Ireland is an island divided into the Republic of Ireland, which covers 26 of the 32 counties of the island, and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom (UK). The island has traditionally been divided into four provinces: Leinster, Ulster, Connaught and Munster. Ireland inherited its mystic culture and language from the Celts, early inhabitants who dominated the island by 500 BC. The country's climate is mild, with an average temperature of around 10 °C.
The Irish language is commonly known as Irish Gaelic, spoken as a native language in the regions of Connemara, the Aran Islands, on the west coast of County Donegal and in some places in County Kerry. There are also three major distinct dialects in three counties with correspondent names: the Connaught, the Munster and the Ulster dialects. Until the 19th century Irish was the official language in the country, but after the British invasion, Gaelic was forbidden and replaced by English. After the Irish independence large efforts were made to revitalize the traditional language, especially by Irish presidents, who always made their public speeches in Irish. In spite of all the measures taken, spoken Irish is in decline in favour of English.
Most Irish are either of Celtic or English ethnicity. 92% of the Irish are Roman Catholics (Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church). Nonetheless, the number of followers of the Church of Ireland (Anglican Church) increased. Secondary religions are other small Christian denominations and the Muslim and Jewish religions.
The whole of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom from 1801 to 1922. In 1919 an independent Irish parliament (Dáil Éireann) was created to face up against the British government. From about January 1919 until July 1921 a campaign was mounted by the Irish Republican Army to fight the British influence. This action is known as the Anglo-Irish War or the Irish War of Independence. It ended in 1921, followed by the Anglo-Irish Treaty (1921) and the founding of the Irish Free State (1922). As the Anglo-Irish Treaty still bound Ireland to the British Empire, some of those who fought for the Independence, such as MICHAEL COLLINS (1890–1922), started the Irish Civil War (June 1922–April 1923). Although the Irish Free State was supposed to cover the whole island, Northern Ireland chose to remain part of the United Kingdom. On 29 December 1937 a new Constitution called Éire replaced the Irish Free State, but only after 1 April 1949 wathe Éire declared a republic.
Ireland joined the United Nations in 1955 and the European Union in 1973. The resolution of the conflicts between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland was the main issue of the Belfast Agreement (10 April 1998). Today the two governments are still joined in efforts to stop the violence.
The Republic of Ireland is a parliamentary democracy with an elected president as head of state. The governmental system is loosely based on the British model. The Parliament has a lower house known as the Dáil, which has 166 elected members. The upper house is the Senate. Senators are nominated by the Prime Minister or elected by university graduates and councillors from around the country. The President is elected by popular vote for a seven-year term. The two main political parties are Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael and a third is the Labour Party. Fianna Fáil normally wins the greatest number of seats in the general elections.
Aspects of Irish culture that have attained world renown are Irish coffee, Guinness beer, Celtic music, and many famous rock groups or stars, such as U2, The Cranberries, SINÉAD O'CONNOR and The Corrs. English Literature has also had great contributions from Irish writers, such as JAMES JOYCE (1882–1941 [Ulysses; A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man; Finnegans Wake]); OSCAR WILDE (1854–1900 [The Picture of Dorian Gray; The Happy Prince and Other Tales]); the poet W. B. YEATS (1865–1939 [The Isle of Statues]); SAMUEL BECKETT (1906–1989 [Waiting for Godot; Happy Days]) and BRAM STOKER (1847–1912 [Dracula]).
Nowadays the Irish people contribute a great deal to European literary movements and the film scene. One of the most widely read novelists is RODDY DOYLE (The Van). CHRISTOPHER NOLAN (Memento; Insomnia) and NEIL JORDAN (Interview with the Vampire; Michael Collins) are the most famous Irish film directors.
Since 17 March 1737 St. Patrick's Day is the formal national holiday when Ireland celebrates its patron saint, St. Patrick.
|Ireland's total area||84,421 km²|
|Republic of Ireland's area||70,273 km²|
|Capital: Dublin||population: 1,122,600|
|Official languages||Irish, English|
|Currency: Euro||(prior to 1999: Irish punt)|
|Independence day||6 December 1921|
|President||MICHAEL D. HIGGINS|
|National anthem||Amhrán na bhFiann (The Soldier's Song)|
|National flag||tricolour of green, white and orange|
|National symbol||the harp|
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