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Ireland (Irish Éire), country in northwestern Europe occupying most of the

island of Ireland, the second largest of the British Isles. The Republic of

Ireland lies to the west of Great Britain, the largest island in the

archipelago. It is separated from Great Britain to the east by the North

Channel and the Irish Sea, and to the southeast by Saint George’s Channel.

The western and southern shores of Ireland meet the North Atlantic Ocean.

Ireland’s only land border is with Northern Ireland, a province of the

United KKingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, to the northeast. The

Irish Republic has an area of 70,273 sq km (27,133 sq mi). The capital and

largest city is Dublin.

Ireland’s vivid green landscapes have earned it the title Emerald Isle.

Traditionally, most Irish people made their living farming the land. Since

the 1950s, energetic industrialization policies have promoted

manufacturing, which, along with services, now dominates Ireland’s economy.

In 1973 Ireland was admitted into the European Community (EC), and it is

now a member of the European Union (EU). Since tthe 1960s Ireland has

undergone a period of vigorous economic growth and rapid social change.

|2| |Climate|

Ireland has a maritime temperate climate with little seasonal or regional

variation due to the moderating influence of the Gulf Stream, which brings

warm, moist winds from the Atlantic Ocean. The aaverage winter temperature

ranges from 4° to 7°C (40° to 45°F), approximately 14 Celsius degrees (25

Fahrenheit degrees) higher than that of most other places in the same

latitude in the interior of Europe or on the eastern coast of North

America. The oceanic influence is also pronounced in the summer; the

average summer temperature of Ireland ranges from 15° to 17°C (59° to

62°F), or about 4 Celsius degrees (7 Fahrenheit degrees) lower than that of

most other places in the same latitudes. Rainfall averages 1,000 mm (40 in)

annually, although regional variation is significant, with more than twice

as much rain falling in the west as in the east. The sunniest part of the

country is the southeast.

life does not differ markedly from that of England or France. OOver many

centuries of human settlement almost all of Ireland’s natural woodlands

were cleared, and indigenous animals such as bear, wolf, wildcat, beaver,

wild cattle, and the giant Irish deer (a type of fallow deer) gradually

disappeared. However, the hardy and versatile Connemara pony, Ireland’s

only native pony breed, has been used by Irish farmers since prehistoric

times. The great auk, or garefowl, was exterminated in the 19th century.

Small rodents living in forested areas and fields remain numerous across

Ireland, as do numerous species of shore and field birds, including mmany

types of gull. Birds of prey are rare. Ireland has no snakes; in fact, the

only reptile found in Ireland is a species of lizard. Sedges, rushes,

ferns, and grasses provide the dominant plant cover.


Ireland’s population descends from a variety of ethnic groups and reflects

intermixing over millennia by successive waves of immigrants. Ireland’s

population is predominantly of Celtic origin (Celts), but ancient tribes

had inhabited Ireland for thousands of years when Celtic peoples settled

the island in the 4th century bc. Over the centuries Ireland absorbed

significant numbers of Vikings, Normans, and English. More recently,

Ireland’s membership in the European Union (EU) has increased the number of

citizens of other European countries living in Ireland, and small

communities of ethnic Chinese and Indian people also have been established.

Since 1996 Ireland has received small numbers of refugees and asylum

seekers from eastern Europe, Africa, and Asia. Ireland also has a small

indigenous minority known as Travellers. Numbering approximately 25,000,

Travellers move and camp across the Irish countryside in small groups or

cluster in enclaves within cities.

|A| |Population Characteristics |

The population of the Irish Republic in 2004 was estimated at 3,969,558,

giving the country an overall population density of 58 persons per sq km

(149 per sq mi). Some 60 percent of the population lived in urban areas iin

2002. The urban share of the population has increased with each successive

census since 1926; the urban population exceeded the rural population for

the first time in 1971.

Ireland’s economic growth in recent decades has reversed a long historical

trend of emigration. For more than a century after the Great Potato Famine

of the 1840s, Ireland’s population steadily declined, despite the nation’s

relatively high birth rate. This continuous decline resulted from mass

emigration, initially to escape the famine and later to seek employment and

better lives, mainly in the United States and in the industrialized cities

of the United Kingdom. In the 1960s and 1970s emigration fell sharply and

no longer offset the natural increase. By the 1980s Ireland’s population

was growing at an annual rate of about 0.5 percent, and in the 1990s

immigration began to exceed emigration by a small margin. In 2002 Ireland’s

population grew at an annual rate of 1.16 percent, one of the highest rates

in western Europe.

|B| |Political |

| | |Divisions |

The island of Ireland is traditionally divided into the four provinces of

Leinster, Munster, Connacht, and Ulster. Most of Ulster is now part of

Northern Ireland.

For administrative purposes, the Irish Republic is divided into 26

counties. They are the counties of Carlow, Dublin, Kildare, Kilkenny,

Laois, Longford, Louth, Meath, Offaly, Westmeath, Wexford, and Wicklow, in

Leinster Province; Clare, Cork, KKerry, Limerick, Tipperary, and Waterford,

in Munster Province; Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon, and Sligo, in

Connacht Province; and Cavan, Donegal, and Monaghan, in Ulster Province.

Each county is governed by at least one county council. Two counties are

divided into subsections administered by separate county councils, giving

the Irish Republic a total of 29 county councils. Tipperary county has two

councils, North and South Tipperary. Dublin county has three councils,

Dublin-Belgard, Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown, and Dublin-Fingal.

In addition to the county councils, there are five borough councils, five

city councils, and 75 town councils. The borough councils are Clonmel,

Drogheda, Kilkenny, Sligo, and Wexford. The city councils are Cork, Dublin,

Galway, Limerick, and Waterford.

|C| |Principal |

| | |Cities |

The capital and largest city is Dublin, with a population (2002) of

495,781. Dublin is the commercial and industrial center of Ireland and the

country’s principal port. Cork is the second largest city and a major port,

with a population of 123,062. Other major cities and towns include Limerick

(54,023), Galway (65,832), and Waterford (44,594).

|D| |Way of Life|

Ireland, for centuries a predominantly rural, agricultural society, changed

dramatically with economic development after World War II (1939-1945). The

emergence of diversified manufacturing and service sectors has made the

country more urbanized and middle class. Consumption of consumer goods has

expanded rapidly, and material comforts—including automobiles, cellular

telephones and other electronic goods, and fashionable clothing—have


important symbols of social status.

In cities and towns, most Irish people live in houses, although apartments

are growing in popularity as urban densities increase. In the countryside,

traditional farmhouses constructed of stone or dried peat and covered with

thatched roofs have been largely replaced by modern dwellings. Today, most

homes are made from concrete, brick, or mortared stone and have tile roofs.

In rural areas peat is still cut and dried for use as fuel for cooking and


Ireland is a strongly Roman Catholic country by tradition. However, the

late 20th and early 21st ccenturies were marked by increasing secularization

in Irish society. Many Irish have questioned, and even rejected, the role

of the Roman Catholic Church as the chief arbiter of social and family

values. At the same time, women have energetically challenged the country’s

traditional patriarchal social values. Despite these changes, political

life in Ireland is still largely dominated by men, and women typically earn

far less than their male counterparts. Ireland’s abortion laws are among

the strictest in Europe.

The Irish tend to eat simple, hearty fare. Ireland’s rich pastures produce

high-quality beef and llamb, and the country is renowned for its butter,

cream, and cheeses. Potatoes grow well in Ireland’s cool, damp climate and

are a national food staple. They may be roasted, boiled, or baked, and

eaten alone or served in famous dishes such as IIrish stew or colcannon (a

dish made from mashed potatoes, cabbage, and onions). The Irish are famous

for their many varieties of breads, including soda bread and potato bread.

Oysters and other shellfish are popular, and smoked salmon is considered an

Irish specialty. Many Irish enjoy socializing in local pubs, where people

gather to talk with friends, relax, listen to music, and have a drink. Beer

is much beloved in Ireland, especially the dark stout varieties. Renowned

local stouts include Guinness, Beamish, and Murphy’s. Irish whiskey is also

a popular alcoholic beverage.

The national sports are hurling, a strenuous game similar to field hockey,

and Gaelic football, which resembles soccer. Soccer has become more popular

in recent years, partly because of television coverage of matches in the

United Kingdom, and also due to the relative ssuccess of the Irish

Republic’s national team in European and World Cup soccer competitions.

Horse racing is a highly popular spectator sport, and Irish breeders have

produced some of the world’s finest thoroughbreds. Professional cycling, a

difficult endurance sport, also draws a wide following. Saint Patrick’s Day

(March 17), which honors the patron saint of Ireland, is the most important

national holiday.

Customs of Ireland

Gaelic football

Marriage and Family

People usually marry in their early to mid-20s. Most weddings are performed

in a church, but a minority are also pperformed in a registry office. After

marriage, many people in rural areas stay close to their family’s home and

visit frequently. Many couples, particularly in the cities, live together

before or instead of marriage. Typically, the bonds between siblings in an

Irish family are especially strong. In rural areas, extended families often

live near one another, and family members who have moved to Dublin or

overseas in search of work often return for Christmas and other family

celebrations or funerals. Traditionally, women have not worked outside the

home except to help on the family farm, but in Dublin and other cities the

majority of women now have jobs. 34.2 percent (1999)Salary levels for women

still lag behind those of men, but gender discrimination is illegal. The

Irish have elected two consecutive women presidents since 1991.


As an agricultural country, Ireland produces many fresh vegetables. Fresh

dairy products, breads, and seafood are also widely available. Potatoes,

once eaten at every meal, are still regularly served, but the Irish have

embraced other foods such as pasta and rice. Apples, oranges, and pears

have long been integral to the Irish diet, but are now joined by a wider

variety of fruit that have become available since Ireland joined the

European Union (EU). Smoked salmon is considered an Irish specialty, as are

Irish sstew and Irish lamb. Irish breads include soda bread and brack, a

rich, dark loaf containing dried fruit and traditionally served at

Halloween. Tea and coffee are popular drinks in the home, and Dublin is

rapidly developing a café culture. Ireland is also the home of stout, a

rich, black beer brewed by Guinness and Murphy’s.

The traditional cooked breakfast consists of any or all of the following:

bacon, ...

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