General information factsheet
+ Geography and climate
+ Government and sovereignty
+ Historical background
Geography and climate
Location: Western Europe, island in the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Great Britain.
Area: 70,280 sq km (approximately the size of Latvia or West Virginia).
Coastline: 1448 km (Republic of Ireland only).
Terrain: Gently rolling hills and low mountains. Plain areas in the interior of the island. Sea cliffs on the west and north coast.
Forest: 649,813 ha. - 9% (2000).
Highest elevation: Carrauntoohil (1,041 m) in Co. Kerry, south west Ireland.
Climate: Temperate maritime, influenced by the North Atlantic current -the Gulf Stream; mild winters, cool summers and consistently humid.
Average temperature and rainfall index:
||18 C / 11 C
||19 C / 11 C
||19 C / 10 C
||8 C / 3 C
||8 C / 1 C
||7 C / 1 C
Population: 4.1 million (2008).
Around 45% of the population lives within 100 km of Dublin.
Main 3 cities: Dublin, Cork, Limerick.
Irish diaspora: Largest Irish emigrant communities are found in the USA and in England.
Population growth rate: +1.13% (2008).
Ethnic composition: Base of Celtic and Germanic (Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian). New population contributions mainly from white European groups.
Religious affiliation: Christian Roman Catholic 87.4%, none 4.2%, Christian Protestant Church of Ireland 2.9%, others 3.6% (2006 Census).
Official languages: English and Irish.
English is spoken and understood by 100% of the Irish population.
Irish, also known as Gaelic, is taught at schools. It is estimated that only 100,000 Irish speakers are truly fluent in the language today. Following the 1996 census, 71,000 adults speak Irish. Irish speakers concentrate in the Gaeltacht areas of Connemara, Donegal and Kerry.
Sovereignty: Sovereign, independent state since 1921.
Government type: Republic.
Administrative divisions: 26 counties; Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath, Wexford, Wicklow.
Constitution: Irish constitution: 29 December 1937.
Legal system: Based on English common law, substantially modified by Irish concepts.
Executive branch: Composed by a Head of State (President), a Head of Government (Taoiseach -Prime Minister) and a Cabinet appointed by the President with previous nomination by the Taoiseach and approval of the House of Representatives - Dáil Éireann.
Legislative branch: Bicameral Parliament (Oireachtas), consists of the Senate (Seanad Éireann), 60 seats, serve five-year terms, and the House of Representatives (Dáil Éireann), 166 members elected by popular vote, serve five-year terms.
Judicial branch: Supreme Court. Judges appointed by the Irish President on advice of the Taoiseach and Cabinet.
Current Government: Centre-Right and Centre-Left government coalition of Fine Gael and the Labour Party. Taoiseach: Mr. Enda Kenny. President: Mrs. Mary McAleese.
Political parties: Fine Gael (FG); Labour Party (LP); Fianna Fáil (FF); Sinn Fein (SF); United Left Alliance; New Vision.
National holiday: Saint Patrick's Day, 17 March.
Official flag: The Tricolour. Three equal vertical bands of green, white, and orange; green symbolises the national colour of Ireland, white is for Peace and orange is the colour of the Protestant settlers in Ireland.
- Ireland is a small, modern, trade-dependent economy with growth averaging a robust 6% in 1995-2007.
- Per capita GDP is 40% above that of the four big European economies and the second highest in the EU behind Luxembourg.
- The extraordinary performance of the Irish economy has given Ireland the name of The Celtic Tiger, in comparison with the strong Asian Tiger economies of Taiwan and Korea.
- Industry accounts for 46% of GDP, about 80% of exports, and employs 28% of the labour force.
- Agriculture, once the most important sector, is now dwarfed by industry and services.
- The Irish Government has based its successful economic policy on containing inflation, reducing government spending, increasing labour force skills and promoting foreign investment.
GDP Purchasing Power Parity: approx. € 123 billion (2007).
GDP real growth rate: +5.3% (2007).
GDP per capita: purchasing power parity - approx. € 28,642 (2007).
Population below poverty line: 7% (2005 est.).
Labour force: 2.2 million (2001).
Labour force - occupation by sectors: agriculture 6%, industry 27%, services 67% (2002).
Unemployment rate: 4.6% (2002).
Budget: € 64 billion in revenues and € 58 billion in expenditures (2007).
Currency: Euro (EUR).
Industries: Food products, brewing, textiles, clothing, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, transportation equipment, glass and crystal; software, music.
Main airports: Dublin, Shannon, Cork.
Main ports: Dun Laoghaire, Dublin, Rosslare, Cork.
- Megalithic culture in Ireland circa 4500-1500 BC. Stone constructions characteristic of the Irish landscape and heritage.
- Bronze Age and trade in the European Atlantic, 1500-700 BC.
- Celtic culture flourishes in the island ca. 600 BC.
- Roman empire: the Romans name Ireland as "Hibernia" but they never settle on the island.
- Christianity spreads in Hibernia ca. 350 AD, blending with native beliefs and greatly influencing Irish history and society to this day.
- Golden Age of Irish literature and scholarship between the 7th and 9th centuries.
- Viking age: Scandinavians take control of Ireland between 795-1014 AD.
- English rule: English invasions began in 1169, seting off eight centuries of continuous violent conflict, Irish rebellions and English repressions. Guerrilla warfare. Statutes of Kilkenny of 1366 segregating the Irish from the English, restricting Irish culture and forbiding Anglo-Irish marriages. Decline of Irish language and culture. Disappearance of the Irish nobility.
- Emigration: Social poverty and Potato Famine, 1845. Mass emigration to North America.
- Irish renaissance, Late 19th century: strong emergence of Irish national identity. Irish intellectuals advocate the right of the Irish to govern themselves. Cultural and political organisations are created. Irish rebellions intensify.
- The Irish Free State: 26 counties of Ireland declare independence from the UK in 1916 and create the Irish Free State in 1921. 6 Irish counties remained part of the UK.
- World Wars: 50,000 Irish die in WW1, 1914-1918. The Irish Free State stays neutral during WW2.
The Irish Free State leaves the British Commonwealth in 1949 and is known as the Republic of Ireland.
- Political activism: "The Troubles" intensify during the late 1960's in Northern Ireland between Irish Nationalists and the British Unionists.
- European Union: the Republic of Ireland becomes a EEC - EU member state in 1973. Northern Ireland enters the EEC - EU as a territory of the UK on the same day.
- The Celtic Tiger : the Irish economy takes off in the mid 1990's and after several years of spectacular growth becomes one of the most prosperous and robust economies of the European Union.
- Peace in Northern Ireland: signature of the 1998 "Good Friday Agreement" between Ireland and the UK; the Republic of Ireland abandons its constitutional demands of a united Ireland and the UK gives political autonomy to the Ulster counties.