Information on Ireland
President: Michael D. Higgins (2011)
Taoiseach (Prime Minister): Enda Kenny (2011)
Land area: 26,598 sq mi (68,889 sq km); total area: 27,135 sq mi (70,280 sq km)
Population (2014 est.): 4,832,765 (growth rate: 1.2%); birth rate: 15.18/1000; infant mortality rate: 3.74/1000; life expectancy: 80.56
Capital (2011 est.): Dublin, 1.121 million
Monetary unit: Euro (formerly Irish pound [punt])
Ireland is situated in the Atlantic Ocean and separated from Great Britain by the Irish Sea. Half the size of Arkansas, it occupies the entire island except for the six counties that make up Northern Ireland. Ireland resembles a basin—a central plain rimmed with mountains, except in the Dublin region. The mountains are low, with the highest peak, Carrantuohill in County Kerry, rising to 3,415 ft (1,041 m). The principal river is the Shannon, which begins in the north-central area, flows south and southwest for about 240 mi (386 km), and empties into the Atlantic
In the Stone and Bronze Ages, Ireland was inhabited by Picts in the north and a people called the Erainn in the south, the same stock, apparently, as in all the isles before the Anglo-Saxon invasion of Britain. Around the 4th century B.C., tall, red-haired Celts arrived from Gaul or Galicia. They subdued and assimilated the inhabitants and established a Gaelic civilization. By the beginning of the Christian Era, Ireland was divided into five kingdoms—Ulster, Connacht, Leinster, Meath, and Munster. Saint Patrick introduced Christianity in 432, and the country developed into a center of Gaelic and Latin learning. Irish monasteries, the equivalent of universities, attracted intellectuals as well as the pious and sent out missionaries to many parts of Europe and, some believe, to North America.
Norse incursions along the coasts, starting in 795, ended in 1014 with Norse defeat at the Battle of Clontarf by forces under Brian Boru. In the 12th century, the pope gave all of Ireland to the English Crown as a papal fief. In 1171, Henry II of England was acknowledged “Lord of Ireland,” but local sectional rule continued for centuries, and English control over the whole island was not reasonably secure until the 17th century. In the Battle of the Boyne (1690), the Catholic King James II and his French supporters were defeated by the Protestant King William III (of Orange). An era of Protestant political and economic supremacy began.
By the Act of Union (1801), Great Britain and Ireland became the “United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.” A steady decline in the Irish economy followed in the next decades. The population had reached 8.25 million when the great potato famine of 1846–1848 took many lives and drove more than 2 million people to immigrate to North America.
The climate is mild with an annual temperature of around 10 C. The coldest months are January and February. During the summer, temperatures range from 14 to 20 C. The warmest months are July and August with average temperature reaching 16 c. There are about 18 hours of daylight during July and August and you will find it only gets truly dark after 11 pm.
As a golden rule Irish weather is not predictable! You could be wearing a t-shirt in March and need a woolly jumper for August! Ireland gets a lot of rain, so remember to pack a light coat.
The 32 Counties
Ireland is often referred to as the 32 counties, with its two states, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, nicknamed respectively the Six Counties and the 26 Counties. The counties were a creation of British rule in Ireland and were set up in the 19th century to provide a framework for local government. Subsequently adopted by sporting and cultural organisations such as the Gaelic Athletic Association, which organises its activities on county lines, today the county division attracts strong loyalties, particularly in the sporting field.
Visitors from EU countries are entitled to medical treatment under the EU Reciprocal Medical Treatment agreement. Before you travel you should collect a form, E111, from your local social security office. Check that the doctor or dentist that you use is registered with the Irish Health Board and inform him or her that you want to be treated under the EU’s social security arrangements. In the event of an emergency, visitors may telephone or go directly to the casualty department of the major hospitals.
For photos of Ireland please click here:
The flag is twice as wide as it is tall. The green side is by the flagpole. This flag was first used in 1848. Colours in the flag represent the native population and religious beliefs in Ireland. Green: Signifies the native people of Ireland. Orange: Represents the British supporters of William of Orange who settled in Northern Ireland in the 17th century. White occupies the centre of the flag and signifies peace between these two groups of people.
A symbol of Friendship, Love and Loyalty. The Claddagh design is said to originate from the Galway Area, and the Aran Islands. The Claddagh ring was originally worn by men, but later used as a Marriage Ring for Men and Women. The symbol is comprised of 2 hands, a heart and a crown. The hands symbolize the parties involved. The heart is the seat of affection or love with the crown being perfection.
The harp symbol has been recognised as the emblem of Ireland since the 13th century. It was officially adopted as Ireland’s national symbol when the Irish Free State was created in 1922. The most famous Harp of Ireland is the Brian Boru harp which is located at the Trinity College in Dublin. The Boru harp is the oldest surviving Irish harp, and is the model used for the State emblem.
The Trinity Symbol is an ancient Celtic design. The Trinity emblem is an ancient symbol for a high spiritual dignity. In the Christian faith, it represents the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Trinity symbol has been inscribed in stone, and also has been coloured. Red for power, faith, language and sacrifice. Blue – represents faith and trust. Green – colour of the plants and trees, suggests hope of life eternal.
The Celtic Cross is possibly the best known symbol of Early Christianity in Ireland. The High Celtic Cross is a self contained monument, and are as high as 20 feet. They are generally made of sandstone, and their main characteristic feature is a circle connecting the arms. The rings around the high cross may have been a symbol of the cosmos, and at the centre is the Crucifixion of Christ. Or, the ring may have been a structural piece, to prevent the arms of the cross from snapping off. There are many decorations on the crosses many including scenes from the bible, while others feature animal Interlace, and scroll work. The crosses at Monasterboise and Cross of Scriptures, Clonmacnoise are good examples for the traditional Celtic Cross.