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Ireland ( , ; , ) is a country in north-western Europe. The modern sovereign state occupies about five-sixths of the island of Irelandmarker, which was partitioned on 3 May 1921. It is a parliamentary democracy and a republic. It is bordered by Northern Irelandmarker, a part of the United Kingdommarker, to the north east, the Irish Seamarker to the east, St George's Channelmarker to the south-east, the Celtic Seamarker to the south and by the Atlantic Oceanmarker to the west and north. The official name of the state is Ireland, while the description the Republic of Ireland is sometimes used.

The Irish Free State state was established in 1922, as a dominion within the British Commonwealth, and gained increasing sovereignty through the Statute of Westminster and the abdication crisis of 1936.DW Hollis, 2001, The history of Ireland‎, Greenwood: Connecticut

Michael J. Kennedy, 2000, Division and consensus: the politics of cross-border relations in Ireland, 1925-1969, Institute of Public Administration: Dublin

A new constitution was introduced in 1937 that declared an entirely sovereign state and named it simply as Ireland.T Garvin, 1922: the birth of Irish democracy, Gill & Macmillan: Dublin, 2005




John T. Koch, Celtic culture: a historical encyclopedia, ABC-CLIO: Santa Barbara, 2006 In 1949 the last formal link with the UKF Elliott et al, 1959, A dictionary of politics, Penguin: London

Munro et al, 1990, A world record of major conflict areas, St. James Press: Detroit was severed when Ireland became a republic and left the British Commonwealth, having already ceased to participate in that organisation for several years.

During British rule and initial independence Ireland was one of the poorest countries in Western Europe and had high emigration but in contrast to many other states in the period remained financially solvent as a result of low government expenditure. The protectionist economy was opened in the late 1950s and Ireland joined the European Economic 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.

Ranked as the 31st economic power in the world, Ireland today has the sixth highest gross domestic product per capita and the eighth highest per capita considering purchasing power parity, and has the fifth highest Human Development Index rank in the world. 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 sixth on the Global Peace Index. Ireland also has high rankings for its education system, political freedom and civil rights, press freedom (ranked first in 2009) and economic freedom (ranked fourth in 2009); it is also ranked fifth from bottom on the Failed States Index, being one of the most "Sustainable" states in the world. Ireland is a member of the EU, the OECD, and the United Nations.

Name

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 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.

The Republic of Ireland Act 1948 provided a description of the state as "the Republic of Ireland" ( ). The Act was to change Ireland to a republic rather than a form of constitutional monarchy and transferred authority from the king to the elected president. No change of name took place due to that act and in 1989 the Irish Supreme Court rejected an extradition warrant that used the name "Republic of Ireland". Justice Walsh ruled: "if the courts of other countries seeking the assistance of this country are unwilling to give this State its constitutionally correct and internationally recognised name, then in my view, the warrants should be returned to such countries until they have been rectified."

The current sovereign state has been known by a range of other names, all of which are still sometimes used unofficially. The whole island was unilaterally proclaimed an independent republic by rebels in 1916 called the Irish Republic ( ). Following the 1918 general election, that proclamation was ratified by the Irish Deputies of its First Dáil Parliament. Between 1921 and 1922, when the British government legislated to establish 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 ( ). That name was abolished with the adoption of the current Irish constitution. Other colloquial names such as the Free State, Twenty-Six Counties and The South (a name frequently used by people in Northern Irelandmarker) are also often used.

History

The Irish state came into being as the result of Irish partition in 1921 which divided the island of Irelandmarker into Southern Ireland and Northern Irelandmarker. In December 1922, the former seceded from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Irelandmarker to become the Irish Free State while the latter opted to remain within the United Kingdom. In December 1937 the state was renamed Ireland
and on Easter Monday 1949 Ireland left the British Commonwealth to become a republic.

Irish independence from Britain in 1922 was preceded by the 1916 Easter Rising and the War of Independence, 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 by the British, along with nine others, and thousands were interned precipitating the Irish War of Independence.

Early background

From the Act of Union on 1 January 1801 until 6 December 1922, Irelandmarker had been part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Irelandmarker. During the Great Famine from 1845 to 1849 the island's population of over 8 million fell by 30 percent. Under British rule, 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 Act 1898 previously in the hands of landlord dominated grand juries.

Home Rule statute

Home Rule seemed certain when the Parliament Act 1911 abolished the veto of the House of Lordsmarker, 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.

Mounting resistance

Under the leadership of the Dublinmarker-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. After the Home Rule Bill passed parliament in May 1914, to avoid rebellion with Ulster, the British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith introduced an Amending Bill reluctantly conceded to by the Irish Party leadership, providing for the temporary exclusion of Ulster from the workings of the bill for a trial period of six years, with an as 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 in 1914, the implementation of the Third Home Rule Act 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 , 16th , while Unionists joined the 36th 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 Commonsmarker. 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 Kingdommarker. 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 of 1919, but it was not admitted.

Establishment of Irish Free State

After the bitterly fought War of Independence and truce called in July 1921, 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 Londonmarker from 11 October – 6 December 1921. The Irish delegates set up headquarters at Hans Placemarker in Knightsbridgemarker 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.The Second Dáil Éireann narrowly ratified the Treaty for the Irish side.

In accordance with the Treaty, on 6 December 1922 the entire island of Irelandmarker became a self-governing British dominion called the Irish Free State ( ). However, Northern Irelandmarker exercised its right under the Treaty to opt out of the new dominion and rejoined the United Kingdom on 8 December 1922. It did so by making an Address to the King requesting "that the powers of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State shall no longer extend to Northern Ireland.”

The Treaty was not entirely satisfactory to either side. The Irish Free State was a constitutional monarchy over which the British monarch reigned. The Irish Free State had a Governor-General, a bicameral parliament, a cabinet called the "Executive Council" and a prime minister called the President of the Executive Council.

Irish Civil War



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 members of the Free State Parliament would have to swear, what the Anti-Treaty side saw as, an oath of fidelity to the British King. 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 disbanded and joined 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.

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.

1937 Constitution

On 29 December 1937, a new constitution, the Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann), came into force. It replaced the Constitution of the Irish Free State and called the state "Ireland", or, in the Irish language, "Éire". 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 Constitution of Ireland established the office of President of Ireland, between 1937 and 1949 Ireland was not technically a republic. This was because the principal key role possessed by a head of state, that of symbolically representing Ireland internationally remained vested under statutory law, in the British King as an organ of the Irish government. The King's title in the Irish Free State was exactly the same as it was elsewhere in the British Empire, being:

  • From 1922 to 1927 – By the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India; and


  • 1927–1937 – By the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India.


Ireland remained neutral during World War II, a period it described as The Emergency. The position of King 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. The Act declared that the state could be described as a republic. Later, the Crown of Ireland Act was formally repealed in Ireland by the Statute Law Revision (Pre-Union Irish Statutes) Act, 1962.

Ireland was technically a member of the 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 (this rule was changed 10 days after Ireland declared itself a republic, with the London Declaration of 28 April 1949). 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.

Economic opening

Irish population during the twentieth century


From the 1920s Ireland had high trade barriers such as high tariffs, particularly during the Economic War with Britain in the 1930s, 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 Economic 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.

Recent history

By the 1980s, underlying economic problems became 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 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 utilised 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. Intelmarker invested in 1989 and was followed by a number of technology companies such as Microsoft and Google, who found Ireland a good investment location. A consensus exists among all government parties about the sustained economic growth.

In less than a decade, the GDP per capita in the OECD prosperity ranking rose from 21st in 1993 to 4th in 2002. Between 1985 and 2002, private sector jobs increased 59%.

Governance

Politics



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 (prime minister), is appointed by the president on the nomination of parliament. Most have been the leader of the political party which wins the most seats in the national elections. It has become normal for coalitions to form a government, and there has not been a single-party government since 1989.

The bicameral parliament, the , consists of the President of Ireland, a Senate, , being the upper House, and a House of Representatives, , being the lower House. The is composed of sixty members; eleven nominated by the , six elected by two universities, and 43 elected by public representatives from panels of candidates established on a vocational basis. The has 166 members, , 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 , and the , (deputy prime minister) and Minister for Finance must be members of the . The current government consists of a coalition of two parties; under Brian Cowen and the Green Party under leader John Gormley, along with numerous independents. The last 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 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 Area. 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.

Regions and counties

The Irish state consists of twenty-six traditional counties which are still used in cultural and sporting contexts, and for postal purposes. These are, however, no longer always coterminous with administrative divisions. Several traditional counties have been restructured into new administrative divisions. County Dublinmarker was divided into three separate administrative counties in the 1990s and County Tipperarymarker was divided into two in the 1890s. This gives a present-day total of twenty-nine administrative counties and five cities. The five cities—Dublinmarker, Corkmarker, Limerickmarker, Galwaymarker, and Waterfordmarker—are administered separately from the remainder of their respective counties. Five boroughs—Clonmelmarker, Droghedamarker, Kilkennymarker, Sligomarker and Wexfordmarker—have a level of autonomy within the county. While Kilkenny is a borough, it is has retained the legal right to be referred to as a city.

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.

The counties are grouped into eight regions for statistical purposes.

Counties numbered in the Republic of Ireland.
Republic of Ireland
  1. Dublinmarker

    Dublin Citymarker

    Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

    Fingal

    South Dublin
  2. Wicklowmarker
  3. Wexfordmarker

    Wexford Townmarker (Borough)
  4. Carlowmarker
  5. Kildaremarker
  6. Meathmarker
  7. Louthmarker

    Drogheda Townmarker (Borough)
  8. Monaghanmarker
  9. Cavanmarker
  10. Longfordmarker
  11. Westmeathmarker
  12. Offalymarker
  13. Laoismarker
  14. Kilkennymarker

    Kilkenny Citymarker (Borough)


    Citizenship

    The Republic of Ireland citizenship laws relate to "the island of Ireland" (including "its islands and seas"), thereby extending them to Northern Irelandmarker, which is part of the United Kingdommarker. Therefore, anyone born in Northern Ireland who meets the requirements for being an Irish citizen, such as birth on the island of Ireland, may exercise an entitlement to Irish citizenship (such as applying for an Irish passport).

    Geography

    Landscape and rivers

    The island of Ireland extends over , of which 83% (approx. five-sixths) belong to the Irish state ( ), while the remainder constitute Northern Ireland. It is bounded to the north and west by the Atlantic Oceanmarker, to the northeast by the North Channelmarker. To the east is found the Irish Seamarker which reconnects to the ocean via the southwest with St George's Channelmarker and the Celtic Seamarker. The west coast of Ireland mostly consists of cliffs, hills and low mountains (the highest point being Carrauntoohilmarker at ). 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. Ireland also has off-shore deposits of oil and gas.

    Chief city conurbations are the capital Dublinmarker (1,045,769) on the east coast, Corkmarker (190,384) in the south, Limerickmarker (90,757) in the mid-west, Galwaymarker (72,729) on the west coast, and Waterfordmarker (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 impacts 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 Parkmarker. 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.

    Climate

    Ireland has a temperate oceanic climate meaning that it is mild with temperatures not much lower than in winter and not much higher than in summer. The Atlantic Oceanmarker is the main force shaping Ireland's weather and there is a warming influence due to the Gulf Stream. It can be quite variable and differs from region to region—for instance the middle and east tend to be more extreme throughout the year, compared to other parts of the country. Sunshine duration is highest in the south-east. Ireland rainfall patterns are highest in the winter and lowest during the early months of summer. Determined by the south-westerly Atlantic winds, geographically the northwest, west and southwest of the country receives the most substantial rainfall.Dublin is the driest part of the Country. The far-north and west of Ireland, for instance Malin Headmarker in Donegalmarker, are two of the windiest areas in Europe with substantial potential for wind energy generation. The highest temperature recorded in Ireland, since weather records began, was on 26 June 1887 at Kilkenny Castlemarker in Kilkennymarker, while the lowest was on 16 January 1881 at Markree Castle, Sligomarker.

    Education

    The education systems are largely under the direction of the government via the Minister for Education and Science. 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 among participating countries in science, being statistically significantly higher than the OECD average.

    Primary, Secondary and Tertiary (University/College) level education are all free in Ireland for all EU citizens.

    Economy



    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 and over the last 40 years a string of significant base metal discoveries have been made, including the giant ore deposit at Tara Minemarker. Zinc-lead ores are also currently exploited from two other underground operations in Lisheenmarker and Galmoymarker. Ireland now ranks as the seventh largest producer of zinc concentrates in the world, and the twelfth largest producer of lead concentrates. The combined output from these mines, three of Europe’s most modern and developed mines, make Ireland the largest zinc producer in Europe and the second largest producer of lead.

    Subsidiaries of USmarker multinationals have located in Ireland due to low taxation. Ireland is the world's most profitable country for US corporations, according to analysis by US tax journal Tax Notes

    The country is one of the largest exporters of software-related goods and services in the world.

    Bord Gáis was established under the Gas Act, and charged with the responsibility for the supply, transmission and distribution of natural gas which was first brought ashore in 1976 from the Kinsale Head Gas Field. New sources of supply are expected to come on stream after 2009/10, including the Corrib gas field and potentially the Shannon Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) terminal. Added to gas supplies, energy exports have the potential to transform Ireland's economy.

    As well as exports the economy also benefits from the accompanying rise in consumer spending, construction, and business investment.

    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.

    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 Dublinmarker, where nearly 30% of Ireland's population lives, are considerably higher than elsewhere in the country, especially in the property market (but property prices are falling rapidly following the recent downturn in the World economy and its knock-on effects on Ireland). At the end of July 2008, the annual rate of inflation was running at 4.4% (as measured by the CPI) or 3.6% (as measured by the HICP) and inflation actually dropped slightly from the previous month.

    In terms of GDP per capita, Ireland is ranked as one of the wealthiest countries in the OECD and the EU-27 at 4th in the OECD-28 rankings. In terms of GNP per capita, a better measure of national income, Ireland ranks below the OECD average, despite significant growth in recent years, at 10th in the OECD-28 rankings. GDP (national output) is significantly greater than GNP (national income) due to the repatriation of profits and royalty payments by multinational firms based in Ireland. 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.Despite several successive years of economic growth and significant improvements since 2000, Ireland's population is marginally more at risk of poverty that the EU-15 average. 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 beginning to stabilise, after rising every year during the economic boom. It is now said the Irish economy is rebalancing itself. During the boom, Ireland had developed a reputation as one of the most expensive countries in Europe. The Irish Economy contracted by -1.7% in 2008, down from 4.7% growth in 2007, in 2009 it is predicted by both the Irish government and the ESRI that the economy could contract by over 9% which would be one of the highest economic contractions of any western economy since World War 2. The huge reduction in construction has caused Ireland's massive economic downturn, the construction crash and the Global recession has hit Ireland very hard. The ESRI has recently predicted that the Irish economy will not recover until 2011 where growth could return to 5% per year until 2015. Ireland now has the second-highest level of household debt in the world, at 190% of household income.

    Ireland is currently (2008) ranked as the world's third most economically free economy in an index created by the Wall Street Journal and Heritage Foundation, the Index of Economic Freedom.

    The Financial Crisis of 2008 is currently affecting the Irish economy severely, compounding domestic economic problems related to the collapse of the Irish property bubble.Ireland was the first country in the EU to officially enter a recession as declared by the Central Statistics Office. Ireland was stripped of its AAA credit ranking and downgraded to AA+ by Standard & Poor's ratings agency, due to Ireland`s bleak financial outlook and heavy government debt burden.

    Currency

    Before the introduction of the euro notes and coins in January 2002, Ireland used the Irish pound or punt. In January 1999 Ireland was one of eleven European Union member states which launched the European Single Currency, the euro. Euro banknotes are issued in €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200 and €500 denominations and share the common design used across Europe, however like other countries in the eurozone, Ireland has its own unique design on one face of euro coins. The government decided on a single national design for all Irish coin denominations, which show a Celtic harp, a traditional symbol of Ireland, decorated with the year of issue and the word Éire.

    Military

    Ireland's military are organised as the Irish Defence Forces ( ). The Irish Army is relatively small when compared with other 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, Irish Naval Service 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.

    Ireland'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 Airportmarker; 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.

    Demographics

    International rankings
    Indicator Rank Measure
    Economy
    GDP per capita 8/7th $44,087
    GNP 7th $41,140
    Unemployment rate (2009) 28th 11%
    CO2 emissions 30th 10.3 t
    Electricity consumption 61st 22.79 GWh
    Economic Freedom 3rd 1.58
    Politics
    Human Development Index 5th 0.959
    Political freedom 1st* 1
    Press freedom 4th* 2.00
    Corruption corruption.) ↓17th 7.5
    Global Peace Index 4th 1.396
    Democracy Index 11th 9.01
    Failed States Index ↓ 4th 19.5
    Society
    Literacy rate 18th* 99.0%
    Quality-of-life index 1st 8.333 (out of 10)
    Broadband penetration 25.9%
    Mobile phone penetration 121.5%
    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
    Health
    Life expectancy 78.4
    Birth rate 15.2
    Fertility rate 133rd 1.96††
    Infant mortality 172th 4.9‡‡
    Death rate 6.5
    Suicide rate 48th ♂ 16.3†‡

    ♀ 3.2†‡
    HIV/AIDS rate 123rd 0.10%
    Notes
    ↓ 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 Iberiamarker 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 majority of the genetic heritage of Irish people. 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.

    Languages

    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 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. Dinglemarker 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 Uí Chúis. 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. RTÉ 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%. However, one will very rarely ever hear the Irish language being spoken casually outside of Gaeltacht regions.

    The Polish language is one of the most widely spoken languages in Ireland after English: there are over 63,000 Poles resident in Ireland according to the 2006 census. Eastern European languages such as Polish, can be heard spoken on a day-to-day basis across Ireland. Other languages spoken in Ireland include Shelta, spoken by the Irish Traveller population and a dialect of Scots is spoken by some descendants 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.
    Foreign-national groups with populations in Ireland of 10,000 or more in 2006.
    Non-European Union nationals are shown exploded.
    The CSO has published preliminary findings based on the 2006 Census of Population. These indicate:
    • The total population of Ireland on Census Day, 23 April 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 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 Kingdommarker (112,548) followed by Poland (63,267), Lithuaniamarker (24,628), Nigeriamarker (16,300), Latviamarker (13,319), the United Statesmarker (12,475), Chinamarker (11,161), and Germanymarker (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 ConnachtUlster 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 Cavanmarker, Leitrimmarker, and Roscommonmarker while there are more females in cities and urban areas.


    A more detailed breakdown of these figures is available online.

    Detailed statistics into the population of Ireland since 1841 are available at Irish Population Analysis.

    Religion



    Christianity is the primary religion in the Republic of Ireland. Irish Christianity is dominated by the Roman Catholic Church. Historically, prior to the arrival of Christianity, Celtic polytheism was the dominant religion of the nation.

    Ireland's constitution states that the state may not endow any particular religion, and also guarantees freedom of religion. Approximately 86.8% of the population identify themselves as Roman Catholic and are from a Roman Catholic background. According to a Georgetown Universitymarker study, the country also has one of the highest rates of regular and weekly Mass attendance in the Western World. However, according to this source, there has been a major decline in this attendance 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 major 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 2006 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. Between 2002 and 2006 there was a 69% increase in the number of Muslims living in Ireland, which makes Islam the fastest growing and the third largest religion in the country. 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 (the island) are Saint Patrick, Saint Bridget and Saint Columba. However, Saint Patrick is the only one of the three who is commonly recognised as the patron saint. Saint Patrick's Day, March 17, is celebrated in Ireland and abroad as the Irish national day, with parades and other celebrations.

    According to the 2006 census, the number of people who described themselves as having "no religion" was 186,318 (4.4%), although this fails to differentiate between non-religious people and pagans/spiritual people who simply reject formal Christian dogma. 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

    Originally, 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, 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.

    Religion and education

    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.Among many examples:

    John Daniszewski, 17 April, 2005, Catholicism Losing Ground in Ireland, LA Times

    Irish poll shows parents no longer want to force religion on to children from secularism.org.uk

    Phil Lawler, 17 September 2007, Ireland threatened by secularism, Pope tells new envoy, Catholic World News 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; it is not compulsory and deals with aspects of different religions, not focusing on one particular religion.

    Schools run by religious organisations, but receiving public money and recognition, are not allowed to discriminate against pupils based upon religion (or lack of). A sanctioned system of preference does exist, where students of a particular religion may be accepted before those who do not share the ethos of the school, in a case where a school's quota has already been reached.

    Social issues

    Reflected in the policies of successive governments, Ireland is now predominantly progressive in relation to social issues. Though a conservative basis still remains in relation to some issues, there has been a "liberalisation" in some areas in recent decades. The most notably affected areas include changes relating to the legal status of divorce, contraception, gay rights and abortion in Ireland.

    For example, while Catholic and Protestant attitudes in 1937 disapproved of divorce – and it was prohibited by the original Constitution – this was repealed in 1995 under the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution. With abortion, the 1983 Eighth Amendment to the Constitution 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 subsequently 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.

    Ireland also historically favoured conservative legislation regarding sexuality. For example, contraception was illegal in Ireland until 1979. Similarly, the legislation which outlawed homosexual acts was not repealed until 1993 – although even before this it was generally only enforced when dealing with under-age sex. Ireland has since taken steps to change its policies relating to these issues; for instance, discrimination based on sexual orientation is illegal, and same-sex civil partnerships legislation was published in June 2008 (though not yet enshrined in law). 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. A later Irish Times poll put support for same-sex marriage at 63%, up a further 5%.

    On many issues, Ireland has become very progressive. For instance, in 2002, Ireland became the first country to have an environmental levy for all plastic shopping bags; while in 2004 the country became the first in the world to ban smoking in all workplaces. The country was also the first in Europe to ban incandescent lightbulbs in 2008. The death penalty is constitutionally banned in Ireland, and the country was one of the main nations involved in the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which was formally endorsed in Dublinmarker. Ireland became the first country in the European Union (and third in the world, after Canadamarker and Icelandmarker) to ban in-store tobacco advertising and displays of tobacco products on 1 July, 2009. Ireland ranks eighth in the world in terms of gender equality.

    Culture

    Architecture

    Some architectural features in Ireland date back to the prehistoric period, including standing stones and tombs. The best known example is the World Heritage Site, Brú na Bóinnemarker (Palace of the Boyne), as well as the Poulnabrone dolmenmarker, Castlestrange stone, Turoe stone and Drombeg circlemarker. Due to the Roman Empire never conquering the island, ancient architecture of Greco-Roman origin is extremely rare, though Drumanagh is a possible example. Ireland instead had an extended, though developing, period of Iron Age architecture. The Irish round tower acting as a belfry is a building style originating from the island during the Early Medieval period. With the introduction of Christianity many fairly simple, monastic houses constructed from stone were built—Clonmacnoisemarker, Skellig Michaelmarker and Scattery Island are well known examples. Some academics have remarked a stylistic similarity between these early double monastery buildings and those of the Copts in Egyptmarker. Gaelic kings and aristocracy lived in ringforts on top of hills or crannógs on lakes. After Viking invasions the first significantly built up urban areas were created, Viking longphorts located on the coast were founded such as Dublinmarker, Corkmarker, Waterfordmarker, Wexfordmarker and Limerickmarker. 12th century Church reforms and the Cistercians stimulated continental influence as abbeys; Mellifontmarker, Boylemarker and Tinternmarker were built in a Romanesque style. With the invasion of the Normans in parts of the island, various castles were built, such as Dublin Castlemarker, Kilkenny Castlemarker and Ashford Castlemarker.
    Gothic cathedrals with high-pointed arches and clustered columns such as St Patrick'smarker were also introduced by the Normans. Franciscans were dominant in directing the abbeys by the Late Middle Ages, while elegant tower houses were built by the Gaelic and Norman aristocracy—Bunratty Castlemarker is perhaps the best preserved. After the Tudor conquest many religious buildings were ruined with the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Following the Restoration, palladianism and rococo, particularly country houses, swept through Ireland under the initiative of Edward Lovett Pearce—the Irish Parliament Housemarker being the most significant. With the erection of buildings such as the Custom Housemarker, Four Courtsmarker, General Post Officemarker and King's Innsmarker, the neoclassical and Georgian styles flourished, especially in the capital Dublin. Following Catholic Emancipation cathedrals and churches, such as St Colman'smarker and St Finbarre'smarker, influenced by the French Gothic Revival sprung up. Ireland has long been associated with thatched roof cottages, though these are nowadays considered quaint. In many Irish towns, colourfully painted shop fronts are to be found, sometimes extended to houses. Since the 20th century, starting with the American designed art deco church at Turner's Crossmarker in 1927, various modernist forms have been created. The best known examples include Busárasmarker and the Spire of Dublinmarker, sometimes proving controversial in public reception. Some more traditional projects are still undertaken, such as Galway Cathedralmarker in 1958.

    Literature

    James Joyce published his most famous work Ulysses, an interpretation of the Odyssey set in Dublinmarker, in 1922. Edith Somerville continued writing after the death of her partner Martin Ross in 1915. Dublin's Annie M. P. Smithson was one of several authors catering for fans of romantic fiction in the 1920s and 1930s. After the war popular novels were published by, among others, Brian O'Nolan, who published as Flann O'Brien, Elizabeth Bowen, Kate O'Brien. In the last few decades of the 20th century Edna O'Brien, John McGahern, Maeve Binchy, Joseph O'Connor, Roddy Doyle, Colm Tóibín and John Banville came to the fore as novelists.

    Patricia Lynch (1898–1972) was a prolific children's author, while recently Eoin Colfer has been particularly successful in this genre.

    In the genre of the short story, a form favoured by Irish writers, Seán Ó Faoláin, Frank O'Connor and William Trevor are prominent.

    Poets include W.B. Yeats, Patrick Kavanagh, Seamus Heaney (Nobel Literature laureate), Thomas McCarthy and Dermot Bolger.

    Prominent writers in the Irish language are Pádraic Ó Conaire, Máirtín Ó Cadhain, Séamus Ó Grianna and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill.

    Theatre

    Following in the tradition of Shaw, Wilde and Samuel Beckett, playwrights such as Seán O'Casey, Brian Friel, Sebastian Barry, Brendan Behan, Conor McPherson and Billy Roche have gained popular success.

    Visual arts

    Prominent artists include Jack Butler Yeats, Louis le Brocquy, Anne Madden, Robert Ballagh, James Coleman, Dorothy Cross and John Gerrard.

    Music



    Ireland is known for its traditional music and song, in origin going back hundreds of years but still played throughout the country. Among the best-known modern performers are groups such as The Chieftains, Clannad and Altan, singers such as Christy Moore and Mary Black, ensembles such as Anúna and Celtic Woman and cross-over artists such as singers Enya and Sinéad O'Connor. Built upon this tradition is the dance company Riverdance.

    Ireland has produced internationally influential artists in other musical genres such as rock, pop, jazz and blues including The Pogues, U2, Boyzone, Westlife, Chris de Burgh, Thin Lizzy, The Corrs, The Cranberries, Blues guitarist Rory Gallagher and Academy Award winner Glen Hansard of The Frames. Contemporary artists include the highly popular rock band The Script, as well as The Coronas and The Blizzards.

    There are a number of classical music ensembles around the country, such as the RTÉ Performing Groups, and opera lovers are catered for by three organizations, Opera Ireland, which produces large-scale operas in Dublin, Opera Theatre Company, which is also based in Dublin, and tours its chamber-style operas throughout the Republic and Northern Ireland, and the third being the annual Wexford Opera Festival which during late October-early November promotes lesser-known operas and is located in the southern city of Wexford.

    Cinema

    The flourishing Irish film industry, state-supported by Bord Scannán na hÉireann, helped launch 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.

    Maureen O'Sullivan is considered by many to be Ireland's first film star. Other Irish actors who have made it to Hollywood include Maureen O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole, Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan, Gabriel Byrne, Brendan Gleeson, Daniel Day Lewis (by citizenship), Colm Meaney, Colin Farrell, Brenda Fricker, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Stuart Townsend, Michael Gambon, and Cillian Murphy.

    Sport

    Ireland's national sports are Gaelic football and hurling, which are organised on an all-Ireland basis. Hurling, arguably the world's fastest field team sport in terms of game play is, along with Gaelic football, administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association; as is Handball. Notable former Gaelic Athletic Association players include the now retired pair of DJ Carey and Seamus Moynihan. 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's national soccer league is the FAI League of Ireland but most internationals and well-known players play in the English Premier League and Scottish Premier League. Notable Irish internationals include former players Roy Keane, Johnny Giles, Liam Brady, Denis Irwin, Packie Bonner, Niall Quinn and Paul McGrath, and current players Steve Finnan, Shay Given, Damien Duff, John O'Shea, Aiden McGeady and Robbie Keane.

    In rugby, the all-Ireland national team has produced world class players such as Brian O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara, Paul O'Connell and Keith Wood and most recent achievements include winning the RBS Six Nations and Grand Slam 2009. 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 national cricket team represents all-Ireland. The team is an associate member of the International Cricket Council with One Day International status. 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 is current WBA Super Bantamweight champion. Michael Carruth is also an Olympic gold medallist having won at welterweight at the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992. 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. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing in Chinamarker, the Irish team won 3 medals, with Kenneth Egan winning silver and Darren Sutherland and Paddy Barnes earning bronzes. Boxing has proven a successful sport for Ireland in the Olympics and also at professional level.

    In motor sport, 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. In clay pigeon shooting Derek Burnett, David Malone and Philip Murphy are notable for their silver and gold medals in ISSF World Cup competitions, as well as Malones single gold medal in a world cup. Malone and Burnett are also notable for their appearances in the Summer Olympics, with Malone competing in Sydney in 2000, and Burnett competing in Sydney, Athens and Beijing, from 2000 to 2008. In golf, the 2008 USPGA champion was Irishman Pádraig Harrington. In 2002, Dermott Lennon became the first Irish rider to win a Show Jumping World Championship gold medal.

    By attendance figures Gaelic football and hurling are by far the most popular sports in Ireland, 34% of total attendances at sports events being to football and 24% to hurling. while golf and soccer (including 5-a-side) are the most played at 17% of the population each.

    Transport

    Luas


    The state has four main international airports (Dublinmarker, Shannonmarker, Knockmarker and Corkmarker) 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 Londonmarker and Dublinmarker is the busiest international air route in Europe, with 4.5 million people flying between the two cities in 2006.

    Railway services are provided by Iarnród Éireann. Dublin is the centre of the network, with two main stations (Heustonmarker and Connollymarker) linking to the main towns and cities. The Enterprise service, run jointly with Northern Ireland Railways, connects Dublin with Belfastmarker. 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 national routes (national primary roads and national secondary roads) are managed by the National Roads Authority. The rest of the roads (regional roads and local roads) are managed by the local authorities in each of their areas.

    Ireland still has a canal network, however this is mainly used for leisure boating rather than freight.

    Regular ferry services operate between Ireland and Great Britainmarker, the Isle of Manmarker and Francemarker.

    See also



    Sources

    Footnotes

    Bibliography



    Further reading

    • (the 1937 constitution) ( )
    • The Irish Free State Constitution Act, 1922
    • J. Anthony Foley and Stephen Lalor (ed), Gill & Macmillan Annotated Constitution of Ireland (Gill & Macmillan, 1995) (ISBN 0-7171-2276-X)
    • FSL Lyons, Ireland Since the Famine
    • Alan J. Ward, The Irish Constitutional Tradition: Responsible Government and Modern Ireland 1782–1992 (Irish Academic Press, 1994) (ISBN 0-7165-2528-3)


    External links

    Government
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