|1| |INTRODUCTION |
Ireland (Irish Éire), country in northwestern Europe occupying most of the
island of Ireland, the second largest of the British Isles. The Republic of
Ireland lies to the west of Great Britain, the largest island in the
archipelago. It is separated from Great Britain to the east by the North
Channel and the Irish Sea, and to the southeast by Saint George’s Channel.
The western and southern shores of Ireland meet the North Atlantic Ocean.
Ireland’s only land border is with Northern Ireland, a province of the
United Kingdom off Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to the northeast. The
Irish Republic has an area of 70,273 sq km (27,133 sq mi). The capital and
largest city is Dublin.
Ireland’s vivid green landscapes have earned it the title Emerald Isle.
Traditionally, most Irish people made their living farming the land. Since
the 1950s, energetic industrialization policies have promoted
manufacturing, which, along with services, now dominates Ireland’s economy.
In 1973 Ireland was admitted into the European Community (EC), and it is
now a member of the European Union (EU). Since the 1960s Ireland has
undergone a period of vigorous economic growth and rapid social change.
Ireland has a maritime temperate climate with little seasonal or regional
variation due to the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream, which brings
warm, moist winds from the Atlantic Ocean. The average winter temperature
ranges from 4° to 7°
Fahrenheit degrees) higher than that of most other places in the same
latitude in the interior of Europe or on the eastern coast of North
America. The oceanic influence is also pronounced in the summer; the
average summer temperature of Ireland ranges from 15° to 17°C (59° to
62°F), or about 4 Celsius degrees (7 Fahrenheit degrees) lower than that of
most other places in the same latitudes. Rainfall averages 1,000 mm (40 in)
annually, although regional variation is significant, with more than twice
as much rain falling in the west as in the east. The sunniest part of the
country is the southeast.
life does not differ markedly from that of England or France. Over many
centuries of human settlement almost all of Ireland’s natural woodlands
were cleared, and indigenous annimals such as bear, wolf, wildcat, beaver,
wild cattle, and the giant Irish deer (a type of fallow deer) gradually
disappeared. However, the hardy and versatile Connemara pony, Ireland’s
only native pony breed, has been used by Irish farmers since prehistoric
times. The great auk, or garefowl, was exterminated in the 19th century.
Small rodents living in forested areas and fields remain numerous across
Ireland, as do numerous species of shore and field birds, including many
types of gull. Birds of prey are rare. Ireland has no snakes; in fact, th
only reptile found in Ireland is a species of lizard. Sedges, rushes,
ferns, and grasses provide the dominant plant cover.
|3| |PEOPLE AND SOCIETY |
Ireland’s population descends from a variety of ethnic groups and reflects
intermixing over millennia by successive waves of immigrants. Ireland’s
population is predominantly of Celtic origin (Celts), but ancient tribes
had inhabited Ireland for thousands of years when Celtic peoples settled
the island in the 4th century bc. Over the centuries Ireland absorbed
significant numbers of Vikings, Normans, and English. More recently,
Ireland’s membership in the European Union (EU) has increased the number of
citizens of other European countries living in Ireland, and small
communities of ethnic Chinese and Indian people also have been established.
Since 1996 Ireland has received small numbers of refugees and asylum
seekers from eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. Ireland also has a small
indigenous minority known as Travellers. Numbering approximately 25,000,
Travellers move and camp across the Irish countryside in small groups or
cluster in enclaves within cities.
|A| |Population Characteristics |
The population of the Irish Republic in 2004 was estimated at 3,969,558,
giving the country an overall population density of 58 persons per sq km
(149 per sq mi). Some 60 percent of the population lived in urban areas in
2002. The urban share of the population has increased with each successive
census since 1926; the urban population exceeded the rural population for
Ireland’s economic growth in recent decades has reversed a long historical
trend of emigration. For more than a century after the Great Potato Famine
of the 1840s, Ireland’s population steadily declined, despite the nation’s
relatively high birth rate. This continuous decline resulted from mass
emigration, initially to escape the famine and later to seek employment and
better lives, mainly in the United States and in the industrialized cities
of the United Kingdom. In the 1960s and 1970s emigration fell sharply and
no longer offset the natural increase. By the 1980s Ireland’s population
was growing at an annual rate of about 0.5 percent, and in the 1990s
immigration began to exceed emigration by a small margin. In 2002 Ireland’s
population grew at an annual rate of 1.16 percent, one of the highest rates
in western Europe.
|B| |Political |
| | |Divisions |
The island of Ireland is traditionally divided into the four provinces of
Leinster, Munster, Connacht, and Ulster. Most of Ulster is now part of
For administrative purposes, the Irish Republic is divided into 26
counties. They are the counties of Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny,
Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford, and Wicklow, in
Leinster Province; Clare, Cork, Kerry, Limerick, Tipperary, and Waterford,
in Munster Province; Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, and Sligo, in
Connacht Province; and Cavan, Donegal, and Monaghan, in Ulster Province.
Each county is governed by at
divided into subsections administered by separate county councils, giving
the Irish Republic a total of 29 county councils. Tipperary county has two
councils, North and South Tipperary. Dublin county has three councils,
Dublin-Belgard, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, and Dublin-Fingal.
In addition to the county councils, there are five borough councils, five
city councils, and 75 town councils. The borough councils are Clonmel,
Drogheda, Kilkenny, Sligo, and Wexford. The city councils are Cork, Dublin,
Galway, Limerick, and Waterford.
|C| |Principal |
| | |Cities |
The capital and largest city is Dublin, with a population (2002) of
495,781. Dublin is the commercial and industrial center of Ireland and the
country’s principal port. Cork is the second largest city and a major port,
with a population of 123,062. Other major cities and towns include Limerick
(54,023), Galway (65,832), and Waterford (44,594).
|D| |Way of Life|
Ireland, for centuries a predominantly rural, agricultural society, changed
dramatically with economic development after World War II (1939-1945). The
emergence of diversified manufacturing and service sectors has made the
country more urbanized and middle class. Consumption of consumer goods has
expanded rapidly, and material comforts—including automobiles, cellular
telephones and other electronic goods, and fashionable clothing—have become
important symbols of social status.
In cities and towns, most Irish people live in houses, although apartments
are growing in popularity as urban densities increase. In the countryside,
traditional farmhouses constructed of stone or dried peat and covered with
thatched roofs have been largely replaced by modern dwellings. Today, most
homes are made from concrete, brick, or mortared stone and have tile roofs.
In rural areas peat is still cut and dried for use as fuel for cooking and
Ireland is a strongly Roman Catholic country by tradition. However, the
late 20th and early 21st centuries were marked by increasing secularization
in Irish society. Many Irish have questioned, and even rejected, the role
of the Roman Catholic Church as the chief arbiter of social and family
values. At the same time, women have energetically challenged the country’s
traditional patriarchal social values. Despite these changes, political
life in Ireland is still largely dominated by men, and women typically earn
far less than their male counterparts. Ireland’s abortion laws are among
the strictest in Europe.
The Irish tend to eat simple, hearty fare. Ireland’s rich pastures produce
high-quality beef and lamb, and the country is renowned for its butter,
cream, and cheeses. Potatoes grow well in Ireland’s cool, damp climate and
are a national food staple. They may be roasted, boiled, or baked, and
eaten alone or served in famous dishes such as Irish stew or colcannon (a
dish made from mashed potatoes, cabbage, and onions). The Irish are famous
for their many varieties of breads, including soda bread and potato bread.
Oysters and other shellfish are popular, and smoked salmon is considered an
Irish specialty. Many Irish enjoy socializing in local pubs, where people
gather to talk with friends, relax, listen to music, and have a drink. Beer
is much beloved in Ireland, especially the dark stout varieties. Renowned
local stouts include Guinness, Beamish, and Murphy’s. Irish whiskey is also
a popular alcoholic beverage.
The national sports are hurling, a strenuous game similar to field hockey,
and Gaelic football, which resembles soccer. Soccer has become more popular
in recent years, partly because of television coverage of matches in the
United Kingdom, and also due to the relative success of the Irish
Republic’s national team in European and World Cup soccer competitions.
Horse racing is a highly popular spectator sport, and Irish breeders have
produced some of the world’s finest thoroughbreds. Professional cycling, a
difficult endurance sport, also draws a wide following. Saint Patrick’s Day
(March 17), which honors the patron saint of Ireland, is the most important
Customs of Ireland
Marriage and Family
People usually marry in their early to mid-20s. Most weddings are performed
in a church, but a minority are also performed in a registry office. After
marriage, many people in rural areas stay close to their family’s home and
visit frequently. Many couples, particularly in the cities, live together
before or instead of marriage. Typically, the bonds between siblings in an
Irish family are especially strong. In rural areas, extended families often
live near one another, and family members who have moved to Dublin or
overseas in search of work often return for Christmas and other family
celebrations or funerals. Traditionally, women have not worked outside the
home except to help on the family farm, but in Dublin and other cities the
majority of women now have jobs. 34.2 percent (1999)Salary levels for women
still lag behind those of men, but gender discrimination is illegal. The
Irish have elected two consecutive women presidents since 1991.
As an agricultural country, Ireland produces many fresh vegetables. Fresh
dairy products, breads, and seafood are also widely available. Potatoes,
once eaten at every meal, are still regularly served, but the Irish have
embraced other foods such as pasta and rice. Apples, oranges, and pears
have long been integral to the Irish diet, but are now joined by a wider
variety of fruit that have become available since Ireland joined the
European Union (EU). Smoked salmon is considered an Irish specialty, as are
Irish stew and Irish lamb. Irish breads include soda bread and brack, a
rich, dark loaf containing dried fruit and traditionally served at
Halloween. Tea and coffee are popular drinks in the home, and Dublin is
rapidly developing a café culture. Ireland is also the home of stout, a
rich, black beer brewed by Guinness and Murphy’s.
The traditional cooked breakfast consists of any or all of the following:
bacon, sausages, grilled or fried tomatoes, mushrooms, eggs, white and
black pudding (a form of blood sausage) and toast or bread fried in fat or
oil. Fewer people now eat such a morning meal, however, preferring a
lighter breakfast. In recent years, the Irish, particularly those in urban
areas, have become much more adventurous in their diet, and now eat a wide
variety of European and ethnic food. Pubs (public houses) and cafés serve
both snacks and full meals. The Irish generally eat three meals a day. The
midday meal is usually referred to as lunch and the evening meal as dinner
or, when it is less formal, as supper. But some rural people call the
midday meal dinner and the early-evening meal tea. Many people,
particularly in Dublin, no longer eat more than a light meal or snack in
the middle of the day. Those who have an early-evening meal sometimes have
another snack—sandwiches, cakes, or biscuits—at around 9 pm.
The traditional Irish greeting Céad míle fáilte literally means “A hundred
thousand welcomes.” However, the Irish greet one another with common
English phrases such as “Hello” and “How are you?” or more casual greetings
such as “How’s it going?” The most typical Irish greeting is Dia dhuit,
which means “God be with you.” Goodbye is expressed with Slán (roughly “Go
safely”) or the warmer Slán agus beannacht (“Go safely, and blessings be
with you”). Greetings are generally accompanied by a firm handshake,
although in cities and among younger people it is not unusual for women to
be kissed on the cheek when greeting. The use of first names is now
widespread. Unless one knows someone well, it is usual to telephone before
visiting. Rural people are more likely than urban dwellers to drop in on
friends unannounced, as was common practice in the past. People like to
meet for conversation in pubs, which are important centres of social life.
Visiting in the home takes place during holidays, especially between
Christmas and New Year’s Day, which is also the time when young people
living abroad usually come home to visit. Parties are also popular during
The Irish are sports-oriented, and most weekends include some sporting
activities for the family or the individual. Popular sports include the two
national pastimes: Gaelic football and hurling, both strictly amateur
sports. The women’s version of hurling is called camogie. Hurling, a fast
and skillful game, is played on a soccer-type field with wooden sticks and
a small leather ball. Gaelic football is played with a round ball; its
rules are similar to soccer, but players can touch the ball with their
hands, although they cannot pick it up from the ground. The ball is
punched, not thrown, and it can be kicked. Scoring is done in a soccer-type
net, but, as in hurling, points can also be made for going over the top of
the goal. Gaelic football is the precursor of Australian Rules football;
the two sports are similar enough that Irish and Australian teams sometimes
play each other with a set of compromise rules. The All-Ireland semi-finals
and finals, sponsored by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), are
highlights of the hurling and Gaelic football seasons.
Soccer, rugby, sailing, cycling, golf, and horse and greyhound racing are
also favourite activities. Soccer has become a particularly popular
spectator sport in the 1990s, reflecting the enthusiasm surrounding the
national team’s successes during the first half of the decade. Fishing, or
angling, is also a common recreational activity, featuring mainly trout and
salmon fishing. Rugby internationals played at Dublin’s Lansdowne Road
stadium are considered high points of the sporting year. Enthusiasts of
horse racing flock to the Galway Races in the summer and early fall.
Holidays and Celebrations
The Irish celebrate New Year’s Day on 1 January. Saint Patrick’s Day on 17
March is a national holiday and is marked by parades, shamrock decorations,
and sometimes the wearing of clothing that is green (the national color).
Legend has it that resourceful Saint Patrick made use of the three-lobed
shamrock as a diagram to explain the Holy Trinity to his uneducated
congregation. However, the pre-Christian Irish had long associated the
shamrock with Trefulngid Tre-eochair (“The Triple Bearer of the Triple
Key”), the spring fertility god manifestation, whose symbol can be a
shamrock or three legs spiralling together (as seen on the flag of the Isle
The Irish celebrate Easter, and Easter Monday is a public holiday.
Christmas is celebrated on 25 December, but celebrations may last until New
Year’s Day. An old custom has boys blackening their faces, carrying paper
wrens, and asking for spare change on Saint Stephen’s Day (26 December).
This is called “hunting the wren,” and the boys are known as “wren boys.”
This tradition commemorates the old story of how the wily wren tricked the
mighty eagle into giving up the title of King of All Birds. This custom is
not very common today, particularly outside of rural areas.
“Bank holidays,” days when banks and other businesses close, occur on New
Year’s Day, the first Mondays of May, June, and August, and the last Monday
|4| |CULTURE |
From publications such as James Joyce’s epic masterpiece Ulysses, Sean O’
Casey’s The Plough and the Stars and Juno and the Paycock in the 1920’s to
more modern works like Brian Friel’s Philadelphia Here I Come, Irish
literature has been recognised for its quality all over the world.
During the twentieth century writing in modern Irish has developed afresh
with vigour. Among the most noteworthy writers are the novelist Máirtín Ó
Cadhain and the poets Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and Cathal Ó Searcaigh, all three
of whom have won international recognition.
Recently, poet Seamus Heaney has received the Nobel Prize for literature
the fourth Irish writer to receive the honour in the 20th century. Other
Irish writers recently recognised for their achievements include John
Banville, short listed for the Booker Prize for Book of Evidence in 1989
and Roddy Doyle, who won the Booker Prize for his novel Paddy Clarke Ha Ha
Music and Dance
The native music of medieval Ireland was transmitted orally from generation
to generation. The harp (cláirseach), and the small harp (cruit), were the
main musical instruments. Today, traditional Irish music is played on the
harp, the bodhrán, the uilleann pipes, the fiddle and the accordion.
No original records of the old bardic music survive, but the works of
Turlough O’Carolan, harpist, composer and poet, have been preserved, and
from the end of the eighteenth century onwards extensive and valuable
collections of native Irish music have been made and published. Thanks to
the efforts of Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann (literally, ‘the fellowship of
Irish musicians’) and others, the regard for Irish music, both in Ireland
and in many countries overseas, is higher than it ever was. The work of
Seán Ó Riada in the 1960s and of the Chieftains in later decades did much
to rejuvenate traditional music and introduce this genre to a wide
appreciative public. At present Comhaltas Ceoltóirí Éireann have 400
branches in Ireland and throughout the world, practising and teaching Irish
music. Their archive of traditional music contains 4,000 hours of
The fusions of traditional Irish music with rock, world music and popular
music have also earned considerable acclaim. Dances include jigs, reels,
hornpipes and sets. In recent years there has been a great demand for shows
such as River dance throughout the world.
Rock music and ‘country’ music are two main forms of popular music in
Ireland today. Country music enjoys a huge following and home grown artists
such as Daniel O’Donnell have has success both at home and abroad. Irish
rock and pop acts such as U2, Boyzone, The Corrs and Westlife have also
gained international acclaim. The Irish popular music scene is recognised
as being one of the most vibrant in Europe, with services such as Music
Base in place to assist the development of new acts entering a multi-
million pound industry.
The first public screenings of film in Ireland were held in Dublin by the
Lumière brothers in 1896, while the following year the first filmed Irish
subjects were shown by a Professor Jolly.
The first cinema in Ireland was the Volta on Mary Street in Dublin, which
opened in 1909 under the short-lived management of James Joyce.
Apart from indigenous productions, Ireland has always had history of being
used as a backdrop for international films, often by distinguished film
makers. Examples include Ryan’s Daughter (1970), Brave heart (1994) and
Saving Private Ryan (1997). With the establishment of the Irish Film Board
in 1981 and its re-establishment in 1993, native film production was given
a platform to develop and grow. Today Irish cinema enjoys a higher
international profile than ever before, with the work of Irish directors
achieving commercial and critical success. Notable Irish productions of
recent years include: My Left Foot (Jim Sheridan, 1989), The Field (Jim
Sheridan, 1990), Michael Collins (Neil Jordan, 1996) and The General (John
Boor man, 1998).
Folklore and legend has always been an essential part of Irish culture,
with the emphasis being on story telling, an oral tradition. In Gaelic and
Norman-Gaelic Ireland, the poet or ‘file’ was the guardian of knowledge,
and as such, enjoyed high status in society. The folk-tales and legends of
Irish culture have been handed down through generations of such guardians
and the telling of such tales to the community was a great social
|5| |ECONOMY |
The Irish economy is an open, mostly export based economy that has
experienced an unprecedented level of growth during the latter half of the
1990’s. It is expected that this growth will continue at least for the
first decade of this century, as long as a skilled labour force continues
to be available.
The Irish economy is heavily dependant on trade, with export of goods and
services amounting to over 96.8% of GDP (1999 figure)
Membership of the European Union and access to the Single Market has
allowed Ireland to diversify its trade patterns. Although Britain has
always been Ireland’s largest single trading partner, almost half of all
Irish exports now go to the other EU member states.
Structural and Cohesion Funds
Ireland will receive about £3.4 billion in structural and cohesion funds
during the period 2000-2006. For this period Ireland has for the time been
divided into two regions for receipt of structural funds, separating the
Border, Midland and Western region from the East and South of the country.
The reduction in funding (compared to previous periods) and the division of
Ireland into regions reflects the economic growth of recent years, a growth
rate four times the European average since 1994. In 2002 the total labor
force was 1.7 million. Approximately 7 percent of the workers were engaged
in agriculture, forestry, and fishing; 29 percent in manufacturing, mining,
and construction; and 63 percent in services. Some 750,000 workers in both
the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland are members of unions affiliated
with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. In the republic, 44 percent of all
union members are women.
Currency and Banking
The monetary unit of Ireland is the single currency of the European Union
(EU), the euro (1.07 euros equal U.S.$1; 1999 average). Ireland was among
the first group of EU member states to adopt the euro. The euro was
introduced on January 1, 1999, for electronic transfers and accounting
purposes only, and Ireland’s national currency, the Irish pound, was used
for other purposes. On January 1, 2002, euro-denominated coins and bills
went into circulation, and the Irish pound ceased to be legal tender.
As a participant in the single currency, Ireland must follow economic
policies established by the European Central Bank (ECB). The ECB is located
in Frankfurt, Germany, and is responsible for all EU monetary policies,
which include setting interest rates and regulating the money supply. On
January 1, 1999, control over Irish monetary policy was transferred from
the Central Bank of Ireland to the ECB. After the transfer, the Central
Bank of Ireland joined the national banks of the other EU countries that
adopted the euro as part of the European System of Central Banks (ESCB).
|6| |International Relations |
Ireland’s relations with the United Kingdom have generally improved since
the end of World War II. The issue of Northern Ireland’s sovereignty has
dominated the relationship since the early 1970s. Ireland attaches special
importance to its relations with the United States and Australia, where
people of Irish descent are numerous. Ireland’s relations with its European
neighbors have become increasingly important as a result of its membership
in the European Union (EU).Ireland is a staunch defender of the United
Nations (UN), an organization it joined in 1955. Ireland is also a member
of a wide array of other international organizations, including the
Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and the
Council of Europe. However, unlike most western European states, Ireland is
not a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The Irish
Republic, which is not part of any military alliance, strives to maintain a
neutral position in world affairs.
|7| |Government |
Ireland is an independent democratic state that has a parliamentary system
of governing .In Ireland the president serves a 7 year term, the position
of chief of state is a very respected and. Ireland senate is made up of 60
members 11 nominated by the prime minister, 6 elected by the national
universities, and 43 elected from panels candidates established on a
vocational basis. The house of representatives is made up of 166 elected
members that serve a term of 5 years. Irish politics are made up of two
political parties Fianna Fail and Fine Gael that came about after the end
of the bitter Irish civil war witch ended in 1922.
Ireland has 3 major political parts, Fianna Fail also known as the
Republican Party. The Fine Gael, which is known as the labour party and the
progressive democrat’s party. In Ireland to be able to vote you must have
lived in Ireland for 5 years and and be at least 18 years of age.
The conflicts in Northern Ireland have arisen from the division between
nationalist and unionist which the population is currently made up of. The
Nationalist of Northern Ireland support unification with Ireland, while
unionists want Northern Ireland to continue its union with Great Britain.
The population of Northern Ireland is split down the middle when it comes
to supporting these two topics which supports the reason for these
conflicts not being able to be resolved even with the current support of
U.S., British, and Irish governments.
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