The Republic of Ireland (sometiimes just "Ireland") is a nation of nearly 4.7 million people in western Europe, occupying five-sixths of the island of Ireland in the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Great Britain.
It has a strategic location on major air and sea routes between North America and northern Europe.
Over 40% of the population resides within 100 km of Dublin.
Its major environmental issues include water pollution, especially of lakes, from agricultural runoff.
Celtic tribes arrived on the island between 600-150 B.C.
Invasions by Norsemen that began in the late 8th century were finally ended when King Brian Boru defeated the Danes in 1014.
English invasions began in the 12th century and set off more than seven centuries of Anglo-Irish struggle marked by fierce rebellions and harsh repressions.
A failed 1916 Easter Monday Rebellion touched off several years of guerrilla warfare that in 1921 resulted in independence from the UK for 26 southern counties; six northern (Ulster) counties remained part of the UK (or form formally "United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland", with Great Britain including England, Scotland, and Wales)
In 1949, Ireland withdrew from the British Commonwealth.
Ireland joined the European Community in 1973.
Irish governments have sought the peaceful unification of Ireland and have cooperated with Britain against terrorist groups. A peace settlement for Northern Ireland is gradually being implemented despite some difficulties. In 2006, the Irish and British governments developed and began to implement the St. Andrews Agreement, building on the Good Friday Agreement approved in 1998.
The government does not normally use the term "Republic of Ireland," which tacitly acknowledges the partition, but refers to the country simply as "Ireland."
Location: Western Europe, occupying five-sixths of the island of Ireland in the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Great Britain
Geographic Coordinates: 53 00 N, 8 00 W
Area: 70,273 sq km(land: 68,883 sq km; water: 1,390 sq km)
Land Boundaries: 360 km (United Kingdom)
Coastline: 1,448 km
Terrain: mostly level to rolling interior plain surrounded by rugged hills and low mountains; sea cliffs on west coast. The highest point is (Carrauntoohil 1,041 m)
Climate: temperate maritime; modified by North Atlantic Current; mild winters, cool summers; consistently humid; overcast about half the time.
The topography of the island of Ireland features a hilly, central lowland composed of Limestone surrounded by a broken border of coastal mountains. The mountain ranges vary greatly in geological structure. The mountain ridges of the south are composed of old, red sandstone separated by limestone river valleys. The limestone valleys appear as deep green grooves that tend to run in an east-west direction. Granite predominates in the mountains of Galway, Mayo, and Donegal in the west and north-west, as well as in Counties Down and Wicklow on the east coast. A basalt plateau covers much of the north-east of the country. The central plain, broken in places by low hills, is extensively covered with glacial deposits of clay and sand. It has considerable areas of bog and numerous lakes. The island has seen at least two general glaciations. Everywhere ice-smoothed rock, mountain lakes, glacial valleys, and deposits of sand, gravel and clay mark the passage of the ice. Two visualization methods were combined to produce this image: shading and color-coding of topographic height. The shade image was derived by computing topographic slope in the northwest-southeast direction, so that northwest slopes appear bright and southeast slopes appear dark. Color-coding is directly related to topographic height, with green at the lower elevations, rising through yellow and tan, to white at the highest elevations. Source: NASA. (February 2000)
Ecology and Biodiversity
Most of Ireland is included within the Celtic broadleaf forest ecoregion  as defined by the World Wildlife Fund. Two areas of western Ireland are included within the North Atlantic moist mixed forests ecoregion .
Source: World Wildlife Fund
It is easy to see from this true-color image why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle. Intense green vegetation, primarily grassland, covers most of the country except for the exposed rock on mountaintops. Ireland owes its greenness to moderate temperatures and moist air. The Atlantic Ocean, particularly the warm currents in the North Atlantic Drift, gives the country a more temperate climate than most others at the same latitude.
Moist ocean air also contributes to abundant rainfall. Ireland receives between 750 and 2000 millimeters (29 and 78 inches) of rain per year, with more rain falling in the west and in the mountains. Most of the rain falls in light showers.
This moist climate means plenty of clouds and fog. According to the Irish Meteorological Service, the sky is entirely cloudy more than 50 percent of the time. There are more clouds during the day than at night, and fog is common.
The cloud-free view shown here is extremely rare. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured the image on October 11, 2010, a time of year when Irish weather alternates between rainstorms from the west and cool, dry weather brought by high-pressure systems known as anticyclones.
Source: NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center. Caption by Holli Riebeek.
|The River Liffey in Dublin divides the city into the "Northside" and the "Southside." It flows 125 km (78 mi) from the Wicklow Mountains to the Irish Sea.|
|Blarney Castle, near Cork, was built in the 15th century and houses the famed Stone of Eloquence (the Blarney Stone). It has a huge square tower with a massive parapet, and a lookout tower. The castle was the stronghold of the McCarthys.|
|The Cliffs of Moher in County Clare range from 120 m (394 ft) at Hag's Head to their maximum height of 214 m (702 ft) above the Atlantic Ocean just north of O'Brien's Tower. Comprised of mainly shale and sandstone, the cliffs are home to large colonies of Atlantic Puffins.|
People and Society
Population: 4,722,028 (July 2012 est.)
The Irish people are mainly of Celtic origin, with the country's only significant sized minority having descended from the Anglo-Normans. English is the common language, but Irish (Gaelic) is also an official language and is taught in schools.
Anglo-Irish writers such as Swift, Sheridan, Goldsmith, Burke, Wilde, Joyce, Yeats, Shaw, and Beckett have made a major contribution to world literature over the past 300 years, with four Irish writers having won the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Ethnic Groups: Irish 87.4%, other white 7.5%, Asian 1.3%, black 1.1%, mixed 1.1%, unspecified 1.6% (2006 census)
Population Growth Rate: 1.112% (2012 est.)
Birthrate: 15.81 births/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Death Rate: 6.38 deaths/1,000 population (July 2012 est.)
Net Migration Rate: 1.69 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2012 est.)
Life Expectancy at Birth: 80.32 years (2012 est.)
Total Fertility Rate: 2.01 children born/woman (2012 est.)
Languages: English (official, the language generally used), Irish (Gaelic or Gaeilge) (official, spoken mainly in areas along the western coast)
Literacy (age 15 and over can read and write): 99% (2003 est.)
Urbanization: 62% of total population (2010) growing at an annual rate of change of 1.8% (2010-15 est.)
The earliest inhabitants--people of a mid-Stone Age culture--arrived about 6000 BC. About 4,000 years later, tribes from southern Europe arrived and established a high Neolithic culture, leaving behind gold ornaments and huge stone monuments. The Bronze Age people, who arrived during the next 1,000 years, produced elaborate gold and bronze ornaments and weapons.
The Iron Age arrived abruptly in the fourth century BC with the invasion of the Celts, a tall, energetic people who had spread across Europe and Great Britain in the preceding centuries. The Celts, or Gaels, and their more numerous predecessors divided into five kingdoms in which, despite constant strife, a rich culture flourished.
The coming of Christianity from across the Irish Sea brought major changes and civilizing influences. Tradition maintains that St. Patrick arrived on the island in AD 432 and, in the years that followed, worked to convert the Irish to Christianity.
The pagan druid tradition collapsed before the spread of the new faith, and Irish scholars excelled in the study of Latin learning and Christian theology in the monasteries that flourished. Missionaries went forth from Ireland to England and the continent, spreading news of the flowering of learning, and scholars from other nations came to Irish monasteries. The excellence and isolation of these monasteries helped preserve Latin and Greek learning during the Dark Ages. The arts of manuscript illumination, metalworking, and sculpture flourished and produced such treasures as the Book of Kells, ornate jewelry, and the many carved stone crosses that dot the island.
Two hundred years of Viking invasion and settlement was later followed by a Norman conquest in the 12th century. The Norman conquest resulted in the assimilation of the Norman settlers into Irish society. The early 17th century saw the arrival of Scottish and English Protestants, sent as colonists to the north of Ireland and the Pale around Dublin.
In 1800 the Irish parliament passed the Act of Union with Great Britain, and Ireland was an official part of the United Kingdom until 1921. Religious freedom, outlawed in the 18th century, was restored in 1829, but this victory for the Irish Catholic majority was overshadowed by a severe economic depression and the great famine of 1846-48 when the potato crop failed. Millions died, and millions more emigrated, spawning the first mass wave of Irish emigration to the United States. A decade later, in 1858, the Irish Republican Brotherhood (IRB--also known as the Fenians) was founded as a secret society dedicated to armed rebellion against the British. An above-ground political counterpart, the Home Rule Movement, was created in 1874, advocating constitutional change for independence.
Galvanized by the leadership of Charles Stewart Parnell, the party was able to force British governments after 1885 to introduce several home rule bills. The turn of the century witnessed a surge of interest in Irish nationalism, including the founding of Sinn Fein ("Ourselves Alone") as an open political movement.
Nationalism was and is a potent populist force in Irish politics. A home rule bill was passed in 1914, but its implementation was suspended until war in Europe ended. Believing the mantra: "England's problem is Ireland's opportunity," and tapping into a mood of Gaelic revivalism, Padraic Pearse and James Connolly led the unsuccessful Easter Rising of 1916. Pearse and the other 1916 leaders declared an independent Irish republic, but a lack of popular support doomed the rebellion, which lasted a week and destroyed large portions of Dublin. The decision by the British military government to execute the leaders of the rebellion, coupled with the British Government's threat of conscripting the Irish to fight in the Great War, alienated public opinion and produced massive support for Sinn Fein in the 1918 general election. Under the leadership of Eamon de Valera, the elected Sinn Fein deputies constituted themselves as the first Dail. Tensions only increased: British attempts to smash Sinn Fein ignited the Anglo-Irish War of 1919-1921.
The end of the war brought the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921, which established the Irish Free State of 26 counties within the British Commonwealth and recognized the partition of the island into Ireland and Northern Ireland, although this was supposedly a temporary measure. The six predominantly Protestant counties of northeast Ulster--Northern Ireland--remained a part of the United Kingdom with limited self-government. A significant Irish minority repudiated the treaty settlement because of the continuance of subordinate ties to the British monarch and the partition of the island. This opposition led to further hostilities--a civil war (1922-23), which was won by the pro-treaty forces.
In 1932, New York-born Eamon de Valera, the political leader of the forces initially opposed to the treaty, became Prime Minister, and a new Irish constitution was enacted in 1937. The last British military bases were soon withdrawn, and the ports were returned to Irish control. Ireland was neutral in World War II. The government formally declared Ireland a republic in 1948; however, it does not normally use the term "Republic of Ireland," which tacitly acknowledges the partition, but refers to the country simply as "Ireland."
Government Type: republic, parliamentary democracy
Capital: Dublin 1.084 million (2009)
Administrative divisions: 29 counties and 5 cities:
Note. The six counties in a lighter shade are part of Northern Ireland and the United Kingdom.
|Source: Wikimedia Commons|
Independence Date: 6 December 1921 (from the UK by treaty)
Legal System: accepts compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction; and accepts International criminal court (ICCt) jurisdiction
International Environmental Agreements
The Republic of Ireland is party to international agrements on: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, and Whaling. It signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, and Marine Life Conservation.
Total Renewable Water Resources: 46.8 cu km (2003)
Freshwater Withdrawal: 1.18 cu km/yr (23% domestic, 77% industrial, 0% agricultural)
Per Capita Freshwater Withdrawal: 284 cu m/yr (1994)
Natural Resources: natural gas, peat, copper, lead, zinc, silver, barite, gypsum, limestone, dolomite
Ireland is a small, modern, trade-dependent economy.
Ireland was among the initial group of 12 European Union nations that began circulating the euro on 1 January 2002.
GDP growth averaged 6% in 1995-2007, but economic activity has dropped sharply since the onset of the world financial crisis, with GDP falling by over 3% in 2008, nearly 8% in 2009, and 1% in 2010. Ireland entered into a recession in 2008 for the first time in more than a decade, with the subsequent collapse of its domestic property and construction markets. Property prices rose more rapidly in Ireland in the decade up to 2007 than in any other developed economy. Since their 2007 peak, average house prices have fallen 47%.
In the wake of the collapse of the construction sector and the downturn in consumer spending and business investment, the export sector, dominated by foreign multinationals, has become a key component of Ireland's economy.
Agriculture, once the most important sector, is now dwarfed by industry and services.
In 2008 the Cowen government moved to guarantee all bank deposits, recapitalize the banking system, and establish partly-public venture capital funds in response to the country's economic downturn. In 2009, in continued efforts to stabilize the banking sector, the Irish Government established the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) to acquire problem commercial property and development loans from Irish banks.
Faced with sharply reduced revenues and a burgeoning budget deficit, the Irish Government introduced the first in a series of draconian budgets in 2009. In addition to across-the-board cuts in spending, the 2009 budget included wage reductions for all public servants. These measures were not sufficient. In 2010, the budget deficit reached 32.4% of GDP - the world's largest deficit, as a percentage of GDP - because of additional government support for the banking sector. In late 2010, the Cowen Government agreed to a $112 billion loan package from the EU and IMF to help Dublin further increase the capitalization of its banking sector and avoid defaulting on its sovereign debt.
Since entering office in March 2011, the Kenny government has intensified austerity measures to try to meet the deficit targets under Ireland's EU-IMF program. Ireland achieved moderate growth in 2011 and cut the budget deficit to 10.1% of GDP, although the recovery is expected to slow in 2012 as a result of the euro-zone debt crisis.
GDP: (Purchasing Power Parity): $181.9 billion (2011 est.)
GDP: (Official Exchange Rate): $221.7 billion (2011 est.)
GDP- per capita (PPP): $39,500 (2011 est.)
GDP- composition by sector:
services: 69% (2010 est.)
Agricultural products: beef, dairy products, barley, potatoes, wheat
Industries: pharmaceuticals, chemicals, computer hardware and software, food products, beverages and brewing; medical devices
Currency: Euros (EUR)