Republic of Ireland
2008/9 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Europe; European Countries
| Anthem: Amhrán na bhFiann
The Soldier's Song
(and largest city)
|Official languages||Irish, English|
|Ethnic groups||White: 94.8% (including 0.5% Irish Traveller)
Not Stated: 1.7%
|Government||Republic and Parliamentary democracy|
|-||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||January 1, 1973|
|-||Total|| 70,273 km² ( 120th)
27,133 sq mi
|-||2006 census||4,239,848 ( 121st)|
|-||Density||60.3/km² ( 139th)
|GDP ( PPP)||2006 estimate|
|-||Total||$177.2 billion ( 50th)|
|-||Per capita||$45,600 ( 8th)|
|GDP (nominal)||2006 estimate|
|-||Total||$202.9 billion ( 30th)|
|-||Per capita||$50,150 ( 5th)|
|HDI (2005)||▲ 0.959 (high) ( 5th)|
|Currency||Euro ( €)¹ (
|Time zone||WET ( UTC+0)|
|-||Summer ( DST)||IST ( WEST) ( UTC+1)|
|Patron saint||St. Patrick|
|1||Before 1999: Irish pound.|
|2||The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.|
Ireland ( Irish: Éire, pronounced [ˈeːrʲə]) is a country in north-western Europe. The modern sovereign state occupies about five-sixths of the island of Ireland, which was first partitioned on May 3, 1921. It is bordered by Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom) to the north, by the Atlantic Ocean to the west, by the Irish Sea to the east and by the Celtic Sea and St George's Channel to the South and South-East. Legally, the term Republic of Ireland ( Irish: Poblacht na hÉireann) is the description of the State but Ireland is its name.
In 1937 Ireland became the successor-state to the Irish Free State. Ireland was one of the poorest countries in Western Europe and had high emigration. The protectionist economy was opened in the late 1950s and Ireland joined the European 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.
Today, the Index of Economic Freedom ranks Ireland as the world's third most economically free country. Despite a forecast for reduced economic growth in 2008, Ireland is currently rated as having the fifth highest gross domestic product per capita and the eighth highest gross domestic product per capita considering purchasing power parity, and having the fifth highest Human Development Index rank. The country also boasts the highest quality of life in the world, ranking first in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Quality-of-life index. Ireland was ranked fourth on the Global Peace Index. Ireland also has high rankings for its education system, political freedom and civil rights, press freedom and economic freedom; it was also ranked fourth from the bottom on the Failed States Index, being one of the few "sustainable" states in the world. Ireland has emerged as an attractive destination and foreign immigrants who now make up approximately 10% of the population. Ireland's population is the fastest growing in Europe with an annual growth rate of 2.5%.
Article 4 of the Irish constitution, which was adopted in 1937, provides that “the name of the state is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland”. For all official purposes including in international treaties and in other legal documents, where the language of the documents is English, the Irish government uses the name 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 EU language on 1 January 2007, at EU meetings name plates for the state read as Éire - Ireland, just as the two official names are used on Irish passports.
Since 1949 the Republic of Ireland Act has provided that the Republic of Ireland ( Irish: Poblacht na hÉireann) is the official description for the state. The Act was intended primarily to declare that Ireland was a republic rather than a form of constitutional monarchy. It provided the state’s official description but it did not change its name.
What is now Ireland has been known by a range of other names, all of which are still sometimes used unofficially. The whole island of Ireland was unilaterally proclaimed an independent republic by rebels in 1916 and styled as the Irish Republic ( Irish: Poblacht na hÉireann, subsequently also Saorstát Éireann). Following the 1918 general election, that proclamation was ratified by a large majority of the Irish Members of Parliament. Between 1921 and 1922, when the British government legislated to establish what is now 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 Twenty-Six Counties and The South (a name frequently used by people in Northern Ireland) are also often used.
Ireland is the successor-state to the Dominion called the Irish Free State. That Dominion came into being when all of the island of Ireland seceded from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on 6 December 1922. However, the following day the Parliament of Northern Ireland exercised its right under the Anglo-Irish Treaty to opt back into the United Kingdom. This action, known as the Partition of Ireland, followed four attempts to introduce devolved autonomous government over the whole island of Ireland (in 1886, 1893, 1914 and 1920). The Irish Free State was abolished when Ireland was formally established on 29 December 1937, the day its constitution came into force.
Irish independence in 1922 was preceded by the Easter Rising of 1916, 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, along with nine others, and thousands were interned precipitating the Irish War of Independence.
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. One million Irish died of starvation and another 1.5 million emigrated, 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 that won improved tenant land reforms 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.
Life in Ireland
Home Rule statute
Home Rule seemed certain in 1911 when the House of Lords lost their veto, 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.
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. In 1914, to avoid rebellion with Ulster, the British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith, with agreement of the Irish Party leadership, amended a clause into the bill providing for home rule for 26 of the 32 counties, with an as of 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, the Third Home Rule Act 1914's implementation 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) and 36th (Ulster) divisions of the New British Army.
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 Republic. The Republic's Aireacht (ministry) sent a delegation under Ceann Comhairle Seán T. O'Kelly to the Paris Peace Conference, 1919, but it was not admitted.
After the bitterly fought War of Independence, 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. Under the Treaty the British agreed to the establishment of an independent Irish State whereby the Irish Free State (in the Irish language Saorstát Éireann) with dominion status was created. Dáil Éireann narrowly ratified the treaty.
The Treaty was not entirely satisfactory to either side. It gave more concessions to the Irish than the British had intended to give but did not go far enough to satisfy republican aspirations. The new Irish Free State was in theory to cover the entire island, subject to the proviso that six counties in the north-east, termed "Northern Ireland" (which had been created as one of the two separate Home Rule regions under the Government of Ireland Act 1920) could opt out and choose to remain part of the United Kingdom, which they duly did. The remaining twenty-six counties (originally " Southern Ireland" under the Act) became the Irish Free State, a constitutional monarchy over which the British monarch reigned (from 1927 with the title King of Ireland). It had a Governor-General, a bicameral parliament, a cabinet called the " Executive Council" and a prime minister called the President of the Executive Council.
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 Teachtaí Dála would have to swear an oath of fidelity to King George V and his successors. 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 became part of 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.
The destruction caused by the war caused considerable economic damage to the Free State in the earliest days of its existence, and Northern Ireland's Unionists became hardened in distancing themselves from the Free State.
On December 29, 1937, a new constitution, the Constitution of Ireland, came into force. It replaced the Constitution of the Irish Free State and created a new state called simply "Éire" or in the English language "Ireland". 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 .
Although the State's constitutional structures provided for a President of Ireland it was not technically a republic as the office of President replaced the office of Governor General (the King's representative) rather than the King (at the same time the office of Taoiseach (Prime Minister) replaced the office of President of the Executive Council).
The principal key role possessed by a head of state, that of symbolically representing Ireland internationally remained vested, in statutory law, in the King of Ireland as an organ of the Irish government. It is not without significance that Éamon de Valera, as Taoiseach, retained for himself the portfolio of what was then Minister for Exernal Affairs (now Foreign Affairs) and consequently, from 1936 to 1949, the role of the King of Ireland in the Irish state was greatly reduced and ambiguous. Effectively, all of the King's official duties were abolished but one: under the External Relations Act 1937, the King continued to represent Ireland in foreign and commonwealth affairs.
Ireland remained neutral during World War II, a period it described as The Emergency.
The position of King of Ireland 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 of Ireland. The act, as the name suggests, declared the state to be a republic. The Crown of Ireland Act was formally repealed in the Republic of Ireland by the Statute Law Revision (Pre-Union Irish Statutes) Act, 1962.
The Irish state had remained a member of the then- 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. 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.
From the 1920s Ireland had high trade barriers such as high tariffs and a policy of import substitution. A high number of residents emigrated. In the 1950s, 400,000 (a seventh of the population) emigrated. It became increasingly clear that economic nationalism was unsustainable. While other European countries enjoyed fast growth, Ireland suffered economic stagnation, emigration, and other ills.
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. Ireland joined the European 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.
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.
By the 1980s, underlying economic problems become pronounced. High unemployment, emigration, growing public debt returned. Middle income workers were taxed 60% of their marginal income. Unemployment was 20%. Annual emigration to overseas reached over 1% of population. Public deficits reached 15% of GDP. Fianna Fáil, which was largely responsible for the spending hikes in the late 1970s that caused much of the economic turmoil in which they found themselves, 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 utilized 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 hordes of technology companies such as Microsoft and Google, who have found Ireland an excellent investment location. All government parties have had a consensus about the economic development.
In less than a decade, the GDP per capita ranking rose from 21st in 1993 to 4th in 2002. Between 1985 and 2002, private sector jobs increased 59% compared to -1% in Sweden. Between 1984 and 2002, GDP per capita increased 111% compared to 36% in Sweden.
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 in the Republic 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. 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.
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 three parties; Fianna Fáil under Taoiseach Brian Cowen, the Green Party under leader John Gormley and the Progressive Democrats under Senator Ciarán Cannon. The last scheduled general election to the Dáil took place on 24 May 2007, after it was called by the Taoiseach on 29 April.
The main opposition in the current Dáil consists of Fine Gael under Enda Kenny, the Labour Party under Eamon Gilmore and Sinn Féin. 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 Treaty. 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. Ireland has voted against a number of European treaties. On 12 June, 2008, Ireland voted in a referendum which rejected the Lisbon treaty. This has caused much controversy within the EU and may affect the future of the Union
The Republic of Ireland traditionally had twenty-six counties, and these are still used in cultural and sporting contexts. They are also used for postal purposes. 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.
As local government units, however, some have been restructured, with the now-abolished County Dublin distributed among three new county councils in the 1990s and County Tipperary having been administratively two separate counties since the 1890s, giving a present-day total of twenty-nine administrative counties and five cities. The five cities — Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, and Waterford (Kilkenny is a city but does not possess a city council) — 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:
|Republic of Ireland
These counties are grouped together into regions for statistical purposes.
Geography, climate, and environment
The island of Ireland extends over 84,421 Square kilometres (32,556 square miles), of which 83% (approx. five-sixths) belong to the Republic (70,280 km²; 27,103 sq mi), while the remainder constitute Northern Ireland. It is bound to the 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.
The local temperate climate is modified by the North Atlantic Current and is relatively mild. Summer temperatures exceed 30 ° C (86 °F) usually once every decade, though commonly reach 29 °C (84 ° F) most summers, and freezes occur only occasionally in winter, with temperatures below -6 °C (21 °F) being uncommon. Precipitation is very common, with some parts of the country getting up to 275 days with rain annually.
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), 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 impact the natural fresh-water ecosystems. Subsidies under the Common Agricultural Policy which supported these agricultural practices and contributed to land-use distortions are undergoing reforms. 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.
Forest covers about 10% of the country, with most designated for commercial production. 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.
The education systems are largely under the direction of the government via the Minister for Education and Science (currently Batt O'Keefe, TD). 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 in the world, being significantly higher than the OECD average.
Primary, Secondary and Tertiary (University/College) level education are all free in Ireland for all EU citizens.
The economy of Ireland has transformed in recent years from an agricultural focus to a modern knowledge economy, focusing on services and high-tech industries and dependent on trade, industry and investment. Economic growth in Ireland averaged a (relatively high) 10% from 1995–2000, and 7% from 2001–2004. Industry, which accounts for 46% of GDP, about 80% of exports, and 29% of the labour force, now takes the place of agriculture as the country's leading sector.
Exports play a fundamental role in Ireland's growth, but the economy also benefits from the accompanying rise in consumer spending, construction, and business investment. On paper, the country is the largest exporter of software-related goods and services in the world. In fact, a lot of foreign software, and sometimes music, is filtered through the country to avail of Ireland's non-taxing of royalties from copyrighted goods.
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.
Ireland joined in launching the Euro currency system in January 1999 (leaving behind the Irish pound) along with eleven other EU nations. The 1995 to 2000 period of high economic growth led many to call the country the Celtic Tiger. 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, especially in the property market.
Measuring Ireland's level of income per capita is a complicated issue. Ireland possesses the second highest GDP ( PPP) per capita in the world (US$43,600 as of 2006), behind Luxembourg, and the fifth highest Human Development Index, which is calculated partially on the basis of GDP per capita. However, many economists feel that GDP per capita is an inappropriate measure of national income for Ireland, as it neglects the fact that much income generated in Ireland belongs to multinational companies and eventually goes offshore. Another measure, Gross National Income per head, takes account of this and therefore many economists feel it is a superior measure of income in the country. In 2005, the World Bank measured Ireland's GNI per head at $41,140 - the seventh highest in the world, sixth highest in Western Europe, and the third highest of any EU member state. Also, a study by The Economist found Ireland to have the best quality of life in the world. This study employed GDP per capita as a measure of income rather than GNI per capita.
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. Several successive years of economic growth have led to an increase in inequality in Irish society (see Economy of Ireland - Recent developments) and a decrease in poverty. Irelands's Gini co-efficient is 30.4, slightly below the OECD average of 30.7. Figures show that 6.8% of Ireland's population suffer "consistent poverty".
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 rising. It is said the Irish economy is rebalancing itself. The ESRI predicts that the Irish economy wil not grow this year at all and may retract by -0.5% in 2008, down hugely from 4.7% growth in 2007, but expects economic growth to near 2% again in 2009 and near 4% in 2010. The huge reduction in construction has caused Irelands massive economic downturn, if construction was not included in the economic outlook Ireland would still grow by about 2.5% however this is the first time in over 2 decades that the ESRI has applied the term recession to the Irish economy. Ireland now has the second-highest level of household debt in the world, at 190% of household income.
The currency in the Republic of Ireland is the Euro (ISO currency code EUR) . Euro banknotes are issued in €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 denominations. Euro Banknotes are common across Europe, however Ireland has its own unique signature on Euro coins The Government in Ireland decided on a single national design for all Irish coin denominations. They show the Celtic harp, a traditional symbol of Ireland, decorated with the year of issue and the word "Éire".
Ireland's armed forces are organised under the Irish Defence Forces ( Óglaigh na hÉireann). The Irish Army is relatively small compared to other neighbouring armies in the region, but is well equipped, with 8,500 full-time military personnel (13,000 in the reserve army). This is principally due to Ireland's policy of neutrality, 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. 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 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.
The Republic'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. 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. 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.
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.
|GDP (PPP) per capita||2nd||$44,087|
|CO2 emissions||30th||10.3 t†|
|Electricity consumption||61st||22.79 GWh|
|Human Development Index||5th||0.959|
|Corruption (A higher score means less (perceived) corruption.)||↓17th||7.5|
|Global Peace Index||4th||1.396|
|Failed States Index||↓ 4th||19.5|
|Henley Visa Restrictions Index||2nd||129|
|Quality-of-life index||1st||8.333 (out of 10)|
|Mobile phone penetration||—||121%|
|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|
|Suicide rate||48th||♂ 16.3†‡
|↓ 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. 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 minority of the genetic heritage of Irish people. ("Origins of the British", Stephen Oppenheimer, 2006) 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, although in Ireland, they are not, instead they are classified as a "social group".
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.
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 by far 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. 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 Ui Chuis. 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. 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%.
The Polish language is one of the most widely-spoken languages in Ireland after English and Irish: there are over 63,000 Poles resident in Ireland according to the 2006 census. Other languages spoken in Ireland include Shelta, spoken by the Irish Traveller population and a dialect of Scots is spoken by the descendents 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. Approximately 10% of Ireland's population is now made up of foreign citizens.
The CSO has published preliminary findings based on the 2006 Census of Population. These indicate:
- The total population of Ireland on Census Day, April 23, 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 non-nationals (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 Connacht- Ulster 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. PDF (894 KiB)
Detailed statistics into the population of Ireland since 1841 are available at Irish Population Analysis.
Ireland is officially a secular state, and the constitution states that the state is forbidden from endowing any particular religion. Approximately 86.8% of the population are Roman Catholic, and the country has one of the highest rates of regular and weekly church attendance in the Western World. However, there has been a major decline in this attendance among Irish Catholics in the course of the past 30 years. Between 1996 and 2001, regular Mass attendance, declined further from 60% to 48% (it had been above 90% before 1973), and all but two of its sacerdotal 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 2002 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. The very small Jewish community in Ireland also recorded a marginal increase (see History of the Jews in Ireland) in the same period.
The patron saints of Ireland are Saint Patrick and Saint Bridget.
According to the 2006 census, the number of people who described themselves as having "no religion" was 186,318 (4.4%). 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.
Religion and politics
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 (e.g., Italy), 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.
Abortion and divorce
Catholic doctrine prohibits abortion in all circumstances, putting it in conflict with the pro-choice movement. In 1983, the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland 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 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 (see Abortion in Ireland).
Catholic and Protestant attitudes in 1937 also disapproved of divorce, which was prohibited by the original Constitution. It was not until 1995 that the Fifteenth Amendment repealed this ban.
Sex abuse scandals
The Catholic Church was hit in the 1990s by a series of sexual abuse scandals and cover-up charges against its hierarchy. In 2005, a major inquiry was made into child sexual abuse allegations. The Ferns report, published on 25 October 2005, revealed that more than 100 cases of child sexual abuse, between 1962 and 2002, by 21 priests, had taken place in the Diocese of Ferns alone. The report criticised the Gardaí and the health authorities, who failed to protect the children to the best of their abilities; and in the case of the Garda before 1988, no file was ever recorded on sexual abuse complaints.
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. 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, although it is not compulsory and deals with aspects of different religions, not focusing on one particular religion.
Schools run by religious organisations, but receive public money and recognition, are not allowed to discriminate against pupils based upon religion (or lack of).
Contraception and gay rights
In the past, Ireland has historically favoured conservative legislation regarding sexuality. For example, contraception was illegal in Ireland until 1979. Another example is the legislation which outlawed homosexual acts was not repealed until 1993 although it was generally only enforced when dealing with underage sex. However, Ireland has taken steps to change its policies in regards to these issues; for instance, discrimination based on sexual preference is illegal. The Irish government published same-sex civil partnerships legislation in June 2008, which is expected to be law within a year. 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.
The island of Ireland has produced the Book of Kells, and writers such as George Berkeley, Sheridan le Fanu, Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, Patrick Kavanagh, Samuel Beckett, Brian O'Nolan, who published as Flann O'Brien, John Millington Synge, Seán O'Casey, Seamus Heaney, Bram Stoker, Elizabeth Bowen, Kate O'Brien, Seán Ó Faoláin, Frank O'Connor, William Trevor and others. Shaw, Yeats, Beckett and Heaney are Nobel Literature laureates. Other prominent writers include John Banville, Roddy Doyle, Pádraic Ó Conaire, Máirtín Ó Cadhain, Séamus Ó Grianna, Dermot Bolger, Maeve Binchy, Frank McCourt, Edna O'Brien, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, Paul Muldoon, Thomas McCarthy, Joseph O'Connor, Eoin Colfer, John McGahern and Colm Tóibín.
Prominent Irish artists include Nathaniel Hone, James Arthur O'Connor, Roderick O'Conor, Jack Yeats, William Orpen, Mainie Jellett, Louis le Brocquy, Anne Madden, Robert Ballagh, James Coleman, Dorothy Cross and John Gerrard.
Ireland is known for its Irish traditional music, but has produced many other internationally influential artists in other musical genres, such as U2, Thin Lizzy, The Pogues, The Corrs the alternative rock group The Cranberries, Blues guitarist Rory Gallagher, folk singer Christy Moore, Celtic Woman, The Chieftains, Academy Award winner Glen Hansard of The Frames, Chris de Burgh and singers Enya and Sinéad O'Connor.
In classical music, the island of Ireland was also the birthplace of the notable composers Turlough O'Carolan, John Field (inventor of the Nocturne), Gerald Barry, Michael William Balfe, Sir Charles Villiers Stanford and Charles Wood.
Robert Boyle was a seventeenth-century physicist and discovered Boyle's Law. Ernest Walton of Trinity College Dublin shared the 1951 Nobel Prize in Physics for "splitting the atom". William Rowan Hamilton was a significant mathematician. The Irish philosopher and theologian Eriugena, was considered one of the leading intellectuals of his era.
The architecture of Ireland is one of the most visible features in the Irish countryside - with remains from all eras since the stone age abounding. Ireland is famous for its ruined and intact Norman and Anglo-Irish castles, small whitewashed thatched cottages and Georgian urban buildings. What are unaccountably somewhat less famous are the great, still complete palladian and rococo country houses which can be favourably compared to anything similar in northern Europe, and the country's many mighty Gothic and neo-Gothic cathedrals and buildings. Despite the ofttimes significant British and European influence, the fashion and trends of architecture have been adapted to suit the peculiarities of the particular location. In the late 20th century a new economic climate resulted in a renaissance of Irish culture and design, placing some of Ireland's cities, once again, at the cutting edge of modern architecture.
Successful entertainment exports in the late twentieth century include acts such as U2, Thin Lizzy, The Pogues, My Bloody Valentine, Rory Gallagher, Sinéad O'Connor, Boomtown Rats, The Corrs, Horslips, Boyzone, Ronan Keating, The Cranberries, Clannad, Gilbert O'Sullivan, Westlife and Enya, and the internationally acclaimed dance shows Riverdance and Lord of the Dance.
In the early twenty-first century, Damien Rice and The Thrills rose to international fame. The Frames are a popular band in Ireland who are on the rise world-wide, although their status as possibly the best-liked live band in Ireland is under threat from newer bands like Bell X1.
Notable Hollywood actors from the Republic of Ireland include Maureen O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, George Brent, Arthur Shields, Maureen O'Sullivan, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole, Pierce Brosnan, Gabriel Byrne, Brendan Gleeson, Daniel Day Lewis (by citizenship), Colm Meaney, Colin Farrell, Brenda Fricker, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Stuart Townsend and Cillian Murphy.
The flourishing Irish film industry, state-supported by Bord Scannán na hÉireann, helped launched 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.
The national sports, administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association, are Gaelic football and hurling, arguably the world's fastest field team sport in terms of game play. Handball is also administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association. Notable former Gaelic Athletic Association players include the now retired pair of DJ Carey and Peter Canavan. 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 has produced a number of talented sportsmen and women. In association football, former players include Roy Keane, Johnny Giles, Liam Brady, Denis Irwin, Packie Bonner, Niall Quinn and Paul McGrath, while players whose careers are ongoing include Lee Carsley, Steve Finnan, Shay Given, Damien Duff, John O'Shea and Robbie Keane. In rugby, Ireland has produced Brian O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara, Paul O'Connell, David Wallace and Keith Wood.
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 cricket team is an all Ireland team representing both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Ireland played in the 2007 World Cricket League and earlier managed to qualify for the 2007 Cricket World Cup. In their first match of the tournament they tied with Zimbabwe and in the second match they caused the biggest ever World Cup upset by beating Pakistan and eliminating them from the tournament. Many Irish players have played in England's county system and some in the Indian Cricket League. Notable Irish Cricketers include Ed Joyce the English batsman.
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 Michael Carruth an Olympic gold medallist. 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.
In motorsport, 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.
In cycling, Ireland produced Stephen Roche, the first and only Irishman to win the Tour de France in 1987, and the prolific Seán Kelly.
Professional wrestler, Prince Devitt, was born in Dublin, and has made a large impact in the last few years on the independent circuit in Europe, Japan, and the United States.
In 2002, Dermott Lennon became the first Irish rider to win a Show Jumping World Championship gold medal.
The Republic of Ireland has three main international airports ( Dublin, Shannon, 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.
Railways 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 major trunk roads are managed by the National Roads Authority. The rest of the road network is managed by the local authorities in each of their areas.