Ireland is a beautiful island filled with green countryside and softly flowing rivers. It is sometimes called the Emerald Isle because it is so green (this is because it rains so much!).
It is a very interesting country, full of folklore and music, but it was not always a peaceful place.
Population: 4.784 million
Key Cities: Cork, Sligo, Limerick, Galway.
Official Language: English, Irish, Ulster Scots
Major religions: Roman Catholic and Protestant
Bordering countries: Ireland is an island. It is situated to the west of Great Britain, which is the nearest country to Ireland.
Size: 84 421 km2 (32 595 sq. mi)
Lowest Point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
Highest Point: Carrauntoohil 1 041m
Ireland is made of low-lying mountains surrounding a central plain. There are many slow flowing rivers in Ireland including the River Shannon that rises in the plateau country near Sligo and flows slowly south-southeast for 160 miles (260 kms) to the sea at Limerick.
Ireland is made up of a combination of counties and geographical regions. The biggest part of Ireland is called The Republic of Ireland and it has twenty-six counties.
Northern Ireland has six counties and Ulster, which is part of the United Kingdom, has nine counties.
Ireland is separated from Great Britain by the Irish sea, The North Channel and St George’s Channel.
Ireland has had a history of conflicts and unrest. The first inhabitants arrived as early as 700BC. They were mainly the Celts who arrived from Gaul and Britain.
In 350 AD, Ireland turned to Christianity and St Patrick arrived to spread the gospel throughout Ireland. He had to persuade King Laoghaire to allow him to do this.
Although Ireland was now following a Christian way of life, there were still battles with Vikings and other powerful kings until King Henry II of England was made a lord of Ireland by the pope.
A statute was also issued, preventing the marriage of Irish and English people. The English wanted to stop the Gaelic culture but they were unsuccessful at that time.
Henry VIII, another English king, claimed to be king of Ireland in 1541. A campaign to take away land from the Irish began. It was called the Plantation of Ireland.
The failed uprising of Hugh O’Neil ended in defeat at the Battle of Kinsale and this put an end to the Gaelic order in Ireland. The earls of Ireland took flight and went into exile.
When King Charles came to the throne his policies caused uprisings in Ulster and a civil war in England.
Ireland was then invaded by Oliver Cromwell. Anyone opposing Cromwell was stripped of their land by an Act of Settlement. More laws were put in place preventing Catholics from voting, having an education or joining the army. This was a terrible act of discrimination.
The American War of Independence made the Irish feel restless, and in 1782 Grattan’s parliament persuaded the English to give Ireland her independence. This was agreed, but by name only. Eventually the Irish were made part of Britain under the Act of Union.
In 1829 the Catholic Emancipation act was passed when Daniel O’Connell was elected, but this peace did not last as Ireland was hit by the Great Famine. A million people died at this time and this started the emigration of Ireland and people left to go and live in America.
There were more efforts on the part of the Irish to gain their independence. Some Irishmen were executed for their part in the Easter Rising. Then Michael Collins planned the War of Independence against Britain.
Ireland was not involved in the Second World War, and in 1948 it was finally declared a Republic. This has not necessarily resulted peace in Ireland however, and there was fierce conflict between Protestants and Catholics for many years.
A peace declaration was signed in 1998 however. It is called the Good Friday agreement and has helped Ireland to prosper and become a very popular place to visit.
Former president Bill Clinton played a significant part in helping to bring about the Good Friday agreement.
After such a long history of war and oppression Ireland started to grow economically. The country was exporting their goods, but unfortunately in 2008 financial problems caused an economic crisis and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had to help Ireland financially.
In past times, Ireland was dependent on agriculture for their economy and this did not bring enough wealth into the country. When times were difficult many more people decided to leave the country and go and live abroad looking for a better life (this is called emigration).
The Irish people are very friendly. They love their folklore and Irish music is popular. The Irish have some interesting instruments that they play. The Irish bouzoukis, the fiddle and the uilleann pipes are part of their musical culture.
The harp is a very important instrument as it is part of the Irish national symbols and can be found on old Irish money (Ireland now uses the euro currency).
The Irish enjoy a special kind of country dancing and wear shoes with wooden taps on them that make a noise as they dance. The musical spectacle called Riverdance made Irish dancing very famous.
The Irish enjoy their myths and folk tales and the Leprechaun is a well-known character who is dressed in green. If you catch him, he has to give you three wishes!
Sport is important in Ireland especially the Gaelic athletics. The GAA (Gaelic Athletic Association) ensures games like hurling and Gaelic football continue to be part of the culture.
Pierce Brosnan, an actor who played the part of James Bond in the 007 movies is from Navan, County Meath.
Oscar Wilde, the well-known playwright, novelist, poet and essayist was born in Dublin.
C.S. Lewis was born in Belfast and was a pioneer of children’s fantasy books. He wrote the Chronicles of Narnia, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.
Ernest Shackleton, the heroic explorer who led a team of men to cross the Antarctic – but the expedition was a failure.
George Best, the talented football player who played for Northern Ireland and Manchester United.
Bono the musician and humanitarian, who is part of global charities, came from Ireland.
Green was not always the colour remembered on St Patrick’s Day. Green became a popular colour during the 1798 rebellion when the shamrock became the symbol of the nation.
Muckanaghederdauhaulia is the name of a small village in Connemara in the county Galway. It has the longest place name in the country with twenty-two letters.
Ireland won the Eurovision contest seven times more than any other country.
The Cliffs of Moher can be seen in several movies including Harry Potter.