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country

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Ireland

Capital Dublin
Continent Europe
Code +353
Currency Euro (€)
Languages Irish , English , Irish , English

Description

Ireland is an island in the North Atlantic. It is separated from Great Britain to its east by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St George's Channel. Ireland is the second-largest island of the British Isles, the third-largest in Europe, and the twentieth-largest on Earth.

Geopolitically, Ireland is divided between the Republic of Ireland (officially named Ireland), which covers five-sixths of the island, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. In 2011, the population of Ireland was about 6.6 million, ranking it the second-most populous island in Europe after Great Britain. As of 2016, 4.8 million lived in the Republic of Ireland, and 1.8 million in Northern Ireland.

The geography of Ireland comprises relatively low-lying mountains surrounding a central plain, with several navigable rivers extending inland. Its lush vegetation is a product of its mild but changeable climate which is free of extremes in temperature. Much of Ireland was woodland until the end of the Middle Ages. Today, woodland makes up about 10% of the island, compared with a European average of over 33%, and most of it is non-native conifer plantations. There are twenty-six extant land mammal species native to Ireland. The Irish climate is influenced by the Atlantic Ocean and thus very moderate, and winters are milder than expected for such a northerly area, although summers are cooler than those in continental Europe. Rainfall and cloud cover are abundant.

Gaelic Ireland had emerged by the 1st century AD. The island was Christianized from the 5th century onwards. Following the 12th century Anglo-Norman invasion, England claimed sovereignty. However, English rule did not extend over the whole island until the 16th–17th century Tudor conquest, which led to colonization by settlers from Britain. 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. With the Acts of Union in 1801, Ireland became a part of the United Kingdom. A war of independence in the early 20th century was followed by the partition of the island, thus creating the Irish Free State, which became increasingly sovereign over the following decades, and Northern Ireland, which remained a part of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland saw much civil unrest from the late 1960s until the 1990s. This subsided following the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. In 1973, the Republic of Ireland joined the European Economic Community while the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland, as part of it, did the same. In 2020, the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland included, left what was by then the European Union (EU).

Irish culture has had a significant influence on other cultures, especially in the field of literature. Alongside mainstream Western culture, a strong indigenous culture exists, as expressed through Gaelic games, Irish music, Irish language, and Irish dance. The island's culture shares many features with that of Great Britain, including the English language, and sports such as association football, rugby, horse racing, golf, and boxing.

History

The first evidence of the human presence in Ireland dates to around 33,000 years ago; further findings have been found dating to around 10,500 to 8,000 BC. The receding of the ice after the Younger Dryas cold phase of the Quaternary around 9700 BC, heralds the beginning of Prehistoric Ireland, which includes the archaeological periods known as the Mesolithic, the Neolithic from about 4000 BC, and the Copper Age beginning around 2500 BC with the arrival of the Beaker Culture. The Irish Bronze Age proper begins around 2000 BC and ends with the arrival of the Iron Age of the Celtic Hallstatt culture, beginning about 600 BC. The subsequent La Tène culture brought new styles and practices by 300 BC.

Greek and Roman writers give some information about Ireland during the Classical period (see "protohistoric" period), by which time the island may be termed "Gaelic Ireland". By the late 4th century AD Christianity had begun to gradually subsume or replace the earlier Celtic polytheism. By the end of the 6th century, it had introduced writing along with a predominantly monastic Celtic Christian church, profoundly altering Irish society. Viking raids and settlements from the late 8th century AD resulted in extensive cultural interchange, as well as innovation in military and transport technology. Many of Ireland's towns were founded at this time as Viking trading posts and coinage made their first appearance. Viking penetration was limited and concentrated along coasts and rivers, and ceased to be a major threat to Gaelic culture after the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. The Norman invasion in 1169 resulted again in a partial conquest of the island and marked the beginning of more than 800 years of English political and military involvement in Ireland. Initially successful, Norman gains were rolled back over succeeding centuries as a Gaelic resurgence reestablished Gaelic cultural preeminence over most of the country, apart from the walled towns and the area around Dublin known as The Pale.

Reduced to the control of small pockets, the English Crown did not make another attempt to conquer the island until after the end of the Wars of the Roses (1488). This released resources and manpower for overseas expansion, beginning in the early 16th century. However, the nature of Ireland's decentralized political organization into small territories (known as túatha), martial traditions, difficult terrain and climate, and lack of urban infrastructure, meant that attempts to assert Crown authority were slow and expensive. Attempts to impose the new Protestant faith were also successfully resisted by both the Gaelic and Norman-Irish. The new policy fomented the rebellion of the Hiberno-Norman Earl of Kildare Silken Thomas in 1534, keen to defend his traditional autonomy and Catholicism, and marked the beginning of the prolonged Tudor conquest of Ireland lasting from 1534 to 1603. Henry VIII proclaimed himself King of Ireland in 1541 to facilitate the project. Ireland became a potential battleground in the wars between Catholic Counter-Reformation and Protestant Reformation Europe.

England's attempts to either conquer or assimilate both the Hiberno-Norman lordships and the Gaelic territories into the Kingdom of Ireland provided the impetus for ongoing warfare, notable examples being the 1st Desmond Rebellion, the 2nd Desmond Rebellion, and the Nine Years War. This period was marked by the Crown policies of, at first, surrender and regrant, and later, plantation, involving the arrival of thousands of English and Scottish Protestant settlers, and the displacement of both the Hiberno-Normans (or Old English as they were known by then) and the native Catholic landholders. With English colonies going back to the 1550s, Ireland was arguably the first English and then British territory colonized by a group known as the West Country Men. Gaelic Ireland was finally defeated at the battle of Kinsale in 1601 which marked the collapse of the Gaelic system and the beginning of Ireland's history as fully part of the English and later British Empire.

During the 17th century, this division between a Protestant landholding minority and a dispossessed Catholic majority was intensified and conflict between them was to become a recurrent theme in Irish history. The domination of Ireland by the Protestant Ascendancy was reinforced after two periods of religious war, the Irish Confederate Wars in 1641-52 and the Williamette War in 1689-91. Political power thereafter rested almost exclusively in the hands of a minority Protestant Ascendancy, while Catholics and members of dissenting Protestant denominations suffered severe political and economic privations under the Penal Laws.

On 1 January 1801, in the wake of the republican United Irishmen Rebellion, the Irish Parliament was abolished and Ireland became part of a new United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland formed by the Acts of Union 1800. Catholics were not granted full rights until Catholic Emancipation in 1829, achieved by Daniel O’Connell. The catastrophe of the Great Famine struck Ireland in 1845 resulting in over a million deaths from starvation and disease and a million refugees fleeing the country, mainly to America. Irish attempts to break away continued with Parnell's Irish Parliamentary Party which strove from the 1880s to attain Home Rule through the parliamentary constitutional movement, eventually winning the Home Rule Act 1914, although this Act was suspended at the outbreak of World War I.

In 1916 the Easter Rising succeeded in turning public opinion against the British establishment after the execution of the leaders by British authorities. It also eclipsed the home rule movement. In 1922, after the Irish War of Independence most of Ireland seceded from the United Kingdom to become the independent Irish Free State but under the Anglo-Irish Treaty the six northeastern counties, known as Northern Ireland, remained within the United Kingdom, creating the partition of Ireland. The treaty was opposed by many; their opposition led to the outbreak of the Irish Civil War, in which Irish Free State, or "pro-treaty", forces proved victorious. The history of Northern Ireland has since been dominated by the division of society along sectarian fault lines and conflict between (mainly Catholic) Irish nationalists and (mainly Protestant) British unionists. These divisions erupted into the Troubles in the late 1960s, after civil rights marchers were met with opposition by authorities. The violence escalated after the deployment of the British Army to maintain authority led to clashes with nationalist communities. The violence continued for 28 years until an uneasy, but largely successful peace was finally achieved with the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

Geography

Ireland is located in the north-west of Europe, between latitudes 51° and 56° N, and longitudes 11° and 5° W. It is separated from Great Britain by the Irish Sea and the North Channel, which has a width of 23 kilometers (14 mi) at its narrowest point. To the west is the northern Atlantic Ocean and to the south is the Celtic Sea, which lies between Ireland and Brittany, in France. Ireland has a total area of 84,421 km2 (32,595 sq mi), of which the Republic of Ireland occupies 83 percent. Ireland and Great Britain, together with many nearby smaller islands, are known collectively as the British Isles. As the term British Isles is controversial about Ireland, the alternate term Britain and Ireland is often used as a neutral term for the islands.

A ring of coastal mountains surrounds low plains at the center 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. The most arable land lies in the province of Leinster. Western areas are mainly mountainous and rocky with green panoramic vistas. River Shannon, the island's longest river at 386 km (240 mi) long, rises in County Cavan in the northwest and flows through Limerick in the Midwest.

Government

Membership of the cabinet is regulated by Article 28 of the Constitution of Ireland and by the Ministers and Secretaries Acts 1924 to 2017. The Constitution requires the government to consist of between seven and fifteen members, all of whom must be a member of the Oireachtas.

Since the formation of the 12th Government of Ireland in 1966, all Irish cabinets have been formed with a constitutional maximum of fifteen ministers. The total sometimes falls below this number for brief periods following the resignation of individual ministers or the withdrawal of a party from a coalition

No more than two members of the cabinet may be members of Seanad Éireann. All other members of the cabinet must be members of Dáil Éireann, the house of representatives. The Taoiseach, Tánaiste, and Minister for Finance must be members of the Dáil. In practice, however, the members of the cabinet are invariably members of the Dáil. Since the adoption of the 1937 constitution, only two ministers have been appointed from the Seanad: Seán Moylan, who served in 1957 as Minister for Agriculture, and James Dooge who served as Minister for Foreign Affairs from 1981 to 1982. Joseph Connolly, a member of the Free State Seanad, had served in the Executive Council of the Irish Free State from 1932 to 1933 as Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, and from 1933 to 1936 as Minister for Lands and Fisheries.

Members of the government in charge of the Department of State are designated Ministers of Government (before 1977 a Minister of State). For distinction, Ministers of State (known before 1977 as Parliamentary Secretaries) — informally called junior ministers — are not members of the Government, but assist the Government Ministers in their Departments. A minister without a portfolio may be appointed to the Government who is not the head of a Department of State; this occurred during the period known in Ireland as the Emergency when Frank Aiken served as Minister for the Co-ordination of Defensive Measures from 1939 until 1945. The functions of government ministers are frequently transferred between departments during cabinet reshuffles or after elections. On occasion, a department of state will cease to exist, with its functions transferred to another department. Such defunct ministerial positions include the Ministers for Labor, Posts, and Telegraphs, Public Service, and Supplies.

Economy

Ireland has a mixed economy. The constitution provides that the state shall favor private initiative in industry and commerce, but the state may provide essential services and promote development projects in the absence of private initiatives. Thus, state-sponsored (“semistate”) bodies operate the country’s rail and road transport, some of its television and radio stations, its electricity generation and distribution system, and its peat industry. State companies also are active in the fields of air transport and health insurance. The advent of a single European market in the 1990s encouraged many of these enterprises to privatize and become more competitive. Ireland’s high-technology sector—made, attractive by a very low 12.5 percent corporate tax rate— spurred economic growth during the 1990s and helped reduce unemployment to historically low levels. The economic boom, during which the country’s growth was more than double that of most other EU countries, gave rise to the country’s being labeled the “Celtic Tiger.” By 2001, however, the benefits of new jobs created by foreign direct investment via multinational corporations had begun to slow. Still focused on high growth, Ireland’s political leadership and its banking sector turned to the mortgage and construction industries to maintain growth. By 2008 it had become clear that much of the growth in banking and construction was a bubble without capital to back it. Collapse soon followed, and Ireland went into a deep economic recession for several years. A bailout of the Irish financial system by the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in 2010 was accompanied by requirements for deep austerity cuts that further dampened prospects for the domestic Irish economy. Ireland had benefited in the 1990s and early 2000s from a combination of low tax rates and responsive social programs; however, both contributed to the significant budget challenges that came as a result of the 2008 financial collapse.

Culture

Ireland's culture comprises elements of the culture of ancient peoples, later immigrant and broadcast cultural influences (chiefly Gaelic culture, Anglicisation, Americanisation, and aspects of broader European culture). In broad terms, Ireland is regarded as one of the Celtic nations of Europe, alongside Scotland, Wales, Cornwall, Isle of Man, 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 popular today in jewelry and graphic art, 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".

Since the 20th-century Irish pubs worldwide have become outposts of Irish culture, especially those with a full range of cultural and gastronomic offerings.

The Republic of Ireland's national theatre is the Abbey Theatre, which was founded in 1904, and the national Irish-language theatre is An Taibhdhearc, which was established in 1928 in Galway. Playwrights such as Seán O'Casey, Brian Friel, Sebastian Barry, Conor McPherson, and Billy Roche are internationally renowned.

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