Ireland -- Geography --
Official Name: Republic of Ireland
Capital City: Dublin
Languages: Irish, English. The official languages are Irish (Gaeilge), the native language, and English. Although learning Irish is not compulsory in education, most schools insist on teaching it to all of their pupils who are not exempt from needing it to qualify for National University of Ireland. English is by far the predominant language spoken throughout the country. People living in predominantly Irish-speaking communities (the Gaeltacht) are limited to the low tens of thousands in isolated pockets largely on the western seaboard. Roads signs are usually bilingual, except in the Gaeltachts, where they are in Irish only. The legal status of placenames has recently been the subject of controversy, with an order made in 2005 under the Official Languages Act (2003) changing the official name of certain locations from English to Irish (e.g. Dingle is now officially named An Daingean). Most public notices are only in English, as is most of the print media. National media in Irish exists on TV and radio.
Official Currency: Euro,
Religions: Catholic, others. The Republic of Ireland is 92% nominally Roman Catholic, but there has been a massive decline in full adherence among Irish Catholics. Between 1996 and 2001, regular Mass attendance, already previously in decline, declined from 60% to 48% (it had been 90%+ in 1973), and all but two of its seminaries have closed.
Population: 3,621,000. The Irish people are mainly of indigenous origin, with the country's only significant minorities having descended from the Vikings and Anglo-Normans. Some of them are also of English, Scottish, and Welsh descent.
Land Area: 68,890 sq km
Landforms: This green land consists of a large central lowland of limestone with a relief of hills and several coastal mountains.
Ireland -- History --
In the first milenium B. C. the teritory of Ireland is populated
by celtic tribes (Britons). In first century a big part of the country is conquered by Rome. In V-VII century Britain
is conquered by North-Germanic tribes Angles, Saxes, Jutes and Frisians, which form several kingdoms here. In 829 a large part
of the country is united in a single state England. In 1066 it is invaded by the Normans. William I Conqueror becomes English king (till 1087). With the creation of the Parliament (1265) England is formed as estate
monarchy. After The Hundred-year war (1337-1453) the English crown loose its lands in France. During the war, in 1381
a revolt of Wot Tylor expells. After the war between the Red and the White Rose (1455-1485) , continuous feudal civil war, the dynasty of Tudores is established (1485-1603) which imposed absolutism.
The Glourious Revolution (1640-1660) strengthens the position of capitalism and establishes burgeois system in the coutry.
The parties of Vigues and Tores appear (later -Liberal and Conservative parties). Since 1707, the official name of the country becomes Ireland of Great Britain. As a result of successful wars of conquest during three centuries (17, 18, and 19) at the end of 19 century Great Britain rules over 1/4 of the teritory of the world (including India, New Zeeland, South Africa etc.) During WW2 it is a part of the anti-fashiste coalition. After WW2, the British colonial empire disintegrates. Great Britain is member of UNO(1945), NATO (1949) and EU (1973).
Ireland -- Economy --
The Republic of Ireland is a small, modern, trade-dependent economy with real GDP growth averaging a robust 10% in 19952000, and 7% in 1995-2004. The nominal GDP of the country is 148,556 millions of Euro in 2004. It means the country is on 30th place by this measure in the world (according to World Bank, July 2005).
The state joined in launching the euro currency system in January 1999 (leaving behind the Irish pound) along with ten other EU nations. The 1995 to 2000 period of high economic growth led many to call the country the Celtic Tiger.
Many economists give credit for Ireland's growth to a low corporate taxation rate (10 to 12.5 percent throughout the late 1990s) and subsidies called transfer payments from the more developed members of the EU like France and Germany that were as high as 7% of GNP. This aid was used to increase investment in the education system (university tuition is free) and physical infrastructure. These investments increased the productive capacity of the Irish economy and made it more attractive to high tech employers. A more sceptical interpretation is that much of the growth was due to the fact that the economy of Ireland had lagged the rest of northwestern Europe for so long that it had become the one of few remaining sources of a relatively large, low-wage labour pool left in Western Europe. Ireland's membership of the European Union since 1973 has helped the country gain access to the huge markets of Europe, in addition to EU subsidies. Ireland's trade had previously been predominantly through the United Kingdom.
The provision of subsidies and investment capital by Irish organisations such as IDA Ireland, successfully attracted a large variety of high profile companies (such as Dell, Intel, Microsoft and Gateway) throughout the 1990s to locate in Ireland. These companies were attracted to Ireland because of its European Union membership, relatively low wages, government grants and low tax rates. In addition, Ireland had a young, well-educated, English-speaking labour force.
The speaking of English gave Irish workers the ability to easily and efficiently communicate with Americans, a factor that was vital in the choice of Ireland for European headquarters, as opposed to other low-wage EU nations such as Portugal and Spain. Another major factor making Irish staff more attractive to multi national employers was the massive growth in worker productivity in Ireland between 1994 and 2003 - which amounted an average 4% increase annually (according to OECD Factbook 2005). As employee wages increased in the late 1990's, the overall cost of employing an Irish worker remained low due to a very low tax wedge of less than 5%. This compares with over 40% in Sweden and over 30% in Germany.
The economy felt the impact of the global economic slowdown in 2001 (see Table 1- the trade surplus indicator) , 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 it is expected to be 5% or higher for 2005. With high growth came high levels of inflation, particularly in the capital city. Prices in Dublin, where nearly 30% of Ireland's population lives, are considerably higher than elsewhere in the country, especially in the booming property market. Ireland has the fourth-highest GDP (based on PPP) per capita (see Table 2- second part) in the world after Luxembourg, Norway, and the United States (according to CSO), but lies 8th in the 2005 UN Human Development Index, which counts GDP per capita as a factor. This indicates that life expectancy (77.36 in 2004) and literacy (98% in 1981), which both place Ireland at about 40th in the world, currently trail behind economic growth. UNICEF figures show Ireland has the 6th highest child poverty rate in the developed world at 16.8%. Agriculture, once the most important sector, is now dwarfed by industry, which accounts for 38% of GDP, about 80% of exports, and employs 28% of the labour force. Although exports remain the primary engine for the state's robust growth, the economy is also benefiting from a rise in consumer spending and recovery in both construction and business investment. In 2004 the consumer spending and the investments have added approximately 2% to the overall GDP in comparison to UK 0,2%, Germany 0,7% which means Irish people have confidence in the future (source: bulletin World Economy- September 2005).
Ireland is currently in a state of boom, boasting the fastest-growing economy in the European Union, which is one of the best-performing in the industrialised world. This can partially be attributed to the injection of billions of pounds worth of European structural funds and the efficient management of the National Debt.
Agriculture, once the most important sector, is now dwarfed by industry and services. Industry accounts for 46 per cent of GDP, about 80 per cent of exports, and 29% of the labor force. Although exports remain the primary engine for Ireland's growth, the economy has also benefited from a rise in consumer spending, construction, and business investment. Per capita GDP is 10 per cent above that of the four big European economies and the second highest in the EU behind Luxembourg. Over the past decade, the Irish Government has implemented a series of national economic programs designed to curb price and wage inflation, reduce government spending, increase labor force skills, and promote foreign investment.
Between 1993 and 1997, the economy grew by an unprecedented 40 per cent, and the trend has continued, albeit it at a slower rate. Growth in 2004 was a healthy 5.1 per cent in real GDP and a record 5.5 per cent in real GNP. In 2004 the GDP of Irelnad was $126.4 billion, 23.8 per cent of which is due to the investment and 34.1 per cent thanks to the net exports.
Ireland's unemployment rate stood at around 4.3 per cent in 2004. However, Ireland still had the second lowest unemployment rate in the EU in 2004 at less than half of the EU 25 average.
The inflation rate stood at 2.2 per cent in 2004. While inflation has steadied, Ireland remains an expensive place to live and rising house prices remain a significant concern.
As one of the first to satisfy the criteria for the introduction of the euro, the country joined the new European single currency on January 1, 1999 and the euro went into use for electronic transfers and for accounting purposes. Euro coins and bills were issued in 2002, at which time the punt or the Irish pound ceased to be legal tender.
Also on January 1, 1999, control over Irish monetary policy, including setting interest rates and regulating the money supply, was transferred from the Central Bank of Ireland to the European Central Bank (ECB) which is responsible for all monetary policies of the European Union.
Ireland -- Culture --
The early history of Irish visual art is generally considered to begin with early carvings found at sites such as Newgrange and is traced through Bronze age artefacts, particularly ornamental gold objects, and the religious carvings and illuminated manuscripts of the medieval period. Newgrange, one of the passage tombs of the Bru na Boinne complex in County Meath, is the most famous of all Irish prehistoric sites. Originally built c. 3200 BC according to the most reliable Carbon 14 dates available, this makes it more than 600 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, and 1,000 years more ancient than the Stonehenge trilithons, (the earliest stages of Stonehenge are roughly contemporary with Newgrange). Although it was built thousands of years ago, it lay lost for centuries until the late 17th century, when men looking for building stone uncovered it, and described it as a cave. It consists of a vast man-made stone and turf mound retained within a circle of huge kerbstones topped by a high inward-leaning wall of white quartz. A long passage, only going in one third of the length of the mound, leads to a cruciform (cross-shaped) chamber. Every year, at the time of the winter solstice approx 9.17am December 21, the sun shines directly along this passage into the chamber for about 15 minutes as it rises. Newgrange appears to have been built as a tomb. The alcoves in the cruciform chamber hold large stone basins into which were placed the bodies of those being laid to rest. The alignment with the sun is too precise to have occurred by chance. It is speculated that the sun formed an important part of the religious beliefs of the New Stone Age people who built it. The kerbstones around the outside of the passage tomb and some of the stones inside are engraved with patterns of spirals and zigzags. Formerly the mound was encircled by an outer ring of immense standing stones, of which there are twelve remaining. Near Newgrange are many other passage tombs, the largest being Knowth and Dowth. These were all built around the same time as Newgrange.
The Book of Kells (less widely known as The Book of Columba) is an ornately illustrated manuscript, produced by Celtic monks around AD 800. It is one of the most lavishly illuminated manuscripts to survive the mediaeval period. It contains the four gospels of the Bible in Latin, along with prefatory and explanatory matter decorated with numerous colourful illustrations and illuminations. Today it is on permanent display at the Trinity College Library in Dublin, Ireland where it is catalogued as MS 58. The name "Book of Kells" is derived from the Abbey of Kells in Kells, County Meath in Ireland, where it was kept for much of the mediaeval period. The Abbey of Kells was founded in the early ninth century, at the time of the Viking invasions, by monks from the monastery at Iona (off the Western coast of Scotland). Iona, which had been a missionary centre for the Columban community, had been founded by St. Columba in the middle of the 6th century. When repeated Viking raids made Iona too dangerous, the majority of the community removed to Kells, which became the centre of the group of communities founded by St. Columba.The date and place of production of the manuscript has been the subject of considerable debate. Traditionally, the book was thought to have been created in the time of Saint Columba (also known as St. Columcille), possibly even be the work of his hands. It is generally accepted that this tradition is false based on palaeographic grounds. (That is to say, the style of script in which the book is written did not develop until well after the life of Columba.) Wherever it was made, the Book of Kells was definitely at Kells by the 12th century and almost certainly by the early 11th century. An entry in the Annals of Ulster for 1006 records that "the great Gospel of Columkille, the chief relic of the Western World, was wickedly stolen during the night from the western sacristy of the great stone church at Cenannas on account of its wrought shrine". (Cenannas was the mediaeval Irish name for Kells.) The manuscript was recovered a few months later - minus its golden and bejewelled cover. If one assumes, as is generally assumed, that this manuscript is the Book of Kells, then the early eleventh century is the earliest date for the location of the manuscript. The Book of Kells remained in Kells until 1654. In that year Cromwell's cavalry was quartered in the church at Kells and the governor of the town sent the book to Dublin for safe keeping. The book was presented to Trinity College in Dublin in 1661 by Henry Jones, who was to become bishop of Meath after the Restoration. Except for short periods of time, when the book has been exhibited elsewhere, the book has remained at Trinity College since the 17th century. It has been displayed to the public in the Old Library at Trinity since the 19th century.
Important sources of Irish history information are Annals of Ulster, Annals of the Four Masters, Annals of Inisfallen, Annals of Connacht, Annals of Clomacnoise and Annals of Lough Ce. The Annals of the Four Masters or the Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland by the Four Masters are a chronicle of medieval Irish history. The entries span the dates between the Deluge in 2242 A.M. and AD 1616, although the earliest entries are believed to date from around AD 550. The annals are mainly a compilation of earlier annals, although there is some original work. They were compiled between 1632 and 1636 in the Franciscan monastery in County Donegal. The entries for the 12th century and before are sourced from medieval monastic annals. The later entries come from from the records of the Irish aristocracy (such as the Annals of Ulster), and the seventeenth century entries are based on personal recollection and observation. The Annals of Inisfallen are a chronicle of the medieval history of Ireland. There are more than 2,500 entries spanning the years between AD 433 and AD 1450, but it is believed to have been written between the 12th and 15th centuries. It was written by the monks of Inisfallen Abbey, on Innisfallen Island on Lough Leane, near Killarney.As well as the chronological entries, the manuscript contains a short, fragmented narrative of the history of pre-Christian Ireland, known as the pre-Patrician section. This section has many elements in common with Lebor Gabala Erenn.
As archaeological evidence from sites such as the Ceide Fields in County Mayo and Lough Gur in County Limerick demonstrates, farming in Ireland is an activity that goes back to the very beginnings of human settlement. In historic times, texts such as the Tain Bo Cuailinge show a society in which cattle represented a primary source of wealth and status. Little of this had changed by the time of the Norman conquest of Ireland in the 12th century. Giraldus Cambrensis portrays a Gaelic society in which cattle farming and transhumance is the norm. Three hundred years later, the society depicted in Edmund Spenser's A View of the Present State of Ireland had changed remarkably little. Even today, when a quarter of the population of the Republic lives in Dublin, the cattle population is of the order of 6.7 million. The total population of humans on the island, north and south, only just approaches this figure.
For a comparatively small country, Ireland has made a disproportionate contribution to world literature in all its branches. The works that are best known outside the country are in English, but Irish Gaelic also has the most significant body of written literature, both ancient and recent, of any Celtic language, in addition to a strong oral tradition of legends and poetry. Poetry in Irish represents the oldest vernacular poetry in Europe, with the earliest examples dating from the 6th century. In more recent times, Ireland has produced four winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature; George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney. Other famous Irish writers are George Berkeley,Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, John Millington Synge, Sean O'Casey, Bram Stoker, Roddy Doyle, Dermot Bolger, Frank McCourt, Edna O'Brien, Joseph O'Connor, John McGahern and Colm Toibin.
Ernest Walton of Trinity College Dublin shared the 1951 Nobel Prize in Physics for "splitting the atom".Walton was born in Dungarvan, County Waterford to a Methodist minister father. He attended day schools in Cookstown and Tyrone before becoming a boarder at Methodist College Belfast (Methody) in 1915 where he excelled at mathematics. He became a fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, in 1934, and was appointed Erasmus Smith's Professor of Natural and Experimental Philosophy in 1946. In 1960 he was elected Senior Fellow.He and John Cockcroft were awarded the 1951 Nobel Prize for work on the transmutation of atomic nuclei by artificially accelerated atomic particles carried out in the Cavendish Laboratory in the University of Cambridge.
Sir William Rowan Hamilton (August 4, 1805 September 2, 1865) was an Irish mathematician, physicist, and astronomer who made important contributions to the development of optics, dynamics, and algebra. His discovery of quaternions is perhaps his best known investigation. Hamilton's work in dynamics was later significant in the development of quantum mechanics, where a fundamental concept called the Hamiltonian bears his name. Hamilton showed immense talent at a very early age, prompting Dr. John Brinkley, astronomer and bishop of Cloyne, to remark in 1823 of Hamilton at the age of eighteen: This young man, I do not say will be, but is, the first mathematician of his age. Hamilton was looking for ways of extending complex numbers (which can be viewed as points on a plane) to higher spatial dimensions. Hamilton could not do so for 3 dimensions, but 4 dimensions produce quaternions. According to the story Hamilton told, on October 16 Hamilton was out walking along the Royal Canal in Dublin with his wife when the solution in the form of the equation
i2 = j2 = k2 = ijk = ?1
suddenly occurred to him; Hamilton then promptly carved this equation into the side of the nearby Broome Bridge (which Hamilton called Brougham Bridge.) Since 1989, the National University of Ireland, Maynooth has organized a pilgrimage, where mathematicians take a walk from Dunsink observatory to the bridge where, unfortunately, no trace of the carving remains, though a stone plaque does commemorate the discovery.
Ireland -- Life style --
Ireland is internationally known for its folk music, which has remained a vibrant tradition throughout the 20th century, when many traditional forms worldwide lost popularity to pop music. In spite of emigration and a well-developed connection to music imported from Britain and the United States, Irish music has kept many of its traditional aspects; indeed, it has itself influenced many forms of music, such as country and roots music in the USA, which in turn have greatly influenced rock music in the 20th century. It has occasionally also been modernised, however, and fused with rock and roll, punk rock and other genres. Some of these fusion artists have attained much mainstream success, at home and abroad.
The most used instruments in the Irish music are: fiddle, flute and whistle, uillean pipes, harp, accordion and concertina, banjo, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, bodhran, harmonica.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the distinction between traditional and rock musicians became blurred, with many individuals regularly crossing over between these styles of playing as a matter of course. This trend can be seen more recently in the work of bands and individuals like U2, Horslips, Clannad, The Cranberries, The Corrs, CEILIRAIN, Van Morrison, Thin Lizzy, Sinead O'Connor, My Bloody Valentine, Rory Gallagher, and The Pogues
A famous folk musician is Shane MacGowan with his band The Pogues and singer Sinead O'Connor. Sinead Marie Bernadette O'Connor (born December 8, 1966) is a critically-acclaimed, Irish pop music singer and songwriter. As well as her music, she is known for her unconventional appearance (she often has her head shaved) and controversial opinions. In 1979, Sinead O'Connor left her mother and went to live with her father and his new wife. However, her shoplifting and truancy caused her to end up in a reform school at age 15, the Grinan Training Centre run by the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity. In some ways, she thrived there, especially in writing and music, but she also chafed under the imposed conformity. On February 10, 1985, O'Connor's mother died in a car accident. O'Connor was devastated despite her strained relationship with her mother. O'Connor's first two albums (1988's The Lion and the Cobra and 1990's I Do Not Want What I Haven't Got) gained considerable attention and mostly positive reviews. She was praised for her unique voice and her original songs. She was also noted for her appearance: her shaved head, angry expression, and sometimes shapeless or unusual clothing. Do Not Want contained her biggest hit single, "Nothing Compares 2 U", a song written by Prince and arranged for her by him. Other successful entertainment exports in the late twentieth century include the rock group U2, Thin Lizzy, Bob Geldof, The Corrs, The Cranberries and the internationally success stage dance show Riverdance.
Pub sessions are now the home for much of Irish traditional music, which takes place at informal gatherings in urban pubs. The first known of these modern pub sessions took place in 1947 in London's Camden Town at a bar called The Devonshire Arms (although some ethnomusicologists believe that Irish immigrants in the United States may have held sessions before this); the practice was only later introduced to Ireland. By the 1960s pubs like O'Donoghues in Dublin were holding their own pub sessions, and the Fleadh Ceoil music festival was sparking increased popular interest in traditional music.
Pub culture, as it is termed, pervades Irish society, across all cultural divides. The term refers to the Irish habit of frequenting public houses (pubs) or bars. Traditional pub culture is concerned with more than just drinking, even though Ireland has a recognised problem with over-consumption of alcohol, with the highest drink consumption in Europe. Per capita alcohol consumption increased by 41% in the period 1989 to 1999. Typically pubs are important meeting places, where people can gather today in the modern Ireland and meet their neighbours and friends in a relaxed atmosphere. Pubs vary widely according to the clientele they serve, and the area they are in. Best known, and loved amongst tourists is the traditional pub, with its traditional Irish music (or "trad music"), tavern-like warmness, and memorabilia filling it. Often such pubs will also serve food, particularly during the day. Many more modern pubs, not necessarily traditional, still emulate these pubs, only perhaps substituting traditional music for a DJ or non-traditional live music.Some larger pubs in cities eschew such trappings entirely, opting for loud music, and focusing more on the consumption of drinks. Such venues are popular "pre-clubbing" locations. "Clubbing" has become a popular phenomenon amongst young people in Ireland. Clubs usually vary in terms of the type of music played, and the target audience.
One of the popular Irish dishes is the Irish breakfast. The traditional Irish breakfast includes at least the following fried items: pork sausages, bacon rashers, egg(s), black pudding, and white pudding, accompanied by tea or coffee and usually toast or traditional brown soda bread (one of the more distinguishing features). Soda bread is a type of quick bread in which yeast has been substituted with baking soda. The ingredients of traditional soda bread are flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. Other ingredients can be added such as raisins. Soda bread dates to approximately 1840, when bicarbonate of soda was introduced to Ireland. Bicarbonate of soda replaced yeast as the leavening agent. The climate of Ireland hindered the growth of hard wheat, which created a flour that rose easily with the assistance of yeast.
Each year a number of festivals take place in Ireland. The Galway Arts Festival takes place in Galway, Ireland every July. It first began in 1978 and since has grown into the biggest arts festival in Ireland. It attracts international artists as well as providing a platform for local and national performers also.The Festival includes parades, street performances and numerous plays, musical concerts and comedy acts. Over the years the Festival has developed a reputation to rival the near-hedonistic atmosphere which envelopes the city of Galway during those weeks. The Fleadh Ceoil (lit. Festival of Music in English) is an Irish music competition run by Comhaltas Ceoltoiri Eireann (CCE).There are various stages to the competition. In England there are regionals, then nationals and then qualifications for the All-Ireland and in Ireland there are counties, provinces then the All-Ireland. One can compete in just about any instrument and there are various age categories. It is considered very competitive. From its beginning, the goal of the Fleadh Cheoil was to establish standards in Irish traditional music through competition. The Fleadh developed as a mainly competitive event, but it also included many concerts, ceilithe, parades, pageants, and street sessions.
Irvinestown (Baile an Irbhinigh in Irish) is a lively small town in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. The town boasts the annual "Lady of The Lake Festival" which is Ireland's lagest cross-community event.
Sport on the island of Ireland is popular and widespread. Throughout the country a wide variety of sports are played, the most popular being Gaelic football, hurling, Rugby union, soccer and field hockey. Gaelic football is the most popular sport in Ireland, attendance at matches in the senior championship in the summer can reach 70,000 or more. The game is played at underage, minor and senior levels. Unlike in soccer, where the biggest crowd drawers are club matches, Gaelic football's biggest drawers are always county matches. All players are amateur (they are not paid to participate) but they often train just as hard and as frequently as professionals in other sports. There is great pride associated with playing for a county team in Ireland. Hurling is a sport native to Ireland. The game is similar to hockey, but is played on a large pitch and is considerably faster. Hurling is especially popular among the young, and most primary and secondary schools have hurling teams. Rugby union is common throughout Ireland, but is especially popular in Munster (County Limerick is known as the home of Irish rugby union), Ulster and south County Dublin. Rugby union is played at club, province and national levels. The Ireland national team is composed of players from both Northern Ireland and the Republic, and the Irish Rugby Football Union governs the sport throughout the island. Association football, or soccer, is one of the most popular sports in Ireland. Despite low match attendance at domestic league games, many people have an passionate interest in the FA Premier League. Soccer is played at all levels, with kids playing it on the street, teenagers playing in local clubs, and even-middle aged men playing it with co-workers on a regular basis. The national body in the Republic is the Football Association of Ireland (FAI) while the national body in Northern Ireland is the Irish Football Association (IFA). Field hockey is quite popular as a participative sport in Ireland. It is played throughout the country, particularly in secondary schools.
The Republic of Ireland, with an area of 70,282 sq km, has a population of 3,917,203 according to the April 2002 census. However, current figures puts the population at over 4 million. Approximately two-thirds of Irish people live in cities or large towns, with 1.2 million living in the wider Dublin area.
Overall, the population is quite young with 37 per cent under the age of 25 and 21 per cent under 14. The population growth rate has been estimated at 1.6 per cent (2002). The birth rate in Ireland has increased by 27 per cent between 1994 and 2002 and now Ireland has one of the most highest birth rates in the EU, running at 14.4 per 1,000 people. The death rate is 7.6 deaths per 1,000 population and net migration rate was estimated in 2002 at 6.8 migrants per 1,000 population. The average life expectancy was estimated in 2002 at 73.0 years for males and 78.5 years for females. All these statistic data speak for a high life standard in the country in the recent years.
The principal causes of death in the same year were diseases of the circulatory system accounting for 42 per cent of the total. 1.3 per cent were caused by motor vehicle traffic accidents and over 20 per cent of all deaths were due to cancer. Cancer is increasingly significant in the Irish mortality rate. In 2002, 21,303 new cases of cancer were recorded and 7,825 people died from cancer.
Some 88 per cent of Irish people described themselves as Roman Catholic in the census of 2002, the most recent figures available. However, Anglican, Methodist, Presbyterian, Jewish and Quaker communities have existed in Ireland for many years, and other religions such as Buddhism, Islam, and Christian Science have developed followings in recent times.
In education the Church co-operates with the State in running schools at both primary and secondary level and clergy often take part in the management of lay schools. Even in healthcare, Church orders have played a very active, though diminishing, role in the running of hospitals and hospices.
As far as the sport is concerned, Gaelic football and hurling are the most popular sports in Ireland. Along with Camogie, Ladies' Gaelic football, handball and rounders, they make up the national sports of Ireland, collectively known as Gaelic Games.
Greyhound racing and horse racing are both popular in Ireland: there are frequent horse race meetings and greyhound stadiums are well attended. The Republic is noted for the breeding and training of race horses and is also a large exporter of racing dogs.
Golf is an extremely popular sport in Ireland and Golfing Tourism is a major industry.
The Irish tradition of folk music and dance is also widely known. In the middle years of the 20th century, as Irish society was attempting to modernise, traditional music tended to fall out of favour, especially in urban areas. During the 1960s, and inspired by the American folk music movement, there was a revival of interest in the Irish tradition. During the 1970s and1980s, the distinction between traditional and rock musicians became blurred, with many individuals regularly crossing over between these styles of playing as a matter of course. This trend can be seen more recently in the work of bands and individuals likeU2, The Cranberries, The Corrs and Van Morrison.
Ireland -- Political system, law and government --
The state is a republic, with a parliamentary system of government. The President of Ireland, who serves as head of state, is elected for a seven-year term and can be re-elected only once. The president is largely a figurehead but can still carry out certain constitutional powers and functions, aided by the Council of State, an advisory body. The Taoiseach (prime minister), is appointed by the president on the nomination of parliament. The Taoiseach is normally the leader of the political party which wins the most seats in the national elections. It has become normal in the Republic for coalitions to form a government, and there has not been a single-party government since the period of 19871989. The bicameral parliament, the Oireachtas, consists of a Senate, Seanad Eireann, and a lower house, Dail Eireann.
The Republic of Ireland has 26 counties, and these are used in political, cultural and sporting contexts. The five cities Dublin, Cork, Galway, Limerick, and Waterford are administered separately from the remainder of their respective counties. Five boroughs Clonmel, Drogheda, Kilkenny, Sligo and Wexford have a level of autonomy within the county:
City of Cork,
City of Dublin,
City of Galway,
City of Kilkenny (Borough),
City of Limerick,
County Meath ,
City of Waterford,
The Irish State the 26 counties - gained independence from Britain following the War of Independence, which began in 1919, and the Treaty, which was signed in 1921. Northern Ireland - comprising of counties Armagh, Down, Antrim, Derry, Fermanagh and Tyrone - is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
The 26 counties of the Irish Free State were designated a Republic by act of the Irish Parliament (Dail Eireann) in 1948. The Republic of Ireland came into being in 1949.
Irish politics has traditionally been dominated by Ireland's opposition to British rule. The divisions created at the time of the Treaty with Britain in 1921 eventually led to a civil war between the pro- and anti-treaty sides.
The two major political parties - Fianna Fail and Fine Gael originate in the anti- and pro-Treaty sides respectively. Indeed, Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Sinn Fein, and even the IRA all flowed from the same spring - that of rising up against British rule in Ireland.
Ireland is a democracy and its parliament is called the Oireachtas. The Oireachtas consists of two houses: Dail Eireann (House of Representatives), and the Seanad (Senate). Members of the two Houses serve five-year terms. The Dail has 166 members, or TDs, who are elected by secret ballot and the Proportional Representation system.
The Seanad has 60 members, who are elected by university graduates and a number of vocational panels. Eleven members of the Seanad are appointed by the Taoiseach.
While the Taoiseach is the head of the government and looks after the day-to-day running of the country, Ireland also has a constitutional President. The President, who is the official head of the State, has little power, but is allowed to dissolve or refuse to dissolve a government if asked by the Taoiseach of the day. The President, elected by popular vote for a seven-year term, is also the head of the Defence Forces.