Life in Ireland

About Ireland

Ireland is known as the land of a thousand welcomes and it is true that Irish people are very welcoming and embrace the opportunity of a good ‚Äúchat‚ÄĚ, but our culture too is changing.¬† Ireland is a small country that has re-invented itself over the last forty years through the combined force of sheer determination and growing, vibrant ambition. It is a progressive part of the new Europe and is evolving every day.

Ireland is a dynamic, lively, modern country with a young population and a successful, technologically orientated economy, but it also remains a country where music, conversation, culture, traditions, time to relax, listen and making friends are important.

It is a country with cultural, cosmopolitan cities and is renowned for its beautiful, unspoiled countryside and scenery.

Statistics

  • Political Entities: Republic of Ireland (RoI), formed as the Irish Free State on 6th December 1922 and Northern Ireland (NI), established on 3rd May 1921, which is part of the United Kingdom
  • Name: ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Ireland or Eire (Gaelic) and Northern Ireland
  • Nicknames: ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Emerald Isle; Land of Saints and Scholars; Land of a Thousand Welcomes
  • Population: ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† 4,8 million (RoI) and 1,8 million (NI)
  • Area: ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† 84,421¬†km2
  • Capital Cities: ¬†¬† Dublin (RoI) and Belfast (NI)
  • Religion: ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Catholic and Protestant plus smaller groups of Jewish, Muslim, Hindu etc.
  • Currencies: ¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬†¬† Euros (RoI) and British Pounds (NI)

Irish Geographic

Ireland is split up into four provinces, these being: Leinster; Munster; Connacht and Ulster.

In addition to this, there are thirty-two Counties.  Twenty-six of these are in the Republic of Ireland and the remaining six are part of Northern Ireland.

Leinster and Ulster have the largest population, whereas Munster and Ulster cover the largest area.

Province

Population

Area (km²)

Density (p/km²

Largest city

Connacht 503,083 17,713 28 Galway
Leinster 2,292,939 19,801 100 Dublin
Munster 1,172,170 24,608 48 Cork
Ulster 2,008,333 22,300 90 Belfast

As per Wikipedia, November 2011 

Although Ireland is not a very large country, the geology varies immensely in the different areas of Ireland.¬† From the ‚Äúmountainous and rocky‚ÄĚ landscape in the West, to the lakes and bogs of the Midlands and the arable plains of the East, you will get the opportunity to visit many beautiful sites in Ireland.

Some of these sites remain untouched and it is not uncommon to spot wildlife such as red deer, red fox, mink and badgers or salmon and trout in local streams and rivers.  Dingle Harbour, in the West Coast of Ireland has its own dolphin, Fungie, and in Howth, on the East Coast, visitors often stop to feed the seals which swim and bask in the waters around the pier.  Ireland also offers whale and dolphin watching trips around West Cork.

The climate of Ireland is that of a Changeable Oceanic one thanks to the moderating moist winds which ordinarily prevail from the South-Western¬†Atlantic.¬† During the winter months temperatures rarely drop below freezing and snow is uncommon. Summer temperatures generally range from 15¬ļC to 20¬ļC. Spring and autumn are generally 10¬ļC. Winter is between 5¬ļC and 8¬ļC. Snow is rare, but showers can occur at any time of the year.What is noticeable in Ireland is the wind.¬† Ensure you bring adequate warm clothes and suitable footwear, as a cold wind on a damp day can be quite chilly!

Irish Independence

In 1171 England conquered Ireland and ruled until 1922.¬† Following the Irish war of Independence (1919-1921), Ireland became the Irish Free State (1922 ‚Äď 1937) with the boundary between the Free State and Northern Ireland having been established in December 1925.¬† The British Empire kept Northern Ireland because of the Belfast ship yards and their importance to the British trade.

The Free State was converted into a Sovereign independent democratic state named Eire from 1937 to 1949.  On Easter Monday, 18 April 1949, by the terms of the Republic of Ireland Bill approved by the Dail in November 1948, Eire became the Republic of Ireland, formally free of allegiance to the British crown and the Commonwealth of Nations.

The Republic became a member of the United Nations on December 14, 1955, when the General Assembly approved the admission of four communist- and twelve non-communist nations.

Culture

Ireland is a country steeped in tradition and history with a unique and interesting culture which retains many features of its ancient Celtic origins while also reflecting the influence of other traditions and trends.

Irish People: Irish people have a great love of conversation and have a genuine interest in other people. The friendliness and hospitable nature for which Irish people are renowned makes Ireland a welcoming place.

Family Values: The extended family remains the basis of the social structure. Even when family members emigrate, they retain strong ties to their family and return for regular visits.

Irish Music: A particular feature of Ireland is the tradition of live music in every conceivable venue, from street busking to singing pubs where traditional music continues to flourish.

Languages 

Ireland has two main spoken languages:

  • English (from the conquest of Ireland) is the most commonly used language today and there is a diversity of accents from county to county.
  • Gaelic (Irish Language) is native to Ireland and has been around for thousands of years. ¬†The main concentrations of Irish speakers are in the¬†Gaeltachta√≠ areas which are scattered mainly along the West Coast of Ireland and have a total population of 82,715, 76.3% of whom speak Irish on a daily basis.

Politics

The Republic of Ireland is a parliamentary, representative democratic republic and a member state of the European Union.

While the head of state is the popularly elected President of Ireland, this is a largely ceremonial position with real political power being vested in the indirectly elected Taoiseach (prime minister) who is the head of the government.

While there are a number of political parties in the state, the political landscape has been dominated for decades by¬†FiannaF√°il¬†and Fine Gael, historically opposed and competing entities, both occupying the traditional center ground. From the 1930s until¬†2011 they were the largest and second largest parties respectively. Both parties trace their roots back to the opposing side of the¬†civil war. The¬†Labour Party, historically the state’s third political party has only ever been in power when in coalition with either of the two main parties. In 2011 there was a major political realignment in Ireland, with Fine Gael becoming the largest party, Labour the second, and FiannaF√°il dropping to third following a collapse in support.

Religion  

In 1533, King Henry XIII of England tried to marry Anne Boleyn. The Roman Catholic Church refused to officiate the ceremony, declaring that Henry was still legally wed to Katherine of Aragon, so the King created his own Protestant Church. Ireland was then ordered to convert to King Henry’s church, however, most Irish people refused to do so.

In 1549, England’s Monarchy reverted to its former religion and the newly Protestant Ireland was required to become Catholic once more.

Symbols

The Harp – For the Irish, the harp is a reminder of the travelling performers who entertained people many years ago.

The Shamrock РThe most widely known symbolism was given to the shamrock by St. Patrick who compared the plant’s tri-part leaves to the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  This day it is instantly recognized as a logo for Irish culture.

The Irish flag –

The Colours of the Irish flag are known as the ‚ÄėTri Colours‚Äô.

  • Green represents the Gaelic Irish.
  • Orange represents the followers of William of Orange.
  • White represents peace between the two.

Irish Sports

Ireland has many sports and the Irish are very passionate about them. The most popular include: hurling, Gaelic Football, handball, horse racing, soccer, rugby and golf.

Agriculture in Ireland

Ireland is a largely agricultural country with hundreds of farms and is ranked highly in the world of Equestrian sports.

It has the potential to be the most competitive dairy industry in the Northern Hemisphere. Reports show that there are approximately 1.1 million dairy cows in Ireland. It is believed that milk production can double over the next 10 years, with 20,000 full-time efficient farmers each producing 100,000 gallons. This will bring major benefits to the Irish economy.

Alongside the dairy industry, Ireland is reported to have 5.85mn beef cattle; 8mn sheep and 110,000 sports horses and even more thoroughbred horses (race horses).

The equine industry is well established, with top quality sports horses being bred countrywide and the Irish racing industry receiving global recognition.

Fun facts to know and tell

  • Emmett Square in the town of Birr, County Offaly is officially the very center of Ireland.
  • A pint of Guinness has 198 calories; less than a pint of skimmed milk or orange juice.
  • Central Park in New York, USA, was modeled on St. Stephens Green in Dublin.
  • Only 4% of Irish People actually have red hair.
  • If all of the dry stone walls in Ireland were to be lined up they would stretch an impressive ¬ľ million miles.
  • More than 20 different species of whale visit Irish waters.
  • The longest place name in Ireland is a town land in county Galway; Muckanaghederdauhaulia¬†(Irish:¬†Muiceanach idir Dh√° Sh√°ile, meaning “piggery between two briny places”).
  • The original Guinness Brewery in Dublin has a¬†9,000 year lease¬†on its property, at a perpetual rate of 45 Irish pounds per year.
  • Couples in Ireland could marry legally on St. Brigid’s Day (February 1st) in Teltown, County Meath, as recently as the 1920‚Äôs, by¬†simply walking towards each other. If the marriage failed, they could “divorce'” by walking away from each other at the same spot, on St. Brigid‚Äôs day the following year. The custom was a holdover from old Irish Brehon laws, which allowed temporary marriage contracts.
  • Bram Stoker was working as a civil servant¬†in Dublin when he wrote ‚ÄúDracula‚ÄĚ in 1897.
  • Ireland‚Äôs 15 principal railway stations are¬†named after the leaders of the 1916 uprising.
  • About 30% of the people in Australia¬†are of Irish descent.
  • The medieval¬†Goidelic¬†festival of Samhain, which originated in Ireland, marked the end of the¬†harvest and the end of the “lighter half” of the year and beginning of the “darker half‚ÄĚ.¬† This festival is now commonly known worldwide as ‚ÄúHalloween‚ÄĚ.
  • The¬†potato¬†would appear to have been introduced into Ireland in the second half of the 16th century.
  • Until the 19th Century, some even as late as the 20th Century, the traditional pubs did not allow card games, singing or television, in some rural pubs, women were not welcome either.