(Irish Éire) IRELAND
Ireland (Irish Éire), • country in north-western Europe occupying most of the island of Ireland, the second largest of the BritishIsles. • 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 of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to the northeast. • Ireland has an area of 70,273 sq km. • The capital and largest city is Dublin.
. 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 significant economic growth and rapid social change.
Between the 12th and 17th centuries, England gradually extended its control over Ireland. Ireland became an integral part of the United Kingdom by the Actof Union of 1800. • In the 1840s the Irish potato crop, a staple food, was destroyed by disease, leading to a great famine that killed nearly 1 million people and forced many others to leave their homeland. • During the late 19th century a movement for Irish independence continued. • In 1921 the north-eastern portion of Ireland became Northern Ireland, a province of the United Kingdom. The remainder of Ireland became self-governing in 1922 with the establishment of the Irish Free State, a dominion within the British Commonwealth of Nations. • In 1937 the Free State’s name changed to Éire (pronounced AIR-uh, a Gaelic word for Ireland) after the adoption of a new constitution by popular vote. • In 1949, following passage of the Republic of Ireland Act, Irelanddeclared itself a republic. Today, the country is commonly referred to as the Republic of Ireland.
LAND AND RESOURCES • Ireland consists of a central limestone plain surrounded by low mountain ranges along the coasts. • Most of the central plain lies 60 to 90 m above sea level. It includes numerous lakes and large areas of marsh and peat bog, as well as some fertile agricultural land.
BOGS • Covering 1,200,000 hectares (1/6th) of the island • Source of fuel • two very distinct types: Blanket Bogsare expansive, generally formed in wet or upland areasRaised Bogsare smaller, generally formed in lowland areas
Among the principal mountain ranges are the Wicklow Mountains in the east, just south of Dublin, rising to more than 915 m above sea level. • A number of smaller ranges, which have numerous local names, extend across the country. • In the far southwest, in a range known as Macgillicuddy’s Reeks, stands Carrantuohil, which rises to 1,041 m, the highest point in Ireland.
Rivers and Lakes • Ireland is a country of many rivers and lakes, known as loughs. • The principal rivers of Ireland are the Erne and the Shannon, the longest river in the British Isles. • The Shannon begins in the northwest and flows southwest before reaching the Atlantic Ocean. • The Shannon, like the Erne, actually consists of a chain of lakes joined by stretches of river; half the length of the Shannon is made up of Loughs Allen, Ree, and Derg. • Many of Ireland’s rivers, including the Liffey and Boyne in the east and the Lee in the southwest, are relatively short, draining mountains and hills near the sea. The south-eastern part of the island is drained by a river system made up of the Suir, Nore, and Barrow and their tributaries.
Apart from the Shannon, which is navigable for most of its length, inland navigation largely depends on a canal system built in the 18th and 19th centuries. Parts of this system have been restored, including the Royal and Grand canals that link Dublin to the Shannon. The completely rebuilt Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal, which originally opened in 1860, connects the Shannon and Erne. • Major loughs include Ree and Derg on the Shannon and Mask, Corrib, and Conn in the west. In the mountains of the southwest are the three small and picturesque Lakes of Killarney.
Coastline and Islands • The eastern coast of Ireland is fairly regular with few deep coastlines; the only sizable inlets are Dundalk Bay and Dublin Bay. • In the south the largest harbour is Cork Harbour. Most of the western coast is extremely rugged and marked by drowned, or submerged, valleys and steep cliffs. • Major inlets on the western coast include Bantry and Dingle bays in the south, Galway Bay in the centre, and Donegal Bay in the north. • Hundreds of small islands are scattered along the western coast. Among the largest are Achill Island and the Aran Islands.
Moher cliffs rise to more than 200 m above the Atlantic Ocean. The cliffs provide habitat for many kinds of seabirds.
Climate • 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°C, approximately 14 Celsius 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, or about 4 Celsius degrees lower than that of most other places in the same latitudes
Natural Resources • Ireland’s most valuable natural resource is its lowland soils. These soils support rich grasslands, which flourish across much of Ireland and provide extensive pasture for grazing animals. • The soils also support a variety of cereals and root crops. • Ireland has some natural mineral resources including deposits of zinc, lead, gypsum, and alumina. Some natural gas deposits are found off the southern and western coasts. • Peat from heaths and bogs has long served as an important fuel source for homes and industry, and it is also used to improve soils for cultivation.
A worker cuts peat from lush peat land in Ireland. Peat is the first stage in the transformation of vegetation into coal. For hundreds of years, people have cut, dried, and burned it for heating and cooking. This compact, dark-brown material contains about one third less heating value than coal
Plants and Animals • Ireland’s animal 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 animals 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.
PEOPLE AND SOCIETY • The population of Ireland in 2006 was estimated at 4,062,235, giving the country an overall population density of 59 persons per sq km. • Some 60 percent of the population lived in urban areas in 2003. • 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 1.15 percent, one of the highest rates in western Europe
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 Northern Ireland.
For administrative purposes, the Republic of Ireland 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 least one county council. Two counties are divided into subsections administered by separate county councils, giving the country 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
DIVISION OF IRELANDINTO PROVINCES LEINSTER The population stands at over 1.8 million The largest city in Leinster is Dublin
Principal Cities • The capital and largest city is Dublin, with a population (2002) of 495,781. Dublin is the commercial and industrial centre 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).
On Ireland's west coast, theCladdagh quay juts out into the estuary that joins Lough Corrib with Galway Bay. Said to be the oldest fishing village in the country, the Claddagh was once an Irish quarter outside the walls of the Anglo-Norman city of Galway Galway
Castle of King John • The Castle of King John in Limerick, Ireland, was constructed around 1200 on the Shannon River.
Language • Almost all the people of Ireland speak English, and about one-fourth also claim to speak Irish, a Gaelic tongue that belongs to the family of Celtic languages. • The Irish language, with its many regional variations, was once spoken by nearly all the Irish. Today, Irish is spoken on a daily basis by an estimated 30,000 people, most of whom live in the Gaeltacht (Gaelic-speaking) areas of the western seaboard. • All government-subsidized schools in Ireland have taught Irish since 1922, but fewer than 10,000 pupils speak it as their first language. The constitution provides for both Irish and English as official languages, while Ulster-Scots (or Ullans), used by some members of Ireland’s Protestant community, is under consideration for special status.
Way of Life • Ireland, for centuries a predominantly rural, agricultural society, changed dramatically with economic development after World War II (1939-1945). • 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 heating.
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 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.
prawns and soda bread • barley malt whiskey smoked salmon torte
The national sports are hurling, a game similar to field hockey, and Gaelic football, which resembles soccer. • Soccer has become more popular in recent years. • Horse racing is a highly popular spectator sport, and Irish breeders have produced some of the world’s finest thoroughbreds. • Professional cycling also draws a wide following. • Saint Patrick’s Day (March 17), which honours the patron saint of Ireland, is the most important national holiday.
CULTURE • Ireland has produced many internationally famous rock and pop artists, most notably U2, Sinéad O’Connor, Hot House Flowers, the Cranberries, and the Corrs. • Traditional Irish dancing has also attracted a wide contemporary audience, in Ireland and around the world. Stage productions such as Riverdance and its offshoot Lord of the Dance have helped popularize and transform Irish dancing.
Among Ireland’s renowned English-language writers are Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, Maria Edgeworth, and George Bernard Shaw. William Butler Yeats and Sean O’Casey were perhaps the dominant literary figures in the early years of independent Ireland. • Two of Ireland’s most influential writers, James Joyce, author of Ulysses (1922) and a formative influence on much subsequent 20th-century European literature, and Samuel Beckett, famously left Ireland for self-imposed exile.
Céilí • traditional Gaelic social dance • still important and popular in rural parts • could alternate with songs, poetry recitals, story telling • céilí music is provided by fiddle, flute, tin whistle, bodhrán, drums, electric quitar
ECONOMY • The economy of Ireland was traditionally based on agriculture and the processing of agricultural products • During the 1990s Ireland received substantial economic assistance from the EU to restructure agriculture, educate and train workers, and develop the nation’s infrastructure. • By the mid-1990s Ireland’s economy was growing at a rate of more than double the EU average. In 1999 Ireland was among the first group of EU countries to meet the qualifying criteria to adopt the euro.
Grazing Sheep Irish Fishing Village . High-technology industries, including the production of microelectronics and computer software, are of growing importance to the Irish economy
GOVERNMENT • sovereign, independent, democratic state with a parliamentary system of government Parliament: • President • Senate • House of Representatives
PRESIDENT The president of Ireland is the head of state and is elected by direct popular vote for a seven-year term. The president has little executive power, but he or she represents Ireland at official state functions Mary McAleese Residence of the President
PRIME MINISTR The chief executive is the prime minister, or taoiseach (pronounced TEE-shock), who serves as head of government. Bertie Ahern
Government • Under the Irish constitution, the prime minister is nominated by the lower house of the national legislature and forms a cabinet, generally referred to as the government. • The government must have at least 7, and not more than 15, members. • Members of the government lead the administrative departments, or ministries. Although selected by the prime minister, the cabinet must be approved by the lower house, which can dissolve the government by a vote of no confidence. The prime minister and other members of the government are officially appointed by the president.
Leinster House, Seat of Parliament Dublin Castle is used for ceremonial functions, including the inauguration of the country’s president
Political Parties Gerry Adams, right, the leader of Sinn Fein and a member of parliament from West Belfast in Northern Ireland, calls on the Irish Republican Army (IRA) to abandon armed struggle at an April 2005 press conference. Sinn Fein is regarded as the political wing of the IRA The principal political parties in Ireland include Fine Gael (Irish Gaelic for “Tribe of the Gaels”), Fianna Fáil (“Soldiers of Destiny”), and the Labour Party
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 neighbours 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 EconomicCooperation 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). Ireland, which is not part of any military alliance, strives to maintain a neutral position in world affairs.