became pronounced. High unemployment, emigration, growing public debt returned. Middle income workers were taxed 60% of their marginal income.[29] Unemployment was 20%. Annual emigration to overseas reached over 1% of population. Public deficits reached 15% of GDP. Fianna Fáil was elected in 1987 and surprised everyone by announcing a swing toward small government.

Public spending was reduced quickly and taxes cut. Ireland promoted competition in all areas. For instance, Ryanair utilised Ireland's deregulated aviation market and helped European regulators to see benefits of competition in transport markets. The more competitive economy attracted foreign investment quickly. Intel invested in 1989 and was followed by a number of technology companies such as Microsoft and Google, who found Ireland a good investment location. A consensus exists among all government parties about the sustained economic growth.[28]

In less than a decade, the GDP per capita in the OECD prosperity ranking rose from 21st in 1993 to 4th in 2002.[30] Between 1985 and 2002, private sector jobs increased 59%.[16]



Ireland is a republic, with a parliamentary system of government. The President of Ireland, who serves as head of state, is elected for a seven-year term and can be re-elected only once. The president is largely a figurehead but can still carry out certain constitutional powers and functions, aided by the Council of State, an advisory body. The Taoiseach (prime minister), is appointed by the president on the nomination of parliament. Most Taoisigh have been the leader of the political party which wins the most seats in the national elections. It has become normal for coalitions to form a government, and there has not been a single-party government since 1989.

The bicameral parliament, the Oireachtas, consists of the President of Ireland, a Senate, Seanad Éireann, being the upper House, and a House of Representatives, Dáil Éireann, being the lower House.[31] The Seanad is composed of sixty members; eleven nominated by the Taoiseach, six elected by two universities, and 43 elected by public representatives from panels of candidates established on a vocational basis. The Dáil has 166 members, Teachtaí Dála, elected to represent multi-seat constituencies under the system of proportional representation by means of the Single Transferable Vote. Under the constitution, parliamentary elections must be held at least every seven years, though a lower limit may be set by statute law. The current statutory maximum term is five years.

Leinster House, the seat of Oireachtas Éireann (the Irish parliament).

The Government is constitutionally limited to fifteen members. No more than two members of the Government can be selected from the Seanad, and the Taoiseach, Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) and Minister for Finance must be members of the Dáil. The current government consists of a coalition of two parties; Fianna Fáil under Taoiseach Brian Cowen and the Green Party under leader John Gormley, along with numerous independents. The last general election to the Dáil took place on 24 May 2007, after it was called by the Taoiseach on 29 April.

The opposition parties in the current Dáil are Fine Gael under Enda Kenny, the Labour Party under Eamon Gilmore, and Sinn Féin led by Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. A number of independent deputies also sit in Dáil Éireann though less in number than before the 2007 election.

Ireland joined the European Union in 1973 but has chosen to remain outside the Schengen Area. Citizens of the UK can freely enter Ireland without a passport thanks to the Common Travel Area, but some form of identification is required at airports and seaports.

Regions and counties

The Irish state consists of twenty-six traditional counties which are still used in cultural and sporting contexts, and for postal purposes. These are, however, no longer always coterminous with administrative divisions. Several traditional counties have been restructured into new administrative divisions. County Dublin was divided into three separate administrative counties in the 1990s and County Tipperary was divided into two in the 1890s. This gives a present-day total of twenty-nine administrative counties and five cities. The five cities—Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, and Waterford—are administered separately from the remainder of their respective counties. Five boroughs—Clonmel, Drogheda, Kilkenny, Sligo and Wexford—have a level of autonomy within the county.[32] While Kilkenny is a borough, it is has retained the legal right to be referred to as a city.[33]

Dáil constituencies are required by statute to follow county boundaries, as far as possible. Hence counties with greater populations have multiple constituencies (e.g. Limerick East/West) and some constituencies consist of more than one county (e.g. Sligo-North Leitrim), but by and large, the actual county boundaries are not crossed.

The counties are grouped into eight regions for statistical purposes.

Counties numbered.
  1. Dublin
    Dublin City
    Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown
    South Dublin
  2. Wicklow
  3. Wexford
    Wexford Town (Borough)
  4. Carlow
  5. Kildare
  6. Meath
  7. Louth
    Drogheda Town (Borough)
  8. Monaghan
  9. Cavan
  10. Longford
  11. Westmeath
  12. Offaly
  13. Laois
  14. Kilkenny
    Kilkenny City (Borough)
  1. Waterford
    Waterford City
  2. Cork
    Cork City
  3. Kerry
  4. Limerick
    Limerick City
  5. Tipperary
    North Tipperary
    South Tipperary
     Clonmel Town (Borough)
  6. Clare
  7. Galway
    Galway City
  8. Mayo
  9. Roscommon
  10. Sligo
    Sligo Town (Borough)
  11. Leitrim
  12. Donegal


Ireland's citizenship laws relate to "the island of Ireland" (including "its islands and seas"), thereby extending them to Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Therefore, anyone born in Northern Ireland who meets the requirements for being an Irish citizen, such as birth on the island of Ireland, may exercise an entitlement to Irish citizenship (such as applying for an Irish passport).[34]


Landscape and rivers

Cliffs of Moher on the west coast.

The island of Ireland extends over 84,421 km2 (32,595 sq mi), of which 83% (approx. five-sixths) belong to the Irish state (70,280 km2/27,135 sq mi), while the remainder constitute Northern Ireland. It is bounded to the north and west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the northeast by the North Channel. To the east is found the Irish Sea which reconnects to the ocean via the southwest with St George's Channel and the Celtic Sea. The west coast of Ireland mostly consists of cliffs, hills and low mountains (the highest point being Carrauntoohil at 1,038 m or 3,406 ft).

The interior of the country is relatively flat land, traversed by rivers such as the River Shannon and several large lakes or loughs. The centre of the country is part of the River Shannon watershed, containing large areas of bogland, used for peat extraction and production. Ireland also has off-shore deposits of oil and gas.[35]

Chief city conurbations are the capital Dublin (1,045,769) on the east coast, Cork (190,384) in the south, Limerick (90,757) in the mid-west, Galway (72,729) on the west coast, and Waterford (49,213) on the south east coast (see Cities in Ireland).

Impact of agriculture

The long history of agricultural production coupled with modern intensive agricultural methods (such as pesticide and fertiliser use) has placed pressure on biodiversity in Ireland. Agriculture is the main factor determining current land use patterns in Ireland, leaving limited land to preserve natural habitats (also forestry and urban development to a lesser extent),[36] in particular for larger wild mammals with greater territorial requirements.

With no top predator in Ireland, populations of animals that cannot be controlled by smaller predators (such as the fox) are controlled by annual culling, i.e. semi-wild populations of deer. A land of green fields for crop cultivation and cattle rearing limits the space available for the establishment of native wild species. Hedgerows, however, traditionally used for maintaining and demarcating land boundaries, act as a refuge for native wild flora. Their ecosystems stretch across the countryside and act as a network of connections to preserve remnants of the ecosystem that once covered the island.

Pollution from agricultural activities is one of the principal sources of environmental damage. Runoff of contaminants into streams, rivers and lakes impacts the natural fresh-water ecosystems.[37] Subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy which supported these agricultural practices and contributed to land-use distortions are undergoing reforms.[38] The CAP still subsidises some potentially destructive agricultural practices, however, the recent reforms have gradually decoupled subsidies from production levels and introduced environmental and other requirements.[38]

Forest covers about 10% of the country, with most designated for commercial production.[36] Forested areas typically consist of monoculture plantations of non-native species which may result in habitats that are not suitable for supporting a broad range of native species of invertebrates. Remnants of native forest can be found scattered around the country, in particular in the Killarney National Park. Natural areas require fencing to prevent over-grazing by deer and sheep that roam over uncultivated areas. This is one of the main factors preventing the natural regeneration of forests across many regions of the country.[39]


Ireland has a temperate oceanic climate meaning that it is mild with temperatures not much lower than −3 °C (26.6 °F) in winter and not much higher than 22 °C (72 °F) in summer.[40] The Atlantic Ocean is the main force shaping Ireland's weather and there is a warming influence due to the Gulf Stream.[41] It can be quite variable and differs from region to region—for instance the middle and east tend to be more extreme throughout the year, compared to other parts of the country. Sunshine duration is highest in the south-east.[41] Ireland rainfall patterns are highest in the winter and lowest during the early months of summer.[41]

Determined by the south-westerly Atlantic winds, geographically the northwest, west and southwest of the country receives the most substantial rainfall; Dublin is the driest part of the country.[41] The far-north and west of Ireland, for instance Malin Head in Donegal, are two of the windiest areas in Europe with substantial potential for wind energy generation.[42] The highest temperature recorded in Ireland, since weather records began, was 33.3 °C (91.9 °F) on 26 June 1887 at Kilkenny Castle in Kilkenny,[43] while the lowest was −19.1 °C (−2 °F) on 16 January 1881 at Markree Castle, Sligo.[43]

Climate data for Ireland
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 8.2
Average low °C (°F) 2.6
Precipitation mm (inches) 108
Source: Ireland Logue (examples used are Shannon and Galway)[44][45] 22 October 2009


The education systems are largely under the direction of the government via the Minister for Education and Science. Recognised primary and secondary schools must adhere to the curriculum established by authorities that have power to set them.

The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks Ireland's education as the 20th best among participating countries in science, being statistically significantly higher than the OECD average.[46] Primary, Secondary and Tertiary (University/College) level education are all free in Ireland for all EU citizens.


Trawlers sit in Killybegs harbour, in County Donegal, one of Ireland's biggest fishing ports. Overfishing has depleted Ireland's cod stocks in particular.

The economy of Ireland has shifted in recent years from an agricultural one to a modern knowledge economy, with a focus on services and high-tech industries. Economic growth in Ireland averaged a (relatively high) 10% from 1995 to 2000, and 7% from 2001 to 2004. Industry, which accounts for 46% of GDP and about 80% of exports, and employs 29% of the labour force, has replaced agriculture as the country's leading economic sector.

Exports play an important role in Ireland's economic growth. Over the last 40 years, a series of significant discoveries of base metal deposits have been made, including the giant ore deposit at Tara Mine. Zinc-lead ores are also currently mined from two other underground operations in Lisheen and Galmoy. Ireland now ranks as the seventh largest producer of zinc concentrates in the world, and the twelfth largest producer of lead concentrates. The combined output from these mines, three of Europe’s most modern and developed mines, make Ireland the largest zinc producer in Europe and the second largest producer of lead.[47]

Subsidiaries of US multinationals have located in Ireland for low taxation. Ireland is the world's most profitable country for US corporations, according to the US tax journal Tax Notes[48]

Ireland is one of the largest exporters of software-related goods and services in the world.[49]

Bord Gáis was established under the Gas Act, and charged with the responsibility for the supply, transmission and distribution of natural gas which was first brought ashore in 1976 from the Kinsale Head Gas Field. New sources of supply are expected to come on stream after 2009/10, including the Corrib gas field and potentially the Shannon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal.[50] Added to gas supplies, energy exports have the potential to transform Ireland's economy.[51]

As well as exports the economy also benefits from the accompanying rise in consumer spending, construction, and business investment.

A key part of economic policy, since 1987, has been Social Partnership which is a neo-corporatist set of voluntary 'pay pacts' between the Government, employers and trades unions. These usually set agreed pay rises for three-year periods.

The 1995 to 2000 period of high economic growth led many to call the country the Celtic Tiger.[52] The economy felt the impact of the global economic slowdown in 2001, particularly in the high-tech export sector—the growth rate in that area was cut by nearly half. GDP growth continued to be relatively robust, with a rate of about 6% in 2001 and 2002. Growth for 2004 was over 4%, and for 2005 was 4.7%.

With high growth came high levels of inflation, particularly in the capital city. Prices in Dublin, where nearly 30% of Ireland's population lives, are considerably higher than elsewhere in the country,[53] especially in the property market (but property prices are falling rapidly following the recent downturn in the World economy and its knock-on effects on Ireland). At the end of July 2008, the annual rate of inflation was running at 4.4% (as measured by the CPI) or 3.6% (as measured by the HICP)[54][55] and inflation actually dropped slightly from the previous month.

In terms of GDP per capita, Ireland is ranked as one of the wealthiest countries in the OECD and the EU-27 at 4th in the OECD-28 rankings. In terms of GNP per capita, a better measure of national income, Ireland ranks below the OECD average, despite significant growth in recent years, at 10th in the OECD-28 rankings. GDP (national output) is significantly greater than GNP (national income) due to the repatriation of profits and royalty payments by multinational firms based in Ireland.[56] A study by The Economist found Ireland to have the best quality of life in the world.[57] This study employed GDP per capita as a measure of income rather than GNI per capita.

In 2002 Ireland introduced the single European currency, the euro. With 15 other EU member states it forms the Eurozone.

The positive reports and economic statistics mask several underlying imbalances. The construction sector, which is inherently cyclical in nature, now accounts for a significant component of Ireland's GDP. A recent downturn in residential property market sentiment has highlighted the over-exposure of the Irish economy to construction, which now presents a threat to economic growth.[58][59][60] Despite several successive years of economic growth and significant improvements since 2000, Ireland's population is marginally more at risk of poverty that the EU-15 average.[56] Figures show that 6.8% of Ireland's population suffer "consistent poverty".[61]

However, after a construction boom in the last decade, economic growth is now slowing. There has been a significant fall in house prices and the cost of living is beginning to stabilise, after rising every year during the economic boom. It is now said the Irish economy is rebalancing itself. During the boom, Ireland had developed a reputation as one of the most expensive countries in Europe. The Irish Economy contracted by -1.7% in 2008, down from 4.7% growth in 2007, in 2009 it is predicted by both the Irish government and the ESRI that the economy could contract by over 9% which would be one of the highest economic contractions of any western economy since World War 2. The huge reduction in construction has caused Ireland's massive economic downturn, the construction crash and the Global recession has hit Ireland very hard. The ESRI has recently predicted that the Irish economy will not recover until 2011 where growth could return to 5% per year until 2015. Ireland now has the second-highest level of household debt in the world, at 190% of household income.[62]

Ireland is currently (2008) ranked as the world's third most economically free economy in an index created by the Wall Street Journal and Heritage Foundation, the Index of Economic Freedom.

The Financial Crisis of 2008 is currently affecting the Irish economy severely, compounding domestic economic problems related to the collapse of the Irish property bubble. Ireland was the first country in the EU to officially enter a recession as declared by the Central Statistics Office.[63] Ireland was stripped of its AAA credit ranking and downgraded to AA+ by Standard & Poor's ratings agency, due to Ireland`s bleak financial outlook and heavy government debt burden.[64]


Before the introduction of the euro notes and coins in January 2002, Ireland used the Irish pound or punt. In January 1999 Ireland was one of eleven European Union member states which launched the European Single Currency, the euro. Euro banknotes are issued in €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 denominations and share the common design used across Europe, however like other countries in the eurozone, Ireland has its own unique design on one face of euro coins.[65] The government decided on a single national design for all Irish coin denominations, which show a Celtic harp, a traditional symbol of Ireland, decorated with the year of issue and the word Éire.


The emblem used by Ireland's military, the Irish Defence Forces.

Ireland's military are organised as the Irish Defence Forces (Óglaigh na hÉireann). The Irish Army is relatively small when compared with other armies in the region, but is well equipped, with 8,500 full-time military personnel (13,000 in the reserve army).[66] This is principally due to Ireland's policy of neutrality,[67] and its "triple-lock" rules governing participation in conflicts whereby approval must be given by the UN, the Government and the Dáil before any Irish troops are deployed into a conflict zone.[68] Deployments of Irish soldiers cover UN peace-keeping duties, protection of Ireland's territorial waters (in the case of the Irish Naval Service) and Aid to Civil Power operations in the state. See Irish neutrality.

There is also an Irish Air Corps, Irish Naval Service and Reserve Defence Forces (Irish Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve) under the Defence Forces. The Irish Army Rangers is a special forces branch which operates under the aegis of the army.

Over 40,000 Irish servicemen have served in UN peacekeeping missions around the world.

Ireland's air facilities were used by the U.S. military for the delivery of military personnel involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq through Shannon Airport; previously the airport had been used for the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, as well as the First Gulf War.[69] This is part of a longer history of use of Shannon for controversial military transport, under Irish military policy which, while ostensibly neutral, was biased towards NATO during the Cold War.[70] During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Seán Lemass authorised the search of Cuban and Czech aircraft passing through Shannon and passed the information to the CIA.[71]

During the Second World War, although officially neutral, Ireland supplied similar, though more extensive, support for the Allied Forces (see Irish neutrality during World War II ). Since 1999, Ireland has been a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace program.[72][73]


International rankings
Indicator Rank Measure
GDP (PPP) per capita 8/7th $44,087
GNP 7th $41,140
Unemployment rate (2009) 28th 11%
CO2 emissions 30th 10.3 t
Electricity consumption 61st 22.79 GWh
Economic Freedom 3rd 1.58
Human Development Index 5th 0.959
Political freedom 1st* 1
Press freedom 4th* 2.00
Corruption (A higher score means less (perceived) corruption.) ↓17th 7.5
Global Peace Index 4th 1.396
Democracy Index 11th 9.01
Failed States Index ↓ 4th 19.5
Literacy rate 18th* 99.0%
Quality-of-life index 1st 8.333 (out of 10)
Broadband penetration 25.9%
Mobile phone penetration 121.5%
Alcohol consumption 2nd 13.7 L
3.0 imp gal
3.6 US gal
Beer consumption 2nd 131.1 L
28.8 imp gal
34.6 US gal
International Property Rights Index 14th 7.4
Life expectancy 78.4
Birth rate 15.2
Fertility rate 133rd 1.96††
Infant mortality 172th 4.9‡‡
Death rate 6.5
Suicide rate 48th ♂ 16.3†‡
♀ 3.2†‡
HIV/AIDS rate 123rd 0.10%
↓ indicates rank is in reverse order (e.g. 1st is lowest)
* joint with one or more other countries
per capita
per 1000 people
†† per woman
‡‡ per 1000 live births
†‡per 100,000 people
♂ indicates males, ♀ indicates females

Genetic research suggests that the first settlers of Ireland, and parts of North-Western Europe, came through migrations from Iberia following the end of the most recent ice age.[74] After the Mesolithic, the Neolithic and Bronze Age migrants introduced Celtic culture and languages to Ireland. These later migrants from the Neolithic to Bronze Age still represent a majority of the genetic heritage of Irish people.[75][76]

Culture spread throughout the island, and the Gaelic tradition became the dominant form in Ireland. Today, Irish people are mainly of Gaelic ancestry, and although some of the population is also of Norse, Anglo-Norman, English, Scottish, French and Welsh ancestry, these groups have been assimilated and do not form distinct minority groups. Gaelic culture and language forms an important part of national identity. In the UK, Irish Travellers are a recognised ethnic minority group, politically (but not ethnically) linked with mainland European Roma and Gypsy groups,[77] although in Ireland, they are not, instead they are classified as a "social group".[78]

Ireland, as of 2007, contains the fastest growing population in Europe. The growth rate in 2006 was 2.5%, the third year in a row it has been above 2%. This rapid growth can be said to be due to falling death rates, rising birth rates and high immigration rates.[79]


The official languages are Irish and English. Teaching of the Irish and English languages is compulsory in the primary and secondary level schools that receive money and recognition from the state. Some students may be exempt from the requirement to receive instruction in either language.

English is the predominant language spoken throughout the country. People living in predominantly Irish-speaking communities, Gaeltacht regions, are limited to the low tens of thousands in isolated pockets largely on the western seaboard. Road signs are usually bilingual, except in Gaeltacht regions, where they are in Irish only.[80]

The legal status of place names has recently been the subject of controversy, with an order made in 2005 under the Official Languages Act changing the official name of certain locations from English back to Irish (e.g. Dingle had its name changed to An Daingean despite local opposition and a local plebiscite requesting that the name be changed to a bilingual version: Dingle Daingean Uí Chúis. Most public notices are only in English, as are most of the print media. Most Government publications and forms are available in both English and Irish, and citizens have the right to deal with the state in Irish if they so wish. National media in Irish exist on TV (TG4), radio (e.g. RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta), and in print (e.g. Lá Nua and Foinse).

According to the 2006 census, 1,656,790 people (or 39%) in the Republic regard themselves as competent in Irish; though no figures are available for English-speakers, it is thought to be almost 100%. However, one will very rarely ever hear the Irish language being spoken casually outside of Gaeltacht regions.

The Polish language is one of the most widely spoken languages in Ireland after English: there are over 63,000 Poles resident in Ireland according to the 2006 census. Central and Eastern European languages such as Polish, can be heard spoken on a day-to-day basis across Ireland. Other languages spoken in Ireland include Shelta, spoken by the Irish Traveller population and a dialect of Scots is spoken by some descendants of Scottish settlers in Ulster.

Most students at second level choose one or two foreign languages to learn. Languages available for the Junior Certificate and the Leaving Certificate include French, German, Italian and Spanish; Leaving Certificate students can also study Arabic, Japanese and Russian. Some schools also offer Ancient Greek, Hebrew Studies and Latin at second level.

Recent population growth

Ireland's population has increased significantly in recent years. Much of this population growth can be attributed to the arrival of immigrants and the return of Irish people (often with their foreign-born children) who emigrated in large numbers in earlier years during periods of high unemployment. In addition the birth rate in Ireland is currently over double the death rate, which is highly unusual among Western European countries.[81] Approximately 10% of Ireland's population is now made up of foreign citizens.

Foreign-national groups with populations in Ireland of 10,000 or more in 2006. Non-European Union nationals are shown exploded.

The CSO has published preliminary findings based on the 2006 Census of Population. These indicate:

  • The total population of Ireland on Census Day, 23 April 2006, was 4,234,925, an increase of 317,722, or 8.1% since 2002
  • Allowing for the incidence of births (245,000) and deaths (114,000), the derived net immigration of people to Ireland between 2002 and 2006 was 186,000.
  • The total number of foreign citizens resident in Ireland is 419,733, or around 10% (plus 1,318 people with 'no nationality', and 44,279 people whose nationality is not stated).
  • The single largest group of immigrants comes from the United Kingdom (112,548) followed by Poland (63,267), Lithuania (24,628), Nigeria (16,300), Latvia (13,319), the United States (12,475), China (11,161), and Germany (10,289).
  • 94.8% of the population was recorded as having a 'White' ethnic or cultural background. 1.1% of the population had a 'Black or Black Irish' background, 1.3% had an 'Asian or Asian Irish' background and 1.7% of the population's ethnic or cultural background was 'not stated'.
  • The average annual rate of increase, 2%, is the highest on record – compared to 1.3% between 1996 and 2002 and 1.5% between 1971 and 1979.
  • The 2006 population was last exceeded in the 1861 Census when the population then was 4.4 million The lowest population of Ireland was recorded in the 1961 Census – 2.8 million.
  • All provinces of Ireland recorded population growth. The population of Leinster grew by 8.9%; Munster by 6.5%; and the long-term population decline of the ConnachtUlster[82] Region has stopped.
  • The ratio of males to females has declined in each of the four provinces between 1979 and 2006. Leinster is the only province where the number of females exceeds the number of males. Males predominate in rural counties such as Cavan, Leitrim, and Roscommon while there are more females in cities and urban areas.

A more detailed breakdown of these figures is available online. Census 2006 Principal Demographic ResultsPDF (894 KB)

Detailed statistics into the population of Ireland since 1841 are available at Irish Population Analysis.


A pie chart showing the proportion of followers of each religion (and none) in Ireland in 2006.

Christianity is the predominant religion in Ireland. Irish Christianity is dominated by the Roman Catholic Church. Historically, prior to the arrival of Christianity, Celtic polytheism was the dominant religion of the nation.

Ireland's constitution states that the state may not endow any particular religion, and also guarantees freedom of religion. Approximately 86.8% of the population identify themselves as Roman Catholic and are from a Roman Catholic background.[83] According to a Georgetown University study, the country also has one of the highest rates of regular and weekly Mass attendance in the Western World.[84] However, according to this source, there has been a major decline in this attendance in the course of the past 30 years. Between 1996 and 2001, regular Mass attendance, declined further from 60% to 48%[85] (it had been above 90% before 1973), and all but two of its major seminaries have closed (St Patrick's College, Maynooth and St Malachy's College, Belfast). A number of theological colleges continue to educate both ordained and lay people.

The second largest Christian denomination, the Church of Ireland (Anglican), was declining in number for most of the twentieth century, but has more recently experienced an increase in membership, according to the 2006 census, as have other small Christian denominations, as well as Hinduism. Other large Protestant denominations are the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, followed by the Methodist Church in Ireland. Between 2002 and 2006 there was a 69% increase in the number of Muslims living in Ireland, which makes Islam the fastest growing and the third largest religion in the country. The very small Jewish community in Ireland also recorded a marginal increase (see History of the Jews in Ireland) in the same period.

Saint Patrick, shown here preaching to kings, was a Romano-Briton Christian missionary and is the most generally recognised patron saint of Ireland.

The patron saints of Ireland (the island) are Saint Patrick, Saint Bridget and Saint Columba. However, Saint Patrick is the only one of the three who is commonly recognised as the patron saint. Saint Patrick's Day, March 17, is celebrated in Ireland and abroad as the Irish national day, with parades and other celebrations.

According to the 2006 census, the number of people who described themselves as having "no religion" was 186,318 (4.4%), although this fails to differentiate between non-religious people and pagans/spiritual people who simply reject formal Christian dogma. An additional 1,515 people described themselves as agnostic and 929 as atheist instead of ticking the "no religion" box. This brings the total nonreligious within the state to 4.5% of the population. A further 70,322 (1.7%) did not state a religion.[86]

Religion and politics

St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland (part of the Anglican Communion).

Originally, the 1937 Constitution of Ireland gave the Catholic Church a "special position" as the church of the majority, but also recognised other Christian denominations and Judaism. As with other predominantly Catholic European states, the Irish state underwent a period of legal secularisation in the late twentieth century. In 1972, the article of the Constitution naming specific religious groups, including the Catholic Church, was deleted by the fifth amendment of the constitution in a referendum.

Article 44 remains in the Constitution. It begins:

The State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold His Name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion.

The article also establishes freedom of religion (for belief, practice, and organisation without undue interference from the state), prohibits endowment of any particular religion, prohibits the state from religious discrimination, and requires the state to treat religious and non-religious schools in a non-prejudicial manner.

Religion and education

Despite a large number of schools in Ireland being run by religious organisations, a general trend of secularism is occurring within the Irish population, particularly in the younger generations.[87] Many efforts have been made by secular groups to eliminate the rigorous study in the second and sixth classes, to prepare for the sacraments of Holy Communion and confirmation in Catholic schools – parents can ask for their children to be excluded from religious study if they wish. However, religious studies as a subject was introduced into the state administered Junior Certificate in 2001; it is not compulsory and deals with aspects of different religions, not focusing on one particular religion.

Schools run by religious organisations, but receiving public money and recognition, are not allowed to discriminate against pupils based upon religion (or lack of). A sanctioned system of preference does exist, where students of a particular religion may be accepted before those who do not share the ethos of the school, in a case where a school's quota has already been reached.

Social issues

The prohibition on divorce in the 1937 Constitution was repealed in 1995 under the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution. The 1983 Eighth Amendment to the Constitution recognised "the right to life of the unborn", subject to qualifications concerning the "equal right to life" of the mother. The case of Attorney General v. X subsequently prompted passage of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, guaranteeing the right to travel abroad to have an abortion performed, and the right of citizens to learn about "services" that are illegal in Ireland but legal outside the country.

Contraception was illegal in Ireland until 1979.[88] The legislation which outlawed homosexual acts was repealed in 1993 – though before this it was generally only enforced when dealing with under-age sex.[89][90] Discrimination based on age, gender, sexual orientation, maritial or familial status, religion, race or membership of the travelling community is illegal. same-sex civil partnerships legislation was published in June 2008 (though not yet enshrined in law). A poll carried out in 2008 showed that 84% of Irish people supported civil marriage or civil partnerships for gay and lesbian couples, with 58% supporting full marriage rights in registry offices.[91] A later Irish Times poll put support for same-sex marriage at 63%, up a further 5%.[92]

In 2002, Ireland became the first country to have an environmental levy for all plastic shopping bags; while in 2004 the country became the first in the world to ban smoking in all workplaces. The country was also the first in Europe to ban incandescent lightbulbs in 2008.[93] The death penalty is constitutionally banned in Ireland, and the country was one of the main nations involved in the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was formally endorsed in Dublin. Ireland became the first country in the European Union (and third in the world, after Canada and Iceland) to ban in-store tobacco advertising and displays of tobacco products on 1 July 2009.[94] Ireland ranks eighth in the world in terms of gender equality.[95]



Poulnabrone dolmen, County Clare was built during the neolithic period.

Some architectural features in Ireland date back to the prehistoric period, including standing stones and tombs. The best known example is the World Heritage Site, Brú na Bóinne (Palace of the Boyne), as well as the Poulnabrone dolmen, Castlestrange stone, Turoe stone and Drombeg circle.[96] Due to the Roman Empire never conquering the island, ancient architecture of Greco-Roman origin is extremely rare, though Drumanagh is a possible example. Ireland instead had an extended, though developing, period of Iron Age architecture.[97] The Irish round tower acting as a belfry is a building style originating from the island during the Early Medieval period.

With the introduction of Christianity, simple monastic houses constructed from stone were built—Clonmacnoise, Skellig Michael and Scattery Island are examples. Some academics have remarked a stylistic similarity between these early double monastery buildings and those of the Copts of Egypt.[98] Gaelic kings and aristocrats lived in ringforts on top of hills or crannógs on lakes.[99] After Viking invasions the first significantly built up urban areas were created,[99] the Viking longphorts located on the coast such as Dublin, Cork, Waterford, Wexford and Limerick. 12th century Church reforms via the Cistercians stimulated continental influence as abbeys; Mellifont, Boyle and Tintern were built in a Romanesque style.[100] With the Norman invasion in parts of the island, castles were built, such as Dublin Castle, Kilkenny Castle and Ashford Castle.[101]

Dublin Custom House is an example of neoclassical architecture in Ireland.

Gothic cathedrals with high-pointed arches and clustered columns such as St Patrick's were also introduced by the Normans.[102] Franciscans were dominant in directing the abbeys by the Late Middle Ages, while elegant tower houses were built by the Gaelic and Norman aristocracy—Bunratty Castle is perhaps the best preserved.[103] After the Tudor conquest many religious buildings were ruined with the Dissolution of the Monasteries.[104] Following the Restoration, palladianism and rococo, particularly country houses, swept through Ireland under the initiative of Edward Lovett Pearce—the Irish Parliament House being the most significant.[105] With the erection of buildings such as the Custom House, Four Courts, General Post Office and King's Inns, the neoclassical and Georgian styles flourished, especially in the capital Dublin.[105]

Following Catholic Emancipation cathedrals and churches, such as St Colman's and St Finbarre's, influenced by the French Gothic Revival sprung up.[105] Ireland has long been associated with thatched roof cottages, though these are nowadays considered quaint.[106] In many Irish towns, colourfully painted shop fronts are to be found, sometimes extended to houses. Since the 20th century, starting with the American designed art deco church at Turner's Cross in 1927,[107] various modernist forms have been created. The best known examples include Busáras and the Spire of Dublin, sometimes proving controversial in public reception.[108][109] Traditional projects are still undertaken, such as Galway Cathedral in 1958.[110]


Life in Ireland

James Joyce published his most famous work Ulysses, an interpretation of the Odyssey set in Dublin, in 1922. Edith Somerville continued writing after the death of her partner Martin Ross in 1915. Dublin's Annie M. P. Smithson was one of several authors catering for fans of romantic fiction in the 1920s and 1930s. After the war popular novels were published by, among others, Brian O'Nolan, who published as Flann O'Brien, Elizabeth Bowen, Kate O'Brien. In the last few decades of the 20th century Edna O'Brien, John McGahern, Maeve Binchy, Joseph O'Connor, Roddy Doyle, Colm Tóibín and John Banville came to the fore as novelists.

Patricia Lynch (1898–1972) was a prolific children's author, while recently Eoin Colfer has been particularly successful in this genre.

In the genre of the short story, a form favoured by Irish writers, Seán Ó Faoláin, Frank O'Connor and William Trevor are prominent.

Poets include W.B. Yeats, Patrick Kavanagh, Seamus Heaney (Nobel Literature laureate), Thomas McCarthy and Dermot Bolger.

Prominent writers in the Irish language are Pádraic Ó Conaire, Máirtín Ó Cadhain, Séamus Ó Grianna and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill.


Following in the tradition of Shaw, Wilde and Samuel Beckett, playwrights such as Seán O'Casey, Brian Friel, Sebastian Barry, Brendan Behan, Conor McPherson and Billy Roche have gained popular success.[111]

Visual arts

Prominent artists include Jack Butler Yeats, Louis le Brocquy, Anne Madden, Robert Ballagh, James Coleman, Dorothy Cross and John Gerrard.


U2, an internationally renowned Irish band

Ireland is known for its traditional music and song, in origin going back hundreds of years but still played throughout the country. Among the best-known modern performers are groups such as The Dubliners, The Chieftains, Clannad, The Saw Doctors and Altan, singers such as Christy Moore and Mary Black, ensembles such as Anúna and Celtic Woman and cross-over artists such as singers Enya and Sinéad O'Connor. Built upon this tradition is the dance company Riverdance.

Ireland has produced internationally influential artists in other musical genres such as rock, pop, jazz and blues including The Pogues, U2, Boyzone, Westlife, Chris de Burgh, Ronan Keating, Thin Lizzy, The Corrs, The Cranberries, Blues guitarist Rory Gallagher and Academy Award winner Glen Hansard of The Frames. Contemporary artists include the highly popular rock band The Script, as well as The Coronas, Bell X1 and The Blizzards.

There are a number of classical music ensembles around the country,[112] such as the RTÉ Performing Groups, and opera lovers are catered for by three organizations, Opera Ireland, which produces large-scale operas in Dublin, Opera Theatre Company, which is also based in Dublin, and tours its chamber-style operas throughout the Republic and Northern Ireland, and the third being the annual Wexford Opera Festival which during late October-early November promotes lesser-known operas and is located in the southern city of Wexford.


The flourishing Irish film industry, state-supported by Bord Scannán na hÉireann, helped launch the careers of directors Neil Jordan and Jim Sheridan, and supported Irish films such as John Crowley's Intermission, Neil Jordan's Breakfast on Pluto, and others. A policy of tax breaks and other incentives has also attracted international film to Ireland, including Mel Gibson's Braveheart and Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan.

Maureen O'Sullivan is considered by many to be Ireland's first film star.[113] Other Irish actors who have made it to Hollywood include Maureen O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole, Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan, Gabriel Byrne, Brendan Gleeson, Daniel Day Lewis (by citizenship), Colm Meaney, Colin Farrell, Brenda Fricker, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Stuart Townsend, Michael Gambon, and Cillian Murphy.


Croke Park is the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association.

Ireland's national sports are Gaelic football[114] and hurling,[115] which are organised on an all-Ireland basis. Hurling, arguably the world's fastest field team sport in terms of game play[citation needed] is, along with Gaelic football, administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association; as is Handball. Notable former Gaelic Athletic Association players include the now retired pair of DJ Carey and Seamus Moynihan. The former Taoiseach Jack Lynch was a noted hurler and All-Ireland winner before entering politics. Well-known current players include Henry Shefflin, Sean Cavanagh and Colm Cooper.

Ireland's national football league is the League of Ireland but most internationals and well-known players play in the English Premier League and Scottish Premier League. Notable Irish internationals include former players Roy Keane, Johnny Giles, Liam Brady, Denis Irwin, Packie Bonner, Niall Quinn and Paul McGrath, and current players Steve Finnan, Shay Given, Damien Duff, John O'Shea, Aiden McGeady and Robbie Keane.

In rugby, the all-Ireland national team has produced world class players such as Brian O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara, Paul O'Connell and Keith Wood and most recent achievements include winning the RBS Six Nations and Grand Slam 2009. In athletics, Sonia O'Sullivan, Eamonn Coghlan, Catherina McKiernan, Ronnie Delaney, John Treacy, David Gillick and Derval O'Rourke have won medals at international events. In cricket, the Ireland national cricket team represents all-Ireland. The team is an associate member of the International Cricket Council with One Day International status. Ken Doherty is a former World Champion (1997) snooker player.

John L. Sullivan, born 1858 in the United States to Irish immigrant parents, was the first modern world heavyweight champion. Barry McGuigan and Steve Collins were also world champion boxers, while Bernard Dunne was a European super bantamweight champion and is current WBA Super Bantamweight champion. Michael Carruth is also an Olympic gold medallist having won at welterweight at the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992. Current prospects in the middleweight division are the undefeated John Duddy, and Andy Lee who has one defeat. Both fighters are aiming for world championship fights. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing in China, the Irish team won 3 medals, with Kenneth Egan winning silver and Darren Sutherland and Paddy Barnes earning bronzes. Boxing has proven a successful sport for Ireland in the Olympics and also at professional level.

In motor sport, during the 1990s Jordan Grand Prix became the only independent team to win multiple Formula One races. Rallying also has a measure of popularity as a spectator sport, and in 2007 the Rally of Ireland (which was held in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland) became a qualifying round of the FIA World Rally Championship and attracted an estimated attendance of some 200,000 spectators.[116] In cycling, Ireland produced Stephen Roche, the first and only Irishman to win the Tour de France in 1987, and the prolific Seán Kelly. In clay pigeon shooting Derek Burnett, David Malone and Philip Murphy are notable for their silver and gold medals in ISSF World Cup competitions, as well as Malones single gold medal in a world cup. Malone and Burnett are also notable for their appearances in the Summer Olympics, with Malone competing in Sydney in 2000, and Burnett competing in Sydney, Athens and Beijing, from 2000 to 2008. In golf, the 2008 USPGA champion was Irishman Pádraig Harrington, which was his third major win. In 2002, Dermott Lennon became the first Irish rider to win a Show Jumping World Championship gold medal.

By attendance figures Gaelic football and hurling are by far the most popular sports in Ireland, 34% of total attendances at sports events being to football and 24% to hurling.[117][118] while golf and soccer (including 5-a-side) are the most played at 17% of the population each.[119]



The state has four main international airports (Dublin, Shannon, Knock and Cork) that serve a wide variety of European and intercontinental routes with scheduled and chartered flights. The national airline is Aer Lingus, although low cost airline Ryanair is the largest airline. The route between London and Dublin is the busiest international air route in Europe, with 4.5 million people flying between the two cities in 2006.[120][121]

Railway services are provided by Iarnród Éireann. Dublin is the centre of the network, with two main stations (Heuston and Connolly) linking to the main towns and cities. The Enterprise service, run jointly with Northern Ireland Railways, connects Dublin with Belfast. Dublin has a steadily improving public transport network of varying quality including the DART, Luas, Bus service and an expanding rail network.

The motorways and national routes (national primary roads and national secondary roads) are managed by the National Roads Authority. The rest of the roads (regional roads and local roads) are managed by the local authorities in each of their areas.

Ireland still has a canal network, however this is mainly used for leisure boating rather than freight.

Regular ferry services operate between Ireland and Great Britain, the Isle of Man and France.

See also


  1. ^ "CIA World Factbook: Ireland". CIA. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  2. ^ "CSO 2006 Census - Volume 5 - Ethnic or Cultural Background (including the Irish Traveller Community)" (PDF). 2006. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  3. ^ "CSO Ireland - April 2008 Population Estimates" (PDF). April 2008. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Ireland". International Monetary Fund. Retrieved 2009-10-01. 
  5. ^ HDI of Ireland The United Nations. Retrieved 8 July 2009.
  6. ^ Prior to 1999, the Republic of Ireland used the punt (Irish pound) as its circulated currency. In 2002, the punt ceased to be legal tender.
  7. ^ Government of Ireland (1937). "Article 4". Constitution of Ireland. Dublin: Stationary Office. "The name of the State is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland." 
  8. ^ a b Government of Ireland (1948). "Article 2". Republic of Ireland Act, 1948. Dublin: Government of Ireland. "It is hereby declared that the description of the State shall be the Republic of Ireland." 
  9. ^ Statutory Rules & Orders published by authority, 1921 (No. 533); Additional source for 3 May 1921 date: Alvin Jackson, Home Rule - An Irish History, Oxford University Press, 2004, p198.
  10. ^ For example:
    • "Eire, as Southern Ireland has been called since 1937, was founded, under the name of the Irish Free State..." - CF Strong, Modern political constitutions, Sidgwick and Jackson: London, 1972
    • "The present state of the Republic of Ireland was established in 1922." - Encyclopedia Americana, Vol 15, New York: Americana Corporation, 1965
    • "The Irish Republic is a sovereign state comprising about three-quarters of the island of Ireland, with a population of about 3,500,000. The state was established in 1922 and has a written constitution ...." - D Reynolds, World class schools: international perspectives on school effectiveness, Roudledge: London, 2003
    For a more detailed discussion of the constitutional transition see J Coakley et al, 2005, Politics in the Republic of Ireland, Routledge: London:
    Ireland's constitution (Bunreacht na hÉireann) dates from 1937 and, despite significant innovations, marked a development of previous constitutional experience rather than a decisive break with it. ... In any case, for Fianna Fáil the Irish Free State constitution was inherently illegitimate no matter how it read. Eamon de Valera in particular felt the need for the state to have an entirely new constitution, and to this end he initiated the process of drafting one in 1935. ... Although legally and constitutionally this new constitution could have been enacted by the Oireachtas as one long amendment to the existing constitution, that would have defeated the whole point of the exercise; it was vital symbolically to seem to make a new beginning, and to have the Irish people confer the new constitution on themselves.

    Or Chubb in PJ Drudy (ed), 1986, Ireland and Britain since 1922, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge

    The Irish government today is carried on with the framework laid down in the Constitution, Bunreach na hÉireann, that dates from 1937. That Constitution is the successor of two previous constitutions, the Constitution of the Irish Free State (1922) and the Constitution of Dáil Éireann (1919) which was created by Sinn Féinn as part of the political struggle for independence. All three are best viewed as the products of a process of emancipation from British domination and the emergence from the British political system. They were milestones in the evolution of the country's relationship with the United Kingdom and marked stages in the transition from a province of an essentially English state to a sovereign republic.
  11. ^ DW Hollis, 2001, The history of Ireland‎, Greenwood: Connecticut
    Michael J. Kennedy, 2000, Division and consensus: the politics of cross-border relations in Ireland, 1925-1969, Institute of Public Administration: Dublin
    "In April 1936 de Valera had announced that he was preparing to draft a new constitution to replace that of 1922. Drafting was in progress when the abdication of King Edward VIII in December 1936 gave de Valera the opportunity to make further constitutional changes and introduce the External Relations Bill. In London, the cabinet's Irish Situation Committee had been told by [Malcolm] MacDonald in November 1936 to expect such legislation in the near future, so its introduction was not a shock to the British. Even so, de Valera was concerned about the possible British reaction, and he was able to use the abdication crisis to implement a further revision of the Treaty, safe in the knowledge that British politicians had other matters on their minds."
  12. ^ Bill Kissane, 2007, Éamon de Valéra and the Survival of Democracy in Inter-War Ireland in Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 42, No. 2, 213-226
  13. ^ a b c T Garvin, 1922: the birth of Irish democracy, Gill & Macmillan: Dublin, 2005
    Peter Cottrell (2008). The Irish Civil War 1922-23. Osprey Publishing. p. 85. ISBN 9781846032707. "Irish voters approved a new constitution, Bunreacht na hÉireann, in 1937 renaming the country Éire or simply Ireland." 
    Dr. Darius Whelan (June 2005). "Guide to Irish Law". Retrieved 11 September 2009. "This Constitution, which remains in force today, renamed the State Ireland (Article 4) and established four main institutions - the President, the Oireachtas (Parliament), the Government and the Courts." 
    John T. Koch, Celtic culture: a historical encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO: Santa Barbara, 2006
  14. ^ F Elliott et al, 1959, A dictionary of politics, Penguin: London
    Munro et al, 1990, A world record of major conflict areas, St. James Press: Detroit
  15. ^ Section 2 of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948.
  16. ^ a b "EU: Causes of Growth differentials in Europe", WAWFA think tank
  17. ^ List of countries by GDP (PPP) per capita
  18. ^ "Report for Selected Countries and Subjects". IMF. 2006-09-14. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  19. ^ The wording of Article 4 has been criticised. Most recently, in its report, the Constitution Review Group in 1996 stated that Article 4 was unnecessarily complicated and should be amended to read "The name of the state is Ireland" with an equivalent change in the Irish text.
  20. ^ Ireland joined the EU (then EEC) in 1973 under a treaty drawn up in several languages including Irish and English. Since then, its two names have been used in the EU. For further consideration of the practice applied by the European Union, see Clause 7.2.4 of the Inter Institutional Style Guide.
  21. ^ Casey, James, Constitutional Law in Ireland, ISBN 9781899738632, p. 31, in reference to the Ellis v O'Dea extradition case.
  22. ^ On a literal reading of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, Northern Ireland became part of the Irish Free State, only to opt out of the dominion a day later. However the government of the Irish Free State never exercised sovereign control over Northern Ireland. See: Northern Ireland Parliamentary Report, 7 December 1922 and further information below.
  23. ^ Mokyr, Joel (1984). "New Developments in Irish Population History 1700-1850". Irish Economic and Social History xi: 101–121. 
  24. ^ Department of the Taoiseach - Irish Soldiers in the First World War
  25. ^ Fennell, Desmond (1993). Heresy: the Battle of Ideas in Modern Ireland. Belfast: Blackstaff Press. p. 33. ISBN 0856405132. "Both the new Irish Republic and the labour movement were sympathetic to the new soviet regime in Russia. The government of the Soviet Union recognised the Republic, and the Dáil authorised the establishment of diplomatic relations." 
  26. ^ "Northern Ireland Parliamentary Report, 7 December 1922". 1922-12-07. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  27. ^ and the Governor-General's office was finally abolished under the Executive Powers (Consequential Provisions) Act, 1937 with effect from December 1936
  28. ^ a b c d e "How Ireland became the Celtic Tiger", Sean Dorgan, the Chief Executive of IDA. 23 June 2006
  29. ^ O'Toole, Francis; Warrington. "Taxations And savings in Ireland" (PDF). Trinity Economic Papers Series. Trinity College, Dublin. pp. page 19. Retrieved 2008-06-17. 
  30. ^ De Vlieghere, Martin (2005-11-25). "The Myth of the Scandinavian Model | The Brussels Journal". The Brussels Journal<!. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  31. ^ Article 15.2 of the Constitution of Ireland.
  32. ^ Callanan, Mark; Justin F. Keogan (2003). Mark Callanan, Justin F. Keogan. ed. Local government in Ireland: inside out. Institute of Public Administration. pp. 49. ISBN 9781902448930. Retrieved 2009-09-21. 
  33. ^ See section 10(7) of the Local Government Act 2001
  34. ^ *Irish Nationality & Citizenship Acts 1956-2004 (unofficial consolidated version) - pdf format
  35. ^ "oil and gas fields in ireland - Google Maps". Google.,-9.030762&spn=6.274516,19.775391&z=6. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  36. ^ a b "Land cover and land use". Environmental Protection Agency. 2000. Retrieved 2007-07-30. 
  37. ^ "World Factbook - Ireland". CIA. 2007. Retrieved 2007-08-07. 
  38. ^ a b "CAP reform - a long-term perspective for sustainable agriculture". European Commission. Retrieved 2007-07-30. 
  39. ^ Roche, Dick (2006-11-08). "National Parks". Seanad Éireann. Retrieved 2007-07-30.  Seanad Debate involving Former Minister for Environment Heritage and Local Government
  40. ^ "The Ireland Climate and What to Wear". Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  41. ^ a b c d "Climate in Ireland". Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  42. ^ "Wind over Ireland". Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  43. ^ a b "Temperature in Ireland". Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  44. ^ "Ireland Weather". Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  45. ^ "Weather Information for Galway". Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  46. ^
  47. ^ "Operational Irish Mines: Tara, Galmoy and Lisheen « Irish Natural Resources". Irish Natural Resources. 2008-07-15. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  48. ^ "Ireland top location for US Multinational Profits". Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  49. ^ Hoffmann, Kevin (2005-03-26). "Ireland: How the Celtic Tiger Became the World's Software Export Champ". Der Spiegel.,1518,348682,00.html. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  50. ^ "Bord Gáis Homepage". Bord Gais. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  51. ^ Car care (2007-05-20). "Ireland on the verge of an oil and gas bonanza". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  52. ^ Charles Smith, article: 'Ireland', in Wankel, C. (ed.) Encyclopedia of Business in Today's World, California, USA, 2009.
  53. ^ Consumer Prices Bi-annual Average Price Analysis Dublin and Outside Dublin: 1 May 2006PDF (170 KB) – CSO
  54. ^ Guider, Ian (7 August 2008). "Inflation falls to 4.4pc". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2008-08-08. 
  55. ^ Consumer Price Index July 2008 (Dublin & Cork, 7 August 2008PDF (142 KB)Central Statistics Office (Ireland). Retrieved on 2008-08-08.
  56. ^ a b "Annual Competitiveness Report 2008, Volume One: Benchmarking Ireland’s Performance". NCC. 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-01. 
  57. ^ The Economist Intelligence Unit’s quality-of-life indexPDF (67.1 KB) – The Economist
  58. ^ "Economic Survey of Ireland 2006: Keeping public finances on track". OECD. 2006.,3343,en_33873108_33873500_36173106_1_1_1_1,00.html. Retrieved 2007-07-30. 
  59. ^ "House slowdown sharper than expected". RTÉ. 2007-08-03. Retrieved 2007-08-06. 
  60. ^ "Latest Report: Latest edition of permanent tsb / ESRI House price index - May 2007". Permanent TSB, ESRI. Retrieved 2007-08-10. 
  61. ^ EU Survey on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC)PDF (161 KB) CSO, 2004.
  62. ^ Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (13 March 2008). "Irish banks may need life-support as property prices crash". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 2008-03-13. 
  63. ^ "CSO - Central Statistics Office Ireland". Central Statistics Office Ireland. 2004-11-09. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  64. ^ [1] The Times, Ireland's economy loses coveted AAA rating
  65. ^ "Design for Irish coin denominations". Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  66. ^ Irish Defence Forces, Army (accessed 15 June 2006)
  67. ^ Gilland 2001, p. 143.
  68. ^ "Minister for Defence, Mr. Willie O’Dea TD secures formal Cabinet approval today for Ireland’s participation in an EU Battlegroup". Department of Defense. Retrieved 2008-08-26. 
  69. ^ "Private Members' Business. - Foreign Conflicts: Motion (Resumed)". Government of Ireland. 2003-01-30. Retrieved 2007-10-10. Tony Gregory speaking in Dáil Éireann
  70. ^ Kennedy, Michael (204-10-08). "Ireland's Role in Post-War Transatlantic Aviation and Its Implications for the Defence of the North Atlantic Area". Royal Irish Academy. Retrieved 2007-10-10. 
  71. ^ Irish Times, 28 December 2007 p. 1.
  72. ^ Patrick Smyth (29 November 1999). "State joins Partnership for Peace on Budget day". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2008-05-06. 
  73. ^ "Signatures of Partnership for Peace Framework Document". NATO website. 21 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-05-06. 
  74. ^ Myths of British ancestry – Prospect Magazine
  75. ^ ("Origins of the British", Stephen Oppenheimer, 2006)
  76. ^ The Longue Durée of Genetic Ancestry: Multiple Genetic Marker Systems and Celtic Origins on the Atlantic Facade of Europe – PUBMED
  77. ^ "Gypsies and Irish Travellers: The facts". Gypsies and Irish Travellers. Commission for Racial Equality. Archived from the original on 2008-12-21. 
  78. ^ Irish Traveller Movement – Unless otherwise noted. "Traveller Legal Resource Pack 2 - Traveller Culture". Irish Travellers Movement. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  79. ^ "Ireland's population still fastest-growing in EU". Thomas Crosbie Media. 2007-12-18. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  80. ^ "S.I. No. 164/1970: ROAD TRAFFIC (SIGNS) (AMENDMENT) REGULATIONS, 1970.". Irish Statute Book. 1970-07-16. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  81. ^ Sheehan, Aideen (2007-08-01). "Boom in births as new arrivals double on death rates". Irish Independent. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  82. ^ Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan only. Remaining Ulster counties are in Northern Ireland
  83. ^ Final Principal Demographic Results 2006PDF (894 KB)
  84. ^ Weekly Mass Attendance of Catholics in Nations with Large Catholic Populations, 1980-2000 – World Values Survey (WVS)
  85. ^ Irish Mass attendance below 50% – Catholic World News 1 June 2006
  86. ^ "Final Principal Demographic Results 2006" (PDF). 2006. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  87. ^ Among many examples:
    John Daniszewski, 17 April 2005, Catholicism Losing Ground in Ireland, LA Times
    Irish poll shows parents no longer want to force religion on to children from
    Phil Lawler, 17 September 2007, Ireland threatened by secularism, Pope tells new envoy, Catholic World News
  88. ^ "Health (Family Planning) Act, 1979". Office of the Attorney General. 1979-07-23. Retrieved 2007-06-07. 
  89. ^ "NORRIS v. IRELAND - 10581/83 [1988 ECHR 22"]. European Court of Human Rights. 2007-10-26. Retrieved 2007-06-07. 
  90. ^ Though Senator David Norris challenged the law in the European Court of Human Rights in 1988, but the Irish Government were tardy in not legislating to rectify the issue until 1993.
  91. ^ "Increased support for gay marriage - Survey". 31 March 2008. 
  92. ^ "Do you think that same-sex marriage should be allowed in Ireland? - News poll". The Irish Times. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  93. ^ "Traditional light bulbs to be scrapped". RTÉ. 2008-10-10. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  94. ^ "Ban on in-store tobacco advertising". RTÉ. 2009-06-30. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  95. ^ RTÉ News - Ireland ranked 8th for gender equality
  96. ^ "The Prehistoric Monuments of Ireland". Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  97. ^ "AD 43-410 Roman Iron Age". Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  98. ^ Meinardus 2002, p. 130.
  99. ^ a b "AD 410-1066 Early medieval". Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  100. ^ Moody 2005, p. 735.
  101. ^ "Irish Castles". Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  102. ^ Greenwood 2003, p. 813.
  103. ^ "The Later Middle Ages: 1350 to 1540". Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  104. ^ "Early Tudor Ireland: 1485 to 1547". Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  105. ^ a b c Greenwood 2003, p. 815.
  106. ^ "Thatching in Ireland". Retrieved 2009-10-19. 
  107. ^ "Exterior of Church of Christ the King, Turner's Cross". Parish of Turner's Cross. Retrieved 2008-11-09. 
  108. ^ "Delayed Dublin spire sees light of day". Retrieved 2009-10-20. 
  109. ^ "Barry Byrne: Christ the King, Turner's Cross, Cork". Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  110. ^ "Galway Cathedral". Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  111. ^ Houston, Eugenie (2001). Working and Living in Ireland. Working and Living Publications. ISBN 0-95368-968-9. 
  112. ^ "Contemporary Music Ireland". Contemporary Music Centre - Links. Retrieved 2009-07-09. 
  113. ^ Maureen O'Sullivan Biography Retrieved September 6, 2009.
  114. ^ "RTÉ Secures Comprehensive GAA Championship Coverage Until 2010". RTÉ. 2008-02-19. Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  115. ^ "Hurling: in Ireland's oldest, roughest, fastest sport, the stars of the game give it their all-and then go back to their day jobs". Men's Fitness. Retrieved 2009-10-23. 
  116. ^ Jerry Williams, Fans unite as top drivers battle it out, Daily Mail, 14 November 2007
  117. ^ "The Social Significance of Sport" (PDF). Economic and Social Research Institute. p. 42 accessdate=2006-11-27. 
  118. ^ "GAA attendance figures" (PDF). Retrieved 2008-02-22. 
  119. ^ "Social and Economic Value of Sport in Ireland" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-02-05. 
  120. ^ Seán McCárthaigh, Dublin–London busiest air traffic route within EU, Irish Examiner, 31 March 2003
  121. ^ Mark Frary (2007-03-19). "Heathrow dominates top 20". The Times. Retrieved 2007-07-04. 


  • Gilland, Karin (2001). Ireland: Neutrality and the International Use of Force. Routledge. ISBN 0415218047. 
  • Greenwood, Margaret (2003). Rough guide to Ireland. Rough Guides. ISBN 1843530597. 
  • Mangan, James Clarence (2007). James Clarence Mangan - His Selected Poems. Read Books. ISBN 1408627000. 
  • Meinardus, Otto Friedrich August (2002). Two thousand years of Coptic Christianity. American Univ in Cairo Press. ISBN 9774247574. 
  • Moody, Theodore William (2005). A New History of Ireland: Prehistoric and early Ireland. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0198217374. 

Further reading

  • Bunreacht na hÉireann (the 1937 constitution) (PDF versionPDF)
  • The Irish Free State Constitution Act, 1922
  • J. Anthony Foley and Stephen Lalor (ed), Gill & Macmillan Annotated Constitution of Ireland (Gill & Macmillan, 1995) (ISBN 0-7171-2276-X)
  • FSL Lyons, Ireland Since the Famine
  • Alan J. Ward, The Irish Constitutional Tradition: Responsible Government and Modern Ireland 1782–1992 (Irish Academic Press, 1994) (ISBN 0-7165-2528-3)

External links

General information

Coordinates: 53°N 7°W / 53°N 07°W / 53; -07

Native name: Éire / Ireland
File:Ireland from space
Satellite photograph of Ireland: the Atlantic Ocean is to the west and the Irish Sea is to the east.
Ireland (island) in
Location Northern Europe or Western Europe[1]
Area 84,421 km2 (32,595.1 sq mi)[2]
Area rank 20th
Coastline 3,700 km (2,300 mi)
Highest elevation 1,041 m (3,415 ft)
Highest point Carrauntoohil
Largest city Dublin
Constituent country Northern Ireland
Largest city Belfast
Population 6,197,100[3] (as of 2008)
Density 73.4 /km2 (190.1 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups Irish, Ulster Scots, Irish Travellers[Note 1]

Ireland (pronounced [ˈaɾlənd]( listen),; Irish: Éire, pronounced [ˈeːɾʲə]  ( listen); Ulster Scots: Airlann) is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island in the world.[4] It lies to the northwest of continental Europe and is surrounded by hundreds of islands and islets. To the east of Ireland is Great Britain, separated from it by the Irish Sea. The island is divided between the Republic of Ireland, which covers just under five-sixths of the island, and Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, which covers the remainder and is located in the northeast of the island. The population of Ireland is approximately 6.2 million people. Just under 4.5 million live in the Republic of Ireland and just under 1.8 million live in Northern Ireland.[3]

Relatively low-lying mountains surrounding a central plain epitomise Ireland's geography with several navigable rivers extending inland. The island has lush vegetation, a product of its mild but changeable oceanic climate, which avoids extremes in temperature. Thick woodlands covered the island until the 17th century. Today, it is the most deforested area in Europe.[5] There are twenty-six extant mammal species native to Ireland.

A Norman invasion in the Middle Ages gave way to a Gaelic Resurgence in the 13th century. Over sixty years of intermittent warfare in the 1500s led to English dominion after 1603. In the 1690s, a system of Protestant English rule was designed to materially disadvantage the Catholic majority and Protestant dissenters, and was extended during the 18th century. In 1801, Ireland became a part of the United Kingdom. A war of independence in the early 20th century led to the partition of the island, creating the Irish Free State, which became increasingly sovereign over the following decades. Northern Ireland remained a part of the United Kingdom and saw much civil unrest from the late 1960s until the 1990s. This subsided following a political agreement in 1998. In 1973, both parts of Ireland joined the European Community.

Irish culture has had a significant influence on other cultures, particularly in the fields of literature and, to a lesser degree, science and education. A strong Irish culture exists, as expressed for example through Gaelic games, Irish music and the Irish language, alongside a common Western culture, such as contemporary music and drama, and sports such as soccer, rugby and golf, and the English language.


History of Ireland
File:Wenceslas Hollar - Ireland (State 2).jpg
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Peoples and polities
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Ireland Portal
 v • d • e 

Pre-history and medieval period

Most of Ireland was covered with ice until the end of the last ice age over 9,000 years ago. Sea-levels were lower and Ireland, as with its neighbour Great Britain, were a part of continental Europe rather than being islands. Mesolithic stone age inhabitants arrived some time after 8,000 BC and agriculture followed with the Neolithic Age around 4,500 to 4,000 BC when sheep, goats, cattle and cereals were imported from the Iberian peninsula.

At the Céide Fields, preserved beneath a blanket of peat in present-day County Mayo, is an extensive field system, arguably the oldest in the world,[6] dating from not long after this period. Consisting of small divisions separated by dry-stone walls, the fields were farmed for several centuries between 3,500 and 3,000 BC. Wheat and barley were the principal crops.

The Bronze Age – defined by the use of metal – began around 2,500 BC with technology changing people's everyday lives during this period through innovations such as the wheel, harnessing oxen, weaving textiles, brewing alcohol, and skillful metalworking, producing new weapons and tools, and fine gold decoration and jewellery, such as brooches and torcs. According to John T. Koch and others, Ireland in the Late Bronze Age was part of a maritime trading-networked culture called the Atlantic Bronze Age that also included Britain, France, Spain and Portugal where Celtic languages developed.[7][8][9][10][11][12]

The Iron Age in Ireland is traditionally associated with people known as the Celts. The Celts were commonly thought to have colonised Ireland in a series of invasions between the 8th and 1st centuries BC. The Gaels, the last wave of Celts, were said to have divided the island into five or more kingdoms after conquering it. However, some academics[who?] favor a theory that emphasises the diffusion of culture from overseas as opposed to a military colonisation.[13] Finds such as Clonycavan Man are given as evidence for this theory.

The earliest written records of Ireland come from classical Greco-Roman geographers. Ptolemy in his Almagest refers to Ireland as Mikra Brettania (Lesser Britain), in contrast to the larger island, which he called Megale Brettania (Great Britain).[14] In his later work, Geography, Ptolemy refers to Ireland as Iwernia and to Great Britain as Albion. These "new" names were likely to have been the Celtic names for the islands at the time. The earlier names, in contrast, were likely to have been coined before direct contact with local peoples were made.[15]

The Romans would later refer to Ireland by this name too in its Latinised form, Hibernia,[16] or Scotia.[17] Ptolemy records sixteen tribes inhabiting every part of Ireland in 100 AD.[18] The relationship between the Roman Empire and the tribes of ancient Ireland is unclear. However, a number of finds of Roman coins have been found, for example at New Grange.[19]

Ireland continued as a patchwork of rival tribes but, beginning in the 7th century AD, a concept of national kingship gradually became articulated through the concept of a High King of Ireland. Medieval Irish literature portrays an almost unbroken sequence of High Kings stretching back thousands of years but modern historians believe the scheme was constructed in the 8th century to justify the status of powerful political groupings by projecting the origins of their rule into the remote past.[20]

The High King was said to preside over the patchwork of provincial kingdoms that together formed Ireland. Each of these kingdoms had their own kings but were at least nominally subject to the High King. The High King was drawn from the ranks of the provincial kings and ruled also the royal kingdom of Meath, with a ceremonial capital at the Hill of Tara. The concept only became a political reality in the Viking Age and even then was not a consistent one.[21] However, Ireland did have a unifying rule of law: the early written judicial system, the Brehon Laws, administered by a professional class of jurists known as the brehons.[22]

The Chronicle of Ireland records that in 431 AD Bishop Palladius arrived in Ireland on a mission from Pope Celestine I to minister to the Irish "already believing in Christ."[23] The same chronicle records that Saint Patrick, Ireland's best known patron saint, arrived the following year. There is continued debate over the missions of Palladius and Patrick but consensus that they both took place[24] and certainty that the older druid tradition collapsed in the face of the new religion.[25] Irish Christian scholars excelled in the study of Latin and Greek learning and Christian theology. In the monastic culture that followed the Christianisation of Ireland, Latin and Greek learning was preserved in Ireland during the Early Middle Ages in contrast to elsewhere in Europe, where the Dark Ages followed the decline of the Roman Empire.[25][26]

The arts of manuscript illumination, metalworking and sculpture flourished and produced treasures such as the Book of Kells, ornate jewellery and the many carved stone crosses[27] that still dot the island today. A mission founded in 563 on Iona by the Irish monk Saint Columba began a tradition of Irish missionary work that spread Christianity and learning to Scotland, England and the Frankish Empire on Continental Europe after the fall of Rome.[28] These missions continued until the late middle ages, establishing monasteries and centres of learning, producing scholars such as Sedulius Scottus and Johannes Eriugena and exerting much influence in Europe.

From the 9th century, waves of Viking raiders plundered Irish monasteries and towns.[29] These raids added to a pattern of raiding and endemic warfare that was already deep-seated in Ireland.

Norman and English invasions

File:Trim Castle
Remains of the 11th-century Trim Castle in County Meath The largest Norman castle in Ireland.

On May 1, 1169, an expedition of Cambro-Norman knights with an army of about six hundred landed at Bannow Strand in present-day County Wexford. It was led by Richard de Clare, called Strongbow due to his prowess as an archer.[30] The invasion, which coincided with a period of renewed Norman expansion, was at the invitation of Dermot Mac Murrough, king of Leinster.

In 1166, Mac Morrough had fled to Anjou, France following a war involving Tighearnán Ua Ruairc, of Breifne, and sought the assistance of the Angevin king, Henry II, in recapturing his kingdom. In 1171, Henry arrived in Ireland in order to review the general progress of the expedition. He wanted to re-exert royal authority over the invasion which was expanding beyond his control. Henry successfully re-imposed his authority over Strongbow and the Cambro-Norman warlords and persuaded many of the Irish kings to accept him as their overlord, an arrangement confirmed in the 1175 Treaty of Windsor.

The invasion was legitimised by the provisions of the Papal Bull Laudabiliter, issued by Adrian IV in 1155. The bull encouraged Henry to take control in Ireland in order to oversee the financial and administrative reorganisation of the Irish Church and its integration into the Roman Church system. Some restructuring had already begun at the ecclesiastical level since the Synod of Kells in 1152. There has been some controversy over the bull, but its authenticity is now generally accepted.[31] It granted Henry dominion over Ireland in the name of the papacy.[32]

In 1172, the new pope, Alexander III, further encouraged Henry to advance the integration of the Irish Church with Rome. Henry was authorised to impose a tithe of one penny per hearth as an annual contribution. This church levy, called Peter's Pence, is still extant in Ireland as a voluntary donation. In turn, Henry accepted the title of Lord of Ireland which Henry conferred on his younger son, John Lackland, in 1185. This defined the Irish state as the Lordship of Ireland. When Henry's successor died unexpectedly in 1199, John inherited the crown of England and retained the Lordship of Ireland.

Over the century that followed, Norman feudal law gradually replaced the Gaelic Brehon Law so that by the late 13th century the Norman-Irish had established a feudal system throughout much of Ireland. Norman settlements were characterised by the establishment of baronies, manors, towns and the seeds of the modern county system. A version of the Magna Carta (the Great Charter of Ireland), substituting Dublin for London and Irish Church for Church of England, was published in 1216 and the Parliament of Ireland was founded in 1297.

However, from the mid-14th century, after the Black Death, Norman settlements in Ireland went into a period of decline. The Norman rulers and the Gaelic Irish elites intermarried and the areas under Norman rule became Gaelicised. In some parts, a hybrid Hiberno-Norman culture emerged. In response, the Irish parliament passed the Statutes of Kilkenny in 1367. These were a set of laws designed to prevent the assimilation of the Normans into Irish society by requiring English subjects in Ireland to speak English, follow English customs and abide by English law.[33] However, by the end of the 15th century central English authority in Ireland had all but disappeared and a renewed Irish culture and language, albeit with Norman influences, was dominant again. English Crown control remained relatively unshaken in an amorphous foothold around Dublin known as The Pale and under the provisions of Poynings' Law of 1494, the Irish Parliamentary legislation was subject to the approval of the English Parliament.

English rule of law was reinforced and expanded, in the 16th century leading to the Tudor conquest of Ireland. A near complete conquest was achieved by the turn of the 17th century following the Nine Years' War and the Flight of the Earls. This control was further consolidated during the wars and conflicts of the 17th century, which witnessed English and Scottish colonisation in the Plantations of Ireland, the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and the Williamite War. Irish losses during the Wars of the three Kingdoms (which, in Ireland, included the Irish Confederacy and the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland) are estimated to include 20,000 battlefield casualties. 200,000 civilians are estimated to have died as a result of a combination of war-related famine, displacement, guerilla activity and pestilence over the duration of the war. A further 50,000[Note 2] were sent to slavery in the West Indies. Some historians estimate that as much as half of the pre-war population of Ireland may have died as a result of the conflict.[36]

The religious struggles of the 17th century left a deep sectarian division in Ireland. Religious allegiance now determined the perception in law of loyalty to the Irish King and Parliament. After the passing of the Test Act 1672, and with the victory of the forces of the dual monarchy of William and Mary over the Jacobites, Roman Catholics and nonconforming Protestant Dissenters were barred from sitting as members in the Irish Parliament. Under the emerging penal laws, recusant Irish Roman Catholics and Dissenters were increasingly deprived of various and sundry civil rights even to the ownership of hereditary property. Additional regressive punitive legislation followed 1703, 1709 and 1728. This completed a comprehensive systemic effort to materially disadvantage Roman Catholics and Protestant Dissenters, while enriching a new ruling class of Anglican conformists.[37] The new Anglo-Irish ruling class became known as the Protestant Ascendancy.

Union with Great Britain

An extraordinary climatic shock "The Great Frost" struck Ireland and the rest of Europe between December 1739 and September 1741, after a decade of relatively mild winters. The winters destroyed stored crops of potatoes and other staples and the poor summers severely damaged harvests.[38] This resulted in the famine in 1740. An estimated 250,000[39] people (about one in eight of the population) died from the ensuing pestilence and disease. The Irish government halted export of corn and kept the army in quarters but did little more.[39][40] Local gentry and charitable organisations provided relief but could not contain the ensuing mortality.[39][40]

In the aftermath of the famine, an increase in industrial production and a surge in trade brought a succession of construction booms. The population soared in the latter part of this century and the architectural legacy of Georgian Ireland was built. In 1782, Poynings' Law was repealed giving Ireland virtual legislative independence from Great Britain for the first time since the Norman invasion. However, the British government still retained the right to nominate the government of Ireland above the consent of the Irish parliament.

In 1798, members of the Protestant Dissenter tradition (mainly Presbyterian) made common cause with Catholics in a republican rebellion inspired and led by the Society of United Irishmen with the aim of creating an independent Ireland. Despite assistance from France the rebellion was put down by British and Irish government and yeomanry forces. In 1800, the British and Irish parliaments passed the Act of Union which, effective as of January 1, 1801, merged the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain to create a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.[41]

The passage of the Act in the Irish Parliament was ultimately achieved with substantial majorities, having failed on the first attempt in 1799. According to contemporary documents and historical analysis, this was achieved through a considerable degree of bribery, with funding provided by the British Secret Service Office, and the awarding of peerages, places and honours to secure votes.[42] Thus, Ireland became part of an extended United Kingdom, ruled directly by the parliament at Westminster in London. A Viceregal administration was established and under the government appointed the Chief Secretary at Dublin Castle.

File:Emigrants Leave Ireland by Henry Doyle
Emigrants Leave Ireland engraving by Henry Doyle depicting the emigration to America following the Great Famine in Ireland.

The Great Famine of the 1840s caused the deaths of one million Irish people and over a million more emigrated to escape it.[43] By the end of the decade, half of all immigration to the United States was from Ireland. Mass emigration became deeply entrenched and the population continued to decline until the mid 20th century. Immediately prior to the famine, the population was recorded as 8.2 million by the 1841 census.[44] The population has never returned to this level since.[45] The population continued to fall until 1961 and it was not until the 2006 census that the last county of Ireland (County Leitrim) to record a rise in population since 1841 did so.

The 19th and early 20th century saw the rise of modern Irish nationalism, primarily among the Roman Catholic population. Pre-eminent among these was Daniel O'Connell. He was elected as member of parliament for Ennis in a surprise result despite being unable to take his seat as a Roman Catholic. O'Connell spearheaded a vigorous campaign which was taken up by the Prime Minister, the Irish-born soldier and statesman, the Duke of Wellington. Steering the Act through the Westminster parliament, aided by future prime minister Robert Peel, Wellington prevailed upon a reluctant George IV to sign the bill and proclaim it into law. George's father had opposed the plan of the earlier Prime Minister, Pitt the Younger, to introduce such a bill following the Union in 1801 fearing Catholic Emancipation to be in conflict with the Act of Settlement 1701.

A subsequent campaign led by O'Connell for the repeal of the Act of Union failed. Later in the century, Charles Stewart Parnell and others campaigned for autonomy within the Union, or "Home Rule". Unionists, especially those located in the northern part of the island, were strongly opposed to Home Rule, which they thought would be dominated by Catholic interests.[46] After several attempts to pass a Home Rule bill through parliament, it looked certain that one would finally pass in 1914. To prevent this from happening, the Ulster Volunteers were formed in 1913 under the leadership of Lord Carson.[47]

Their formation was followed in 1914 by the establishment of the Irish Volunteers, whose aim was to ensure that the Home Rule Bill was passed. The Act was passed but with the "temporary" exclusion of the six counties of Ulster that would become Northern Ireland. However, before it could be implemented the Act was suspended for the duration of the Great War (World War I). The Irish Volunteers split into two groups. The majority, approximately 175,000 in number, under John Redmond, took the name National Volunteers and supported Irish involvement in the war. A minority, approximately 13,000, retained the name, the Irish Volunteers, and opposed Ireland's involvement in the war.[48]

The failed Easter Rising of 1916 was carried out by the latter group and the British response, executing the leaders of the Rising one by one over seven weeks, changed the national mood towards Home Rule. The pro-independence party, Sinn Féin, received overwhelming endorsement in the General Election of 1918 and in 1919 declared its own parliament and government, the Irish Republic. British authorities attempted to extinguish this challenge, sparking a guerilla war from 1919 to July 1921, ending in a truce.[49]

In 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was concluded between the British Government and representatives of the First Dáil (Assembly of Ireland). It gave all of Ireland complete independence in their home affairs and practical independence for foreign policy. However, an oath of allegiance to the British Crown had to be exercised. And Northern Ireland was to form a home rule state within the new Irish Free State but held an opt-out clause, which it exercised immediately as expected.[50] Disagreements over these provisions led to a split in the nationalist movement and a subsequent civil war between the new government of the Irish Free State and those opposed to the treaty, led by Éamon de Valera. The civil war officially ended in May 1923 when de Valera issued a cease-fire order.[51]


Independent Ireland

File:Anglo-Irish Treaty Griffith annotated2.gif
Annotated page from the Anglo-Irish Treaty that established the Irish Free State and independence for 26 out of 32 Irish counties.

During its first decade, the newly-formed Irish Free State was governed by the victors of the civil war. When de Valera achieved power, he took advantage of the Statute of Westminster and political circumstances to build upon inroads to greater sovereignty made by the previous government. The oath was abolished and in 1937 a new constitution was adopted.[49] This completed a process of gradual separation from the British Empire that governments had pursued since independence. However, it was not until 1949 that the state was declared, officially, to be the Republic of Ireland.

The state was neutral during World War II, but offered clandestine assistance to the Allies, particularly in the potential defence of Northern Ireland. Despite being neutral, approximately 50,000[52] volunteers from independent Ireland joined the British forces during the war, four being awarded Victoria Crosses.

Ireland also had links to German Intelligence. Both the Abwehr (the German military intelligence service) and the SD (the Sicherheitsdienst, the intelligence service of the SS) sent agents to Ireland.[53] This chain of Irish-German intelligence was broken in September 1941 when the southern Irish police made arrests on the basis of surveillance carried out on the key diplomatic legations in Ireland, including the United States. To the southern Irish, counterintelligence was more than mere luxury but a fundamental line of defense. With a regular army of only slightly over seven thousand men at the start of the war, and hopelessly devoid of modern weapons, a determined German attack with even just a few divisions would have meant certain occupation.[53]

Large-scale emigration marked the 1950s and 1980s but, beginning in 1987, the economy improved and the 1990s saw the beginning of substantial economic growth. This period of growth became known as the Celtic Tiger.[54] The Republic's real GDP grew by an average of 9.6% per annum between 1995 and 1999[55] and in 2000 Ireland was the sixth-richest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita.[56] Social changes followed quickly on the heels of economic prosperity ranging from the 'modernisation' of the St. Patrick's Day parade in Dublin to the decline in authority of the Catholic Church. The financial crisis of 2008-2010 dramatically ended this period of boom. GDP fell by 3% in 2008 and by 7.1% in 2009, the worst year since records began (although earnings by foreign-owned businesses continued to grow).[57]

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland was created as a division of the United Kingdom by the Government of Ireland Act 1920 and until 1972 it was a self-governing jurisdiction within the United Kingdom with its own parliament and prime minister. Northern Ireland, as part of the United Kingdom, was not neutral during the Second World War and Belfast suffered a bombing raid in 1941. Conscription was not extended to Northern Ireland and roughly an equal number volunteered from Northern Ireland as volunteered from the south. One, James Joseph Magennis, received the Victoria Cross for valour.

File:Carson signing Solemn League and
Edward Carson signing the Solemn League and Covenant in 1912, declaring opposition to Home Rule "using all means which may be found necessary".

Although Northern Ireland was largely spared the strife of the civil war, in decades that followed partition there were sporadic episodes of inter-communal violence. Nationalists, mainly Roman Catholic, wanted Northern Ireland to leave the United Kingdom, whereas unionists, mainly Protestant, wanted Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom. The Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland voted largely along sectarian lines, meaning that the Government of Northern Ireland (elected by "first past the post" from 1929) was controlled by the Ulster Unionist Party. Over time, the minority Catholic community felt increasingly alienated with further disaffection fueled by practices such as gerrymandering and discrimination in housing and employment.[58][59][60]

In the late 1960s, nationalist grievances were aired publicly in mass civil rights protests, which were often confronted by loyalist counter-protests.[61] The government's reaction to confrontations was seen to be one-sided and heavy-handed in favour of unionists. Law and order broke down as unrest and inter-communal violence increased.[62] The Northern Ireland government was forced to request the British Army to aid the police, who were exhausted after several nights of serious rioting. In 1969, the paramilitary Provisional IRA, which favoured the creation of a united Ireland, emerged from a split in the Irish Republican Army and began a campaign against what it called the "British occupation of the six counties".

Other groups, on both the unionist side and the nationalist side, participated in violence and a period known as the Troubles began. Over 3,600 deaths resulted over the subsequent three decades of conflict.[63] Owing to the civil unrest during the Troubles, the British government suspended home rule in 1972 and imposed "direct rule" from the Parliament of the United Kingdom. There were several ultimately unsuccessful attempts to end the Troubles politically, such as the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973. In 1998, following a ceasefire by the Provisional IRA and multi-party talks, the Belfast Agreement was concluded and ratified by referendum across the entire island. The Agreement restored self-government to Northern Ireland on the basis of power-sharing between the two communities. Violence decreased greatly after the signing of the accord and in 2005 the Provisional IRA announced the end of its armed campaign and an independent commission supervised its disarmament.[64] The power-sharing assembly was suspended several times but was restored again in 2007. In that year, the British government officially ended its military support of the police in Northern Ireland and began withdrawing troops.


Ireland is occupied by two political entities:

Traditionally, Ireland is subdivided into four provinces: Connacht (west), Leinster (east), Munster (south), and Ulster (north). In a system that developed between the 13th and 17th centuries,[1] Ireland has thirty-two traditional counties. Twenty-six of the counties are in the Republic of Ireland and six counties are in Northern Ireland. The six counties that constitute Northern Ireland are all in the province of Ulster (which has nine counties in total). As such, Ulster is often used as a synonym for Northern Ireland, although the two are not coterminous.

In the Republic of Ireland, counties form the basis of the system of local government. Counties Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford and Tipperary have been broken up into smaller administrative areas. However, they are still treated as counties for cultural and some official purposes, for example post and by the Ordnance Survey Ireland. Counties in Northern Ireland are no longer used for local governmental purposes,[2] but, as in the Republic, their traditional boundaries are still used for informal purposes such as sports leagues and in cultural or tourism contexts as well as in addresses.[3]

City status in Ireland is decided by legislative or royal charter. Dublin, with just over 1 million residents in the Greater Dublin Area, is the largest city on the island. Other cities are:[Note 1]

Kilkenny (pop. 22,179), while strictly no longer a city, is entitled by law to describe itself as such. Several towns have larger populations than some of these cities, such as Drogheda (pop. 35,090) and Dundalk (pop. 35,085) but are not recognised as cities because they lack historic charters or legal status.

Province Population[Note 1] Area (km²)[4] Density (p/km²)[4] Largest city
Connacht 503,083 17,713 28 Galway
Leinster 2,292,939 19,801 100 Dublin
Munster 1,172,170 24,608 48 Cork
Ulster 2,008,333 22,300 90 Belfast

All-island institutions

Despite the political partition, the island of Ireland continues to act as a single entity in a number of areas that transcend governmental agencies. The two jurisdictions share a transport, telecommunications, energy and water systems. With a few notable exceptions, this island is the main organisational unit for major religious, cultural and sporting organisations. The island fields a single international team in most sports, for example, and March 17 is celebrated throughout Ireland as the traditional Irish holiday of St. Patrick's Day. One notable exception to this is Association football, although both associations continued to field international teams under the name "Ireland" until the 1950s. An all-Ireland club competition for soccer, the Setanta Cup, was created in 2005.

The 1998 Belfast Agreement provides for political co-operation between the two jurisdictions. The North-South Ministerial Council, established under the agreement, is an institution through which ministers from the Government of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Executive can formulate all-island policies in twelve "areas of co-operation" such as agriculture, the environment and transport. Six of these policy areas have associated all-island "implementation bodies". For example, food safety is managed by the Food Safety Promotion Board and Tourism Ireland markets the island as a whole. Three major political parties, Sinn Féin, the Irish Green Party and, most recently, Fianna Fáil, are organised on an all-island basis. However, only the former two of these has contested elections and hold legislative seats in both jurisdictions.

Despite the two jurisdictions using two distinct currencies (the euro and pound sterling), a growing amount of commercial activity is carried out on an all-island basis. This has in part been facilitated by the two jurisdictions' shared membership of the European Union. Calls for the creation of an "all-island economy" have been made from members of the business community and policymakers so as to benefit from economies of scale and boost competitiveness.[5] One area in which the island already operates largely as a single market is electricity[6] and there are plans for the creation of an all-island gas market.[7] Support for such initiatives comes from the Irish government and nationalist parties in the Northern Ireland Assembly.[8]


File:Ireland physical
Physical features of Ireland.

The island of Ireland is located in the north-west of Europe. It is separated from the neighbouring island of Great Britain by the Irish Sea and the North Channel, which has a width of 23 kilometres (14 mi)[9] at its narrowest point. To the west is the northern Atlantic Ocean and to the south is the Celtic Sea, which spans south-eastwardly from Ireland to Brittany, in France. Ireland and Great Britain, together with nearby islands, are known collectively as the British Isles, although the name is contentious in relation to Ireland, and other terms are also in use.

A ring of coastal mountains surround low plains at the centre of the island. The highest of these is Carrauntoohil (Irish: Corrán Tuathail) in County Kerry, which rises to 1,038 m (3,406 ft) above sea level.[10] The most arable land lies in the province of Leinster.[11] Western areas can be mountainous and rocky with green panoramic vistas. The River Shannon, the island's longest river at 386 km (240 mi) long, rises in County Cavan in the north west and flows 113 kilometres (70 mi) to Limerick city in the mid west.[12]

The island's lush vegetation, a product of its mild climate and frequent rainfall, earns it the sobriquet the Emerald Isle. Overall, Ireland has a mild but changeable oceanic climate with few extremes. The climate is typically insular and is temperate avoiding the extremes in temperature of many other areas in the world at similar latitudes.[13] This is a result of the moderating moist winds which ordinarily prevail from the South-Western Atlantic.

Precipitation falls throughout the year but is light overall, particularly in the east. The west tends to be wetter on average and prone to Atlantic storms, especially in the late autumn and winter months. These occasionally bring destructive winds and higher total rainfall to these areas, as well as sometimes snow and hail. The regions of north County Galway and east County Mayo have the highest incidents of recorded lightning annually for the island, with lightening occurring approximately five to ten days per year in these areas.[14] Munster, in the south, records the least snow whereas Ulster, in the north, records the most.

Inland areas are warmer in summer and colder in winter. Usually around 40 days of the year are below freezing 0 °C (32 °F) at inland weather stations, compared to 10 days at coastal stations. Ireland is sometimes affected by heat waves, most recently in 1995, 2003 and 2006. In common with the rest of Europe, Ireland experienced unusually cold weather during the winter of 2009-2010. Temperatures fell as low as -13 °C (9 °F) in some parts and up to a metre (3 ft) of snow in mountainous areas.

The island consists of varied geological provinces. In the far west, around County Galway and County Donegal, is a medium to high grade metamorphic and igneous complex of Caledonide affinity, similar to the Scottish Highlands. Across southeast Ulster and extending southwest to Longford and south to Navan is a province of Ordovician and Silurian rocks, with similarities to the Southern Uplands province of Scotland. Further south, along the County Wexford coastline, is an area of granite intrusives into more Ordovician and Silurian rocks, like that found in Wales.[15][16] In the southwest, around Bantry Bay and the mountains of Macgillicuddy's Reeks, is an area of substantially deformed, but only lightly metamorphosed, Devonian-aged rocks.[17] This partial ring of "hard rock" geology is covered by a blanket of Carboniferous limestone over the centre of the country, giving rise to a comparatively fertile and lush landscape. The west-coast district of the Burren around Lisdoonvarna has well developed karst features.[18] Significant stratiform lead-zinc mineralization is found in the limestones around Silvermines and Tynagh.

Hydrocarbon exploration is ongoing following the first major find at the Kinsale Head gas field off Cork in the mid-1970s.[19][20] More recently, in 1999, economically significant finds of natural gas were made in the Corrib Gas Field off the County Mayo coast. This has increased activity off the west coast in parallel with the "West of Shetland" step-out development from the North Sea hydrocarbon province. The Helvick oil field, estimated to contain over 28 million barrels (4,500,000 m3) of oil, is another recent discovery.[21]

Places of interest

There are three World Heritage Sites on the island: the Brú na Boinne, Skellig Michael and the Giant's Causeway.[22] A number of other places are on the tentative list, for example the Burren and Mount Stewart.[23]

Some of the most visited sites in Ireland include Bunratty Castle, the Rock of Cashel, the Cliffs of Moher, Holy Cross Abbey and Blarney Castle.[24] Historically important monastic sites include Glendalough and Clonmacnoise, which are maintained as national monuments in the Republic of Ireland.[25]

Dublin is the most heavily touristed region[24] and home to several of the most popular attractions such as the Guinness Storehouse and Book of Kells.[24] The west and south west, which includes the Lakes of Killarney and the Dingle peninsula in County Kerry and Connemara and the Aran Islands in County Galway, are also popular tourist destinations.[24] Achill Island lies off the coast of County Mayo and is Ireland's largest island. It is a popular tourist destination for surfing and contains 5 Blue Flag beaches and Croaghaun one of the worlds highest sea cliffs. Stately homes, built during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in Palladian, Neoclassical and neo-Gothic styles, such as, Castle Ward, Castletown House, Bantry House, are also of interest to tourists. Some have been converted into hotels, such as Ashford Castle, Castle Leslie and Dromoland Castle.

Flora and fauna

File:Irl-female red deer
The red deer (Cervus elaphus) Ireland's largest wild mammal in Killarney National Park.

As Ireland was isolated from mainland Europe by rising sea levels after the ice age, it has less diverse animal and plant species than either Great Britain or mainland Europe. There are 55 mammal species in Ireland and of them only 26 land mammal species are native to Ireland. Some species, such as the red fox, hedgehog and badger, are very common, whereas others, like the Irish hare, red deer and pine marten are less so. Aquatic wildlife, such as species of turtle, shark, whale, and dolphin, are common off the coast. About 400 species of birds have been recorded in Ireland. Many of these are migratory, including the Barn Swallow. Most of Ireland's bird species come from Iceland, Greenland and Africa.

Several different habitat types are found in Ireland, including farmland, open woodland, temperate broadleaf and mixed forests, conifer plantations, peat bogs and a variety of coastal habitats. However, agriculture drives current land use patterns in Ireland, limiting natural habitat preserves,[1] particularly for larger wild mammals with greater territorial needs. With no top predator in Ireland, populations of animals, such as semi-wild deer, that cannot be controlled by smaller predators, such as the fox, are controlled by annual culling.

There are no snakes in Ireland and only one reptile (the common lizard) is native to the island. Extinct species include the great Irish elk, the Irish wolf and the great auk. Some previously extinct birds, such as the Golden Eagle, have recently been reintroduced after decades of extirpation.

Until medieval times, Ireland was heavily forested with oak, pine and birch. Forests today cover only about 9% (4,450 km² or one million acres)[2] of Ireland, which makes it the most deforested area in Europe. Much of the land is now covered with pasture, and there are many species of wild-flower. Gorse (Ulex europaeus), a wild furze, is commonly found growing in the uplands and ferns are plentiful in the more moist regions, especially in the western parts. It is home to hundreds of plant species, some of them unique to the island, and has been "invaded" by some grasses, such as Spartina anglica.[3]

The algal and seaweed flora is that of the cold-temperate variety. The total number of species is 574 and can be divided as follows:

Rarer species include:[4]

The island has been invaded by some algae, some of which are now well established. For example:[5]

  • Asparagopsis armara Harvey, which originated in Australia and was first recorded by M. De Valera in 1939
  • Colpomenia peregrina Sauvageau, which is now locally abundant and first recorded in the 1930s
  • Sargassum muticum (Yendo) Fensholt, now well established in a number of localities on the south, west, and north-east coasts
  • Codium fragile ssp. fragile (formerly reported as ssp. tomentosum), now well established.

Codium fragile ssp. atlanticum has recently been established to be native, although for many years it was regarded as an alien species.

Because of its mild climate, many species, including sub-tropical species such as palm trees, are grown in Ireland. Phytogeographically, Ireland belongs to the Atlantic European province of the Circumboreal Region within the Boreal Kingdom. The island itself can be subdivided into two ecoregions: the Celtic broadleaf forests and North Atlantic moist mixed forests.

Impact of agriculture

The long history of agricultural production, coupled with modern intensive agricultural methods such as pesticide and fertiliser use and "Runoff" from contaminants into streams, rivers and lakes, impact the natural fresh-water ecosystems and have placed pressure on biodiversity in Ireland.[6][7]

A land of green fields for crop cultivation and cattle rearing limits the space available for the establishment of native wild species. Hedgerows however, traditionally used for maintaining and demarcating land boundaries, act as a refuge for native wild flora. This ecosystem stretches across the countryside and act as a network of connections to preserve remnants of the ecosystem that once covered the island. Subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy, which supported agricultural practices that preserved hedgerow environments, are undergoing reforms. The Common Agricultural Policy had in the past subsidised potentially destructive agricultural practices, for example by emphasising production without placing limits on indiscriminate use of fertilisers and pesticides, but recent reforms have gradually decoupled subsidies from production levels and introduced environmental and other requirements.[8]

Forest covers about 10% of the country, with most designated for commercial production.[1] Forested areas typically consist of monoculture plantations of non-native species, which may result in habitats that are not suitable for supporting native species of invertebrates. Remnants of native forest can be found scattered around the island, in particular in the Killarney National Park. Natural areas require fencing to prevent over-grazing by deer and sheep that roam over uncultivated areas. Grazing in this manner is one of the main factors preventing the natural regeneration of forests across many regions of the country.[9]


Ireland was largely passed over by the industrial revolution. One reason given why Ireland did not experience an industrial revolution is because of the scarcity of coal and iron,[10] resources that facilitate an industrial revolution. However, there were other countries that lacked these resources, but nonetheless industrialised, so there may be other reasons why Ireland did not industrialise.[11] Nineteenth century explanations for why Ireland did not industrialise did not blame the absence of natural resources but that, "The fault is not in the country, but in ourselves; the absence of successful enterprise is owing to the fact, that we do not know how to succeed … we want special industrial knowledge."[12] Some historians today point to the sudden union with the structurally superior economy of England. They point out that iron and coal prices in Ireland were as cheap as they were in parts of England outside of the mining centres – and a little cheaper in some parts – and that, on the eve of union with Great Britain, Ireland was industrialising (particularly the linen industry).[13] It may be that, by merging the two economies suddenly, Ireland did not industrialise, but "instead became a supplier of food – and capital – to the 'mainland'."[14]

Mass emigration followed in the wake of the Great Famine in the mid-19th century and continued until the 1980s.[15] However, the Irish economic experience reversed dramatically during the course of the 1990s, which saw the beginning of unprecedented economic growth in the Republic of Ireland, in a phenomenon known as the "Celtic Tiger",[16] and peace being restored in Northern Ireland. In 2005, the Republic of Ireland was ranked the best place to live in the world, according to a "quality of life" assessment by The Economist magazine.[17] The Republic of Ireland joined the euro in 1999, while Northern Ireland remained with the pound sterling. Both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland entered recession in 2008[18][19] and, in 2009, the unemployment rate for the Republic of Ireland was 12.5%[20] due to the 2008–2010 Irish financial crisis.


Ireland has five main international airports: Dublin Airport, Belfast International Airport (Aldergrove), Cork Airport, Shannon Airport and Ireland West Airport (Knock). Dublin Airport is the busiest of these,[21] carrying over 22 million passengers per year[22] and a new terminal and runway are under construction.[23] All provide services to Britain and continental Europe, while Belfast International, Dublin and Shannon also offer transatlantic services. For several decades, Shannon was an important refuelling point for transatlantic routes.[24] In recent years it has opened a pre-screening service allowing passengers to pass through US immigration services before departing from Ireland. There are also several smaller regional airports: George Best Belfast City Airport, City of Derry Airport, Galway Airport, Kerry Airport (Farranfore), Sligo Airport (Strandhill), Waterford Airport and Donegal Airport (Carrickfinn). Scheduled services from these regional points are in the main limited to flights traveling to other parts of Ireland and to Britain. Airlines based in Ireland include Aer Lingus (the former national airline of the Republic of Ireland), Ryanair, Aer Arann and CityJet.

Ireland has ports in major ports in Dublin, Belfast, Cork, Rosslare, Derry and Waterford. Smaller ports exist in Arklow, Ballina, Drogheda, Dundalk, Dún Laoghaire, Foynes, Galway, Larne, Limerick, New Ross, Sligo, Warrenpoint and Wicklow. Ports in the Republic handle 3.6 million travellers crossing the sea between Ireland and Britain each year.[25] The vast majority of heavy goods trade is done by sea. Ports in Northern Ireland handle 10 megatons (11 million short tons) of goods trade with Britain annually, while ports in the Republic of Ireland handle 7.6 Mt (8.4 million short tons).

Ferry connections between Ireland and Great Britain via the Irish Sea include routes from Dublin to Holyhead, Birkenhead, and Douglas, Isle of Man, Belfast to Stranraer, Birkenhead and Douglas, Isle of Man, Larne to Cairnryan and Troon, Cork to Swansea and Rosslare to Fishguard and Pembroke.

There are also ferry connections to France, from Rosslare to Roscoff and Cherbourg, and also from Cork to Roscoff.

Several (mainly hypothetical) plans to build an "Irish Sea tunnel" have been proposed. The first serious proposal was made in 1897, which was for a tunnel between Ireland and Scotland crossing the North Channel. Most recently, in 2004, the Institution of Engineers of Ireland proposed the "Tusker Tunnel" between the ports of Rosslare and Fishguard.[26][27] In 1997 a British engineering firm, Symonds, proposed a rail tunnel from Dublin to Holyhead. Either of the two most recent proposals, at 80 km (50 mi), would be by far the longest tunnel in the world and would cost an estimated €20bn.

File:Ireland transport
Ireland's intercity railroads, important water ports, airports (with regularly scheduled non-domestic flights), and motorways (including some motorways nearing completion).

The railway network in Ireland was developed by various private companies during the 19th century, with some receiving government funding in the late 19th century. The network reached its greatest extent by 1920. A broad gauge of 1,600mm (5 ft 3in)[28] was agreed as the standard the island, although there were also hundreds of kilometres of 914mm (3 ft) narrow gauge railways.[28]

Long distance passenger trains in the Republic of Ireland are managed by Iarnród Éireann and connect most major towns and cities. In Northern Ireland, all rail services are provided by Northern Ireland Railways. Additionally, Ireland has one of the largest dedicated freight railways in Europe, operated by Bord na Móna totalling nearly 1,400 kilometres (870 mi).[29]

In Dublin, two local rail networks provide transport in the city and its immediate vicinity. The Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) links the city centre with coastal suburbs. A new light rail system, the Luas, opened in 2004 and transports passengers to the central and western suburbs. Several more Luas lines are planned as well as an Dublin Metro. The DART is run by Iarnród Éireann and the Luas is run by Veolia under franchise from the Railway Procurement Agency. Under the Irish government's Transport 21 plan, the Cork to Midleton rail link was reopened in 2009. The re-opening of the Navan-Clonsilla rail link and the Western Rail Corridor are amongst future projects as part of the same plan.[30]

Services in Northern Ireland are sparse in comparison to the rest of Ireland or Britain. A large railway network was severely curtailed in the 1950s and 1960s.[31] Current services includes suburban routes to Larne, Newry and Bangor, as well as services to Derry. There is also a branch from Coleraine to Portrush.[32]

Motorists in Ireland drive on the left. There is an extensive road network and a developing motorway network fanning out from Dublin and Belfast in particular. Historically, land owners developed most roads and later Turnpike Trusts collected tolls so that as early as 1800 Ireland had a 16,100 kilometres (10,000 mi) road network.[33] In recent years, the Irish Government launched a new transport plan that is the largest investment project ever in Ireland's transport system: investing €34 billion from 2006 until 2015. Work on a number of road projects has already commenced and a number of objectives have been completed.[34]

Ireland's first mail coach services were contracted with the government by John Anderson with William Bourne in 1791 who also paid to improve the condition of the roads.[35] The system of mail coaches, carriages and "bians" was further developed by Charles Bianconi, based in Clonmel, from 1815 as a fore-runner of the modern Irish public transportation system.[36] Today, the main bus companies are Bus Éireann in the Republic and Ulsterbus in Northern Ireland, both of which offer extensive passenger service in all parts of the island. Dublin Bus specifically serves the greater Dublin area and Metro operates services within the greater Belfast area.

Signposts and speed limits in the Republic of Ireland are shown in kilometres per hour, with speed limits having changed in 2005. Distance and speed limit signs in Northern Ireland use imperial units in common with the rest of United Kingdom.

Electricity networks

For much of their existence electricity networks in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland were entirely separate. Both networks were designed and constructed independently post partition. However, as a result of changes over recent years they are now connected with three interlinks[37] and also connected through Great Britain to mainland Europe. The situation in Northern Ireland is complicated by the issue of private companies not supplying Northern Ireland Electricity (NIE) with enough power. In the Republic of Ireland, the ESB has failed to modernise its power stations and the availability of power plants has recently averaged only 66%, one of the worst such rates in Western Europe. EirGrid is building a HVDC transmission line between Ireland and Britain with a capacity of 500 MW, about 10% of Ireland's peak demand.[38]

[[File:|thumb|right|Ringsend power station in Dublin]] Similar to electricity, the natural gas distribution network is also now all-island, with a pipeline linking Gormanston, County Meath, and Ballyclare, County Antrim.[39] Most of Ireland's gas comes through interconnectors between Twynholm in Scotland and Ballylumford, County Antrim and Loughshinny, County Dublin. A decreasing supply is coming from the Kinsale gas field off the County Cork coast[40][41] and the Corrib Gas Field off the coast of County Mayo has yet to come on-line. The County Mayo field is facing some localised opposition over a controversial decision to refine the gas onshore.

There have been recent efforts in Ireland to use renewable energy such as wind power. Large wind farms are being constructed in coastal counties such as Cork, Donegal, Mayo and Antrim. What will be the world's largest offshore wind farm is currently being developed at the Arklow Bank Wind Park off the coast of County Wicklow. It is predicted that the Arklow wind farm will generate 10% of Ireland's power needs when it is complete. The construction of wind farms has in some cases been delayed by opposition from local communities, some of whom consider the wind turbines to be unsightly. The Republic of Ireland is also hindered by an ageing network that was not designed to handle the varying availability of power that comes from wind farms. The ESB's Turlough Hill facility is the only power-storage facility in the state.[42]


File:Population of Ireland since
The population of Ireland since 1603 showing the consequence of the Great Famine (1845-9) (Note: figures before 1841 are contemporary estimates).

People have lived in Ireland for over 9,000 years, although little is known about the palaeolithic and neolithic inhabitants of the island. Early historical and genealogical records note the existence of dozens of different peoples that may or may not be mythological, for example the Cruithne, Attacotti, Conmaicne, Eóganachta, Érainn, and Soghain, to name but a few. Over the past 1000 years or so, Vikings, Normans, Scots and English have all added to the Gaelic population.

Ireland's largest religious group is Christianity. The largest denomination is Roman Catholicism representing over 73% for the island (and about 87%[43] of the Republic of Ireland). Most of the rest of the population adhere to one of the various Protestant denominations (about 53% of Northern Ireland).[44] The largest is the Anglican Church of Ireland. The Muslim community is growing in Ireland, mostly through increased immigration. The island has a small Jewish community. About 4% of the Republic's population[43] and about 14% of the Northern Ireland population[44] describe themselves as of no religion. In a 2010 survey conducted on behalf of the Irish Times, 32% of respondents said they went to a religious service more than once a week.[citation needed]

The population of Ireland rose rapidly since the 16th century until the mid-19th century, but a devastating famine in the 1840s caused one million deaths and forced over one million more to emigrate in its immediate wake. Over the following century, the population reduced by over half, at a time when the general trend in European countries was for populations to rise by an average of three-fold.

File:Population density of Ireland
Population density map of Ireland 2002 showing the heavily weighted eastern seaboard and Ulster.

Emigration from Ireland over this period contributed to the populations of England, the United States, Canada and Australia where today a large Irish diaspora live. Today 4.3 million Canadians, or 14% of her population, are of Irish descent.[45] A total of 36 million Americans claim Irish ancestry – more than 12% of the total population and 20% of the white population.[46] The pattern of immigration over this period particularly devastated the western and southern sea-boards. Prior to the Great Famine, the provinces of Connacht, Munster and Leinster were more or less evenly populated whereas Ulster was far less densely populated than the other three. Today, Ulster and Leinster, and in particular Dublin, have a far greater population density than Munster and Connacht.

With growing prosperity since the last decade of the 20th century, Ireland has become a place of immigration instead. Since joining the European Union expanded to included Poland in 2004, Polish people have made up the largest number immigrants (over 150,000)[47] from Central Europe, followed by other immigrants from Lithuania, the Czech Republic and Latvia.[48] The Republic of Ireland in particular has seen large-scale immigration. The 2006 census recorded that 420,000 foreign nationals, or about 10% of the population, lived in the Republic of Ireland.[49] Chinese and Nigerians, along with people from other African countries, have accounted for a large proportion of the non-European Union migrants to Ireland. Up to 50,000 eastern European migrant workers may have left Ireland towards the end of since 2008.[50]

English has been spoken in Ireland since the Middle Ages and, since a language shifts during the 19th century, has replaced Irish as the first language vast majority of the population.[51] Less than 10% of the population of the Republic of Ireland today speak Irish regularly outside of the education system[52] and 38% of those over 15 years are classified as "Irish speakers". In Northern Ireland, English is the de facto official language but official recognition is afforded to both Irish and Ulster Scots, which is also spoken by a number south of the border. In recent decades, with the increase in immigration, many more languages have been introduced, particularly deriving from Asia and Eastern Europe.


Ireland's culture comprises elements of the culture of ancient immigration and influences (such as Gaelic culture) and more recent Anglicisation and Americanisation as well as participation in a broader European culture. In broad terms, Ireland is regarded as one of the Celtic nations of Europe, which also includes Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Mann and Brittany. This combination of cultural influences is visible in the intricate designs termed Irish interlace or Celtic knotwork. These can be seen in the ornamentation of medieval religious and secular works. The style is still is popular today in jewellery and graphic art,[53] as is the distinctive style of traditional Irish music and dance, and has become indicative of modern "Celtic" culture in general.

Religion has played a significant role in the cultural life of the island since ancient times (and since the 17th century plantations, has been the focus of political identity and divisions on the island). Ireland's pre-Christian heritage fused with the Celtic Church following the missions of Saint Patrick in the 5th century. The Hiberno-Scottish missions, begun by the Irish monk Saint Columba, spread the Irish vision of Christianity to pagan England and the Frankish Empire. These missions brought written language to an illiterate population of Europe during the Dark Ages that followed the fall of Rome, earning Ireland the sobriquet, "the island of saints and scholars". In more recent years, the Irish pubs have become outposts of Irish culture worldwide.

The national theatre is the Abbey Theatre founded in 1904 and the national Irish-language theatre is An Taibhdhearc, established in 1928 in Galway.[54][55] Playwrights such as Seán O'Casey, Brian Friel, Sebastian Barry, Conor McPherson and Billy Roche are internationally renowned.[56]


[[File:|thumb|right|upright|Illustrated page from Book of Kells.]] There are a number of languages used in Ireland. Irish is the main language to have originated from within the island. Since the later 19th century, English has become the predominant first language having been a spoken language in Ireland since the Middle Ages. A large minority claim some ability to speak Irish today, although it is the first language only of a small percentage of the population. Under the constitution of the Republic of Ireland, both languages have official status with Irish being the national and first official language. In Northern Ireland, English is the dominant state language, whilst Irish and Ulster Scots are recognised minority languages.

Ireland has made a large contribution to world literature in all its branches, particularly in the English language. Poetry in Irish is the oldest vernacular poetry in Europe, with the earliest examples dating from the 6th century. In English, Jonathan Swift, still often called the foremost satirist in the English language, was wildly popular in his day for works such as Gulliver's Travels and A Modest Proposal and Oscar Wilde is known most for his often quoted witticisms.

In the 20th century, Ireland produced four winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature: George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney. Although not a Nobel Prize winner, James Joyce is widely considered to be one of the most significant writers of the 20th century. Joyce's 1922 novel Ulysses is considered one of the most important works of Modernist literature and his life is celebrated annually on 16 June in Dublin as "Bloomsday".[57] Modern Irish literature is often connected with its rural heritage[58] through writers such as John McGahern and poets such as Seamus Heaney.

James Joyce one of the most significant writers of the 20th century.

The Irish traditional music and dance is seen a recent surge in popularity, not least through the phenomenon of Riverdance, a theatrical performance of Irish traditional dancing.[59] In the middle years of the 20th century, as Irish society was modernising, traditional music fell out of favour, especially in urban areas.[60] During the 1960s, inspired by the American folk music movement, there was a revival of interest in Irish traditional music led by groups such as The Dubliners, The Chieftains, Emmet Spiceland, The Wolfe Tones, the Clancy Brothers, Sweeney's Men and individuals like Seán Ó Riada and Christy Moore.[61]

Groups and musicians including Horslips, Van Morrison, and Thin Lizzy incorporated elements of traditional music into contemporary rock music and, during the 1970s and 1980s, the distinction between traditional and rock musicians became blurred, with many individuals regularly crossing over between these styles of playing. This trend can be seen more recently in the work of artists like Enya, The Saw Doctors, The Corrs, Sinéad O'Connor, Clannad, The Cranberries, Black 47 and The Pogues among others.

During the 1990s, a sub-genre of folk metal emerged in Ireland that fused heavy metal music with Irish and Celtic music. The pioneers of this sub-genre were Cruachan, Primordial, and Waylander. Some contemporary music groups stick closer to a "traditional" sound, including Altan, Téada, Danú, Dervish, Lúnasa, and Solas. Others incorporate multiple cultures in a fusion of styles, such as Afro Celt Sound System and Kíla. The theme is can also be seen among Ireland's entries to the Eurovision Song Contest, where Ireland is also the most successful country in the competition with seven wins.[62]

The earliest known Irish graphic art and sculpture are Neolithic carvings found at sites such as Newgrange[63] and is traced through Bronze age artefacts and the religious carvings and illuminated manuscripts of the medieval period. During the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, a strong tradition of painting emerged, including such figures as John Butler Yeats, William Orpen, Jack Yeats and Louis le Brocquy.


File:Robert Boyle
Robert Boyle formulated Boyle's Law.

The Irish philosopher and theologian Johannes Scotus Eriugena was considered one of the leading intellectuals of his early Middle Ages. Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton, an Anglo-Irish explorer, was one of the principal figures of Antarctic exploration. He, along with his expedition, made the first ascent of Mount Erebus and the discovery of the approximate location of the South Magnetic Pole. Robert Boyle was an 17th century natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, inventor and early gentleman scientist. He is largely regarded one of the founders of modern chemistry and is best known for the formulation of Boyle's law.[64] 19th century physicist, John Tyndall, discovered the Tyndall effect, which explains why the sky is blue. Father Nicholas Joseph Callan, Professor of Natural Philosophy in Maynooth College, is best known for his invention of the induction coil, transformer and he discovered an early method of galvanisation in the 19th century.

Other notable Irish physicists include Ernest Walton, winner of the 1951 Nobel Prize in Physics. With Sir John Douglas Cockcroft, he was the first to split the nucleus of the atom by artificial means and made contributions to the development of a new theory of wave equation.[65] William Thomson, or Lord Kelvin, is the person whom the absolute temperature unit, the Kelvin, is named after. Sir Joseph Larmor, a physicist and mathematician, made innovations in the understanding of electricity, dynamics, thermodynamics and the electron theory of matter. His most influential work was Aether and Matter, a book on theoretical physics published in 1900.[66]

George Johnstone Stoney introduced the term electron in 1891. John Stewart Bell was the originator of Bell's Theorem and a paper concerning the discovery of the Bell-Jackiw-Adler anomaly and was nominated for a Nobel prize.[64] Notable mathematicians include Sir William Rowan Hamilton, famous for the invention of quaternions. Francis Ysidro Edgeworth was influential in the development of neo-classical economics, including the Edgeworth box. John B. Cosgrave was a specialist in number theory and discovered a 2000-digit prime number in 1999 and a record composite Fermat number in 2003. John Lighton Synge made progress in different fields of science, including mechanics and geometrical methods in general relativity. He had mathematician John Nash as one of his students.

Ireland has eight universities and numerous Institutes of Technologies as well as The Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, which was established in 1940 with physicist Erwin Schrödinger as director.[67]


Gaelic football is the most popular sport in Ireland in terms of match attendance and community involvement, and represents 34% of total sports attendances at events in Ireland and abroad, followed by hurling at 23%, soccer at 16% and rugby at 8%.[68] and the All-Ireland Football Final is the most watched event in Ireland's sporting calendar.[69] Swimming, golf, aerobics, soccer, cycling, Gaelic football and billiards/snooker are the sporting activities with the highest levels of playing participation.[70] Soccer is the most popular sport involving national teams. Northern Ireland have also produced two World Snooker Champions, and is governed by NIBSA - Northern Ireland Snooker Association as recognised by Sport NI.

Many other sports are also played and followed, including basketball, boxing, cricket, fishing, golf, greyhound racing, handball, hockey, horse racing, motor sport, rugby league, show jumping and tennis.

Field sports

Hurling and Gaelic football, handball and rounders make up the national sports of Ireland, collectively known as Gaelic games. Gaelic games are governed by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), with the exception of ladies' Gaelic football and camogie (women's variant of hurling), which are governed by separate organisations. The headquarters of the GAA (and the main stadium) is located at the 82,500[71] capacity Croke Park in north Dublin. Many major GAA games are played there, including the semi-finals and finals of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship and All-Ireland Senior Hurling Championship. During the redevelopment of the Lansdowne Road stadium, international rugby and soccer are being played there.[72] All GAA players, even at the highest level, are amateurs, receiving no wages, although they are permitted to receive a limited amount of sport-related income from commercial sponsorship.

The Irish Football Association (IFA) was originally the governing body for soccer across the island. The game has been played in an organised fashion in Ireland since the 1870s, with Cliftonville F.C. in Belfast being Ireland's oldest club. It was most popular, especially in its first decades, around Belfast and in Ulster. However, some clubs based outside Belfast thought that the IFA largely favoured Ulster-based, Protestant clubs in such matters as selection for the national team. In 1921, following an incident in which, despite an earlier promise, the IFA moved an Irish Cup semi-final replay from Dublin to Belfast[73]

Dublin-based clubs broke away to form the Football Association of the Irish Free State. Today the southern association is known as the Football Association of Ireland (FAI). Despite being initially blacklisted by the Home Nations' associations, the FAI was recognised by FIFA in 1923 and organised its first international fixture in 1926 (against Italy). However, both the IFA and FAI continued to select their teams from the whole of Ireland, with some players earning international caps for matches with both teams. Both also referred to their respective teams as Ireland.

File:Paul O'Connell Ireland
Paul O'Connell reaching for the ball during a line out against Argentina in 2007.

In 1950, FIFA directed the associations only to select players from within their respective territories and, in 1953, directed that the FAI's team be known only as "Republic of Ireland" and that the IFA's team be known as "Northern Ireland" (with certain exceptions). Northern Ireland qualified for the World Cup finals in 1958 (reaching the quarter-finals), 1982 and 1986. The Republic qualified for the World Cup finals in 1990 (reaching the quarter-finals), 1994, 2002 and the European Championships in 1988. There is significant Irish interest in the English and, to a lesser extent, Scottish soccer leagues.

Unlike soccer, Ireland continues to field a single national rugby team and a single association, the Irish Rugby Football Union (IRFU), governs the sport across the island. The Irish rugby team have played in every Rugby World Cup, making the quarter-finals in four of them. Ireland also hosted games during the 1991 and the 1999 Rugby World Cups (including a quarter-final). There are four professional Irish teams; all four play in the Magners League and three compete for the Heineken Cup. Irish rugby has become increasingly competitive at both the international and provincial levels since the sport went professional in 1994. During that time, Ulster (1999[74]), Munster (2006[75] and 2008[76]) and Leinster (2009[77]) have won the Heineken Cup. In addition to this, the Irish International side has had increased success in the Six Nations Championship against the other European elite sides. This success, including Triple Crowns in 2006 and 2007, culminated with a clean sweep of victories, known as a Grand Slam, in 2009.[78]

The Ireland cricket team was among the associate nations that qualified for the 2007 Cricket World Cup. It defeated Pakistan and finished second in its pool, earning a place in the Super 8 stage of the competition. The team also competed in the 2009 ICC World Twenty20 after jointly winning the qualifiers, where they also made the Super 8 stage. Ireland also won the 2009 ICC World Cup Qualifier to secure their place in the 2011 Cricket World Cup, as well as official ODI status through 2013.

The Irish rugby league team is made up predominantly of players based in England with Irish-family connections, with others drawn from the local competition and Australia. Ireland reached the quarter-finals of the 2000 Rugby League World Cup.

Other sports

Greyhound racing and horse racing are both popular in Ireland. Greyhound stadiums are well-attended and there are frequent horse race meetings. The island is noted for the breeding and training of race horses and is also a large exporter of racing dogs.[79] The horse racing sector is largely concentrated in the County Kildare.[80]

Irish athletics has seen some development in recent times, with Sonia O'Sullivan winning two notable medals at 5,000 metres; gold at the 1995 World Championships and silver at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. Gillian O'Sullivan won silver in the 20k walk at the 2003 World Championships, while sprint hurdler Derval O'Rourke won gold at the 2006 World Indoor Championship in Moscow. Olive Loughnane won a silver medal in the 20k walk in the World Athletics Championships in Berlin in 2009.

Boxing is governed by the Irish Amateur Boxing Association. In 1992, Michael Carruth won a gold medal for boxing in the Barcelona Olympic Games and in 2008 Kenneth Egan won a silver medal for boxing in the Olympic Games in Beijing.[81]

Golf is very popular and golf tourism is a major industry attracting more than 240,000 golfing visitors annually.[82] The 2006 Ryder Cup was held at The K Club in County Kildare.[83] Pádraig Harrington became the first Irishman since Fred Daly in 1947 to win the British Open at Carnoustie in July 2007.[84] He successfully defended his title in July 2008[85] before going on to win the PGA Championship in August.[86] Harrington became the first European to win the PGA Championship in 78 years and was the first winner from Ireland. In 2010, Graeme McDowell, from Northern Ireland, became the first golfer from either side of the Irish border to win the U.S. Open, and the first European to win that tournament since Englishman Tony Jacklin won in 1970.

The west coast of Ireland, Lahinch and Donegal Bay in particular, have popular surfing beaches, being fully exposed to the Atlantic Ocean. Donegal Bay is shaped like a funnel and catches west/south-west Atlantic winds, creating good surf, especially in winter. In recent years, Bundoran has hosted European championship surfing. Scuba diving is increasingly popular in Ireland with clear waters and large populations of sea life, particularly along the western seaboard. There are also many shipwrecks along the coast of Ireland, with some of the best wreck dives being in Malin Head and off the County Cork coast.[87]

With thousands of lakes, over 14,000 kilometres (8,700 mi) of fish bearing rivers and over 3,700 kilometres (2,300 mi) of coastline, Ireland is a popular angling destination. The temperate Irish climate is suited to sport angling. While salmon and trout fishing remain popular with anglers, salmon fishing in particular received a boost in 2006 with the closing of the salmon driftnet fishery. Coarse fishing continues to increase its profile. Sea angling is developed with many beaches mapped and signposted,[88] and the range of sea angling species is around 80.[89]

Food and drink

File:Cheese 61 bg
Gubbeen cheese, an example of the resurgence in Irish cheese making

Irish food and cuisine takes its influence from the crops grown and animals farmed in the island's temperate climate and from the social and political circumstances of Irish history. For example, whilst from the Middle Ages until the arrival of the potato in the 16th century the dominant feature of the Irish economy was the herding of cattle, the number of cattle a person owned was equated to their social standing.[90] Thus herders would avoid slaughtering a milk-producing cow.[90]

For this reason, pork and white meat were more common than beef and a thick fatty strips of salted bacon (or rashers) and the eating of salted butter (i.e. a dairy product rather than beef itself) have been a central feature of the Irish diet since the Middle Ages.[90] The practice of bleeding cattle and mixing the blood with milk and butter (not unlike the practice of the Maasai) was common[91] and black pudding, made from blood, grain (usually barley) and seasoning, remains a breakfast staple in Ireland. All of these influences can be seen today in the phenomenon of the "breakfast roll".

The introduction of the potato in the second half of the 16th century heavily influenced cuisine thereafter. Great poverty encouraged a subsistence approach to food and by the mid-19th century the vast majority of the population sufficed with a diet of potatoes and milk.[92] A typical family, consisting a man, a woman and four children, would eat 18 stone (110 kg) of potatoes a week.[90] Consequently, dishes that are considered as national dishes represent a fundamental unsophistication to cooking, such as the Irish stew, bacon and cabbage, boxty, a type of potato pancake, or colcannon, a dish of mashed potatoes and kale or cabbage.[90]

Since the last quarter of the 20th century, with a re-emergence of wealth in Ireland, a "New Irish Cuisine" based on traditional ingredients incorporating international influences[93] has emerged.[94] This cuisine is based on fresh vegetables, fish (especially salmon, trout, oysters, mussels and other shellfish), as well as traditional soda breads and the wide range of hand-made cheeses that are now being produced across the country. The potato remains however a fundamental feature of this cuisine and the Irish remain the highest per capita[90] consumers of potatoes in Europe. An example of this new cuisine is "Dublin Lawyer": lobster cooked in whiskey and cream.[95] Traditional regional foods can be found throughout the country, for example coddle in Dublin or drisheen in Cork, both a type of sausage, or blaa, a doughy white bread particular to Waterford.

Ireland once dominated the world's market for whiskey, producing 90% of the world's whiskey at the start of the 20th century. However, as a consequence of bootleggers during the prohibition in the United States (who sold poor-quality whiskey bearing Irish-sounding names thus eroding the pre-prohibition popularity for Irish brands)[96] and tariffs on Irish whiskey across British Empire during the Anglo-Irish Trade War of the 1930s,[97] sales of Irish whiskey worldwide fell to a mere 2% by the mid-20th century.[98] In 1953, an Irish government survey, found that 50 per cent of whiskey drinkers in the United States had never heard of Irish whiskey.[99]

Irish whiskey, however, remained popular domestically and in recent decades has grown in popularity again internationally.[100] Typically, Irish whiskey is not as smoky as a Scotch whisky, but not as sweet as American or Canadian whiskies.[100] Whiskey forms the basis of traditional cream liqueurs, such as Baileys, and the "Irish coffee" (a cocktail of coffee and whiskey reputedly invented at Foynes flying-boat station) is probably the best-known Irish cocktail.

Stout, a kind of porter beer, particularly Guinness, is typically associated with Ireland, although originally being more closely associated with London. Porter remains very popular, although it has lost sales since the mid-20th century to lager. Cider, particularly Magners (marketed in the Republic of Ireland as Bulmers), is also a popular drink. Red lemonade, a soft-drink, is consumed on its own and as a mixer, particularly with whiskey.[101]

See also

Ireland portal



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Travel guide

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Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



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Proper noun

Republic of Ireland


Republic of Ireland

  1. A republic in western Europe, covering most of the island of Ireland, with Dublin as its capital.

Usage notes

  • The official English name of the country, as stated by the 1937 Constitution, is Ireland. The Republic of Ireland is normally used to differentiate it from Northern Ireland.


See also


Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Familypedia

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The Republic of Ireland, formed in 1921, comprises five-sixths of the island of Ireland and is commonly called just "Ireland". It contains three whole provinces, Connacht, Leinster, and Munster, and three of the nine counties of Ulster.

Although some of its 26 counties have been divided for administrative purposes, they are the basis of most of our categories for the country.

This page is a "stub" and could be improved by additions and other edits.

Facts about Republic of IrelandRDF feed

This article uses material from the "Republic of Ireland" article on the Genealogy wiki at Wikia and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.

Citable sentences

Up to date as of December 13, 2010

Unfortunately, we could not find any sentences from other sites similar to those above.

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