Population: 4,588,252 (est.)
Language(s): English, Irish
- The Euro (€) is the official currency of the Republic of Ireland.
- Religious freedom is constitutionally provided for in Ireland. Christianity is the predominant religion, with the Roman Catholic Church as the largest church.
- Around 86.8% of the population identify themselves as Roman Catholic, 4.8% as Protestant or another Christian religion and 2% as non-Christian. According to the 2006 census, the non-religious group has now become the second largest group after Roman Catholic.
- According to a Georgetown University study, the country has one of the highest rates of regular Mass attendance in the Western World.
- Whilst Ireland today ranks amongst the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita, the country was once one of the poorest in Western Europe.
- The Irish consume in average 131.1 liters of beer per year – the 2nd highest per-capita consumption after the Czech Republic.
- Famous Irish breweries include Guinness, Smithwicks (Kilkenny), and Harp Lager.
- The ancestral language of Irish people is Irish Gaelic. Nowadays 1.6 million people claim a self-reported competence in Irish, but only 380,000 fluent speakers remain.
- Many Irish family names start with “Mac” or “O’…”, which means respectively “son of …” and “grandson of …” in Gaelic.
- Ireland is a snake-free island. Due to its isolation from the European mainland, Ireland lacks several species common elsewhere in Europe, such as moles, weasels, polecats or roe deer.
- Ireland was the last country in Europe to permit divorce. It was narrowly approved by a 1995 referendum when only 50.28% voted in favour.
- Ireland has long been in religious feuds with its northern neighbours Northern Ireland, this has lead to many wars and ‘troubles’.
Ireland, also known as the Republic of Ireland, is a sovereign state in Europe occupying about five-sixths of the island of Ireland. It is a unitary parliamentary republic with an elected president serving as head of state. The head of government—called the Taoiseach—is nominated by the lower house of parliament (Dáil Éireann). The capital is Dublin in the east of the island. The state shares its only land border with Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom. It is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the Celtic Sea to the south, Saint George’s Channel to the south east, and the Irish Sea to the east.
The modern Irish state gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1922 following a war of independence resulting in the Anglo-Irish Treaty, with Northern Ireland exercising an option to remain in the United Kingdom. Initially a dominion within the British Empire called the Irish Free State, a new constitution and the name of “Ireland” were adopted in 1937. In 1949 the remaining duties of the British monarch were removed and Ireland was declared a republic, with the description Republic of Ireland. The state had no formal relations with Northern Ireland for most of the twentieth century, but since 1999 they have co-operated on a number of policy areas under the North-South Ministerial Council created under the Good Friday Agreement.
Whilst Ireland today ranks amongst the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita, the country was once one of the poorest in Western Europe. Economic protectionism was dismantled in the late 1950s and Ireland joined the European Economic Community in 1973. Economic liberalism from the late 1980s onwards resulted in rapid economic expansion, particularly from 1995 to 2007, which became known as the Celtic Tiger period. An unprecedented financial crisis beginning in 2008 ended this era of rapid economic growth.
In 2011, Ireland was ranked the seventh most developed nation in the world by the United Nations’ Human Development Index, Ireland is also highly ranked for press, economic and political freedom. Ireland is a member of the European Union and is a founding member of the Council of Europe and the OECD. It pursues a policy of neutrality through non-alignment and consequently is not a member of NATO, although it does participate in Partnership for Peace.