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CAPITAL: Dublin (Baile Átha Cliath)

FLAG: The national flag is a tricolor of green, white, and orange vertical stripes.

ANTHEM: Amhrán na bhFiann (The Soldier's Song).

MONETARY UNIT: The euro replaced the Irish punt as the official currency in 2002. The euro is divided into 100 cents. There are coins in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents and 1 euro and 2 euros. There are notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros. 1 = $1.25475 (or $1 = 0.79697) as of 2005.

WEIGHTS AND MEASURES: Since 1988, Ireland has largely converted from the British system of weights and measures to the metric system.

HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; St. Patrick's Day, 17 March; Bank Holidays, 1st Monday in June, 1st Monday in August, and last Monday in October; Christmas Day, 25 December; St. Stephen's Day, 26 December. Movable religious holidays include Good Friday and Easter Monday.



An island in the eastern part of the North Atlantic directly west of the United Kingdom, on the continental shelf of Europe, Ireland covers an area of 70,280 sq km (27,135 sq mi). Comparatively, the area occupied by Ireland is slightly larger than the state of West Virginia. The island's length is 486 km (302 mi) ns, and its width is 275 km (171 mi) ew. The Irish Republic is bounded on the n by the North Channel, which separates it from Scotland; on the ne by Northern Ireland; and on the e and se by the Irish Sea and St. George's Channel, which separate it from England and Wales. To the w, from north to south, the coast is washed by the Atlantic Ocean.

Ireland's capital city, Dublin, is located on the Irish Sea coast.


Ireland is a limestone plateau rimmed by coastal highlands of varying geological structure. The central plain area, characterized by many lakes, bogs, and scattered low ridges, averages about 90 m (300 ft) above sea level. Principal mountain ranges include the Wicklow Mountains in the east and Macgillycuddy's Reeks in the southwest. The highest peaks are Carrantuohill (1,041 m/3,414 ft) and Mt. Brandon (953 m/3,127 ft), near Killarney, and, 64 km (40 mi) south of Dublin, Lugnaquillia (926 m/3,039 ft).

The coastline, 1,448 km (900 mi) long, is heavily indented along the south and west coasts where the ranges of Donegal, Mayo, and Munster end in bold headlands and rocky islands, forming long, narrow fjordlike inlets or wide-mouthed bays. On the southern coast, drowned river channels have created deep natural harbors. The east coast has few good harbors.

Most important of the many rivers is the Shannon, which rises in the mountains along the Ulster border and drains the central plain as it flows 370 km (230 mi) to the Atlantic, into which it empties through a wide estuary nearly 110 km (70 mi) long. Other important rivers are the Boyne, Suir, Liffey, Slaney, Barrow, Blackwater, Lee, and Nore.


Ireland has an equable climate, because the prevailing west and southwest winds have crossed long stretches of the North Atlantic Ocean, which is warmer in winter and cooler in summer than the continental land masses. The mean annual temperature is 10°c (50°f), and average monthly temperatures range from a mild 4°c (39°f) in January to 16°c (61°f) in July. Average yearly rainfall ranges from less than 76 cm (30 in) in places near Dublin to more than 254 cm (100 in) in some mountainous regions. The sunniest area is the extreme southeast, with an annual average of 1,700 hours of bright sunshine. Winds are strongest near the west coast, where the average speed is about 26 km/hr (16 mph).


Since Ireland was completely covered by ice sheets during the most recent Ice Age, all existing native plant and animal life originated from the natural migration of species, chiefly from other parts of Europe and especially from Britain. Early sea inundation of the land bridge connecting Ireland and Britain prevented further migration after 6000 bc. Although many species have subsequently been introduced, Ireland has a much narrower range of flora and fauna than Britain. Forest is the natural dominant vegetation, but the total forest area is now only 9.6% of the total area, and most of that remains because of the state afforestation program. The natural forest cover was chiefly mixed sessile oak woodland with ash, wych elm, birch, and yew. Pine was dominant on poorer soils, with rowan and birch. Beech and lime are notable natural absentees that thrive when introduced.

The fauna of Ireland is basically similar to that of Britain, but there are some notable gaps. Among those absent are weasel, polecat, wildcat, most shrews, moles, water voles, roe deer, snakes, and common toads. There are also fewer bird and insect species. Some introduced animals, such as the rabbit and brown rat, have been very successful. Ireland has some species not native to Britain, such as the spotted slug and certain species of wood lice. Ireland's isolation has made it notably free from plant and animal diseases. Among the common domestic animals, Ireland is particularly noted for its fine horses, dogs, and cattle. The Connemara pony, Irish wolfhound, Kerry blue terrier, and several types of cattle and sheep are recognized as distinct breeds.

As of 2002, there were at least 25 species of mammals, 143 species of birds, and over 900 species of plants throughout the country.


Ireland enjoys the benefits of a climate in which calms are rare and the winds are sufficiently strong to disperse atmospheric pollution. Nevertheless, industry is a significant source of pollution. In 1996, carbon dioxide emissions from industrial sources totaled 34.9 million metric tons. In 2002, the total of carbon dioxide emissions was at 42.2 million metric tons. Water pollution is also a problem, especially pollution of lakes from agricultural runoff. The nation has 49 cu km of renewable water resources.

Principal responsibility for environmental protection is vested in the Department of the Environment. The Department of Fisheries and Forestry, the Department of Agriculture, and the Office of Public Works also deal with environmental affairs. Local authorities, acting under the supervision of the Department of the Environment, are responsible for water supply, sewage disposal, and other environmental matters.

In 2003, about 1.7% of the total land area was protected, including 45 Ramsar wetland sites. According to a 2006 report issued by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), threatened species included four types of mammals, eight species of birds, six species of fish, one type of mollusk, two species of other invertebrates, and one species of plant. Threatened species include the Baltic sturgeon, Kerry slug, and Marsh snail. The great auk has become extinct.


The population of Ireland in 2005 was estimated by the United Nations (UN) at 4,125,000, which placed it at number 122 in population among the 193 nations of the world. In 2005, approximately 11% of the population was over 65 years of age, with another 21% of the population under 15 years of age. There were 99 males for every 100 females in the country. According to the UN, the annual population rate of change for 200510 was expected to be 0.8%, a rate the government viewed as satisfactory. The projected population for the year 2025 was 4,530,000. The population density was 59 per sq km (152 per sq mi).

The UN estimated that 60% of the population lived in urban areas in 2005, and that urban areas were growing at an annual rate of 1.37%. The capital city, Dublin (Baile Átha Cliath), had a population of 1,015,000 in that year. The other largest urban centers (and their estimated populations) were Cork (193,400), Limerick 84,900), Galway (65,832), and Waterford (44,594).


The great famine in the late 1840s inaugurated the wave of Irish emigrants to the United States, Canada, Argentina, and other countries: 100,000 in 1846, 200,000 per year from 1847 to 1850, and 250,000 in 1851. Since then, emigration has been a traditional feature of Irish life, although it has been considerably reduced since World War II. The net emigration figure decreased from 212,000 for 195661 to 80,605 for 196166 and 53,906 for 196671. During 197181, Ireland recorded a net gain from immigration of 103,889. As of November 1995, more than 150,000 people had left Ireland in the previous 10 years, unemployment being the main reason. The top two destinations were the United Kingdom and the United States.

During the 1990s there was a considerable rise in the number of asylum seekers, from 39 applications in 1992 to 4,630 in 1998. The main countries of origin were Nigeria, Romania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Libya, and Algeria. Also, during the Kosovo crisis in 1999, Ireland took in 1,033 Kosovar Albanians who were evacuated from Macedonia under the UNHCR/IOM Humanitarian Evacuation Programme. In 2004 Ireland had 7,201 refugees and 3,696 asylum seekers. Asylum seekers are primarily from Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and six other countries.

In 2005, the net migration rate was estimated as 4.93 migrants per 1,000 population, up from -1.31 in 1999.


Within historic times, Ireland has been inhabited by Celts, Norsemen, French Normans, and English. Through the centuries, the racial strains represented by these groups have been so intermingled that no purely ethnic divisions remain. The Travellers are group of about 25,000 indigenous nomadic people who consider themselves to be a distinct ethnic minority.


Two languages are spoken, English and Irish (Gaelic). During the long centuries of British control, Irish fell into disuse except in parts of western Ireland. Since the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922, the government has sought to reestablish Irish as a spoken language throughout the country. It is taught as a compulsory subject in schools and all government publications, street signs, and post office notices are printed in both Irish and English. English, however, remains the language in common use. Only in a few areas (the Gaeltacht), mostly along the western seaboard, is Irish in everyday use. In 1995, a national survey found that only 5% of Irish people frequently used the Irish language and only 2% considered it their native tongue. About 30% of the population, however, claims some proficiency in Gaelic.


According to the 2002 census, about 88.4% of the population were nominally Roman Catholic. The next largest organization was the Church of Ireland (Anglican), with a membership of about 2.9% of the population. About 0.52% of the population were Presbyterian, 0.25% were Methodist, 0.49 were Muslim, and less than 0.1% were Jewish. There are small communities Jehovah's Witnesses. For ecclesiastical purposes, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (UK) constitute a single entity. Both Roman Catholics and Episcopalian churches have administrative seats at Armagh in Northern Ireland. The Presbyterian Church has its headquarters in Belfast. The constitutional right to freedom of religion is generally respected in practice.


The Irish Transport System (Córas Iompair Éireann-CIE), a state-sponsored entity, provides a nationwide coordinated road and rail system of public transport for goods and passengers. It is also responsible for maintaining the canals, although they are no longer used for commercial transport. Ireland's railroads, like those of many other European countries, have become increasingly unprofitable because of competition from road transport facilities. There were 3,312 km (2,056 mi) of track in 2004, all of it broad gauge. CIE receives an annual government subsidy.

A network of good main roads extends throughout the country, and improved country roads lead to smaller towns and villages. Ninety-six percent of all inland passenger transport and 90% of inland freight are conveyed by road. Bus routes connect all the major population centers and numerous moderate-sized towns. In 2002, there were 95,736 km (59,548 mi) of roads, of which all were surfaced. In 2003 there were 1,520,000 passenger cars and 272,000 commercial vehicles in use.

In 2005, Ireland's merchant fleet consisted of 39 vessels of 1,000 GRT or more. The state-supported shipping firm, the British and Irish Steam Packet Co. (the B and I Line), is largely engaged in cross-channel travel between Ireland and the United Kingdom, providing passenger and car ferry services as well as containerized freight services, both port to port and door to door. The Irish Continental Line operates services to France, linking Rosslare with Le Havre and Cherbourg; it also runs a summer service between Cork and Le Havre. Brittany Ferries operates a weekly service between Cork and Roscoff. Other shipping concerns operate regular passenger and freight services to the United Kingdom and freight services to the Continent. There are deepwater ports at Cork and Dublin and 10 secondary ports. Dublin is the main port. As of 2004, Ireland had 753 km (468 mi) of navigable inland waterways, but which were accessible only by pleasure craft.

In 2004 there were an estimated 36 airports, of which 15 had paved runways as of 2005. Aer Lingus (Irish International Airlines), the Irish national airline, operates services between Ireland, the United Kingdom, and continental Europe as well as transatlantic flights. Many foreign airlines operate scheduled transatlantic passenger and air freight services through the duty-free port at Shannon, and most transatlantic airlines make nonscheduled stops there; foreign airlines also operate services between Ireland, the United Kingdom, and continental Europe. The three state airports at Dublin, Shannon, and Cork are managed by Aer Rianta on behalf of the Ministry for Transport and Power. A domestic airline, Aer Arann Teo, connects Galway with the Aran Islands and Dublin. In 2003, about 28.864 million passengers were carried on scheduled domestic and international airline flights.


The pre-Christian era in Ireland is known chiefly through legend, although there is archaeological evidence of habitation during the Stone and Bronze ages. In about the 4th century bc, the tall, red-haired Celts from Gaul or Galicia arrived, bringing with them the Iron Age. They subdued the Picts in the north and the Érainn tribe in the south, then settled down to establish a Gaelic civilization, absorbing many of the traditions of the previous inhabitants. By the 3rd century ad, the Gaels had established five permanent kingdomsUlster, Connacht, Leinster, Meath (North Leinster), and Munsterwith a high king, whose title was often little more than honorary, at Tara. After St. Patrick's arrival in ad 432, Christian Ireland rapidly became a center of Latin and Gaelic learning. Irish monasteries drew not only the pious but also the intellectuals of the day, and sent out missionaries to many parts of Europe.

Toward the end of the 8th century, the Vikings began their invasions, destroying monasteries and wreaking havoc on the land, but also intermarrying, adopting Irish customs, and establishing coastal settlements from which have grown Ireland's chief cities. Viking power was finally broken at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. About 150 years later, the Anglo-Norman invasions began. Gradually, the invaders gained control of the whole country. Many of them intermarried, adopted the Irish language, customs, and traditions, and became more Irish than the Gaels. But the political attachment to the English crown instituted by the Norman invasion caused almost 800 years of strife, as successive English monarchs sought to subdue Gaels and Norman-Irish alike. Wholesale confiscations of land and large plantations of English colonists began under Mary I (Mary Tudor) and continued under Elizabeth I, Cromwell, and William III. Treatment of the Irish reached a brutal climax in the 18th century with the Penal Laws, which deprived Catholics and Dissenters (the majority of the population) of all legal rights.

By the end of the 18th century, many of the English colonists had come to regard themselves as Irish and, like the English colonists in America, resented the domination of London and their own lack of power to rule themselves. In 1783, they forced the establishment of an independent Irish parliament, but it was abolished by the Act of Union (1800), which gave Ireland direct representation in Westminster. Catholic emancipation was finally achieved in 1829 through the efforts of Daniel O'Connell, but the great famine of the 1840s, when millions died or emigrated for lack of potatoes while landlords continued to export other crops to England, emphasized the tragic condition of the Irish peasant and the great need for land reform.

A series of uprisings and the growth of various movements aimed at home rule or outright independence led gradually to many reforms, but the desire for complete independence continued to grow. After the bloodshed and political maneuvers that followed the Easter Uprising of 1916 and the proclamation of an Irish Republic by Irish members of Parliament in 1919, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in 1921, establishing an Irish Free State with dominion status in the British Commonwealth. Violent opposition to dominion status and to a separate government in Protestant-dominated Northern Ireland precipitated a civil war lasting almost a year. The Free State was officially proclaimed and a new constitution adopted in 1922, but sentiment in favor of a reunified Irish Republic remained strong, represented at its extreme by the terrorist activities of the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Powerful at first, the IRA lost much of its popularity after Éamon de Valera, a disillusioned supporter, took over the government in 1932. During the civil violence that disrupted Northern Ireland from the late 1960s on, the Irish government attempted to curb the "provisional wing" of the IRA, a terrorist organization that used Ireland as a base for attacks in the north. Beginning in 1976, the government assumed emergency powers to cope with IRA activities, but the terrorist acts continued, most notably the assassination on 27 August 1979 of the British Earl Mountbatten.

The Irish government continued to favor union with Northern Ireland, but only by peaceful means. In November 1985, with the aim of promoting peace in Northern Ireland, Ireland and the United Kingdom ratified a treaty enabling Ireland to play a role in various aspects of Northern Ireland's affairs. On 10 April 1998 the Irish Republic jointly signed a peace agreement with the United Kingdom to resolve the Northern Ireland crisis. Ireland pledged to amend articles 2 and 3 of the Irish Constitution, which lay claim to the territory of the North, in return for the United Kingdom promising to amend the Government of Ireland Act. On 22 May 1998, 94.4% of the electorate voted in a referendum to drop Ireland's claim to Northern Ireland. A year after the agreement, several key provisions of the Good Friday Agreement had been implemented. The peace process has since then witnessed long moments of gloom in spite of the ongoing involvements of the British and Irish prime ministers to resolve the situation in Northern Ireland. One of the largest obstacles was the disarmament of the IRA and the reservations on the part of the Ulster Unionists to share power with Sinn Feìn, the political arm of the IRA. Finally, in May 2000, the IRA proposed that outside observers be shown the contents of arms dumps and reinspect them at regular intervals to ensure that weaponry had not been removed and was back in circulation. The Ulster Unionists agreed to power-sharing arrangements and to endorse devolution of Northern Ireland. Decommissioning of the IRA did not progress in early 2001, however, and David Trimble, the first minister of the power-sharing government, resigned in July 2001. Sinn Feìn's offices at Stormont, the Northern Ireland Assembly, were raided by the police in October 2002, due to spying allegations. On 14 October 2002, devolution was suspended and direct rule from London returned to Northern Ireland. Elections planned for the assembly in May 2003 were indefinitely postponed by British Prime Minister Tony Blair, due to a lack of evidence of peaceful intentions on the part of the IRA. Talks aimed at restoring devolved government in 2004 failed due to the continued IRA possession of illegal arms and its refusal to disband and pull out of illegal activities. Progress did not look eminent as of January 2005, when some IRA members were brutally murdered and the provisional government seemed to make attempts to protect those responsible for the murders from prosecution.

The years since the proclamation of the Irish Free State have witnessed important changes in governmental structure and international relations. In 1937, under a new constitution, the governor-general was replaced by an elected president, and the name of the country was officially changed to Ireland (Éire in Irish). In 1948, Ireland voted itself out of the Commonwealth of Nations, and on 18 April 1949, it declared itself a republic. Ireland was admitted to the UN in 1955 and became a member of the EC in 1973. Ireland, unlike the United Kingdom, joined the European economic and monetary union in 1999 without problem, and adopted the euro as its currency. However, Irish voters in June 2001 rejected the Treaty of Nice, which allowed for the enlargement of the EU. The other 14 members of the EU all approved the treaty by parliamentary vote, but Ireland's adoption required amending the constitution, which stipulated a popular vote. Voter turnout was low (34.8%), and when the treaty was put to Irish voters once again in October 2002, the government conducted a massive education campaign to bring voters to the polls. This time, voter turnout was 48.5%, and 63% of voters in the October referendum approved the Nice Treaty. Ten new EU candidate countries joined the body on 1 May 2004.

Ireland has also benefited from progressive leadership. Mary Robinson, an international lawyer, activist, and Catholic, was elected president in November 1990. She became the first woman to hold that office. In 1974, while serving in the Irish legislature, she shocked her fellow country people by calling for legal sale of contraceptives. Her victory came at a period in Irish history dominated by controversy over the major issues of the first half of the 1990s: unemployment, women's rights, abortion, divorce, and homosexuality. Robinson promoted legislation that enabled women to serve on juries and gave 18-year-olds the right to vote. In 1997, Mary McAleese, who lived in Northern Ireland, became the first British subject to be elected president of the Irish Republic until 2004. In March 2002, Irish voters rejected a referendum proposal that would further restrict abortion laws. The vote was 50.4% against the proposal and 49.6% in favor. The vote was a setback to Prime Minister Bertie Ahern. However, Ahern's Fianna Fáil party overwhelmingly defeated the opposition Fine Gael party in the May 2002 elections.

In June 2004, local and European elections were held. In October 2004, McAleese won a second seven-year term as President; however, this was in light of the fact that opposing parties didn't nominate alternative candidates. She will not be eligible for another reelection in the October 2011 elections. Senate elections were scheduled to occur in July 2007, and the House of Representatives were scheduled to be held one month prior, in May 2007.


Constitutionally, Ireland is a parliamentary democracy. Under the constitution of 1937, as amended, legislative power is vested in the Oireachtas (national parliament), which consists of the president and two housesDáil Éireann (house of representatives) and Seanad Éireann (senate)and sits in Dublin, the capital city. The president is elected by popular vote for seven years. Members of the Dáil, who are also elected by popular suffrage, using the single transferable vote, represent constituencies determined by law and serve five-year terms. These constituencies, none of which may return fewer than three members, must be revised at least once every 12 years, and the ratio between the number of members to be elected for each constituency and its population as ascertained at the last census must be the same, as far as practicable, throughout the country. Since 1981, there have been 166 seats in the Dáil.

The Seanad consists of 60 members: 49 elected from five panels of candidates representing (a) industry and commerce, (b) agricultural and allied interests and fisheries, (c) labor, (d) cultural and educational interests, and (e) public administration and social services; 6 elected by the universities; and 11 nominated by the taoiseach (prime minister). Elections for the Seanad must be held within 90 days of the dissolution of the Dáil; the electorate consists of members of the outgoing Seanad, members of the incoming Dáil, members of county councils, and county borough authorities. The taoiseach is assisted by a tánaiste (deputy prime minister) and at least six but not more than 14 other ministers. The constitution provides for popular referendums on certain bills of national importance passed by the Oireachtas. Suffrage is universal at age 18.

The chief of state is the president, who is elected by universal suffrage to serve a seven-year term and may be reelected only once. The presidency is traditionally a figurehead role with limited powers. The president appoints a cabinet based upon a nomination from the prime minister and approval from the house of representatives. As of 2005, Mary McAleese held the presidential office. The head of government is the prime minister, who is nominated by the house of representatives and appointed by the president. As of 2005 Bertie Ahern was prime minister and had occupied the position since 26 June 1997.

A number of amendments having to do with European integration, Northern Ireland, abortion, and divorce have been added to the 1937 constitution, which may only be altered by referendum. A recent referendum in 2004 ended in a 4-to-1 vote that native-born children could not be granted automatic citizenship.


The major political parties are the Fianna Fáil, the Fine Gael, Labour, and the Progressive Democrats. Because the members of the Dáil are elected by a proportional representation system, smaller parties have also at times won representation in the Oireachtas. In 1986, Sinn Feìn, the political arm of the Provisional IRA, ended its 65-year boycott of the Dáil and registered as a political party winning one seat in the Dáil in the 6 June 1997 elections.

Fianna Fáil, the Republican Party, was founded by Éamon de Valera. It is the largest party since 1932 and has participated in government during 55 of the past 73 years, as of 2004. When the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 was signed, de Valera violently opposed the dominion status accepted by a close vote of the Dáil. Until 1927, when the government threatened to annul their election if they did not fulfill their mandates, de Valera and his followers boycotted the Dáil and refused to take an oath of allegiance to the English crown. In 1932, however, de Valera became prime minister, a position he held continuously until 1947 and intermittently until 1959, when he became president for the first of two terms. From 1932 to 1973, when it lost its majority to a Fine GaelLabour coalition, Fianna Fáil was in power for all but six years.

Fine Gael is the present name for the traditionally center-right party (of the Christian democratic type) and is second-largest party in Ireland. It grew out of the policies of Arthur Griffith, first president of the Irish Free State, and Michael Collins, first minister for finance and commander-in-chief of the army. W. T. Cosgrave, their successor, accepted the conditions of the 1921 treaty as the best then obtainable and worked out the details of the partition boundary and dominion status. This party held power from the first general election of 1922 until 1932. Since 1948, as the principal opponent of Fianna Fáil, it has provided leadership for several coalition governments. The policies of Fine Gael traditionally have been far more moderate than those of Fianna Fáil, although it was an interparty coalition government dominated by Fine Gael and Labour that voted Ireland out of the Commonwealth in 1948.

The Labour party incorporated the Democratic Left into its party in 1998, but still failed to increase its seats in the 2002 election (it is much smaller than Fine Gael). The party moved toward the center under the leadership of Pat Rabitte.

In 1985, a group of parliamentarians broke away from Fianna Fáil because of the autocratic leadership of Charles Haughey. They formed the Progressive Democrats (PDs) party, which supported liberal economic orthodoxy in the 1980s. It joined in a coalition with Fianna Fáil in 1997 and has been influential in economic policy making.

In the 2002 elections, two smaller parties increased their seat holdings. Sinn Fein, the political wing of the IRA, added four seats to the one it had won in the Dáil in 1997. The Green Party increased its holdings from two to six seats. It opposed European integration and participation in European security structures.

In the general elections of 24 November 1982 (the third general election to be held within a year and a half), Fianna Fáil won 75 seats, Fine Gael 70, and the Labour Party 16. Two members of the Workers' Party and three independents were also elected. Garret FitzGerald was elected taoiseach (1983-1987), heading a Fine Gael-Labour coalition. It was the second time in a year that he had replaced Charles J. Haughey of the Fianna Fáil in that office. In December 1979, Haughey had replaced Jack Lynch as head of his party and become prime minister. The 1987 elections saw Fianna Fáil raise its representation, despite a drop in its proportion of the vote compared to the 1982 elections. Fine Gael and Labour lost seats, while the Progressive Democrats and Workers' Party (which increased its representation from two to four seats) increased their seat holding. In a bitter contest, Charles Haughey was elected taoiseach (1987-1991) and formed a minority Fianna Fáil government. Albert Reynolds was taoiseach (prime minister) from 1991 to 1994.

An early general election in 1992 saw the two largest partiesFianna Fáil and Fine Gaellose seats to the Labour Party. Albert Reynolds of Fianna Fáil was reelected taoiseach of the Fianna Fáil-Labour Coalition. From 1994 to 1997, John Bruton, of the Fianna Gael-Labour-Democratic Left was prime minister. However, a center-right alliance led by Bertie Ahern of Fianna Fáil defeated Prime Minister Bruton's three-party left-of-center coalition in the 6 June 1997 general election. Although Bruton's own party, Fine Gael, increased its share of the vote, its coalition partners, the Labour Party and the Democratic Left, both lost seats. Fianna Fáil won 77 seats outright, 6 shy of the 83 required for a majority. Other parties winning seats were Labor (17), Democratic Left (4), Progressive Democrats (4), Greens (2), Sinn Fein (1), Socialists (1), and Independents (6).

Fianna Fáil joined with the Progressive Democrats and Independents to form a new government with Bertie Ahern as taoiseach (prime minister). In 1999, the Labour Party and the Democratic Left merged and the new party is called the Labour Party. The electoral significance of this realignment of the left is not yet clear, but the merger provides the Irish electorate with a more viable social democratic alternative to the governing coalition.

Bertie Ahern remained prime minister after Fianna Fáil won 41.5% of the vote on 16 May 2002, capturing 81 seats in the Dáil. Fine Gael won 22.5% of the vote and 31 seats, its worst defeat in 70 years. The Labour Party took 10.8% of the vote and 21 seats. Other parties winning seats were the Progressive Democrats (8), the Greens (6), Sinn Feìn (5), the Socialist Party (1), and Independents (13). The next presidential election was scheduled for October 2011 and the next legislative elections were scheduled for 2007.


The provinces of Ulster, Munster, Leinster, and Connacht no longer serve as political divisions, but each is divided into a number of counties that do. Prior to the passage of the new Local Government Act of 2001 and its implementation in 2002, Ireland was divided into 29 county councils, 5 boroughs, 5 boroughs governed by municipal corporations, 49 urban district councils, and 26 boards of town commissioners. Under the new system, the county councils remain the same, but the corporations no longer exist. The cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford, and Galway are city councils, while Drogheda, Wexford, Kilkenny, Sligo, and Clonmel are the five borough councils. The urban district councils and town commissions are now one and the same and known as town councils, of which there are 75.

Local authorities' principal functions include planning and development, housing, roads, and sanitary and environmental services. Health services, which were administered by local authorities up to 1971, are now administered by regional health boards, although the local authorities still continue to pay part of the cost. Expenditures are financed by a local tax on the occupation of property (rates), by grants and subsidies from the central government, and by charges made for certain services. Capital expenditure is financed mainly by borrowing from the Local Loans Fund, operated by the central government, and from banking and insurance institutions.


Responsibility for law enforcement is in the hands of a commissioner, responsible to the Department of Justice, who controls an unarmed police force known as the civil guard (Garda Síochána). Justice is administered by a Supreme Court, a High Court with full original jurisdiction, eight circuit courts, and 23 district courts with local and limited jurisdiction. Judges are appointed by the president, on the advice of the prime minister and cabinet.

Individual liberties are protected by the 1937 constitution and by Supreme Court decisions. The constitution provides for the creation of "special courts" to handle cases which cannot be adequately managed by the ordinary court system. The Offenses Against the State Act formally established a special court to hear cases involving political violence by terrorist groups. In such cases, in order to prevent intimidation, the panel of judges sits in place of a jury.

The judiciary is independent and provides a fair, efficient judicial process based upon the English common law system. Judicial precedent makes it a vital check on the power of the executive in Ireland. It can declare laws unconstitutional before and after they have been enacted, as well. Typically, however, the relationship between the judiciary and the other two branches of government has been untroubled by conflict.

The Supreme Court has affirmed that the inviolability of personal privacy and home must be respected in law and practice. This is fully respected by the government. Revelations about corruption by leading politicians forced the government to set up an independent tribunal. It investigated payments to politicians, especially to the former prime minister Charles Haughey, who was a recipient of large sums of money from businessmen for his personal use.

A former judge, Hugh O'Flaherty, was forced to resign from the Supreme Court over his handling of a dangerous driving case in 1999. His case provoked much public outrage after it was discovered that the government quickly boosted his annual pension prior to his resignation.


The Irish army and its reserves, along with the country's air corps, and navy, constitute a small but well-trained nucleus that can be enlarged in a time of emergency. In 2005, the active defense force numbered 10,460, with reserves numbering 14,875. The army had 8,500 active personnel equipped with 14 Scorpion light tanks, 33 reconnaissance vehicles, 42 armored personnel carriers, and 537 artillery pieces. Navy personnel totaled 1,100 in 2005. Major naval units included eight patrol/coastal vessels. The air corps consisted of 860 personnel, outfitted with two maritime patrol and three transport aircraft. The navy also operated two assault and 11 utility helicopters. Ireland provided support to UN, NATO and European Union peacekeeping or military operations in 10 countries or regions. The defense budget in 2005 was $959 million.


Ireland, which became a member of the United Nations on 14 December 1955, belongs to ECE and several nonregional specialized agencies, such as the FAO, UNESCO, UNHCR, IFC, the World Bank, and WHO. On 1 January 1973, Ireland became a member of the European Union. The country is also a member of the WTO, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Paris Club, the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, and the OSCE. Ireland is a founding member of OECD and the Council of Europe. The country also participates as an observer in the OAS and the Western European Union.

Irish troops have served in UN operations and missions in the Congo (est. 1999), Cyprus (est. 1964), Kosovo (est. 1999), Lebanon (est. 1978), Liberia (est. 2003), and Côte d'Ivoire (est. 2004), among others. Ireland is a guest of the Nonaligned Movement, It is also a part of the Australia Group, the Zangger Committee, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (London Group), the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, and the Nuclear Energy Agency. In environmental cooperation, Ireland is part of the Basel Convention; Conventions on Biological Diversity, Whaling, and Air Pollution; Ramsar; the London Convention; International Tropical Timber Agreements; the Kyoto Protocol; the Montréal Protocol; MARPOL; the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty; and the UN Conventions on the Law of the Sea, Climate Change and Desertification.


Until the 1950s, Ireland had a predominantly agricultural economy, with agriculture making the largest contribution to the GNP. However, liberal trade policies and the drive for industrialization stimulated economic expansion. In 1958, agriculture accounted for 21% of the GNP, industry 23.5%, and other sectors 55.5%. By 2002, however, agriculture accounted for only 5% of the total, industry 46%, and services 49%.

Ireland's economy was initially slower in developing than the economies of other West European countries. The government carried on a comprehensive public investment program, particularly in housing, public welfare, communications, transportation, new industries, and electric power. Growth rose quickly in the 1960s and, since then, the government has tried to stimulate output, particularly of goods for the export market. Thus, manufactured exports grew from £78.4 million in 1967 to £11,510 million in 1992.

In the 1970s Ireland began to approach the income of the rest of Western Europe until it lost fiscal control in the latter part of the 1970s due to the oil crisis. During the early 1980s, Ireland suffered considerably from the worldwide recession, experiencing double-digit inflation and high unemployment. The economy continued to lag through 1986, but the GNP grew 30% between 1987 and 1992, and continued at a yearly pace of about 7.5% until 1996 when it was expected to slow to about 5.25%. However, the Irish economy grew faster than any other in the European Union during the so-called "Celtic Tiger" years of the second half of the 1990s, when growth rates were in double digits. The good economic performance was mainly due to strong consumer and investor confidence and strong export opportunities.

Ireland suffered from the global economic slowdown that began in 2001, however, and the average annual growth 200004 was 6.1%. Though Ireland started out the decade with a growth rate of 6.2%, it dropped to 4.4% in 2003 and had not regained even a percentage point as of 2005.

Although substantially lower than in 1986 when it topped 18%, unemployment remained high until 1998, when it dropped to 7.7%. The estimated unemployment rate in 2005 was 4.2%. The inflation rate stood at 2.4% in 1998 and was 2% in 2003 and 3% in 2004. Inflation was steadily falling, from a rate of 4.9% in 2000 to 2.2% in 2004.

Ireland has depended on substantial financial assistance from the European Union designed to raise the per capita gross national product to the EU average. Almost $11 billion was allocated for the period 199399 from the EU's Structural and Cohesion Funds. During the 1990s, living standards rose from 56% to 87% of the EU average.

In the latter half of the 1990s, the economic situation greatly improved and Ireland recorded growth rates of 7% 19962000. Unemployment fell from 16% in 1993 to 5% in 2000. Due to the global economic downturn that began in 2001, however, even Ireland's booming economy slowed. Services, pharmaceuticals, and information technology are important sectors of the economy in the 21st century.


The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reports that in 2005 Ireland's gross domestic product (GDP) was estimated at $136.9 billion. The CIA defines GDP as the value of all final goods and services produced within a nation in a given year and computed on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP) rather than value as measured on the basis of the rate of exchange based on current dollars. The per capita GDP was estimated at $34,100. The annual growth rate of GDP was estimated at 4.9%. The average inflation rate in 2005 was 2.7%. It was estimated that agriculture accounted for 5% of GDP, industry 46%, and services 49%.

According to the World Bank, in 2003 remittances from citizens working abroad totaled $337 million or about $84 per capita and accounted for approximately 0.2% of GDP.

The World Bank reports that in 2003 household consumption in Ireland totaled $54.84 billion or about $13,730 per capita based on a GDP of $153.7 billion, measured in current dollars rather than PPP. Household consumption includes expenditures of individuals, households, and nongovernmental organizations on goods and services, excluding purchases of dwellings. It was estimated that for the period 1990 to 2003 household consumption grew at an average annual rate of 5.6%. In 2001 it was estimated that approximately 21% of household consumption was spent on food, 10% on fuel, 4% on health care, and 7% on education. It was estimated that in 1997 about 10% of the population had incomes below the poverty line.


In 2005, Ireland's workforce was estimated at 2.03 million. Of those employed in 2003, an estimated 6.4% were in agriculture, 27.8% in industry, and 65.4% in services. The estimated unemployment rate in 2005 was 4.2%.

The right to join a union is protected by law, and as of 2002, about 31% of the labor force were union members. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) represents 64 unions and is independent of political parties and the government. The right to strike, except for police and military personnel, is exercised in both the public and private sectors. Employers are legally prohibited from discriminating against those who participate in union activity. Collective bargaining is used to determine wages and other conditions of employment.

Children under age 16 are legally prohibited from engaging in regular, full-time work. Under certain restrictions, some part-time or educational work may be given to 14- and 15-year-olds. Violations of child labor laws are not common. The standard workweek is 39 hours, and the legal limit on industrial work is nine hours per day and 48 hours per week. A national minimum wage of $5.45 went into effect in 2001.


About 1,184,000 hectares (2,926,000 acres), or 17.2% of the total area, were devoted to growing crops in 2003. About 6% of the agricultural acreage is used for growing cereals, 1.5% for growing root and green crops, and the balance for pasture and hay. Thus most of the farmland is used to support livestock, the leading source of Ireland's exports. Most farms are small, although there has been a trend toward consolidation. Agriculture accounts for about 10% of Irish employment. In 2003, there were 135,250 agricultural holdings, with a farm labor force of 104,540 full-time and 140,980 part-time workers. Principal crops (with their estimated 2004 production) include barley, 1,159,000 tons; sugar beets, 1,500,000 tons; wheat, 849,000 tons; potatoes, 500,000 tons; and oats, 134,000 tons.

Over half of agricultural production, by value, is exported. The benefits of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, which provides secure markets and improved prices for most major agricultural products, account in part for the increase of Ireland's agricultural income from £314 million in 1972 (before Ireland's accession) to £1,919.9 million in 1995. The estimated value of crop output was 1.3 billion in 2005.

The government operates a comprehensive network of services within the framework of the Common Agricultural Policy, including educational and advisory services to farmers. Under a farm modernization scheme, capital assistance is provided to farmers for land development, improvement of farm buildings, and other projects, with part of the cost borne by the EU. In 1974, pursuant to an European Community directive, incentives were made available to farmers wishing to retire and make their lands available, by lease or sale, for the land reform program.


With some 90% of Ireland's agricultural land devoted to pasture and hay, the main activity of the farming community is the production of grazing animals and other livestock, which account for about 53% of agricultural exports. In 2005, total livestock output was valued at 2.17 billion, with cattle and milk each accounting for around 40%. During 200204, livestock output was down 4.5% from 19992001.

The estimated livestock population in 2005 was 7,000,000 head of cattle (including 1.1 million dairy cows), 1,757,000 pigs, and 12,700,000 poultry. In 2005, butter production was estimated at 142,000 tons, cheese 118,750 tons, and wool (greasy) 12,000 tons. Milk production in 2005 was 5,500,000 tons.

Since livestock is a major element in the country's economy, the government is particularly concerned with improving methods of operation and increasing output. A campaign for eradication of bovine tuberculosis was completed in 1965, and programs are under way for eradication of bovine brucellosis, warble fly, and sheep scab.


Salmon, eels, trout, pike, perch, and other freshwater fish are found in the rivers and lakes; sea angling is good along the entire coast; and deep-sea fishing is done from the south and west coasts. The fishing industry has made considerable progress as a result of government measures to improve credit facilities for the purchase of fishing boats and the development of harbors; establishment of training programs for fishermen; increased emphasis on market development and research; establishment of hatcheries; and promotion of sport fishing as an attraction for tourists. The Irish fishing fleet consisted of 1,376 vessels with a capacity of 77,888 gross tons in 2002.

Leading varieties of saltwater fish are mackerel, herring, cod, whiting, plaice, ray, skate, and haddock. Lobsters, crawfish, and Dublin Bay prawns are also important. In 2003, the value of fish exports was $453.5 million, up 32% from 2000. Aquaculture accounted for 19% of the volume. The total fish production in 2003 was 364,861 tons. Mackerel, herring, and blue whiting accounted for 24% of the volume that year.


Once well forested, Ireland was stripped of timber in the 17th and 18th centuries by absentee landlords, who made no attempt to reforest the denuded land, and later by the steady conversion of natural forest into farms and grazing lands. In an effort to restore part of the woodland areas, a state forestry program was inaugurated in 1903; since then, over 350,000 hectares (865,000 acres) have been planted. More than half the planting is carried out in the western counties. In 2000, about 9.6% of Ireland was forested; about 95% of the trees planted are coniferous. The aim of the forestry program is to eliminate a large part of timber importsa major drain on the balance of paymentsand to produce a surplus of natural and processed timber for export. Roundwood removals totaled 2.5 million cu m (88 million cu ft) in 2004.


Ireland was a leading European Union (EU) producer of lead and zinc in 2003, and an important producer of lead, alumina, and peat. Mineral production in 2003 included zinc, 419,014 kg, compared to 252,700 kg in 2002; mined lead, 50,339,000 tons, compared to 32,486,000 tons in 2002; and an estimated 1.2 million metric tons of alumina. Other commercially exploited minerals were silver, hydraulic cement, clays for cement production, fire clay, granite, slate, marble, rock sand, silica rock, gypsum, lime, limestone, sand and gravel, shales, dolomite, diatomite, building stone, and aggregate building materials.

Zinc production centered on three zinc-lead mines, the Lisheen (a joint venture of Anglo American PLC and Ivernia West PLC), the Galmoy (Arcon International Resources PLC), and the Tara (Outokumpu Oyj), three of Europe's most modern mines. Outokumpu announced that because of low zinc prices, it was closing the Tara Mine (at Navan, County Meath), the largest lead-zinc field in Europe, and putting it on care and maintenance; the Tara came into production in the late 1970s. The Galmoy Mine was producing 650,000 tons per year of ore at target grades of 11.3% zinc and 1% lead, and the Lisheen Mine, which mined its first ore in 1999 and began commercial production in 2001, initially planned to produce 160,000 tons per year of zinc concentrate, to be increased to 330,000 tons per year of zinc concentrate and 40,000 tons per year of lead in concentrate at full production; both were on the Rathdowney Trend mineralized belt, southwest of Dublin. Cambridge Mineral Resources PLC continued diamond and sapphire exploration work, identifying numerous diamond indicator minerals and recovering significant quantities of ruby and sapphire. Gold was discovered in County Mayo in 1989, with an estimated 498,000 tons of ore at 1.5 grams per ton of gold. There was a marked increase in mining exploration beginning in the early 1960s, resulting in Ireland becoming a significant source of base metals.


Ireland's energy and power sector is marked by a lack of any oil reserves, thus making it totally dependent upon imports. However, the country has modest natural gas reserves, and a small refining capacity.

In 2002, Ireland's imports of crude and refined petroleum products averaged 211,230 barrels per day. Domestic refinery production for that year averaged 65,230 barrels per day. Demand for refined oil products averaged 180,440 barrels per day.

Ireland's proven reserves of natural gas were estimated as of 1 January 2002 at 9.911 billion cu m. Output in 2001 was estimated at 815 million cu m, with demand and imports estimated at 4.199 billion cu m and 3.384 billion cu m, respectively, for that year.

Ireland's electric power generating sector is primarily based upon the use of conventional fossil fuels to provide electric power. Total generating capacity in 2002 stood at 4.435 million kW, of which conventional thermal capacity accounted for 4.049 million kW, followed by hydropower at 0.236 million kW and geothermal/other at 0.150 million kW. Total power production in 2002 was 22.876 billion kWh, of which 94% was from fossil fuels, mostly thermal coal and oil stations, 3.9% from hydropower, and the rest from geothermal/other sources.

Ireland's Coal production consists of high-ash semibituminous from the Connaught Field, and is used for electricity production. In 2002, Ireland imported 3,148,000 short tons of coal, of which 3,090,000 short tons consisted of hard coal, and 58,000 short tons of lignite.


Since the establishment of the Irish Free State, successive governments encouraged industrialization by granting tariff protection and promoting diversification. Following the launching of the First Program for Economic Expansion by the government in 1958, considerable progress was made in developing this sector of the economy, in which foreign industrialists played a significant role. The Industrial Development Authority (IDA) administers a scheme of incentives to attract foreign investment. In addition, several government agencies offer facilities for consulting on research and development, marketing, exporting, and other management matters.

Official policy favors private enterprises. Where private capital and interest were lacking, the state created firms to operate essential services and to stimulate further industrial development, notably in the fields of sugar, peat, electricity, steel, fertilizers, industrial alcohol, and transportation. Although efforts have been made to encourage decentralization, about half of all industrial establishments and personnel are concentrated in Dublin and Cork.

Industry grew by an average annual rate of more than 5% from 1968 to 1981, and peaked at 12% in 1984 before subsiding to an annual rate of about 4%. The greatest growth was in high technology industries, like electronics and pharmaceuticals, where labor productivity also was growing substantially, thus limiting increases in the number of jobs. The most important products of manufacturing, by gross output, are food, metal, and engineering goods, chemicals and chemical products, beverages and tobacco, nonmetallic minerals, and paper and printing. The making of glass and crystal are also important industries. Industrial production continued to grow into the late 1990s, the "Celtic Tiger" years, posting a 15.8% growth in 1998.

Industry employed 28% of the labor force in 2000, and accounted for 36% of GDP in 2001. The value of industry output in 2000 was 12.3% higher than in 1999. Computer and pharmaceutical enterprises, largely owned by foreign companies, were responsible for high manufacturing output in 2000. Although there is no formal governmental privatization plan, the government planned to privatize the state-owned natural gas distributor (Bord Gas), the state-owned airline (Aer Lingus), and the state-owned electricity distributor (ESB) as of 2002.

Ireland was shifting attention away from industry and towards services. Activity was quickened by preferential corporation tax rates for manufacturers and manufactures were decreasing relative to services and agriculture. Yet, in 2004 the industrial production growth rate was 7%.


The major organizations doing scientific research in Ireland are the Agricultural Institute (established in 1958) and the Institute for Industrial Research and Standards (1946). The Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, established by the state in 1940, includes a School of Theoretical Physics and a School of Cosmic Physics. The Royal Irish Academy, founded in 1785 and headquartered in Dublin, promotes study in science and the humanities and is the principal vehicle for Ireland's participation in international scientific unions. It has sections for mathematical and physical sciences and for biology and the environment.

The Royal Dublin Society (founded in 1731) promotes the advancement of agriculture, industry, science, and art. Ireland has 13 other specialized learned societies concerned with agriculture, medicine, science, and technology. Major scientific facilities include the Dinsink Observatory (founded in 1785) and the National Botanic Gardens (founded in 1795), both in Dublin.

Most scientific research is funded by the government; the government advisory and coordinating body on scientific matters is the National Board for Science and Technology. Medical research is supported by the Medical Research Council and Medico-Social Research Board. Veterinary and cereals research is promoted by the Department of Agriculture. The Department of Fisheries and Forestry and the Department of Industry and Energy have developed their own research programs. The UNESCO prize in science was awarded in 1981 for the development of clofazimines, a leprosy drug produced by the Medical Research Council of Ireland with aid from the Development Cooperation Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Research and development (R&D) expenditures in 2001 (the latest year for which data was available) totaled $1.427 million, or 1.14% of GDP. Of that amount, 67.2% came from the business sector, with 25.2% coming from the government. Foreign sources accounted for 6%, while higher education provided 1.7%. As of 2002, there were some 2,471 researchers per one million people that were actively engaged in R&D. In that same year, high-tech exports were valued at $31.642 billion and accounted for 41% of manufactured exports. Ireland has 21 universities and colleges that offer courses in basic and applied science. In 198797, science and engineering students accounted for 31% of university enrollment. In 2002, a total of 29.3% of all bachelor's degrees awarded were in the sciences (natural, mathematics and computers, and engineering).


Dublin is the financial and commercial center, the distribution point for most imported goods, and the port through which most of the country's agricultural products are shipped to Britain and the Continent. Cork, the second-largest manufacturing city and close to the transatlantic port of Cobh, is also important, as is Limerick, with its proximity to Shannon International Airport. Other important local marketing centers are Galway, Drogheda, Dundalk, Sligo, and Waterford.

The trend in retail establishments was changing from small shops owned and operated by individuals, to larger department stores, outlets, and chain stores operated by management companies. As of 2002, there were about 52,000 retail and 2,500 wholesale outlets across the country. There were about 9,000 retail food outlets. A 21% value-added tax applies to most goods and services.

Country Exports Imports Balance
World 93,037.3 53,781.6 39,255.7
United States 19,161.5 8,368.6 10,792.9
United Kingdom 16,835.7 16,611.1 224.6
Belgium 11,668.8 840.6 10,828.2
Germany 7,708.2 3,892.7 3,815.5
France-Monaco 5,689.6 2,116.5 3,573.1
Netherlands 4,773.8 1,898.3 2,875.5
Italy-San Marino-Holy See 4,233.5 1,203.9 3,029.6
Switzerland-Liechtenstein 3,014.8 552.2 2,462.6
Spain 2,654.8 743.2 1,911.6
Japan 2,415.6 2,591.6 -176.0
() data not available or not significant.

Office business hours are usually 9 or 9:30 am to 5:30 pm. Shops are generally open from 9 am to 6 pm, although most supermarkets are open until 9 pm on Thursday and Friday. In general, banking hours are 10 am to 12:30 pm and 1:30 to 4 pm, Monday through Friday, and 3 to 5 pm on Thursday. Most offices are closed on Saturday, and shops close on either Wednesday or Saturday afternoon. Businesses may close for extended periods during the months of July and August.


Ireland began opening to free trade in the 1960s. It is now one of the most open and largest exporting markets (on a per capital level). Growth was heavily encouraged by the export sectors in the 1990s and the average annual export volume growth was near an annual rate of 20% between 1996 and 2000.

Computers and office products have become some of Ireland's most profitable export products (28%). The country also manufactures musical instruments (5.2%), making 12.7% of the world's exports. Other export items include chemicals like nitrogen compounds (10.9%), electronic circuitry (5.2%), and medicines (4.9%).

As of 2003, the United States absorbed 20.5% of Ireland's exports, the United Kingdom 18.1%, Belgium 12.6%, Germany 8.3%, France 6.1%, Netherlands 5.1%, and Italy 4.6%. Import partners include the United Kingdom (34.8% of imports), the United States (15.6%), Germany (8.1%), and the Netherlands (4.1%). Imported commodities include data processing equipment, machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum and petroleum products, textiles, and clothing.


The volume of Irish exports increased dramatically 19952000, registering an average annual growth of 16.9%; the rate of import growth over the same period was only slightly lower at 16.6%. The year 2000 was the first since 1991 that the current account was not in surplus. The reduction of the balance of payments surplus in the early 2000s suggested that the level of Irish imports was increasing due to increased demand for luxury items and services, rather than from a decline in exports. The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) reported that in 2002 the purchasing power parity of Ireland's exports was $85.3 billion while imports totaled

Current Account -2,105.0
   Balance on goods 37,807.0
     Imports -51,763.0
     Exports 89,570.0
   Balance on services -14,306.0
   Balance on income -26,142.0
   Current transfers 536.0
Capital Account 442.0
Financial Account 951.0
   Direct investment abroad -3,528.0
   Direct investment in Ireland 26,599.0
   Portfolio investment assets -161,319.0
   Portfolio investment liabilities 106,389.0
   Financial derivatives -2,355.0
   Other investment assets -48,864.0
   Other investment liabilities 84,028.0
Net Errors and Omissions -1,178.0
Reserves and Related Items 1,890.0
() data not available or not significant.

$48.3 billion resulting in a trade surplus of $37 billion. Irish export growth during those years, in fact, consistently surpassed EU growth. However, the slowdown in the global economy and the slower than predicted growth in the euro area was expected to negatively impact Irish exports.


In 1979, Ireland joined the European Monetary System, thus severing the 150-year-old tie with the British pound. The Central Bank of Ireland, established in 1942, is both the monetary authority and the bank of issue. Its role quickly expanded considerably, particularly in monetary policy. Commercial deposits with the Central Bank have strongly increased since 1964, when legislation first permitted it to pay interest on deposits held for purposes other than settlement of clearing balances. Since July 1969, the Central Bank has accepted short-term deposits from various institutions, including commercial and merchant banks. With the advent of the European Monetary Union (EMU) in 1999, authority over monetary policy shifted to the European Central Bank.

The commercial banking sector is dominated by two main Irish-owned groups, the Bank of Ireland Group and the Allied Irish Banks Group. Successive governments have indicated that they would like to see a third banking force (possibly involving a strategic alliance with a foreign bank). Other major banks include the National Irish Bank, a member of the National Australia Bank, and Ulster Bank, a member of the National Westminster Bank Group. The International Monetary Fund reports that in 2001, currency and demand depositsan aggregate commonly known as M1were equal to $21.1 billion. In that same year, M2an aggregate equal to M1 plus savings deposits, small time deposits, and money market mutual fundswas $94.1 billion. The money market rate, the rate at which financial institutions lend to one another in the short term, was 3.31%.

A number of other commercial, merchant, and industrial banks also operate. Additionally, Ireland's post office operates the Post Office Savings Banks and Trustee Savings Banks. The Irish stock exchange has its trading floor in Dublin. All stockbrokers in Ireland are members of this exchange. The Irish Stock Exchange is small by international standards, with a total of 76 domestic companies listed at the end of 2001. Total market capitalization at the end of 2001 was (21.8 billion for the government securities market, making it one of the EU's smallest stock markets, however fast-growing.

The Stock Exchange Act came into effect on 4 December 1995, and separated the Dublin Stock Exchange from the London Stock Exchange. Since that date, the Dublin Stock Exchange has been regulated by the Central Bank of Ireland. As of 2004, there were a total of 53 companies listed on the Irish Stock Exchange, which had a market capitalization of $114.085 billion. In 2004, the ISEQ index rose 26% from the previous year to 6,197.8.


Insurance firms must be licensed by the Insurance Division of the Ministry of Industry, Trade, Commerce, and Tourism. The regulatory body is the Irish Brokers' Association. The Insurance Acts of 1936 and 1989 outline the monitoring of insurers, brokers, and agents.

In Ireland, workers' compensation, third-party automobile, bodily injury, and property damage liability are compulsory. In 1997, shareholders of Irish Life, Ireland's largest life assurance company, unanimously approved the company's £100 million ($163 million) takeover of an Illinois life assurance company, Guarantee Reserve. In 2003, the value of direct premiums written totaled $17.328 billion, of which life premiums accounted for $9.037 billion. Hibernian General in 2003 was Ireland's top non-life insurer, with net written nonlife premiums (less reinsurance) of $992.2 million, while Irish Life was the nation's leading life insurer with gross written life premiums of $2.362 million.

Revenue and Grants 17,762 100.0%
   Tax revenue 13,990 78.8%
   Social contributions 2,172 12.2%
   Grants 925 5.2%
   Other revenue 675 3.8%
Expenditures 17,432 100.0%
   General public services 3,810 21.9%
   Defense 506 2.9%
   Public order and safety
   Economic affairs 2,907 16.7%
   Environmental protection
   Housing and community amenities 366 2.1%
   Health 2,835 16.3%
   Recreational, culture, and religion 119 0.7%
   Education 2,368 13.6%
   Social protection 4,521 25.9%
() data not available or not significant.


Ireland's fiscal year follows the calendar year. Expenditures of local authorities are principally for health, roads, housing, and social welfare.

The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) estimated that in 2005 Ireland's central government took in revenues of approximately $70.4 billion and had expenditures of $69.4 billion. Revenues minus expenditures totaled approximately $1 billion. Public debt in 2005 amounted to 27.5% of GDP. Total external debt was $1.049 trillion.

Government outlays by function were as follows: general public services, 21.9%; defense, 2.9%; economic affairs, 16.7%; housing and community amenities, 2.1%; health, 16.3%; recreation, culture, and religion, 0.7%; education, 13.6%; and social protection, 25.9%.


To stimulate economic expansion and encourage investment in Irish industry, particularly in the area of industrial exports, tax adjustments have been made to give relief to export profits, expenditures for mineral development, shipping, plant and machinery, new industrial buildings, and investments in Irish securities. As of 1 January 2003, with Ireland's accession to the EU, the government had mostly completed the transition of the tax regime from an incentive regime to a low, single-tax regime with 12.5% as the country's rate for most corporate profits. Passive income, including that from interest, royalties, and dividends, is taxed at 20%. Capital gains are also taxed at 20%. As of 2005, Ireland was party to double-taxation agreements with 42 countries the terms of which provide for the reduction or elimination of many capital income tax rates and related withholding taxes. The incentive 10% corporation tax rate, applied to industrial manufacturing, to projects licensed to operate in the Shannon Airport area, and to various service operations, was still in effect in 2003, but, in an agreement with the European Commission, was scheduled to be phased out by 2010.

Ireland has a progressive personal income tax with a top rate of 42% on incomes above 29,400 for single taxpayers. Married taxpayers are subject to a higher income threshold level. For those over 65 years old, tax exemptions amounted to 15,000 per person. Deductions were available for mortgage payments and pension contributions. Since 1969, the government has encouraged artists and writers to live in Ireland by exempting from income tax their earnings from their works of art. Royalties and other income from patent rights are also tax-exempt. The gift and inheritance taxes are based upon the relationship of the beneficiary to the donor. Between a parent and child, the tax-free threshold in 2003 was 441,200; for any other lineal descendent, the tax-free threshold was one-tenth this amount, or 44,120; and for any other person, one-twentieth, or 22,060. Land taxes are assessed at variable rates by local governments, and there is a buildings transfer tax based on the price of the transfer.

The major indirect tax is Ireland's value-added tax (VAT) instituted 1 January 1972 with a standard rate of 16.37% plus a number of reduced, intermediate, and increased rates. As of 1 March 2002, the standard rate was increased to 21% from 20%, and the reduced rate of 12.5% increased to 13.5% as of 1 January 2003. The reduced rate applies to domestic fuel and power, newspapers, hotels and new housing. Ireland also has an extensive list of goods and services to which a 0% VAT rate is applied including, books and pamphlets, gold for the Central Bank, basic foodstuffs and beverages, agricultural supplies, medicines and medical equipment, and, more unusually, children's clothing and footwear, and wax candles. A 4.8% rate applies to livestock by unregistered farmers. Excise duties are charged on tobacco products, alcohol, fuel, and motor vehicles. Per unit and/or annual stamp taxes are assessed on checks, credit cards, ATM cards, and Laser cards.


From the time of the establishment of the Irish Free State, government policy was to encourage development of domestic industry by maintaining protective tariffs and quotas on commodities that would compete with Irish-made products. Following Ireland's admission to the European Community (now the European Union), the country's tariff schedule was greatly revised. The schedule vis-à-vis third-world countries and the United States was gradually aligned with EC tariffs and customs duties between Ireland and the EC were phased down to zero by July 1977. Duty rates on manufactured goods from non-EU countries range from 58%, while most raw materials enter duty-free. Certain goods still require import licenses and tariffs are based on the Harmonized System. The Shannon Free Trade Zone, the oldest official free trade area in the world, is located at the Shannon International Airport.


The Irish government has successfully attracted FDI (foreign direct investment) over the years with various policies and preferential tax rates. To stimulate economic expansion, the Industrial Development Authority encourages and facilitates investment by foreign interests, particularly in the development of industries with export potential. Special concessions include nonrepayable grants to help establish industries in underdeveloped areas and tax relief on export profits. Freedom to take out profits is unimpaired. Engineering goods, computers, electronic products, electrical equipment, pharmaceuticals and chemicals, textiles, food-stuffs, leisure products, and metal and plastic products are among the items produced. Much of the new investment occurred after Ireland became a member of the European Union.

Annual foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows into Ireland increased steadily through the 1990s. In the period 1988 to 1990, Ireland's share of world FDI inflows was only 70% of its share of world GDP, but for the period 1998 to 2000, Ireland's share of FDI inflows was over five times its share of world GDP. In 1998, annual FDI inflow reached $11 billion, up from $2.7 billion in 1997, and then jumped to almost $15 billion in 1999. FDI inflows to Ireland peaked in 2000, at over $24 billion, mainly from high-tech computer and pharmaceutical companies. FDI inflow dropped sharply to $9.8 billion in 2001 with the global economic slowdown.

Leading sources of foreign investors, in terms of percent of foreign companies invested in Ireland, have been the United States (43%), the United Kingdom (13%), Germany (13%), other European countries (22%), Japan (4%), and others (5%). As of 2000, the primary destinations of foreign investment were, in order, manufacturing, finance, and other services.


Government policies are premised on private enterprise as a predominant factor in the economy. Specific economic programs adopted in recent decades have attempted to increase efficiency in agriculture and industry, stimulate new export industries, create employment opportunities for labor leaving the agricultural sector, and reduce unemployment and net emigration. In pursuit of these objectives, the government provides aids to industry through the Industrial Development Authority (IDA), the Industrial Credit Co., and other agencies. Tax concessions, information, and advisory services are also provided.

The IDA seeks to attract foreign investment by offering a 10% maximum corporation tax rate for manufacturing and certain service industries, generous tax-free grants for staff training, ready-built factories on modern industrial estates, accelerated depreciation, export-risk guarantee programs, and other financial inducements. IDA also administers industrial estates at Waterford and Galway. The Shannon Free Airport Development Co., another government-sponsored entity, administers an industrial estate on the fringes of Shannon Airport, a location that benefits from proximity to the airport's duty-free facilities. A third entity, Udaras Na Gaeltachia, promotes investment and development in western areas where Irish is the predominant language. As of 1986 there were some 900 foreign-owned plants in Ireland.

Price control legislation was introduced under the Prices Act of 1958, amended in 1965 and 1972. In general, manufacturers, service industries, and professions are required to obtain permission from the Ministry of Commerce and Trade for any increase. Price changes are monitored by a National Prices Commission, established in 1971. The economic plan for 19831987, called The Way Forward, aimed at improving the cost-competitiveness of the economy by cutting government expenditures and restraining the growth of public service pay, among other measures. The 19871990 Program for National Recovery is generally credited with creating the conditions to bring government spending and the national debt under control. The 19911993 Program for Economic and Social Progress was to further reduce the national debt and budget deficit and to establish a schedule of wage increases.

A 19941999 national development plan called for investment of £20 billion and aimed to achieve an average annual GDP growth rate of 3.5%. The government hoped to create 200,000 jobs through this plan, with funding by the state, the EU, and the private sector. Half of the money was earmarked for industry, transport, training, and energy.

At the end of the 1990s, Ireland boasted the fastest growing economy in the EU with a 9.5% GDP real growth rate in 1998. Total expenditures on imports and exports in 2000 were equivalent to 175% of GDP, far ahead of the EU average, which made Ireland's economy one of the most open in the world. Ireland became known as the "Celtic Tiger," to compare with the formerly fast-growing economies of East Asia prior to the Asian financial crisis of 1997. In 2000, the economy grew by 11.5%, the highest growth rate ever recorded in an OECD member country. Wage inequality grew, however, and spending on infrastructure failed to keep pace with social or industrial demands. Corporate taxes were as low as 12.5% in some circumstances in the early 2000s. Economic growth decelerated rapidly in 2001, to 6%. Inflation fell as did housing prices, but they rose again in 2002. Tax increases were expected in 2003 and 2004, and the government was facing pressures to cut spending. GDP growth was 4.4% in 2003 and 4.5% in 2004.


A social insurance program exists for all employees and self-employed persons, and for all residents with limited means. The system is financed through employee contributions, employer contributions, and government subsidies. Benefits are available for old age, sickness, disability, survivorship, maternity, work injury, unemployment, and adoptive services. There are also funds available for those leaving the workforce to care for one in need of full time assistance. The system also provides bereavement and a widowed parent's grant. The universal medical care system provides medical services to all residents. The workmen's compensation act was first initiated in 1897. Parents with one or more children are entitled to a family allowance.

The predominance of the Roman Catholic Church has had a significant impact on social legislation. Divorce was made legal only in 1995. Contraceptives, the sale of which had been entirely prohibited, became available to married couples by prescription in the early 1980s. In 1985, the need for a prescription was abolished, and the minimum age for marriage was raised from 14 to 18 for girls and from 16 to 18 for boys. Abortion remains illegal.

Domestic abuse and spousal violence remain serious problems, although improvements were seen in 2004. The government funds victim support centers, and there are active women's rights groups to address these issues. The law prohibits gender discrimination in the workplace, but inequalities persist regarding promotion and pay. The government addresses the issue of child abuse, and funds systems to promote child welfare.

The government attempts to curb discrimination against foreign workers and the ethnic community known as "Travellers." There have been reports of racially motivated incidents including violence and intimidation. In general, the government respects the human rights of its citizens.


Health services are provided by regional boards under the administration and control of the Department of Health. A comprehensive health service, with free hospitalization, treatment, and medication, is provided for low-income groups. The middle-income population is entitled to free maternity, hospital, and specialist services, and a free diagnostic and preventive service is available to all persons suffering from specified infectious diseases. Insurance against hospital and certain other medical expenses is available under a voluntary plan introduced in 1957.

Since World War II, many new regional and county hospitals and tuberculosis sanatoriums have been built. As of 2004, there were an estimated 237 physicians, 51 dentists, and 83 pharmacists per 100,000 population. In addition, there were more than 1662 nurses per 100,000 people, the third most per capita in the world.

While deaths from cancer, particularly lung cancer, and heart disease are rising, those from many other causes have been decreasing rapidly. Infant mortality has been reduced from 50.3 per 1,000 live births in 1948 to 5.39 in 2005. Tuberculosis, long a major cause of adult deaths, declined from 3,700 cases in 1947 to only 15 per 100,000 in 2000. Average life expectancy at birth in 2005 was 77.56 years. The general mortality rate was an estimated 8 per 1,000 people as of 2002. The major causes of death were heart and circulatory disease, cancer, and ischemic heart disease. Heart disease rates were higher than average for highly industrialized countries.

The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 2,800 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 100 deaths from AIDS in 2003.


The aim of public housing policy is to ensure, so far as possible, that every family can obtain decent housing at a price or rent it can afford. Government subsidies are given to encourage home ownership, and local authorities provide housing for those unable to house themselves adequately. Housing legislation has encouraged private construction through grants and loans. Projected and existing housing needs are assessed regularly by local authorities, and their reports are the basis for local building programs, which are integrated with national programs and reconciled with available public resources.

According to the 2002 census, there were about 1,279,617 dwellings available in permanent housing units. Of these, about 74% were owner occupied. The number of households was listed as 1,287,958, with 43.7% of all households living in single-family detached homes. The average number of persons per household was 2.95.


Ten years of education are compulsory. Primary school covers eight years of education, with most students entering at age four. This is followed by a three-year junior secondary school and a two-year senior secondary program. Some schools offer a transition year program between the junior and senior levels. This transition year is meant to be a time of independent study for the student, when he or she focuses on special interests, while still under the guidance of instructors, in order make a decision concerning the direction of their future studies. At the senior level, students may choose to attend a vocational school instead of a general studies school. While private, religious-based secondary schools were once the norm, there are now many multi-denominational, public schools available at all levels. Coeducational programs have also grown substantially in recent years. The academic year runs from September to June. The primary languages of instruction are Irish and English.

Primary school enrollment in 2003 was estimated at about 96% of age-eligible students. The same year, secondary school enrollment was about 83% of age-eligible students; 80% for boys and 87% for girls. It is estimated that nearly all students complete their primary education. The student-to-teacher ratio for primary school was at about 19:1 in 2003.

Ireland has two main universities: the University of Dublin (Trinity College) and the National University of Ireland, which consists of three constituent colleges in Dublin, Galway, and Cork. St. Patrick's College, Maynooth, is a recognized college of the National University. Universities are self-governing, but each receives an annual state grant, as well as supplementary grants for capital outlays. There are also various colleges of education, home economics, technology, and the arts. In 2003, about 52% of the tertiary age population were enrolled in some type of higher education program. The adult literacy rate has been estimated at about 98%.

As of 2003, public expenditure on education was estimated at 4.3% of GDP, or 13.5% of total government expenditures.


Trinity College Library, which dates from 1591 and counts among its many treasures the Book of Kells and the Book of Durrow, two of the most beautiful illuminated manuscripts from the pre-Viking period, is the oldest and largest library in Ireland, with a stock of 4.1 million volumes. The Chester Beatty Library, noted for one of the world's finest collections of Oriental manuscripts and miniatures, is also in Dublin. The National Library of Ireland, which also serves as a lending library, was founded in 1877 and houses over one million books, with special collections including works on or by Jonathan Swift and W. B. Yeats. The National Photographic Archive of over 600,000 photographs is also housed in the National Library. The University College Dublin library has more than one million volumes. The Dublin City Public Library system has about 31 branches and service points and holdings of over 1.5 million items.

Dublin, the center of cultural life in Ireland, has several museums and a number of libraries. The National Museum contains collections on Irish antiquities, folk life, fine arts, natural history, zoology, and geology. The National Gallery houses valuable paintings representing the various European schools from the 13th century to the present. The National Portrait Gallery provides a visual survey of Irish historical personalities over the past three centuries. The Municipal Gallery of Modern Art has a fine collection of works by recent and contemporary artists. There is a Heraldic Museum in Dublin Castle; the National Botanic Gardens are at Glasnevin; and the Zoological Gardens are in Phoenix Park. There is a James Joyce Museum in Dublin housing personal memorabilia of the great writer, including signed manuscripts. Yeats Tower in Gort displays memorabilia of W. B. Yeats. The Dublin Writers' Museum opened in 1991.

Public libraries and small museums, devoted mostly to local historical exhibits, are found in Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Galway, and other cities.


In 2003, there were an estimated 491 mainline telephones for every 1,000 people. The same year, there were approximately 880 mobile phones in use for every 1,000 people.

An autonomous public corporation, Radio Telefis Éireann (RTE), is the Irish national broadcasting organization. Ireland's second radio service, Raidio na Gaeltachta, an Irish language broadcast, was launched by RTE in 1972; it broadcasts VHF from County Galway. In 2004, there were an additional 49 independent radio stations. RTE operates three television networks and there is one independent television station. In 2003, there were an estimated 695 radios and 694 television sets for every 1,000 people. About 134 of every 1,000 people were cable subscribers. Also in 2003, there were 420.8 personal computers for every 1,000 people and 317 of every 1,000 people had access to the Internet. There were 1,245 secure Internet servers in the country in 2004.

In 2001, there were eight independent national newspapers, as well as many local newspapers. There were three major independent current affairs magazines along with hundreds of special interest magazines. Ireland's major newspapers, with political orientation and estimated 2002 circulation, are: Sunday Independent, Fine Gael, 310,500; Sunday World, independent, 229,000; Irish Independent, Fine Gael, 168,200; Irish Times, independent, 119,200; Irish Examiner (in Cork), 63,600; and Cork Evening Echo, Fine Gael, 28,800. Waterford, Limerick, Galway, and many other smaller cities and towns have their own newspapers, most of them weeklies. The Censorship of Publication Board has the right to censor or ban publication of books and periodicals. In 2003, the Board censored nine magazines for containing pornographic materials.

The constitution provides for free speech and a free press; however, government bodies may decree without public hearing or justification any material unfit for distribution on moral grounds. The Office of Film Censor, which rates films and videos before they can be distributed, can ban or require edits of movies which contain content considered to be "indecent, obscene, or blasphemous," or which expresses principles "contrary to public morality." In 2001, 26 videos were banned, primarily for violent or pornographic content. In 2004, one video was banned.


The Chambers of Commerce of Ireland in Dublin is the umbrella organization for regional chambers. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions is also based in Dublin. There are trade unions and professional associations representing a wide variety of occupations. The Consumers Association of Ireland is active in advocating consumer information services.

The oldest and best known of the learned societies are the Royal Dublin Society, founded in 1731, and the Royal Irish Academy, founded in 1785. The Royal Irish Academy of Music was added in 1856, the Irish Society of Arts and Commerce in 1911, the Irish Academy of Letters in 1932, and the Arts Council of Ireland in 1951. Many organizations exist for research and study in medicine and science, including the Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland.

National youth organizations include the Church of Ireland Youth Council, Comhchairdeas (the Irish Workcamp Movement), Confederation of Peace Corps, Federation of Irish Scout Associations, Irish Girl Guides, Girls' Brigade Ireland, Junior Chamber, Student Christian Movement of Ireland, Voluntary Service International, Workers Party Youth, Young Fine Gael, and chapters of YMCA/YWCA. The Irish Sports Council serves as an umbrella organization for numerous athletic organizations both on amateur and professional levels.

Civil rights organizations include the Irish Council for Civil Liberties and the National Women's Council of Ireland. Several organizations are available to represent those with disabilities. International organizations with chapters in Ireland include the Red Cross, Habitat for Humanity, and Amnesty International.


Among Ireland's numerous ancient and prehistoric sights are a restored Bronze Age lake dwelling (crannog ) near Quin in County Clare, burial mounds at Newgrange and Knowth along the Boyne, and the palace at the Hill of Tara, the seat of government up to the Middle Ages. Numerous castles may be visited, including Blarney Castle in County Cork, where visitors kiss the famous Blarney Stone. Some, such as Bunratty Castle and Knappogue Castle, County Clare, and Dungaire Castle, County Galway, offer medieval-style banquets, and some rent rooms to tourists.

Among Dublin's tourist attractions are the Trinity College Library, with its 8th-century illuminated Book of Kells; Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed park in Western Europe and home of the Dublin Zoo; and literary landmarks associated with such writers as William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Jonathan Swift, and Oscar Wilde. Dublin has long been noted for its theaters, foremost among them the Abbey Theatre, Ireland's national theater, which was founded in 1904 by Yeats and Lady Gregory. Dublin was the European Community's Cultural Capital of Europe for 1991, during which time the National Gallery, Civic Museum, and Municipal Gallery were all refurbished and several new museums opened, including the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Traditional musical events are held frequently, one of the best known being the All-Ireland Fleadh at Ennis in County Clare. Numerous parades, concerts, and other festivities occur on and around the St. Patrick's Day holiday of 17 March. Ireland has numerous golf courses, some of worldwide reputation. Fishing, sailing, horseback riding, hunting, horse racing, and greyhound racing are other popular sports. The traditional sports of Gaelic football, hurling, and camogie (the women's version of hurling) were revived in the 19th century and have become increasingly popular. The All-Ireland Hurling Final and the All-Ireland Football Final are held in September.

A passport is required of all visitors. Visas are not required for stays of up to 90 days, although an onward/return ticket may be needed.

Income from tourism and travel contributes significantly to the economy. Approximately 6,774,000 tourists visited Ireland in 2003, about 61% of whom came from the United Kingdom. That same year tourism receipts totaled $5.2 billion. There were 62,807 hotel rooms in 2002, with a 59% occupancy rate.

According to the US Department of State in 2005, the daily cost of staying in Dublin was $403; in Cork, $292.


A list of famous Irish must begin with St. Patrick (c.385461), who, though not born in Ireland, represents Ireland to the rest of the world. Among the "saints and scholars" of the 6th to the 8th centuries were St. Columba (52197), missionary to Scotland; St. Columban (540?616), who founded monasteries in France and Italy; and Johannes Scotus Erigena (810?80), a major Neoplatonic philosopher.

For the thousand years after the Viking invasions, the famous names belong to warriors and politicians: Brian Boru (962?1014), who temporarily united the kings of Ireland and defeated the Vikings; Hugh O'Neill (1547?1616), Owen Roe O'Neill (1590?1649), and Patrick Sarsfield (d. 1693), national heroes of the 17th century; and Henry Grattan (17461820), Wolf Tone (176398), Edward Fitzgerald (176398), Robert Emmet (17781803), Daniel O'Connell (17751847), Michael Davitt (18461906), Charles Stewart Parnell (184691), Arthur Griffith(18721922), Patrick Henry Pearse (18791916), and Éamon de Valera (b.US, 1882 1975), who, with many others, fought Ireland's political battles. The politician and statesman Seán MacBride (1904-88) won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974.

Irishmen who have made outstanding contributions to science and scholarship include Robert Boyle (162791), the physicist who defined Boyle's law relating to pressure and volume of gas; Sir William Rowan Hamilton (180565), astronomer and mathematician, who developed the theory of quaternions; George Berkeley (16851753), philosopher and clergyman; Edward Hincks (17921866), discoverer of the Sumerian language; and John Bagnell Bury (18611927), classical scholar. The nuclear physicist Ernest T. S. Walton (190395) won the Nobel Prize for physics in 1951.

Painters of note include Sir William Orpen (18781931), John Butler Yeats (18391922), his son Jack Butler Yeats (18711957), and Mainie Jellet (18971944). Irish musicians include the pianist and composer John Field (17821837), the opera composer Michael William Balfe (180870), the tenor John McCormack (18841945), and the flutist James Galway (b.Belfast, 1939).

After the Restoration, many brilliant satirists in English literature were born in Ireland, among them Jonathan Swift (16671745), dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin and creator of Gulliver's Travels; Oliver Goldsmith (1730?74); Richard Brinsley Sheridan (17511816); Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde (18541900); and George Bernard Shaw (18561950).

Thomas Moore (17791852) and James Clarence Mangan (180349) wrote patriotic airs, hymns, and love lyrics, while Maria Edgeworth (17671849) wrote novels on Irish themes. Half a century later the great literary revival led by Nobel Prize-winning poet-dramatist William Butler Yeats (18651939), another son of John Butler Yeats, produced a succession of famous playwrights, poets, novelists, and short-story writers: the dramatists Lady Augusta (Persse) Gregory (1859?1932), John Millington Synge (18711909), Sean O'Casey (18841964), and Lennox Robinson (18861958); the poets AE (George William Russell, 18671935), Oliver St. John Gogarty (18781957), Pádraic Colum (18811972), James Stephens (18821950); Austin Clarke (18901974), Thomas Kinsella (b.1928), and Seamus Heaney (b.1939), who won the 1995 Nobel Prize in literature; the novelists and short-story writers George Moore (18521932), Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett, 18th baron of Dunsany (18781957), Liam O'Flaherty (18961984), Seán O'Faoláin (190091), Frank O'Connor (Michael O'Donovan, 190366), and Flann O'Brien (Brian O'Nolan, 191166). Two outstanding authors of novels and plays whose experimental styles have had worldwide influence are James Augustine Joyce (18821941), the author of Ulysses, and Samuel Beckett (190689), recipient of the 1969 Nobel Prize for literature.

The Abbey Theatre, which was the backbone of the literary revival, also produced many outstanding dramatic performers, such as Dudley Digges (18791947), Sara Allgood (18831950), Arthur Sinclair (18831951), Maire O'Neill (Mrs. Arthur Sinclair, 18871952), Barry Fitzgerald (William Shields, 18881961), and Siobhan McKenna (19231986). For many years Douglas Hyde (18601949), first president of Ireland (193845), spurred on the Irish-speaking theater as playwright, producer, and actor.

In addition to the genres of Irish folk and dance music, contemporary Irish popular and rock music has gained international attention. Van Morrison (b.1945), is a singer and songwriter from Belfast whose career began in the 1960s and was going strong in the 2000s. Enya (b.1961), is Ireland's best-selling solo musician. The Irish rock band U-2 is led by Bono (b.1960): Bono has also spearheaded efforts to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia, to fight world poverty, to campaign for third-world debt relief, and to raise world consciousness to the plight of Africa, including the spread of HIV/AIDS on the continent.


Ireland has no territories or colonies.


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Major Cities:
Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, Waterford

Other Cities:
Cashel, Cavan, Cóbh, Dún Laoghaire, Kilkenny, Killarney, Tralee, Wexford


This chapter was adapted from the Department of State Post Report 2000 for Ireland. Supplemental material has been added to increase coverage of minor cities, facts have been updated, and some material has been condensed. Readers are encouraged to visit the Department of State's web site at for the most recent information available on travel to this country.


It is said that Ireland, once visited, is never forgotten. The Irish landscape has a mythic resonance, due as much to the country's almost tangible history as its claim to being the home of the fairies and the "little people." Sure, the weather may not always be clement, but the dampness ensures there are 50 shades of green to compensate, just one of the reasons Ireland is called the Emerald Isle. Scattered mountains and hills rim a central plain, where the River Shannon flows past green woodlands, pastures, and peat bogs.

Ireland was the seat of learning and sent scholar-missionaries throughout Europe in the Dark Ages. Now it draws visitors with a composite charm shaped of lilting laughter, Irish eyes, and the Blarney Stone; of soils man-made from seaweed and sand in the harsh Aran Islands, or palms waving in warm Glengarriff, of Donegal's lava and Killarney's lakes; of voluble, tempestuous people with a remarkable roll of literary lights-such names as Swift, Yeats, Wilde, Shaw, Joyce, O'Casey, Synge. Eight centuries of strife with Britain brought formal establishment of the republic in 1949. Its name in Gaelic is tire.

Although English is the main language of Ireland, it's spoken with a mellifluous lilt and a peculiar way of structuring sentences, to be sure. There remain areas of western and southern Ireland, known as the Gaeltacht, where Irish is the native language-they include parts of Kerry, Galway, Mayo, the Aran Islands, and Donegal. Since Independence in 1921, the Republic of Ireland has declared itself to be bilingual, and many documents and road signs are printed in both Irish and English. Jigging an evening away to Irish folk music is one of the joys of a trip to Ireland. Most traditional music is performed on fiddle, tin whistle, goatskin drum, and pipes. Almost every village seems to have a pub renowned for its music where you can show up and find a session in progress, even join in if you feel so inclined.

Irish meals are usually based around meat-in particular, beef, lamb and pork chops. Traditional Irish breads and scones are also delicious, and other traditional dishes include bacon and cabbage, a cake-like bread called barm brack and a filled pancake called a boxty.

Though the nation's charms are fabled, it faces problems. The "troubles" are far from over in the North, but the recent referendum clearly signaled a willingness for peace and a genuine solution may be in sight.

The country is home to one of the most gregarious and welcoming people in Europe.



Like most ancient cities, Dublin lies sprawled along a river. In fact, three visible and underground rivers converge and flow into the Irish Sea. The greatest of these is the Liffey, which has divided Dublin into north and south for more than 1,000 years, much as tracks divide the core of a railroad town. Today, nearly one-third of the Irish population live in the greater Dublin area. It is the political, cultural, and economic heart of the nation.

The great public buildings, the red brick Georgian rowhouses, and the fine parks that give the city its distinctive character originated in the 18th century. The Grand and Royal Canals encircle the Georgian core of the city. Quaint shop fronts and pubs of the 19th and early 20th centuries add to the flavor of downtown. Dublin has begun reclaiming some of the historic past, though many once-fine areas have decayed badly from years of poverty and neglect. New office developments have changed the city center's skyline. The outer rim is ringed by newly built housing tracts and industrial parks. The quays along the Liffey River are beginning to change the image of a rundown seaport. New business has started to develop as well as seafront apartment buildings. Small villages, until this century a short journey away, are now enclosed within the city's sprawl.

Dublin, whose name in Irish (Gaelic) is Baile Átha Cliath, was a Norse stronghold in the ninth century. The forces of Brian Boru, high king of Ireland, took the site in a fierce battle at nearby Clontarf in 1014, forever ending Danish claim to the territory. In 1172, Richard Strongbow, the earl of Pembroke, captured the city for England; it was given a charter and made the center of the Pale, the indefinite limits around Dublin which were dominated by English rule (hence the saying, "beyond the Pale"). All of Ireland was besieged and colonized in the ensuing centuries, but Dublin enjoyed a period of prosperity in the late 1700s, during temporary respite from English authority. Intense nationalist efforts arose during the 19th century. On April 24, 1916, Dublin was the scene of the bloody and unsuccessful Easter Rebellion against British rule. It was not until 1922 that the Irish Free State was finally established.


Single-phase, 200v-220v, 50-cycle, AC electricity is standard throughout Ireland. Outlets take British-type three-prong plugs. The wiring in many houses cannot take heavy loads. American 60-cycle clocks will not operate satisfactorily in Ireland.

Most types of electrical equipment are available locally; however, they are more expensive.


Food in Dublin is more expensive than in the U.S. Meats, poultry, and fish are sold year round. Greengrocers offer a wider range of imported fruits and vegetables, but prices are higher than at supermarkets. Fresh meats and produce in Ireland pose no special hygiene problems. Canned fruits and juices are available, and good-quality dairy and bakery products abound. Baby food in cans and jars can be found in any supermarket. Although most shopping needs can be met through diligent shopping, bring special spices and condiments to prepare favorite ethnic dishes.


Because of the cool damp climate, woolens can be worn most of the year. Even in summer, light cotton clothing is rarely worn. Irish houses are frequently cold compared to those in the U.S. In selecting clothes, include sweaters, gloves, scarves, and sturdy weatherproof coats and footwear. Flannel pajamas and bed socks are desirable for overnight travel and even at home. Rainwear for adults and children can be purchased locally at reasonable prices.

Ready-made clothing of all types is sold in Dublin. Good-quality articles, especially woolens and shoes, are expensive but on par with U.S. prices for similar quality. Narrow shoe sizes are hard to find.

Men: Good-quality, ready-made, and tailor-fitted wool suits can be found at reasonable prices in Dublin. Nonetheless, bring several medium- or heavyweight wool suits, a topcoat, and a raincoat. Although dark suits are worn for most evening functions, a black dinner jacket (tuxedo) is occasionally required. Tuxedos and other formal wear can be rented or purchased locally.

Women: Department stores and discount stores stock a wide choice of fashions for women, priced according to quality. Comfortable closed walking shoes are invaluable. Boots are preferred by many during the winter. Although you can easily find a wide choice from fashions to shoes and accessories, it is advisable to bring complete wardrobes.

Children: Although quality is good, clothes can be very expensive for growing children. Bring complete children's wardrobes, anticipating larger sizes that will be needed. Good-quality sweaters and rain-wear can be bought locally at reasonable prices. School uniforms are required and most items must be purchased at specified stores.

Supplies and Services

Cosmetics, toiletries, cigarettes, home medicines, and drugs are sold locally in considerable variety at prices above those in the U.S. English, French, and a few American brands are sold. Bring special cosmetics and home medicines if preferred, including sufficient prescription drugs to last until arrangements can be made with a local pharmacy. Most essential conveniences commonly used for housekeeping, entertaining, and household repairs are obtainable locally.

All basic community services, such as drycleaning, tailoring, beauty and barbershops, and shoe and auto repairs, are available in Dublin. A few dressmakers are also available. Mechanical services do not measure up to American standards. Delays are common, appointments are a must, and the quality of workmanship varies widely.

Religious Activities

Numerous religious denominations hold regular services in Dublin-Roman Catholic, Church of Ireland (Anglican), Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Greek Orthodox, Christian Science, Congregational, Evangelical, Seventh-day Adventist, Moravian, Society of Friends, Mormon, and Unitarian churches, four Jewish congregations, and the Dublin Islamic Center.


Private primary and secondary schools are good. Instruction is in English. Credits are usually accepted in the U.S. for schoolwork completed in Dublin.

A typical curriculum in a Dublin secondary school includes English, Irish (foreign students are exempted on request), mathematics, geography, history, foreign languages, science, art, music, and physical training. Athletic activities include rugby, soccer, netball, track & field, cricket, hurling, field hockey, swimming, and tennis.

Instruction in dancing, riding, music, and art is available at extra cost.

Depending on the location, many parents cannot rely on public transportation and must drive their children to and from school.

Most American children attend St. Andrew's College. Founded by the Presbyterians, St. Andrew's is now a nonsectarian, coeducational school with a curriculum comparable to those in the U.S., although sequence of coursework follows the Irish system. American secondary students may opt to follow either the Irish School Leaving or International Baccalaureate curriculum during their last 2 years. Credit is easily transferred to U.S. schools. With the aid of a State Department grant, the school has an American teacher of U.S. studies. The Irish grading system is more rigorous. Report cards are meant to be shared only by the student, parents, and teachers. American college applicants need special guidance in preparing applications that adequately explain the Irish system or their reported grades may often appear low. St. Andrew's College will prepare transcripts for U.S. colleges that explain Irish grades. St. Andrew's is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Ireland's Department of Education, and the European Council of International Schools.

Irish ninth graders must take a rigorous examination called the Junior Certificate. The examination covers a 3-year cycle in mathematics, science, English, history, geography, Irish, and business studies. Although foreign students who have not made the entire cycle may be exempted from the exam, some may choose to take it as much of the ninth year is spent preparing for it.

The 10th year is seen as a decompression year sandwiched between the high pressure Junior Certificate exam and the even more intense Leaving Certificate test held at the end of the senior (12th grade) year of high school. Although the Ministry of Education dictates the subjects covered during the 10th grade, methods of instruction differ from school to school. It is the only opportunity Irish students have to sample many different subjects without the pressure of external examination. The 11th and 12th grades are geared to passing the highly competitive Leaving Certificate, the key to admission to Irish universities. Although foreign students may be exempted from the Leaving Certificate, juniors and seniors should join their Irish classmates in preparing for it. Leaving Certificate studies provide good preparation for the American SAT examinations that are also given in Dublin.

School uniforms are required for students.

Our Junior School. The Junior School has its own principal and specially trained staff. The full range of elementary education subjects is taught: reading, writing, mathematics, environmental studies, art, music, nature study, hand-work, Irish, Latin, a basic introduction to continental languages, and computer studies. Project work, physical education, and sports are also an important part of the curriculum.

The final year of the Junior School course is specially designed to prepare pupils for transition to the Senior School.

This transition takes place at the age of 11-12. Saint Andrew's also receives a large influx of pupils from other elementary schools at this stage.

Special Educational Opportunities

Dublin has five universities-Trinity College, University College Dublin, Dublin City University, American College, Portobello College. Some technical, business, and professional (e.g., medicine, law) courses have higher fees. Ample opportunities exist for continuing education in Dublin through the universities, community and vocational schools, and foreign cultural institutes. A Guide to Evening Classes in Dublin is published each fall and also lists many daytime classes and activities for children. Purchase it at any bookstore or newsstand. In addition to such things as crafts, hobbies, business, and domestic skills, nearly all community and vocational schools offer lessons in Irish. Many schools offer classes on Irish culture, history, literature, and music and dance.


Despite the changeable weather, the Irish are great sports enthusiasts. Many opportunities exist for the active sportsperson and spectator alike. The Irish Tourist Board, "Bord Failte," has detailed information on sports activities. All equipment and clothing for locally popular sports are sold in Dublin.

Horse racing is a central feature of Irish sporting life. Irish horses have a fine record in events in England and other countries. Several leading courses are within easy reach of Dublin. The world-famous Irish Derby, the Irish St. Ledger, the Guinness Oaks, and other events are held at the Curragh in County Kildare, about an hour's drive from Dublin. The flat racing season is March to November. Steeplechase meetings take place throughout the year. Point to Point meetings are held in the spring. Racecourses within easy reach of Dublin are: Leopardstown, Fairyhouse, Nass, the Curragh, Navan, and Punchestown.

Greyhound racing is well established with many tracks throughout Ireland. Clomnel, County Tipperary, is the home of the Irish Coursing Club. Many thousands of dogs are registered in the Irish studbook each year, and greyhounds are a major Irish export.

Good riding stables are located near Dublin, and dozens more across the country offer both instruction and horses for hire. The Irish Horse Board, "Bord nag Capall," publishes a pamphlet called Where to Ride in Ireland.

Fish are plentiful in the rivers, lakes, and coastal waters of Ireland. The most common are lake and sea trout, salmon, and coarse fish. Although the best salmon streams are privately owned and strictly controlled, you can arrange a lease for a specified period at a moderate price. In addition, salmon and trout fishing are free in many areas subject only to the boat and boatman's hire fees. Those traveling to western Ireland for their angling can make all the arrangements, including any required permits, through their hotel or guesthouse. Sea fishing is good all around the Irish coast; the more popular areas are off the coasts of Cork, Mayo, Kerry and Wexford.

Hunting in Ireland usually means fox hunting, but there are also stag hunts and harriers. The season starts in October and ends in March. Club hunting takes place from September to November; these events are held early in the morning and arrangements can be made through a riding stable or the Honorary Secretary of the Hunt.

Shooting facilities in Ireland for sportsmen are limited and strictly controlled. Firearms certificates and hunting licenses are generally issued to visitors who have access to bona fide shooting arrangements or who have made advance booking with a recognized shoot; the number of certificates granted in respect to each shoot is controlled. Excellent shooting grounds, especially in the west of Ireland can be found. For queries on how to obtain a firearm certificate, you may call the Irish Department of Justice at 01-602-8202.

Within 20 miles of Dublin, you can find more than 45 private and public golf courses in all, many situated in splendid surroundings. Visitors are welcome at any club. Membership is difficult to obtain, some clubs have a 12-year waiting list, and is very expensive, since temporary membership fees are nonrefundable. It is possible to play on these courses for modest greens fees. The most popular courses in Dublin are Carrickmines, Elm Park, Killiney, and Portmarnock.

Dublin has many tennis, badminton, and squash clubs. Membership in these can also be expensive and difficult to arrange, and nonmembers are not permitted to use the courts. Public tennis courts are also available, but they can be crowded on weekends and evenings in summer.

Camping, hill walking, and cycling are popular. Access to mountain and moorland trails is free. The Irish Tourist Board has information on campgrounds, national parks and forests, organized trails, and hostels.

Strong winds and rough seas limit water activities. Swimming is popular among the Irish who are not deterred by the cold water. Dublin also has scuba diving schools and clubs that offer introductory lessons. Yachting is popular for those who can afford it, with centers located in Dublin and Cork harbors. Rowing is more popular than yachting, and numerous rowing clubs abound. The rivers and canals are easily navigated and offer beautiful countryside. You can also hire cruise boats for a splendid holiday on the Shannon River.

Irish hurling, a kind of field hockey, is one of the world's fastest field games. Hockey sticks and head injuries symbolize this rough-and-tumble sport. Camogue, a woman's game based on hurling, is played by many schoolgirls. Gaelic football is related to rugby and soccer. The annual all-Ireland finals of both hurling and Gaelic football command national attention. Both games are regulated by the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA), founded in 1884 and a major force in the national revival movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Handball, played with an extremely fast hard ball, is also a traditional game in Ireland. Many young people play rugby, cricket, and soccer at school and in athletic clubs.

Touring and Outdoor Activities

In and around Dublin are many places of interest to visit. In the oldest part of the city are the Church of Ireland Cathedrals of St. Patrick and Christ Church, and other interesting churches such as St. Michan's. You may visit Dublin Castle, parts of which date to the 13th century, which was the center of British rule in Ireland for centuries. Many fine 18th-century public buildings are open to the public, including the Bank of Ireland, formerly the Parliament House; Leinster House, seat of the Dail; Mansion House, residence of Dublin's Lord Mayor; the Custom House; Four Courts and King's Inn; the General Post Office; and the earlier Royal Hospital at Kilmainham.

Trinity College, aside from its lovely squares and notable buildings, houses the nation's finest library. Among the famous manuscripts and early printed books is the Book of Kells, a masterpiece of Celtic illumination. Dublin also offers a small number of very interesting museums. The National Museum houses the finest collection of Irish antiquities and an assortment of decorative arts. The National Gallery of Ireland contains an important collection of European paintings, while the emphasis at the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery is on changing exhibitions of contemporary work.

The Chester Beatty Library and Gallery of Oriental Art is devoted to the arts of the book and offers changing selections from one of the world's great collections of Islamic and Asian manuscripts. Kilmainham Gaol Historical Museum is the prison that held generations of Irish patriots. Within its walls, the leaders of the 1916 uprising were executed. It reopened in 1966 as a historical museum and has conducted tours.

Several beautiful parks can be found throughout Dublin. Phoenix Park, one of the world's largest urban parks, encloses the Zoological Gardens and the residences of the President of Ireland and the U.S. Ambassador. The National Botanic Gardens are located in Glasnevin in north Dublin. The fine Georgian squares of Dublin-St. Stephen's Green, Merrion Square, and Fitzwilliam Square-are also worth seeing. Well-preserved rows of Georgian houses surround Fitzwilliam and Merrion Squares.

Within an hour's drive of Dublin are many historic sights. Beautifully situated in the Wicklow Mountains are the ruins of the medieval, monastic community of Glendalough. The Hill of Tara, the ancient religious, political, and cultural capital of Ireland, lies north of the city. In a better state of preservation are two great houses-Castletown House and Russborough House; a castle, Malahide Castle; and the magnificent gardens of Powerscourt.

Rising just south of the city, the Wicklow Mountains offer grand scenery of green hills, bogs, forest, lakes, and waterfalls for those who like to hike, cycle, camp, or just go for a day's drive from the city.

Ireland is a small country; you can reach almost any point within a 5-hour drive from Dublin. The roads are paved, but mostly narrow and winding. The Irish countryside offers a change of scenery. The western coastline attracts many tourists with its sea cliffs and low-lying but rugged mountains: the Ring of Kerry, the Cliffs of Moher, and further north, the wild countrysides of Connemara and Donegal. On the Aran Islands off Galway Bay, the everyday language is Irish, and many aspects of traditional life are preserved. Indeed, in the villages and farms, you may glimpse the slower, more traditional lifestyle of the Irish.

Among the sights to explore are many ruined and restored castles such as Blarney, near Cork, with its fabled stone of eloquence; Bunratty, which holds nightly medieval banquets; and the well-preserved stronghold at Cahir. Medieval churches and monasteries include the great complex atop a rocky out-cropping at Cashel, the ancient monastic city of Clonmacnoise, the Romanesque church at Clonfert, and the Gothic abbeys of Jerpoint and Holycross. The country is littered with pre-Christian ring forts, stone circles, and tombs. One of the best is Newgrange, 30 miles north of Dublin. At the Craggaunowen Project near Limerick, a neolithic ring fort and island crannog (lake dwelling) have been completely reconstructed. Many great houses of the 18th and 19th centuries are open to the public, including Muck-ross House, overlooking the lakes of Killarney, Bantry House, and Westport.


Downtown Dublin has a dozen movie theaters, several of them multiscreen cinemas, showing recent American and British films, usually within a few months of their release.

The Abbey, Peacock, and Gate Theaters are among the best theaters in Dublin, and each presents a new play every month or two. The Gaiety and Olympia also present frequent changing shows ranging from serious dramas to musical reviews and rock concerts. Several small playhouses are active in Dublin and present first-rate theater. During the Dublin Theater Festival in the fall, dozens of foreign troupes perform.

The Dublin Grand Opera Society and Dublin City Ballet are not world-class companies but do provide appealing entertainment. The RTE (Radio Telefis Eireann) Symphony Orchestra performs regularly at the National Concert Hall. Many visiting chamber groups and soloists keep the musical calendar full.

For traditional Irish music, attend major concerts or simply frequent one of the "singing pubs," where informal sessions are regularly held.

Dublin has several cabaret shows, mostly a combination of folk musicians, singers, dancers, and comedians. Choose from among several discos, nightclubs, and ice-skating rinks for an evening out.

The most complete guide to regular and changing events is published in the biweekly magazine, In Dublin. A publication by the Dublin Tourism Board, The Events Guide in Dublin, is published biweekly and is also a good guide.

Many music festivals are held during the year. Among the more interesting are the Wexford Opera Festival, the Kilkenny Arts Week, and the Festival of Music in Great Irish Houses. The Royal Dublin Society's Spring Show, similar to a U.S. county fair, and the Horse Show in August present trade, livestock, and flower displays and some of the finest horse and pony jumping in Europe.

Dublin has many restaurants. Some are expensive, and the quality is generally excellent. Basic meals are wholesome and filling. Many pubs serve lunch and some have evening meals available.

Numerous clubs and classes in Dublin are open for membership and include: hunting, swimming, horseback riding, boating, yachting, shooting, fishing, hurling, Gaelic football, handball, squash, tennis, rugby, soccer, athletic, tenpin bowling, lawn bowling, cricket, camping, hiking, cycling, dieting, automobile, social, and cultural.

Social Activities

Americans living in Dublin include business representatives, students, spouses of Irish citizens, and many U.S. citizens of Irish background who reside in Ireland.

American women can join the American Women's Club. In addition to regular meetings, the club offers diverse interest groups and courses on Irish cultural heritage and tours.

The International Women's Club formed in 1982. The Club is composed of representatives from the various missions posted in Dublin, foreign women who have resided in Dublin a long time, and representatives from Ireland.

The Irish people are noted for their hospitality and affability. Ties between Irish and American families can be a key feature of Irish American relationships. Social entertainment outside the home usually consists of restaurant dinners or receptions. Members of the Rotary Club and Masonic Lodges can also attend regular meetings.


Cork, on the River Lee, is a principal port city with a long history of rebellion against English oppression. It is said to date from the seventh century, and was occupied and walled about two centuries later by the Danes. It established allegiance to England in 1172 but, during and after the Middle Ages, experienced much discontent and rebellion. Cork figured prominently in the 1920 fight for independence. Many of its beautiful public buildings were destroyed during the disturbances, and its lord mayor was assassinated.

Cork, whose old meaning is "marsh," has a population of approximately 133,000. It is Ireland's second largest city and a major shipping and brewing center. On Great Island in Cork Harbor, is Cóbh (formerly Queenstown), the starting point for the hundreds of immigrant vessels sailing for the New World in the last century.

Cork received its charter in 1185 from Henry II of England, and recently celebrated its 800th anniversary as a city with parades, festivals, regattas, and a full season of drama and music. Historical pageants revived ancient stories and traditions.

The city of Cork offers many attractions, among them noted University College (formerly Queen's); a fine municipal school of art with renowned galleries; churches and cathedrals, including St. Finn Barre's, on whose site the original community was established; a fascinating open-air market; and a popular race course. The Royal Cork Yacht Club, the first of its kind in the world, was founded in 1720 at the seaside village of Crosshaven in Cork Harbor; it remains the site of international races and Irish championships today.

A few miles from Cork is the mecca of Ireland's tourist attractions, Blarney Castle, whose famous Kissing Stone is reputed to bestow the gift of eloquence (or, more specifically, skillful flattery). The castle is in two sectionsthe narrow tower and battlements and, below, the fortress in whose wall the Kissing Stone is set. The small village of Blarney, now a craft center, was once a linen and wool hub.

A number of market and seaport towns surround Cork, some in the spacious upland country to the northwest, others in the rolling farmlands and along the coast.


Limerick, in the southwest of Ireland, is a familiar spot to the hundreds of thousands of travelers who use nearby Shannon Airport. It is a city replete with relics of Ireland's past, but also a bustling business, dairy, and agricultural center, and a hub for the salmon industry. Limerick is famous for the making of beautiful lace. The population here is about 56,200, but a drive through the narrow, crowded streets gives the impression of a much larger city. During rush hour, traffic often is at a standstill.

Limerick was England's first stronghold after the Revolution of 1688, and became known as the City of the Violated Treaty, a reference to the oft-violated agreement of political and religious rights which was signed with England in 1691. The Treaty Stone is preserved as a monument to the breached covenant.

Limerick was a Norse settlement in the ninth and 10th centuries, and was chartered in 1197. King John's Castle, built in the following century, is among the structures remaining from that era. St. Mary's Cathedral, even older, is another interesting historical spot here. Close to Limerick are Adare, Ireland's prize-winning village; and the national forest park of Currah-chase, once an estate belonging to the 19th-century poet, Sir Aubrey de Vere.


Galway, the most Gaelic of the Irish cities, faces the Atlantic on the west coast of the republic. The Spanish influence of its early traders still is conspicuous in much of its architecture and in the colorful dress of its people. Galway and the surrounding area are known for unsurpassed salmon fishing (in the Corrib River) and for the many and extensive oyster beds. An annual international oyster-opening competition, the longest running of Ireland's festivals, is held at Clarenbridge in County Galway; until recent years, when the festival became so large that it could no longer be accommodated there, its site was the nearby village of Kilcolgan, on the Weir.

The population of Galway proper is about 50,800. In the midst of the Great Famine of the last century, the town was a teeming way station for immigrants bound for the United States. In earlier times, it was known as the "City of the Tribes" because of the 14 families (or tribes) who settled and developed it. Galway became a flourishing center for trade with Spain and France.

The city itself is the center of what is called the "haunting wilderness of the west." The surrounding area is Yeats country, and was described by writer Eilís Dillon during Galway's fifth centenary celebration in 1984 as a "land of soft mists and silences." In this part of the country, the Irish language (not generally called Gaelic) is heard often in the shops and pubs and on radio and television. Galway was a major seaport in medieval times but, according to Áras Fáilte (the Ireland West Board of Tourism), the town fell into decline during the next few centuries by backing the losing side in England's civil wars and other upheavals. The famine of 1846-47 produced such heavy setbacks that it was not until the beginning of this century that Galway began its regrowth toward prosperity and prominence.

Among the city's many points of interest are St. Nicholas' Collegiate Church, built in 1320, and known by legend as the spot where Christopher Columbus attended mass before setting sail for America; University College, constituent of the National University of Ireland; Lynch's Castle, built in 1600 and now housing a bank; the Claddagh, an ancient fishing village across the river; Galway City Museum at the Spanish Arch; and the new Cathedral of Our Lady and St. Nicholas, built in 1965 on the outskirts of the central city.

Across Galway Bay, about 30 miles from the mainland, lie the Aran Islands (Arana Naomh) of Inish-more, Inishmaan, and Inisheer, communities of fishermen and subsistence farmers who live and work much as they did centuries ago. The men still fish in currachs, traditional canvas crafts, and the women still spin and weave their wool and knit the famous Aran sweaters which withstand the brutal winds and waters of the Atlantic. Irish is spoken here more than English, and there is a primitive quality to the islands that creates much interest for tourists and native Irishmen alike. The prehistoric architectural remains are in extraordinary condition. Kilronan, on Inishmore, is the chief town. It is possible to reach the islands by boat or air ferry.


Waterford, on the River Suir, is a port city in the southeast of Ireland. It has a population of approximately 39,500. Once a walled Danish settlement named Vradrefjord, it is now called Port Láirge in the Irish language. Waterford is probably known best throughout the world for the magnificent and much-coveted lead crystal which is manufactured here, but it also has other major industries, such as meat packing and dairy production.

Waterford has many places of interest. The towers of the Franciscan and Dominican monasteries date to the 13th century, a time soon after the charter of Waterford was issued by King John. There are both Catholic and Protestant cathedrals in the city (episcopal sees are located here) and St. John's College, a Protestant theological seminary. Sections remain of the city walls, built at the time of the Danish invasion, as does a massive fortress erected in the early years of the 11th century.

Each year, Waterford hosts the Festival of Light Opera, drawing visitors from throughout the British Isles and parts of Europe. Other major activities in the area include horse racing and golf at the nearby resort of Tramore.


CASHEL , in County Tipperary, southern Ireland, is famed for its Rock of Cashel, on which are the ruins of an ancient cathedral and tower. Cashel was the seat of the kings of Munster. Legend has it that it was here St. Patrick explained the Trinity by using a three-leaf clover. The town itself is small, with a population of about 2,500, but tourist activity swells its numbers considerably during the summer months.

CAVAN , the capital of County Cavan, is located in northeastern Ireland, about 60 miles north of Dublin. Cavan, situated in a rural county, produces bacon. The town developed around a Franciscan monastery during the 1300s; only the bell tower still stands. Cavan suffered damages in 1690 under repeated attacks by William III's English forces. The city has a modern Roman Catholic cathedral. Its population is around 3,300.

Situated nine miles southeast of Cork, CÓBH is a city of 6,590 in southwestern Ireland. It was renamed Queenstown in 1849 to honor Queen Victoria's visit, but resumed its ancient name in 1922. An important port of call for mail steamers and ocean liners, (the Titanic made her last port of call here) Cóbh has excellent facilities for docking. On the dock here is memorial to the victims of the Lusitania, many of whom are buried in the old church cemetery. The ship was sunk off Kinsdale in 1915 by a German submarine, thus bring the United States into World War I.

DÚN LAOGHAIRE (pronounced Dun Leary), lies six miles down the seacoast from Dublin. It is the main steamer terminus and mail port on the Irish Sea, and is a major sailing and regatta center. It also is the terminus for the car ferry from Holy-head (Wales). Its Martello Tower houses a James Joyce museum, and some of the author's original manuscripts are kept here.

KILKENNY , home of the 16th-century College of St. John, is located in the southeastern part of the country. It has a noted castle and cathedral. Its modern Kilkenny Design Workshops, which encourage and promote the work of Irish designers, have created much interest both in and outside of Ireland. Retail stores connected with the workshops are here in the town, and also in central Dublin. Kilkenny, a parliamentary seat in the mid-14th century, has a population of approximately 10,000.

KILLARNEY is a noted tourist spot in the center of the beautiful lake country. Traveling by car from the city, one can drive through the famous "Ring of Kerry," 110 miles of breathtaking beauty and enchantment, and one of the most spectacular drives in all of Europe. An unusual aspect of this journey deep into Ireland's southwest is the surprise of finding palm trees growing in a country thought to be cool and damp most of the year. The coastline temperatures here are warmed by the Gulf Stream, and subtropical vegetation becomes apparent in the farthest reaches of this corner of the nation. The town of Killarney, which is the urban district of County Kerry, has a population of around 8,000.

TRALEE , 20 miles northwest of Killarney, is a seaport and the capital city of County Kerry. Its population is about 14,000. It was in this city that William Mulchinock wrote the popular ballad, The Rose of Tralee, during the mid-1800s.

WEXFORD , in southeast Ireland, is a seaport city of approximately 12,000 residents. The town was long held by Anglo-Norman invaders, and some of its early fortifications remain. An international opera festival is sponsored here annually in late autumn.


Geography and Climate

The island of Ireland ("Eire" in the Irish language) is divided politically into two parts: Ireland and Northern Ireland. Ireland (informally referred to as the "Republic of Ireland") contains 26 of the island's 32 counties. Northern Ireland contains the six counties in the northeast and has been administered as a part of the U.K. since partition in 1922.

The 26 counties cover 27,136 miles, with the greatest length from north to south being 302 miles and the greatest width 171 miles. Ireland is separated from Britain by the Irish Sea, ranging 60-120 miles across. The central limestone lowland of the island is ringed by a series of coastal mountains. The central plain is primarily devoted to family farming and is also notable for its bogs and lakes. The highest peak is Carrantuohill in Kerry at 3,414 feet. Newcomers are immediately impressed with the beauty and charm of the countryside, which is dotted with historic landmarks and alternating rolling hills and pastures, mountain lake country, and stark sea cliffs. Dublin has a moderate climate. Temperatures range from 16°F to 75°F. The mean temperature during the winter is 40°F; in summer 60°F Annual rainfall is about 30 inches, distributed evenly throughout the year. Noted for its soft weather, rarely do more than a few days go by without at least a shower. Temperatures occasionally drop below freezing during winter, and light snow sometimes falls. During December, there are about 7 hours of daylight and an average of 1½ hours of sunshine. During summer, the average daily sunshine is 6 hours. Mild winds and fog are common and winds of gale proportion may occur, especially at night, from November to May. Humidity is fairly constant, averaging 78%. The climate is similar to that of Seattle, London, and The Hague.


The population totals 3.62 million. About a million people are in the greater Dublin area, with approximately 480,000 in the city itself. The next largest city is Cork (180,000), followed by Limerick (79,000), Galway (57,000), and Waterford (44,000). A high birth rate and the end of net emigration for the first time since the mid-19th century have led to a remarkably young population with roughly half under age 30. Although English and Irish (Gaelic) are the official languages, Irish is commonly spoken only in small enclaves, called the Gaeltacht, which are located in the south and west. The government is encouraging a revival of the Irish language, which about 55,000 natives speak.

The population is predominantly Roman Catholic (about 92%). The second largest religious group (about 2.3%) belongs to the Church of Ireland, an independent Anglican Episcopal Church.

Public Institutions

After a prolonged struggle for home rule, Ireland received its independence from the U.K. as a free state within the British Commonwealth in 1921. The constitution was revised by referendum in 1937 and declared Ireland a sovereign, independent, democratic state. When the Republic of Ireland Act was passed in 1948, Ireland left the British Commonwealth.

Ireland is a parliamentary democracy, governed by the "Oireachtas" (Parliament) of two houses, an elected Uachtarán (President), who is head of state, and a "Taoiseach" (Prime Minister), who is head of government and holds executive powers. The two houses of Parliament are Dáil Éireann and the "Seanad Éireann." The 166 members of the Dáil called "Teachtaí Dála" or more commonly, T.D's, are elected by vote of all Irish citizens over the age of 18 under a complex system of proportional representation. An election must be held at least every 5 years. The Dáil nominates the Taoiseach, who selects all other ministers from among the Dáil and the Seanad (but not more than two from the latter). The President, elected by direct popular vote for a 7-year term, formally appoints the Taoiseach.

The Seanad has 60 members, 11 nominated by the Taoiseach, and the rest chosen by panels representing the universities and various vocational and cultural interests. Although the Dáil is the main legislative body, the Seanad may initiate bills and pass, amend, or delay, but not veto, the bills sent to it by the Dáil.

Ministers exercise the executive power of the state and are responsible to the Dáil. The "Tanaiste" (Deputy Prime Minister) assumes executive responsibility in the absence of the Taoiseach. Under the constitution, the cabinet consists of 7 to 15 members. Junior ministers are also provided. The Taoiseach, Tanaiste, and Minister for Finance must be members of the Dáil. The Taoiseach resigns when his government ceases to retain majority support in the Dáil.

The three major political parties are Fianna Fáil Fine Gael, and Labour. Fianna Fáil is Ireland's largest political party and the one that has ruled Ireland more often than any other. Fianna Fáil is currently in a coalition government with the Progressive Democrats, under the leadership of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, after winning a June 1997 election. The government must call the next election by the year 2002, but also may do so before that time. A merger between Labour and the small Democratic Left was approved by both parties in December 1998.

Ireland considers itself militarily neutral and is not a member of NATO. Since 1973, Ireland has been a member of the European Community.

Irish law is based on English common law, statute law, and the 1937 Constitution. All judges exercise their functions independently, subject only to the constitution and the law. Appointed by the President, they may be removed from office only for misbehavior or incapacity, and then only by a resolution of both houses of the Oireachtas.

Ireland has a multitiered court system. The district and circuit courts have wide civil jurisdiction and, in addition, may try all serious offenses except murder and treason. Most civil and criminal trials take place before a judge and a jury of 12 citizens.

The High Court has original jurisdiction over all matters civil and criminal, but normally handles only appeals from the lower courts and rules on questions of constitutionality in an appeal or a bill referred by the President. Its members also sit on the Central Criminal Court and the Court of Criminal Appeals.

The Supreme Court is the Court of Final Appeal and is empowered to hear appeals from the High Court, the Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Circuit Court, and to decide on questions of constitutional law. Its president is the Chief Justice of Ireland.

Arts, Science, and Education

Traditionally, the Irish have excelled in the literary arts, from ancient Irish sagas and legends to the rich folklore which plays its part in country life. Anglo-Irish writers such as Jonathan Swift and Edmund Burke were active in the flowering of Irish Arts in the 18th century, while the 20th century has produced many writers and poets of note: William Butler Yeats, Seamus Heaney, Frank O'Connor, Flann O'Brian, and the foremost chronicler of Dublin life, James Joyce. Irish dramatists have played an influential role in the development of English-language theater: from Oliver Goldsmith, Richard Sheridan, and Oscar Wilde, to the 20th-century works of George Bernard Shaw, J. M. Synge, Brendan Behan, Samuel Beckett, and more recently, Frank McGuinness and Martin McDonagh. Each fall, Dublin hosts drama groups from around the world during the Dublin Theatre Festival. During the rest oft he year, you may choose from among 6-10 plays each week in the city's large and small theaters.

Music plays a central role in Irish culture. The national emblem is the harp, and Irish folk music continues as a lively tradition. Frequent concerts and recitals of classical music are held throughout the year. The National Concert Hall, which opened in 1981, is the venue for several concerts each week.

Artists in Celtic and early Christian Ireland excelled in metalwork, stone carving, and manuscript painting. Among the finest examples are the Ardagh Chalice and the Book of Kells. The countryside abounds with the archeological and architectural remains of many periods, including megalithic tombs, ring forts of the Iron Age, medieval abbeys, and castles. Around the country, but especially in and around Dublin, are many great houses and public buildings from the 18th century, when architecture and other arts flourished in Ireland.

Scientific research in Ireland is supported by several public and private institutions. The regional universities are active in many fields. The Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies specializes in theoretical and cosmic physics; the National Board for Science and Technology is a major source of funding; and the Agricultural Institute is the largest research organization in Ireland.

Two private institutions provide significant support for the sciences. The Royal Dublin Society (RDS) was founded in 1713 to encourage the arts and sciences and to foster improved methods of agriculture and stock breeding. The RDS sponsors a Spring Show devoted to these methods and the famous Dublin Horse Show every August. The Royal Irish Academy, founded in 1785, promotes research in the natural sciences, mathematics, history, and literature.

The Irish Department of Education provides free primary and secondary education. Most schools are state aided, yet remain private and managed by their individual boards. Almost all have religious affiliations; many are not coeducational. Ireland has two universities: the National University of Ireland (NUI) and Dublin University. NUI has four principal constituent universities: National University of Ireland, Dublin; National University of Ireland, Cork; National University of Ireland, Galway; and National University of Ireland, Maynooth, which is also a seminary and Pontifical University NUI also has two "recognized" colleges: Dublin City University and University of Limerick, which emphasizes applied sciences and business. Dublin University, founded in 1591, has one college, Trinity College, Dublin (TCD).

Other third-level institutions include Dublin Institute of Technology, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, a medical school; the Honourable Society of King's Inns, which trains barristers; and the National College of Art and Design.

Commerce and Industry

The 1990s have been a period of rapid economic development in Ireland. Dubbed Europe's "celtic tiger," the Irish economy in 1999 will likely enjoy the fastest growth of any industrialized nation in the world for a fifth consecutive year (average annual GDP growth has measured 9% since 1994). From being one of the EU's least developed countries in the 1980s, per capita incomes in Ireland have grown from just 69% of the EU average in 1991 to just under 90% of the average by 1998, and now measure an estimated $21,823. Most commentators attribute Ireland's "economic miracle" to the following factors: the decade-old "social consensus" on economic policy between employers, trade unions, and successive governments that has ensured modest wage growth and harmonious industrial relations; low corporate taxes and generous grant-aid for foreign investors; a high degree of macroeconomic stability with low inflation and interest rates; Ireland's membership in the single European market and its adoption of the single European currency, the euro, from 1999; and high levels of investment in education and training.

The Irish economy is highly dependent on international trade, with Irish exports of goods and services equivalent to an estimated 93% of GDP in 1998 and imports equivalent to an estimated 81%. In 1998, Ireland had a surplus on the current account of the balance of payments of 2% of GDP. Ireland's industrial structure differs from most other developed countries. Much of Ireland's economic growth in the 1990s is the result of rapid expansion by export-oriented, foreign-owned high-tech manufacturing industries, particularly in pharmaceuticals, chemicals, and computer hardware and software (over two-thirds of Irish manufactured exports are produced by foreign-owned industry). Accordingly, at just under 40% of GDP, manufacturing industry accounts for a much higher proportion of total economic activity in Ireland than most other developed countries. In contrast, nongovernment services, which are dominated by retailing, tourism, and finance, are less developed than elsewhere in the OECD. Agriculture, forestry, and fishing, which account for around 6% of Irish GDP, has declined rapidly in importance over the last 30 years, although they are still important employers in rural and peripheral regions of the country. Although Ireland has a market economy, state-owned companies in transport, energy, communications, and finance still account for over 5% of Irish GDP. Total public expenditure as a proportion of total income, at an estimated 33% in 1999, is well below both the OECD and EU average.

Although real incomes have improved markedly in recent years, the main benefit of rapid Irish economic growth has been a dramatic increase in new jobs. This has helped reduce unemployment, increase female participation in the labor force, and bring Irish workers living abroad back to Ireland. Unemployment fell to 6.7% in March 1999, down from an average of 15.6% in 1993. The main danger facing Ireland's fast-growing economy is overheating. Shortages of both skilled and unskilled labor contributed to growth in average hourly industrial wages of around 6% in 1998, up from an average growth of 3.6% in 1997. Other economic challenges facing Ireland include widening income disparities caused by rising wages for skilled workers in Ireland's high-tech industries, increasing infrastructure congestion (as evidenced by the traffic " gridlock " in Dublin's streets), fast growth in house prices, and the widening economic divide between the prosperous southern and eastern regions of the country and generally poorer regions along west coast and border areas of the country.

Ireland's economic "golden age" has been accompanied by an intensification of U.S.-Irish economic relations, both in terms of trade and bilateral investment. In 1997, the U.S. overtook Germany to become Ireland's second largest trading partner, behind only the U.K. Total exports from Ireland to the U.S. in 1998 were valued at $8.7 billion, while total imports into Ireland from the U.S. were valued at $6.8 billion. U.S. companies operating in Ireland account for much of the fast growth in Irish exports to the U.S. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the stock of U.S. investment in Ireland in 1997 was valued at $14.5 billion, up from $8.4 billion in 1995. Furthermore, in 1997 Ireland was estimated to have received almost 25% of all greenfield investment by U.S. companies into the EU that year. Of the 1,500 foreign companies in Ireland in March 1998, the U.S. had 570. These U.S. operations employ almost 70,000 workers in Ireland, which represents a staggering 5% of total employment.

In May 1998, Ireland, along with 10 other EU member states, was confirmed as meeting the requirements for EMU participation. Accordingly, on January 1, 1999, the Irish pound ceased to exist as Ireland's national currency, and the new single European currency, the Euro, became Ireland's official unit of exchange. Irish currency will continue to circulate until the introduction of Euro notes and coins in 2002. Although the Euro will not exist in physical form until 2002, from 1999 on, inter-bank, capital, and foreign exchange markets will be conducted in Euros. All government debt will be redenominated into Euros, and stock prices will also be quoted in Euros. Retail banks will also be obliged to offer private and corporate customers Euro bank accounts. The loss of national control over monetary and exchange rate policy presents a major challenge to Irish policymakers. Under EMU, changes in wages or employment levels, rather than adjustments to exchange and interest rates, are the primary mechanisms for the economy to react to external economic shocks. For the average Irish citizen, however, this first stage in progress toward EMU has had no concrete immediate effect.

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) is the umbrella organization for most of Ireland's trade unions. Since 1987, collective bargaining has occurred in the context of national economic programs negotiated by representatives of government, trade unions, employers, farmers, and other "social partners." These 3-year programs establish minimum-wage increases and broad economic and social objectives, and have been credited with Ireland's strong economic performance and sustained period of peaceful industrial relations during the 1990s. Just less than half of the Irish workforce is unionized.



Dublin boasts dealerships and service facilities for most European and Japanese vehicles. Many drivers prefer smaller vehicles for negotiating the narrow, winding roads. Traffic moves on the left in Ireland, and right-hand drive vehicles prevail, though they are not mandatory. If you import left-hand drive vehicles, you should be aware that not only will driving be more difficult, but also, liability insurance premiums will be higher by about 20%.

Third-party liability insurance is mandatory and must be purchased from a local insurer. Insurers offer discounts for recent clean driving records, so bring a letter from your insurer indicating the length of claim-free driving. Currently, gasoline costs about $3 a gallon on the local market.


Dublin city bus service is uneven and ceases after midnight. A commuter train line follows the coast north and south of the city. Buses and trains are usually crowded. Taxis are expensive and may be difficult to obtain. Many are radio-dispatched, however, and most are clean and well maintained. Outside of rush hours, taxis may be hailed on the street with varying degrees of success.


All of the larger cities in Ireland can be reached from Dublin by private auto, rail, or intercity buses within 5 hours. Only intermittent stretches of four-lane highways exist in Ireland. Most roads outside the city are narrow, winding, and need repair.

Ferryboats travel between Dublin and Holyhead (Wales); Rosslare and Fishguard (Wales); Rosslare and Pembroke (Wales); Rosslare and Le Havre (France); Rosslare and Cherbourg (France, March-October only); Cork and Le Havre; Cork and Roscoff (France); Cork and Swansea (Wales).

London is 1 hour by air from Dublin, and flights to the Continent from Dublin are frequent. Delta Airlines, Continental, and Aer Lingus fly directly to Dublin from the U.S.


Telephone and Telegraph

Modernization of the telecommunications network has been underway to bring an outdated system into line with the high technology being employed in other countries. You can dial directly to about 180 destinations, including the U.S., and contact about 40 more via the operator. Improvements have progressed to such an extent that, except for the more remote areas and parts of Dublin, a telephone can be installed within 6-10 weeks of application.


Airmail, air express, and surface mail between the U.S. and Ireland is reliable. International airmail between Dublin and New York takes about 8 days, and surface parcels take 4-6 weeks.

Radio and TV

An autonomous public corporation, Radio Telefis Eireann (RTE), operates the radio and TV services with revenue from license fees and advertising. RTE radio broadcasts on three networks nationwide on VHF in stereo-Radio One, 2FM (popular music channel), and Raidio na Gaeltachta/FM3 Music (Raidio na Gaeltachta is the Irish language program, and FM3 MUSIC is a quality/classical music station). Radio One and 2FM also broadcasts on AM nationwide, and Raidio na Gaeltachta also broadcasts on AM in the Irish-speaking areas (The Gaeltacht). There are also many independent radio stations playing a variety of music.

RTE TV is broadcast nationwide on 2 channels-RTE 1 and NETWORK 2. An independent station, TV3, started broadcasting during 1998. The stations broadcast from early morning until approximately 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. weekdays, with extended schedules on weekends. In addition, with a cable system (available in most parts of Dublin) you can receive two BBC channels, two British ITV (Independent Television) channels, sports, and movie channels.

U.S. TV's will not receive local broadcasts without expensive modifications.

Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals

Seven daily papers are published in Ireland, all in English. Most emphasize local and national news, but the Irish Times provides more international coverage than the others. The leading British dailies and the International Herald Tribune appear on Dublin newsstands on the day they are published. A few popular U.S. magazines are also promptly available at the newsstands, e.g., the overseas editions of Time, Newsweek, Scientific American, and Omni.

British journals are freely available. Magazines ordered by U.S. subscriptions are much less expensive but arrive about 3 weeks late by pouch.

Dublin has several good bookstores; some offer secondhand books at reasonable prices. The public libraries are an alternative.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities

Competent specialists in all fields of medicine and dentistry provide satisfactory services, but their equipment is not always as modern as in the U.S. Obtain special medical or dental treatment before coming.

Drugs and medical supplies of almost every variety are sold locally. Some drugs normally found in the U.S. and other countries are not available.

Public hospitals and private nursing homes provide adequate treatment. Children under 12 are admitted only to children's hospitals.

Community Health

The sewage system is modern, and community sanitation is good although below that for some U.S. cities. Water is potable and fluoridated.

Food handling is sometimes below U.S. sanitary standards. Because of the cool climate, refrigeration is used to a lesser extent. Meats may be displayed in uncovered cases. Nevertheless, these practices do not appear to present a special health hazard.

Among the general population, rheumatism and arthritis are common. Young children are now vaccinated against measles, mumps, and rubella with the MMR vaccine at about 15 months. Respiratory diseases such as bronchitis and asthma, glandular infections, and head colds are prevalent. No serious epidemics have occurred in Ireland for several years.

Preventive Measures

Have the triple vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis) and TOPV for polio for all children. Immunizations of all kinds are available in Dublin.


Passage, Customs and Duties

A passport is necessary, but a visa is not required for tourist or business stays of up to three months. For information concerning entry requirements for Ireland, travelers can contact the Embassy of Ireland at 2234 Massachusetts Avenue N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008; telephone: (202) 462-3939, fax: 202-232-5993, or the nearest Irish consulate in Boston, Chicago, New York, or San Francisco. The Internet address of the Irish Embassy is:

Americans living in or visiting Ireland are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy and obtain updated information on travel and security in Ireland. The U.S. Embassy in Dublin is located at 42 Elgin Road, Balls-bridge, tel. (353)(1)668-7122; after hours tel. (353)(1)668-9612/9464; fax (353)(1) 668-9946.


Ireland has strict quarantine laws. Most pets entering the country must be placed in quarantine for 6 months at the owner's expense. There is only one quarantine facility in Ireland and reservations are necessary and this process can amount to as much as $4,000. An excellent selection of all breeds of pets, reasonably priced, may be found in Ireland. Importation of certain types of birds is prohibited.

Firearms and Ammunition

Certain types of nonautomatic firearms and ammunition may be imported into Ireland.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures

As a member of the European Community, the Irish monetary unit is the Euro, which is divided into 100 cent. Coins in circulation are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 cent and 1 & 2 Euro. Bank notes are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros. The exchange rate approximates 1.15 euro to $1 US.

All banks in Dublin handle exchange transactions, and many offer Irish pound checking accounts. Banks will cash a personal dollar check, but might delay payment. Dublin has branches of Citibank, Chase Manhattan Bank, Bank of America, and First National Bank of Chicago.

The avoirdupois weight system and long measure are used. Liquid measure is based on the British imperial gallon. Ireland adopted the metric system in 1976 and is gradually eliminating nonmetric measures.


Jan.1New Year's Day

Mar. 17St. Patrick's Day

Mar/Apr.Good Friday*


Mar/Apr.Easter Monday*

May (first Monday) May Bank Holiday*

June (first Monday) June Bank Holiday*

Aug. (first Monday) August Bank Holiday*

Oct. (last Monday)October Bank Holiday*

Dec. 25Christmas Day

Dec. 26St. Stephen's Day



The following titles are provided as a general indication of the material published on this country:


Beckett, J. E. A Making of Modern Ireland 1603-1923. Faber and Faber: London 1981.

Fanning, R. Independent Ireland. Helicon Dublin, 1983.

Fisk, R. In Time of War. Andre Deutsch London, 1983.

Foster, R. F. Modern Ireland 1600-1972. Penguin Press: Cambridge, 1988.

Harkness, D. Northern Ireland Since 1920 Helicon: Dublin, 1983.

Kee, Robert. The Green Flag, A History of Irish Nationalism. Weidenfeld and Nicolson: London, 1972.

Lee, J. J. Ireland 1912-1985: Politics ant Society. Cambridge University Press Cambridge, 1989.

Lyons, F. S. L. Ireland Since the Famine. Weidenfeld and Nicolson: Lon don, 1973.

Martin, F. X. and T. W. Moody, ed. The Course of Irish History. Mercier Press Dublin, 1984.

Moody, T. W. The Ulster Question 1603-1973. Mercier Press: Cork, 1974.

O'Brien, Marie and Conor Cruise. A Concise History of Ireland. Thames and Hudson: London, 1973.

Government and Politics

Chubb, B. The Government and Politics of Ireland. 2nd ed. Oxford University Press: London, 1982.

Coombes, D., ed. Ireland and the European Communities. Gill and McMillan Dublin, 1983.

Gallagher, M. Political Parties in the Republic of Ireland. Gill and McMillan Dublin, 1985.

Keatinge, E. A Place Among the Nations Issues in Irish Foreign Policy. Institute of Public Administration: Dublin 1978.

Keatinge, P. A Singular Stance, Irish Neutrality in the 1980s. Institute of Public Administration: Dublin, 1984.

Kelly, J. M. The Irish Constitution. 2nd ed. Jurist: Dublin, 1984.

Northern Ireland: Questions of Nuance. Blackstaff Press: Belfast, 1990.

O'Malley, E. The Uncivil Wars, Ireland Today. Houghton, Mifflin: Boston, 1983.


Meenan, James. The Irish Economy Since 1922. Liverpool University Press: Liverpool, 1970.

The New Ireland Forum: Studies and Reports on Specific Matters. The Stationer Office: Dublin, 1984.

OECD Economic Surveys, Ireland. OECD, Paris: April, 1985.

O'Hagen, T., ed. The Economy of Ireland. Irish Management Institute: Dublin, 1976.

Understanding and Cooperation in Ireland (8 pages). Cooperation North: Belfast and Dublin, 1983.


De Breffney, B. Ireland: A Cultural Encyclopedia. Thames and Hudson: London, 1983.

Fogarty, M., L., and J. Lee. Irish Values and Attitudes. Dominican Publications: Dublin, 1984.

Greeley, Andrew. The Irish Americans. Harper and Row: New York, 1981.

Kennelly, B., ed. The Penguin Book of Irish Verse. 2nd ed: London, 1981.

O'Murchin, M. The Irish Language. Department of Foreign Affairs and Board na Gaeilge: Dublin, 1985.

O'Siadhall, M. Learning Irish. Institute for Advanced Studies: Dublin, 1980.

Reference Works and General Interest

Administration Yearbook and Diary. Institute of Public Administration: Dublin (yearly).

American Business Directory. U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Ireland: Dublin (yearly).

Cairnduff, M. Who's Who in Ireland. Vesey: Dublin, 1984.

DeBreffney, B. Castles in Ireland. Thames and Hudson: London, 1977.

Ernest, Berm. Blue Guide to Ireland. 4th ed. London, 1979.

Facts About Ireland. Department of Foreign Affairs: Dublin, 1985.

Joyce, James. Ulysses.

Nealon, T. and Brennan. S. Nealon's Guide, 24th Dail and Seanad. 2nd ed., 1982. Platform Press: Dublin, 1983.

Shannon, E. Up in the Park. Atheneum: New York, 1983.

Uris, Leon. Trinity.

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Basic Data
Official Country Name: Ireland
Region: Europe
Population: 3,797,257
Language(s): English, Irish (Gaelic)
Literacy Rate: 98%
Academic Year: September-June
Number of Primary Schools: 3,391
Compulsory Schooling: 9 years
Public Expenditure on Education: 6.0%
Foreign Students in National Universities: 5,975
Libraries: 351
Educational Enrollment: Primary: 358,830
  Secondary: 389,353
  Higher: 134,566
Educational Enrollment Rate: Primary: 104%
  Secondary: 118%
  Higher: 41%
Teachers: Primary: 16,202
  Secondary: 27,273
  Higher: 8,979
Student-Teacher Ratio: Primary: 22:1
Female Enrollment Rate: Primary: 104%
  Secondary: 122%
  Higher: 43%

History & Background

The Republic of Ireland is the second largest British isle, covering 27,136 square miles and bordered to the northwest by Northern Ireland; in the past it went by the Irish Free State (1922-1937) and Eire (1937-1949). Eire is still used by many persons as their name of choice for Ireland, also causing some confusion outside the country's borders. The capital city is Dublin, containing one-third of the Irish Republic's population. During the second half of the twentieth century, the presence of so many fine higher education institutions in Dublin led to the renovation or restoration of many neighborhoods that had been reduced to slums. The predominant religion is Catholic. Ireland's 26 counties have been free of British rule since 1922, which has resulted in some educational changes, including great emphasis on the Irish language, literature, customs, and history.

Beginnings: Ireland's history began during the Mesolithic Era. Hunters from faraway British Isles and likely even southwest Europe first settled this island west of present-day Great Britain. The country began to show signs of civilized development in the Neolithic period about 4000 to 2000 B.C. A communal people, the language of these Pre-Celtic people has been lost.

Celtic & Roman Influences: Ireland's rugged beauty has always attracted settlers and conquerors. The best known of these were the Celts, likely hailing from the Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), known for their skills as goldsmiths and artisans. Shortly before the birth of Christ, Celtic was the primary language of the country under the ruler of Celtic chiefs. For hundreds of years, the Celts failed to develop a sophisticated form of writing other than a means of documenting family names.

In 54 and 55 B.C., Julius Caesar won some skirmishes with the natives he encountered in Britain. His documentary writing preserved his experiences, and schoolboys in England and America at one time translated them for practice. Caesar referred to Ireland as Hibernia, translated literally as the place of winter.

Catholic Church's Preservation of Scholarship: During the Middle Irish period, poets and scholars were trained at church schools, historians believe. The evidence comes from writings that survive as clues to the period. Irish tracts reveal that a mentor called a foster father tutored a pupil known as a felmac. Scholars were trained in Irish law, history, and literature, as well as in Latin.

These schools, by the fourteenth century, had changed. Instead of religious scholars acting as tutors, non-clergy scholars taught subjects, such as verse writing, to their pupils. Students of medicine learned from Irish texts that had been translated from English medical books.

After Caesar, the name most renowned and associated with Ireland is St. Patrick (circa 385-461). In addition to his many successes as a missionary, Patrick is said to have encouraged the preservation of the old warrior chants by having the words set down for posterity. Although the details of Patrick's life are blurred (partly because his own Latin writings show no mastery of the subject), he was a Brit whose father was a Roman bureaucrat and, while young, he was captured in Ireland and spent six years in slavery as a herder; he escaped and was schooled in Latin and theology, though precisely where is mere speculation. Patrick returned to Ireland in 432 and set out to convert to Catholicism the people whose nation he had come to love. One result of these conversions is that Ireland by the sixth century had several established monasteries that were havens for the preservation (and copying) of manuscripts, culture, and learning.

After an invasion by Norsemen in the eighth century, Ireland was under Viking influence until the Irish king Brian Boru fashioned an army that fought for independence. In the eighth century, the population with the name Gael then, replaced the term Erainn that had been the name for the people of Ireland. In time, the term Irish became applied to the people of this nation, even though the term was derived from a Welsh word meaning "savage." The natives, to distinguish themselves from the Viking conquerors, used Gael.

During the beginning of the Middle Ages, Ireland maintained a reverence for teachings of the Church and Church documents. In turn, the monasteries preserved the old Irish tales and accounts of heroes and everyday life. These clearly would not have survived had the monks not copied them into their manuscript books. Ironically, it was the Catholic nation's policy of putting no local ruler above the Pope in the Vatican that led to Ireland's longstanding domination by Great Britain. The only pope of English ancestry, Pope Adrian IV, in a political agreement, gave Henry II, the former Duke of Normandy (who gained control of England by invasion), permission to serve as overlord of Ireland. This decision to turn Ireland into a fiefdom was disputed by the Irish as an illegitimate transfer of power. Lands owned by the Irish were given to absentee landlords in Britain, creating a peasant class existing in woeful ignorance and poverty. In spite of Henry II's edicts maintaining that there existed separate areas of church and state, in Ireland even in the twenty-first century, that line of separation frequently dissolved.

Political, Social, & Cultural Bases: Just as religion influenced the daily life, social divisions, and political upheavals of Irish life for centuries, so too has it had a profound effect on education in the Emerald Isle. That very upheaval and strong allegiances to the Church interfered with the development of a unified system of education in Ireland.

In the late 1500s, coinciding with the growth of Protestantism in the country, non-Catholics had decidedly better schools. While Protestant diocese schools and "royal schools" set up by the Crown benefited the wealthier Protestant class, charity schools inadequately supplied the needs of the children of poor Protestants during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

The Catholic poor were largely ignored, their children termed urchins. One minister in 1712 said that when all the needs of the poor Protestant children were met, the schools then should try to assist the Catholic children. The charity schools were run by the Church of Ireland and were similar to those in Britain. Funding was supplied variously by parishes, landlords, clergy, and district governing boards.

The Church of Ireland was declared the state church in 1537 and remained so until 1870. In 1539, monasteries were declared dissolved, although it took some years for many to disappear. However, during much of the sixteenth century, nearly all areas of the country outside Dublin and areas of Northern Ireland were Catholic. The Crown brought Scottish settlers to Northern Ireland that were members of the Church of Ireland. During the closing years of the sixteenth century, the Church of Ireland made a conscious attempt to establish parishes in every county of the nation.

The royal schools were grammar schools started at the insistence of James I, the king of England, Scotland, and Ireland, who ascended the throne with the help of Elizabeth I. (Elizabeth, in 1587, executed his mother, Mary (Stuart) Queen of Scots, with no protest from James, after she was found guilty of plotting the death of Elizabeth). James, who authorized a version of the Bible still used today, was an erratic man who believed in the divine right of kings. These royal schools were started in the 1600s by Church of Ireland bishops, but perhaps because they were founded under coercion, had many deficiencies and poor supervision.

Higher Education History & Background: Like other political areas, higher education in Ireland has always had confrontations, although much less in the late 1990s and early twenty-first century. In 1591 (or 1592, as some claim), the oldest continuous university in the country, the University of Dublin was begun, with Trinity College as its only college. Throughout its history, the school's agenda and even curriculum displayed a marked Protestant orientation, though the state had a loosely enforced policy of giving no money for denominational higher education.

In spite of politics and religious rancor at times, Trinity, since the 1700s, has been one of Europe's respected institutions, highly competitive and fiercely proud of the highest academic standards. Its senior fellows ran the school as a sort-of personal fiefdom, and seniority among fellows, rather than scholarly accomplishment, was used to establish a pecking order. By 1792, the institution enrolled 933 students. The Catholic Church in Ireland entered the realm of higher education in 1851, establishing Catholic University with famed author and educator John Henry Newman as rector; Newman, a one-time Church of England minister who converted to Catholicism and became a Cardinal, was world famous for his book, The Idea of a University, and other writings. In 1883, it became the University College, Dublin, operated under control of the Jesuit Order (known also as the Society of Jesus). When all of Ireland was under British rule, Catholics in the nineteenth century were given first the Queen's University and then the Royal University of Ireland. But the government found it could not run a school catering to just one denomination, and Royal University became open to anyone passing entrance requirements.

Until 1970 when a long-standing Catholic boycott was lifted, Catholics tended to avoid enrollment at the Anglican-run Trinity College in Dublin, perhaps the best-known Irish university. Some Irish students of Presbyterian background also preferred to pursue their higher education in Scotland, rather than accept the dominion of the established faith. In truth, this religious atmosphere could not be escaped at Trinity since many prospective religious leaders of the Church of Ireland took their degrees here. After 1970, the student population became more diverse.

Constitutional & Legal Foundations

The fundamental rights of citizens to an education are among the rights guaranteed in Article 42 of the 1937 constitution of Ireland. The constitution was largely prepared by New York-born Eamond deValera (1882-1975), Ireland's most visible leader following the granting of independence from Britain, and the country's two-time president. The constitution acknowledges the responsibility of the nation to work with parents to entitle children to receive an education without cost to the family.

There also have been a number of important statutes directly concerning education. For example, the Medical Act of 1886 was concerned with ensuring the quality education of doctors; the law stated that graduates had to be educated in surgery, medicine, and obstetrics. The education of girls was done sporadically until 1892, when a law mandating compulsory attendance was passed. At the time, it only assured students of a primary school education and little more. In 1972, the law was changed regarding compulsory education, raising the age of required education to 15 years old.

The Vocational Education Act of 1930 established Vocational Education Committees (VEC) throughout Ireland. Such committees oversaw what then was defined as "technical and continuation education." Today, about 10 percent of costs pertaining to this area of education is VEC funded, while the Department of Education foots 90 percent of the costs.

Also related to education are the provisions of the Dublin Institute of Technology Act, 1992, and section 9 of the Universities Bill, 1997, that formalized by statute whether a new school of higher learning should be granted a charter or not.

If there is a deficiency in Irish education, it has been the lack of a guiding educational philosophy. However, the new curriculum that became effective around the turn of the twenty-first century may be a step in that direction. Child-centered learning is the goal, along with developing skills in all subjects, particularly science and instructional technology, while also concentrating on training students in the traditional basic subjects.

Educational SystemOverview

Around 1800 the Anglican Church was responsible for supervising the education of boys and girls at both the primary and secondary levels. But many areas of the country that were heavily Catholic were resistant, and some rural Catholic areas either had no schools or offered little financial support for them.

There were a few superior schools in Ireland, the education historian R.B. McDowell has writtenthe well-funded Royal School at Armagh, Enniskillen, and Burrowes. But these were the exception. Hence, Ireland, in many pockets of the country, relied upon numerous private academies taught by schoolmasters of various skill levels and education levels to educate students in cities and rural towns. Some of the schoolmasters were clergy. Others were women, and limited their students to young ladies (in the parlance of the time). Some offered room and board or meals only for the young people. Standard subjects were elocution, arithmetic, bookkeeping, foreign languages, and geography. The girls' schools added "finishing school" classes to raise cultured pupils.

Almost as it was in the Middle Ages when scholars traveled far and wide to recruit students and teach, in Ireland during the late 1700s and early 1800s, poor, learned men traveled to offer classes in barns and anywhere else a few students might be assembled. The schools were nicknamed "hedge" schools because they were as apt to be taught under the shade of a hedge as in a building, and they were of uneven qualityas likely to be taught by an itinerant, unqualified teacher as a scholar. In time, however, even some of the secret, underground hedge schools became permanent fixtures in a community, and the classrooms sometimes were the equivalent of mainstream classrooms with proper textbooks instead of merely a handy Bible or popular novels.

Nonetheless, Catholics, in particular, considered them a better alternative to Protestant schools or no schooling at all. Estimates during the 1820s were that as many as 400,000 pupils were in attendance at hedge schools. There were 9,000 such schools in existence in 1824, according to The Oxford Companion to Irish History.

In sharp contrast to the hedge schools, a handful of day schools associated with the Church of Ireland opened in Ireland that were the equivalent of day schools for younger children in England. In 1811, impressed with those schools, some business leaders from Dublin (who were Quakers and members of other sects) resolved to try to improve educational opportunities for poverty-stricken youth. These reformers called their organization the Society for Promoting the Education of the Poor in Ireland, and their crusade resulted in the state granting funding. The Society also admired the pioneering work of English educational reformer Joseph Lancaster, founder (in 1801) of a free elementary school that organized one-room schoolhouses for the poor. Teachers enlisted their better students and designated them as monitors to train younger or less-quick-to-learn peers.

Following Lancaster's precepts, a monitorial system was installed at the Society's headquarters in Kildare Place in Dublin, and the hope was that superior teachers could be trained here. Each student monitor was given a bench with 10 students to school. In contrast to brutal methods of some schoolmasters, Kildare Place eschewed beatings in favor of shaming miscreants. But the daily practice of Bible reading infuriated Catholics in the country; they refused to accept the validity of the King James Bible and disagreed with the school'srefusal to interpret the scripture reading for students. By 1831, funding for the school dried up and went to the national schools where separation of church and state was followed in theory, though not in practice.

Enough students possessed sufficient literacy for the cities to support at least one newspaper and occasionally many papers. More sophisticated subscribers read Hibernian Magazine. Theatres did a brisk business entertaining a story-loving people. Dublin supported a lending library, and booksellers made a living off scholars and the well-to-do. But McDowell, the critic, said that the general state of Irish letters was poor then, the glory years of the great Irish playwrights at the Abbey Theatre and poets such as Yeats were still one century away. McDowell stressed that Ireland failed to measure up to comparison with the intellectual accomplishments of Scotland, let alone Britain.

Perhaps the most significant time in the establishment of a countrywide, state-aided educational system of elementary schools was in 1831, championed by Lord Edward G.S.M. Stanley. Conflicts immediately arose over the matter of keeping religious influence out of schools because the elementary schools were told that churches had the right to provide pupils with supplementary religious education. Even though, in theory, no aid was to be given to the primary schools and emerging secondary schools, in reality, religious influences permeated all levels of the educational system, particularly the school boards, which were headed by priests or vicars, depending on the district's religious makeup.

At first, however, Protestants were the main critics against "godless" schools, while Catholic leaders, worried about high illiteracy rates among their people, generally supported the state-run educational system, at least at first. Eventually, Catholics came to despise the system, saying students were exposed to pro-British and anti-Catholic influences. Nonetheless, the formation of national schools was an important step forward in the history of education in Ireland. It was intended to give an equal education to all pupils without meddling from churches. It gave Irish schools a semblance of structure, and it established a policy of local districts to pick up their fair share of costs for teacher salaries, school lots and building costs, and schoolbooks.

During the nineteenth century, as classes were taught in English, there eventually occurred a downplaying of Irish as the native tongue. During the twentieth century, following a great surge of nationalism after Ireland gained its independence from Britain, there was a clamor to restore the teaching of Irish once again in schools of all levels. However, as native speakers age and die, there are linguists who predict that the "true Gaeltacht" dialect may disappear; others are dedicated to its preservation. With Catholicism further losing its influence in the twenty-first century, some nationalists feel it is important to preserve all forms of the Irish tongue as a way to unify the nation.

Literacy: The INTO teachers union in 1998 founded a committee for the study of literacy issues in Ireland. The union announced that it was looking into strategies for assisting children with literacy problems. The committee concluded that Irish children too often perform below the literacy levels of other European countries. They have performed in substandard fashion in reading levels. INTO concluded that teachers must be recruited who are particularly trained in developmental studies and remedial education. In addition, areas of particular concern to INTO are adult literacy problems and the literacy deficiency of people living in disadvantaged areas of the Irish Republic.

Special Needs Education: In 1998, Micheal Martin, Minister for Education and Science, announced that the government had made the needs of special education students a priority. In particular, the government has ensured that children with autism will have automatic access to special classes. There also will be trained teachers available and the support and infrastructure to serve their needs. The pupil-teacher ratio of special needs youngsters is 6:1. The cost of the reforms in 1999 was estimated at nearly 4 million pounds.

Compulsory Education: In Ireland, compulsory education is from the age of six, theoretically. However, given the increasing role women have played in the Irish labor force, the majority of children enroll by the age of four or five. In 2000, some government spokespersons advocated cutting off free primary education at 18-years-old, but the proposal has met with parent indignation and media expressions of outrage in favor of giving slow learners all the time they need to graduate.

Female Enrollment: As in other countries, the education of girls and women was slow to take hold as a concept in Ireland. During the Middle Ages, Ireland truly was a land living in the Dark Ages when it came to schooling females. There were some gains in the 1500s, but those were lost the following century.

Not until the 1700s did some women from wealthier backgrounds not only show their aptitude for serious study, but also a number of female poets, writers, and intellectuals contributed significantly to Irish letters.

That somewhat of a turnabout had been achieved by 1831 is seen in the creation of a national school system that provided the same curriculum for males and females, as well as access to scholarships to acquire training to serve as teachers. However, clear to the end of the 1870s, those schools that charged tuition put emphasis on graduating ladies able to take their place in society.

Finally, in the late 1870s and 1880s, attitudes changed dramatically in Ireland, and women earned the right to pursue rigorous studies at the university level, forcing schools at the lower level to upgrade curriculum choices for women. At individual universities, administrators showed varying degrees of acceptance for female equality in education. In Belfast, Cork, and Galway, women who could afford the tuition took classes alongside males in the 1890s, but Dublin schools of higher education resisted compliance until 1910.

With the worldwide spread of feminism in the last half of the twentieth century, many inequities in the education of all females came under criticism. Slowly, the country moved ahead to enable women from lower income families to gain an education with the aid of public funding targeted for that purpose.

Academic Year: Many Irish schools are in session far fewer days than schools in other industrialized nations. The exceptionally shortened school calendar has been linked to dismal scores of many Irish students in science and mathematics, according to educational experts inter-viewed by The Irish Times in 1995. Only 35 percent of Irish schools remain in session for more than 175 days (with a high of 200 days), while 90 percent of schools in Scotland and England do so.

While 65 percent of Irish students who are 13-years-old go to school only between 151 and 175 days, in England and Scotland, less than 3 percent of students are in school for fewer than 175 days. Irish 13-year-olds scored next to lowest in a ranking of competing countries in science and scored eighth out of 14 in mathematics.

In 2001, as secondary teachers were involved in a dispute over salary, commentators noted that if higher pay scales were granted, teachers might be asked to teach additional school days to equal the number of days scheduled by English and Scottish schools.

Preprimary & Primary Education

Irish children tend to start school at a younger age than do other world children. Both junior and senior infant classes are the equivalent of preschool classes in most other countries. Ninety-five percent of all five- to six-year-olds are in senior infant classes, and 59 percent of four- to five-year-olds are in junior infant classes. Provision in national schools for children aged four and five is an integral part of the regular school system.

Children in infants' classes follow a prescribed curriculum that was introduced in September of 1999. Teachers are trained national school teachers; however, parents and media critics are loud in their denunciation of the preprimary school program and what is perceived as less-than-strong interest on the part of the state in this area. Eleven major reports from 1980 to 2000 have criticized the preschool program. According to the latest figures (1998), slightly more than one percent of three-yearolds in Ireland were in school full-time.

The Department of Education, in addition to regular classes offered mainly at private preprimary schools, also sponsors an Early Start Preschool pilot program, a program for children with disabilities, and the Breaking the Cycle pilot project for at-risk children.

Children are not legally mandated to attend school until their sixth birthday. Nonetheless, nearly 100 percent of five-year-olds and 52 percent of four-year-olds attend primary schools. Four-year-old girls are four to five percentage points more likely to be in primary school than are boys. Primary schools have expenses for the site and 15 percent of the capital costs paid by local communities. The state pays 85 percent of capital costs, plus an additional 10 percent in areas designated to be disadvantaged.

The Department of Education pays the salary of teachers. Schools are given a grant for a portion of expenses such as lighting, heating, cleaning, maintenance, and teaching materials.

At this level, Ireland's educators have been asked to increased emphasis on active learning and problem solving in their classrooms. Parent satisfaction with primary schools has generally been high. However, the Irish National Teachers Organization in 1994 conducted a study of six comparable schools in Limerick and Derry, finding wide differences in school funding between the two jurisdictions. Primary schools in the Republic of Ireland were said to be "under-funded and under-resourced" compared to Northern Ireland schools. The Republic of Ireland also displayed higher pupil-teacher ratios than their counterparts in Northern Ireland. The findings created considerable concern in Ireland, and led to cries for curriculum reform and additional government funding.

Six years later, a curriculum reform committee and consultants had addressed most of the major weaknesses in the primary system. A new primary curriculum was approved by the Minister of Education and introduced by the Department of Education in 1999-2000 to 3,000 primary schools for the first time since 1971, but some of the courses such as a social, environmental, and science course were delayed until 2002. Initial reaction to the curriculum was positive from both an important teachers union and the National Parents Council, both of which were involved in curriculum discussion.

More than 10 years in the writing, the new curriculum attempted to address low rankings in science among Irish students who had earned schools the criticism of media writers and parents. The curriculum emphasizes child-centered learning with skills development. Math (with an emphasis on problem solving), history, and geography were also given emphasis, according to The Times Educational Supplement. Science; educational drama; and social, personal, and health education were added to the new curriculum.

The changes were implemented by 21,000 primary school teachers to their 460,000 pupils. The curriculum was broken into 6 main areas and then subdivided into 11 subjects. Other important aspects include a revised Irish curriculum "based on a communicative approach;" a new English syllabus; and updated educational methods in language learning, reading, and writing.

In the Republic of Ireland, the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment (NCCA), although not a statutory body, takes an advisory role to assist with the formation of a new curriculum. The NCCA consulted with course committees for each subject before sending a recommended curriculum to the Department of Education.

Textbooks: With the adoption of the new curriculum, educators and administrators have also discussed what they perceive has been an over-dependence on textbooks in the primary school curriculum. Educators say that too many teachers allow textbooks to drive their classes rather than using them as a resource in moderation.

Secondary Education

A national system of education was established in 1831 that was intended to be nondenominational, but struggles between the Catholics and Church of Ireland members made that a near impossible goal to accomplish. That principle was reaffirmed in 1878 when the government established the Intermediate Education Board.

In the first half of the twentieth century, Catholic parochial schools included both minor seminaries and elementary and secondary schools. Facilities were generally aged and decaying. More emphasis was put on religion and the preservation of morals than on academic preparation. Textbooks were outdated. In part, some of the blame goes to shortsighted religious leaders, but some also goes to the exclusion of Catholics from Irish schools for so many years.

One of the major reforms in Irish education occurred in 1947 when the Education Act provided free secondary education in national schools. Then, in 1963, the minister of education carefully restructured postprimary schools into secondary and vocational programs. This coincided with increased secondary attendance owing to an increase in the birthrate following World War II. The government announced its commitment to education as crucial to the growth of industry and professions, as well as the nation's economic health and stability.

Because the Leaving Certificate, administered in the thirteenth year, is the primary entrance requirement for higher education, secondary teachers put considerable emphasis into getting their classes fully prepared. With only so many students accepted, there is pressure since even students that graduate in Ireland do not automatically qualify to get in. Far more applicants send in their application papers than can be admitted. Acceptances are given based on merit and scores on the final secondary school-leaving examination. Places for medicine and veterinary studies are especially competitive.

Curriculum Requirements: Republic of Ireland schools have set Irish (Gaelic) as the primary language of instruction since 1922 (part of the mandatory curriculum in 1928), although English is so widely used that nearly all Republic of Ireland schools qualify as bilingual.

In the Republic of Ireland, the main academic subjects in the curriculum are mathematics, history, geography, and a choice of other recognized subjects, usually science. A revised curriculum in all of Ireland is being implemented, marked by increased science emphasis. Students are asked to observe, perform experiments, and develop reasoning and inductive skills.

Much of the push for increased science emphasis can be credited to an organization called Forfás, overseeing the National Policy and Advisory Board for Enterprise, Trade, Science, Technology, & Innovation. Forfás encourages and promotes the development of enterprise, science, and technology in Ireland, including support for education at all levels.

Educational System: Pupils that expect to apply to university take up to nine subjects and a minimum of six subjects. After three years of secondary education, students complete the junior cycle and the junior certificate is then taken. The certificate measures achievement, but it is not used by universities for admission purposes. At the end of the final year of secondary school, students take the leaving certificate. There are two levels of achievement: the ordinary level and the higher level. Although both cover the same school material, the higher level requires more sophisticated responses.

Expenditure: Secondary schools have 90 percent of total expenses for approved building and equipment costs paid by the government. Teacher salaries and allowances, with minor exceptions, are paid by the Department of Education. Schools are expected to operate within the limits of a budget provided to administrators at the start of the school year. A capitation grant pays for ordinary over-head, library books, and partial computer expenses.

Until late in the twentieth century, when educators placed increasing value on instructional technology, computers were considered a luxury. If additional funding is required for computers, schools must participate in fundraising activities to meet the costs. Musical instruments and school trips also are paid with money raised through volunteer efforts. In 1994, critics of fundraising for free schools argue that the practice likely hurts the parents of school children in disadvantaged areas. Parents who are poor may feel obligated to make contributions and may suffer financially for their payments. Other critics say such parents have enough trouble putting money aside to send their children off to college eventually, as the poor of Ireland have long been underrepresented at the higher-education level.

Then too, in 2000 and 2001, employers have claimed that a shortage exists in workers trained to use computers, which has resulted in recent governmental attention to the perceived oversight. A national project called Schools IT 2000 was set in place to correct the computer shortages in education. To administer the program, The National Center for Technology in Education (NCTE) was established and asked to coordinate the program. An administrator and four staff members were hired to see that the directive would be carried out. The program is both exciting and extensive. Telecom Eireann gave each school a multimedia computer with an Internet connection. Also provided was a telephone line, free rental of the line for two years, and five hours of free Internet access.

Previously, the NCTE, together with the Department of Education and Science, provided schools with 15 million pounds in funding to buy 15,000 new computers and equipment in 1998 under the Technology Integration Initiative scheme. All schools in the free education system at primary and postprimary levels were given generous per-pupil grants. Because the equipment without teacher training is not useful, another 1.4 million pounds were granted to buy hardware for Teacher Training Institutions, Education Centers, and the School Integration Project. There also were nationwide seminars for teachers, and the NCTE provided hardware specifications and discounts from suppliers to help schools make wise computer choices.

Because teachers are expected to require computer support, the Schools Support Initiative developed a support network called ScoilNet, to give advice and assistance. The Department of Education and other offices are forming partnerships with corporations such as IBM as well. In 2001, arrangements were set in place for a National Policy Advisory and Development Committee (NPADC) to act as a support group for the Minister and the Department of Education and Science on the future implementation of computers and technology in the schools.

Foreign Influences on Educational System: Ireland continues to be an attractive destination for students pursuing an undergraduate, postgraduate, and professional education. Medical students find Ireland's prestigious programs, up-to-date facilities, and attractive setting especially appealing. The National University of Ireland or NUI, which offers a full-time undergraduate degree in Medicine plus specialist training at postgraduate level, reports that two-thirds of its full-time student population is made up of international students. The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) attracts both undergraduate and postgraduate students from more than 40 different countries and from all five continents. More than 65 percent of places offered to undergraduates each year are allocated to students from outside Ireland.

Dropouts: Since 1988, an educational program for those leaving school early was operated with the cooperation of local education and labor training authorities. The Youthreach Program provides two years of education, training, and placement for those between 15 and 18 who fail to earn a formal diploma. In 1991, some 3,336 persons enrolled in Youthreach but, by 1995, that number had dropped to 1,630 boys and girls.

The first or "Foundation" year provides skills classes, on-site job training, general education, and counseling services. The second, or "Progression Year," provides similar training, plus options such as training in specific skills, temporary employment, or additional education. In addition to secondary school dropouts, vocational colleges in Ireland have also become concerned about dropout rates for students that many educators perceive are rising at a troubling rate. Several colleges formed committees to get a handle on the problem in 1998. Colleges were also asked to compile accurate records showing what percentage of the entering class leaves prior to the start of the second year.

Higher Education

University, non-university, and private colleges provide higher education in Ireland. The number of applicants for places in third-level colleges outnumbers openings for students, and the dropout rate of first-year students is a national concern, causing critics to question the quality of the nation's secondary schools. Perhaps the most important occurrence in the behind-the-scenes running of Ireland's colleges was the establishment of a Higher Education Authority. This advisory board was an important adjunct to the minister for education, making recommendations on fiscal matters and on ways to upgrade colleges and universities. The Higher Education Authority and the Department of Education work in cooperative fashion. Higher Education in Ireland takes the form of universities, technology institutes, and colleges for teacher education. Additional institutions provide specialized training in art, design, medicine, theology, music, and law.

Since the 1960s, industry in Ireland has reported a shortage in skilled workers, particularly, after 1995, those with sophisticated computer skills. Since universities were unable or unwilling to address these needs, the government of Ireland set up the National Institute for Higher Education (NIHE) to upgrade and start technical colleges graded as third-level educational institutions.

Higher education in Ireland has changed considerably throughout the past two decades. The number of students enrolled has increased markedly with the establishment of teaching institutions with a technology emphasis such as the Regional Technical Colleges (RTCs). Most institutions of higher education are state-supported, meaning they receive more than 90 percent of their income from the State. Since 1975, additional universities in Limerick and Dublin were opened, and the Institutes of Technology were expanded to take more enrollees. Disciplines gaining favor from students since 1965 are in the arts, social sciences, technology, and business. Also since 1965, Ireland's universities have experienced a significant jump in enrollment from 21,000 in 1965 to nearly 97,000 in 1997.

Since the passing of the Irish Universities Act in 1997, eight universities operate in Ireland. These are the University Colleges at Dublin, Cork, and Galway; the National University of Ireland (NUI); the University of Dublin (Trinity College); Dublin City University; University of Limerick; and Maynooth University. Each of these colleges offers courses as varied as social science, the arts, Celtic studies, law, medicine, dairy science, veterinary studies, architecture, and agriculture. In addition, there are a number of designated third-level institutions that interact with the Higher Education Authority. These are the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, The Royal Irish Academy, the National College of Art and Design, and The National Council for Educational Awards.

In Ireland there also is a higher education unit called non-universities, and in 2000 there were 14 of them located throughout the country, including Tallaght and R.T.C. Co. Dublin, which opened in September of 1992. They provide higher technical and technological education.

In 1995, the government published a document called "Charting our Education Future" that said the nation was striving "to ensure the highest standards of quality in all fields, in order to provide students with the best possible education." The government's "White Paper," as the report was called, said, "the restructured Higher Education Authority will be responsible for monitoring and evaluating the quality audit systems within individual institutions. The system will be based on cyclical evaluation of departments and faculties by national and international peers preceded by an internal evaluation; arrangements for the implementation and monitoring of evaluation findings; and the development of appropriate performance indicators."

The Department of Education, university presidents, and the Higher Education Authority developed performance indicators for higher education institutions and their faculties that assess all activities, particularly teaching and research.

Admission Procedures: Admission procedures for universities and colleges of higher education set their own minimum entrance requirements. The office that acts as a coordinator for applications is the Central Applications Office. Scores on the school leaving-certificate examination are used to reserve places for students on a point system.

Applicants may be admitted to an Irish university if they have earned a Leaving Certificate or diploma that signifies the successful completion of 13 years of schooling with a minimum overall average. (Prior to 1999, a student had to show evidence of passing the Matriculation Examination of the National University of Ireland; the exam was phased out in 1992). Most higher education institutions use the Central Applications Office in Galway to screen applications. The Central Applications Office was established in 1976.

Enrollment: According to the Central Statistics Office, in the decade between 1988 and 1998, the number of Republic of Ireland students enrolled in full-time or part-time undergraduate courses increased by 72 percent. Over the same period, postgraduate students more than doubled. Of the 89,500 students in higher education in 1994, approximately 52,000 attended at the university level.

Professional Education: An institute of higher education offering training in medicine began in Dublin during the seventeenth century, but it was run haphazardly until 1711 when a medical school opened at Trinity College, Dublin. Even then, very few doctors chose to earn their degrees here. Most preferred to study medicine at established, prestigious schools in Great Britain or other European countries. In the earliest days of medicine, surgeons were associates of barbers and belonged to the Barbers Surgeons Guild. In time, a Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI) was established in 1654. Next, Charles II chartered a Fraternity of Physicians in 1667.

In 1713, a Dublin physician named Sir Patrick Dunn died and bequeathed a chair of medicine to Trinity College. Even by 1747, the number grew only to two additional distinguished professor chairs. In 1785 the school began a College of Surgeons. In 1816, the school was connected with a hospital and offered clinical studies, ensuring its reputation. Cadavers, as was the custom of the day as recalled in literature by Charles Dickens and Ambrose Bierce, were stolen from cemeteries in the night by grave robbers.

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) was established in 1784 and now is associated with NUI. Ireland's most prestigious medical school, it is housed in an early nineteenth century building on St. Stephen's Green in Dublin. The renovated building contains state-of-the-art computer laboratories; modern lecture, theatre, and seminar rooms; and laboratories.

During the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, other prominent physicians expanded their practices by opening medical schools. A number of physicians in other cities also began to run them, but these failed to out-live the men who started them. In 1855, Catholic University also operated a hospital that eventually was taken over by University College, Dublin.

Members of the legal profession practiced law well before the twelfth century in Ireland. Formal schooling was required of attorneys during the sixteenth century. Prospective attorneys by 1628 were required to study at the Inns of Court in London, a professional school that, at the time, had been in existence for two centuries, for the required five years.

Catholics were prevented from becoming attorneys by means of a loyalty oath to the Church of Ireland that they were unable to take, lest their own Church excommunicate them. Lawyers who successfully passed the London Inns of Court and took the oath were admitted to the professional company of judges and lawyers in a society named the King's Inn (after the building that for a long time housed the society). Today, tradition continues as the Honorable Society of King's Inns and the Incorporated Law Society provide academic preparation in law for prospective attorneys to qualify respectively for barrister-at-law and for solicitor.

Vocational Colleges: By way of example, students seeking a career in tourism find an internationally acclaimed institute in the Shannon College of Hotel Management. It was founded in 1951 by educator Brendan O'Regan, as a source of trained managers for the Irish hotel trade. Shannon College is a hands-on college that uses internships to enable students to acquire on-site hotel experience to complement management training. Those earning the diploma in International Hotel Management are expected to demonstrate business skills, managerial skills, and fluency in one or more foreign languages. The National Council recognizes the school's diploma for Educational Awards, the National University of Ireland, and several prestigious industry associations such as The International Hotel Association.

Religious Institutions: Chief among religious institutions is the National University of Ireland (NUI), established in 1908. NUI is actually made up of three colleges: University College, Galway; University College, Cork; and University College, Dublin. The Royal College of Surgeons and St. Patrick's College, a training school for future priests, also are associated with NUI.

Private Colleges: In Ireland there are a small number of private colleges providing third level and professional education. By way of example, four of the major institutions are:

  1. The National College of Ireland (NCI) located in Dublin is an independent institution specializing in industrial relations, management, and related areas; it offers a National Diploma in Personnel Management (4-year evening course) and a B.A. in Industrial Relations (5-year evening course) conferred by the NCEA.
  2. The Shannon International Hotel School offers a four-year Diploma in Hotel Management. The final year includes a management internship in the United Kingdom or United States.
  3. The National College of Art and Design (NCAD) offers sub-degree, primary degree, and graduate programs in its specialty areas.
  4. The American College offers degrees and diplomas in the humanities, business, international law, and psychology. Validation is from a university in the United States.

Degrees Offered: A bachelor degree is obtained after a three- or four-year full-time course or comparable period of part-time study. This degree is usually pursued in a particular subject or field of study. The Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) program requires three or four years' study, while Bachelor degrees in Medicine and Dentistry require six years of study.

Postgraduate Training: A Graduate Higher Diploma is generally obtained after one or two years of postgraduate study. A research thesis is generally required. A Master's degree requires course work, a research project, and examination in a specific field of study. The normal duration of study is from one to three years following the Bachelor degree.

The Doctorate is the highest academic qualification awarded in Ireland. The Doctor of Philosophy (PhD.) Degree, Doctor in Letters (D.Litt.), Doctor in Science (D.Sc.), and some others may be obtained only by research and are, in general, completed in one to three years after the Master's Degree.

National & Government Educational Agencies: Higher education in Ireland is managed only at the national level and not administered by regional agencies in Ireland. The government has entrusted its Department of Education to oversee and administer the country's system of higher educationknown as the third level. The vocational schools, also known as technical institutes, get operating funds from the Department of Education; however, the Universities and some colleges of education apply for funding from the Higher Education Authority (HEA). Other third level institutions provide specialist education in areas such as the arts or the professions and business, but these, too, get the bulk of budgetary funding through the state.

The state has reacted to strong criticisms of its higher education facilities by taking a far-reaching role in educational matters. Most conspicuously, it founded the HEA in 1969 to keep a master plan for such institutions, as well as to possess budgetary powers. In addition, an agency was formed to monitor standards and curriculum matters in 1972. The National Council for Educational Awards (NCEA) oversees both undergraduate and graduate school matters under its jurisdiction. Another bureaucratic addition came about in 1976 to take over certain administrative duties such as processing applications from persons applying for courses at the universities, some specialty colleges, and a number of private colleges as well. This agency is called the Central Applications Office (CAO).

Expenditures: Public moneys appropriated for pre-school, primary, and secondary schools fall short of those spent by many comparable European nations, but Ireland's spending on higher education compares favorably with rival countries, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). In 1993, the Republic of Ireland spent 1.7 billion pounds (US$2.6 billion) on education. Areas where the Republic of Ireland falls relatively low in preschool, primary, and secondary education were pointed out by a study issued by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development in 1995 (though based on 1992 figures). The OECD finds Ireland deficient compared to other European countries in per-pupil expenditures at the preschool, primary, and secondary levels.

The Department of Education: The Department of Education administers public education, including primary, postprimary and special education. State subsidies for universities and third level colleges are given out through the Department. The three main levels of the education system are first, second, and third levels. The first and second level is referred to generally as primary and post-primary, respectively. The mission statement of the Department of Education says its purpose is "to ensure the provision of a comprehensive, cost-effective, and accessible education system of the highest quality, as measured by international standards, which will enable individuals to develop to their full potential as persons, and to participate fully as citizens in society, and contribute to social and economic development."

Nonformal Education: Teachers in Ireland frequently find teaching aids and sources from 1 of 30 part-time and full-time Education Centers in the country. These centers offer various support services and resources to teachers and to other partners in education. Two of the best known are the Blackrock Educational Center and Dublin West Education Center. These centers also keep an online presence with information on how to access contact persons and information.

In 2000 and 2001, many Irish children participated in a multi-center project called Write-a-Book. Meant to be a celebration of writing and artistic abilities by Ireland's children, not a contest, the student authors chronicle their lives, cultures, and homelands. Each participant receives a certificate. A few outstanding books are selected upon merit, and an Irish television star or media personality presents awards to the children.

Continuing Education: Students who do not enter a university or technical college but wish postsecondary school training frequently elect to take additional course-work in vocational schools. More than 30,000 part-time students were enrolled in vocational, community, and comprehensive schools in 1994-1995. More than 300 courses are open to such students.

Vocational schools, as have other Irish higher education institutions, improved much in the 1990s. With industry jobs going begging in the late 1990s, many additional students found new institutions such as the Regional Technical Colleges (RTCs) a good fit for their needs. In 1996 the Minister of Education unfolded plans to also allow the Dublin Institute of Technology (DIT) to offer degree-granting programs for professional and managerial students.

Distance Education: Taking courses via the Internet, television, video, and radiodistance educationcan be taken in addition to regular university courses or in place of university courses. Distance learning is equal to the amount of work performed in a regular classroom, but it is done at a time and place chosen by the student. No formal entry requirements are required for applicants aged 23 and older, making distance learning particularly attractive to adults and students getting a second chance at a college degree after dropping out earlier in life. Students also have the option of taking courses through the established Open University and the developing Irish National Distance Education Center (NDEC) headquartered at Dublin City University.

For students willing to give up the benefits of classroom instruction and close face-to-face interaction with professors and their fellow students, distance education is an option worth taking to earn a B.S. or B.A. degree that could not be obtained by traditional means. Course offerings include selections from literature, philosophy, history, psychology, and sociology. Another option is a BSc degree in information technology. Students choose from a course menu including management science, computing, and communications technology.

Teaching Profession

In 1834 a systematic teacher-training program began in Dublin at certain model schools for male and female students. There were about 25 model schools there by 1850; the training period lasted six months. For a time, both Protestant and Catholic students attended these schools, but in the mid-1860s Catholic authorities forbade students from attending, not wanting the Protestant influence on the children. When teacher training became more formalized, the schools no longer were used to train teachers but, nonetheless, many of the schools continued to exist until the twentieth century.

Irish teacher training involves several differences between primary and second level schoolteachers. Second level teachers usually complete a primary degree at university and then follow up with a Higher Diploma in education at a university. Primary school teachers complete a three-year program, leading to a Bachelor of Education (B.Ed.) degree, at a teacher training college. St. Patrick's College, Church of Ireland College, St. Mary Marino and Froebel College of Education are based in Dublin. Mary Immaculate College is based in Limerick. One criterion for primary school teacher training in Ireland is proficiency in Irish.

Student-Teacher Ratio: In 1997-1998 the teacher-student ratio was 19 pupils per teacher in the Republic of Ireland. This was two more pupils per teacher than in Northern Ireland.

The Training of Agriculture Instructors: The government involved itself in national agricultural operations, such as the training of teachers in agriculture-related subjects, in 1899. Ireland that year created the Department of Agriculture and Technical Instruction (DATI), hoping that education and scientific farming methods could prevent a recurrence of the Great Famine that ravaged Ireland from 1845-1849. Heavily dependent upon potatoes, a non-native crop brought to Europe from South America by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, Ireland's potato crop was ruined by blight caused by a fungus possibly introduced with imported fertilizer. Up to one million people died from starvation and disease, and many more Irish emigrated to the United States and other countries.

In addition to agriculture, the maintenance of fisheries, and the keeping of agricultural statistics, the Department of Agriculture involved itself in the training of teachers in such areas as health, science, plant breeding, and animal husbandry. Unfortunately, the department failed to establish a clear division of powers with the Congested Districts Board (CDB). The CDB, begun in 1891 as a board intending to improve agriculture in areas of extreme poverty, was given large amounts of money in its budget and the power to arrange training of agricultural instructors.

As is true of other areas of politics in Ireland, the DATI and CDB never could resolve differences. DATI ceased to exist in 1922 and a Department of Lands and Agriculture came into being. Although both groups were involved in strife, and the CDB was scored for chronic mismanagement of funds, a number of good instructors were trained, and Irish farmers and poor townspeople learned the dangers of relying upon a single crop for sustenance.

Students unwilling or unable to obtain a college degree may opt to attend classes and on-farm-site training to qualify for a Certificate in Farming. This three-year agricultural education and training program provides basic skills training in animal and crop husbandry, farm equipment and machinery, and environmental conservation.

The Farm Apprenticeship program is carried out by the Farm Apprenticeship Board. An apprentice begins the program with one year of courses at a recognized agricultural college and then begins an apprenticeship with a sponsoring farmer.

Unions & Associations: Three unions, the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland; the Irish National Teachers' Organization; and the Teachers' Union of Ireland represent Ireland's teachers. The Association of Secondary Teachers is the union representing secondary school teachers in Ireland. The Irish National Teachers' Organization was founded in 1868 and is the largest teachers' trade union in Ireland; it represents teachers at the primary level in the Republic of Ireland. The Teachers' Union of Ireland's teachers and lecturers work in vocational schools, community and comprehensive schools, Institutes of Technology, and colleges of education.

The reputation of the teachers' union was dealt a damaging blow in 2001, as media reporters, parents, and students condemned a pay dispute by secondary teachers who used their students as pawns in an effort to get the government to accede to their demands. The striking union, the Association of Secondary Teachers, Ireland, made an attempt to force the government's hand by claiming it might fail to process the Leaving Certificate examination needed by students for entry into Irish universities.

Just as upset as parents and students were teachers, among the lowest paid in Europe, and envious of Northern Ireland schools with better resources, who expressed anger and resentment over the nation's failure to reward their hard work as teachers with the competitive pay rate they felt they deserved. The government treated the teachers' demands as a bluff. By April 7, 2001, so many teachers had agreed to correct the Leaving Certificate out of concern for their students or fear for their jobs that the union clearly had been defeated.

The other unions also decried low wages but agreed to an arbitration process called benchmarking, which was intended to bring teacher salaries on a par with wages paid to other types of employee groups in Ireland.


Since the 1960s, the Irish have been aware of serious deficiencies in the educational system. Reforms, however, have been incomplete and less than satisfactory, as several studies and self-studies note.

In 1966, a research team headed by educator Patrick Lynch completed a thorough analysis of the primary and secondary systems and produced a scathing report called "Investment in Education." In 1967, a report completed by a special commission on higher education concluded that the third-level was no less problematic. Changes were implemented immediately, although these were less successful than ministers of education, parents, and politicians hoped they would be. The primary level revamped its curriculum. Smaller secondary schools with aging facilities and other deficiencies were consolidated with stronger schools into institutions with a modern look and characteristics. Of utmost importance, the government made it possible for many of Ireland's sons and daughters to receive an education at state expense.

The combination of free schools and better facilities pleased parents immensely. In 1965-1966, there were 143,000 students enrolled in postprimary schools. Fifteen years later, 301,000 students enrolled. For the immediate future, Ireland's educational prospects continue to look promising at the university level in particular. In 1995, the Steering Committee on the Future Development of Higher Education released projections of a total enrollment of 120,000 students in higher education by 2005. The predicted increase has been attributed at an economic boom, technological development, and greater opportunities for lower-income students.

According to a new report released in 2001 by census officials, more than 25 percent of all births in the Republic of Ireland now occur outside marriage. The information is contained in a new compendium publication Ireland, North and South a statistical profile that has been jointly produced by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) and the Republic of Ireland's Central Statistics Office (CSO). The high number of children from one-parent homes is expected to have an effect on primary education in Ireland by 2005, and it eventually will affect secondary schools.


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Coolahan, John. Irish Education: History and Structure. Dublin: Institute of Public Administration, 1981.

"Decisive Need for Special Needs Education in Ireland." Ireland: Department of Justice, Equality, and Law Reform, 2001. Available from

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Fitzgerald, Garret. "A Lesson to be Learned from the Teachers' Strike." The Irish Times, 7 April 2001.

Fry, Peter, and Fiona Somerset. A History of Ireland. London: Routledge, 1988.

Hachey, Thomas E., Joseph M. Hernon, Jr., and Lawrence J. McCaffrey. The Irish Experience. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: 1989.

"Ireland (Eire), International Qualifications for Higher Education: 2000." Universities and College Admittance Service, August 1999. Available from

Levey, Judith S., and Agnes Greenhall. The Concise Columbia Encyclopedia New York: Avon, 1983.

McMahon, Sean. A Short History of Ireland. Chester Springs, PA: 1996.

Moody, T.W., and F.X. Martin, eds. The Course of Irish History. Lanham, MD: Rinehart, 1995.

Moody, T.W., and W. E. Vaughn, eds. A New History of Ireland: Ireland Under the Union: 1801-1870. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.

Scherman, Katharine. The Flowering of Ireland. Boston: Little, Brown, 1981.

Vaughn, W.E. A New History of Ireland: Eighteenth-Century Ireland. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1986.

"Victorian Age, Part Two." Cambridge History of English and American Literature: (1907-21), Vol. 14. Available from

Walshe, John. "Irish Unveil Curriculum." The Times Educational Supplement, 24 September 1999.

Hank Nuwer

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The Republic of Ireland




The Republic of Ireland constitutes 26 out of the 32 counties that make up the island of Ireland, with 6 northern counties under the jurisdiction of the United Kingdom. Situated in Western Europe, it is bordered on the east by the Irish Sea from the United Kingdom and bordered on the west by the North Atlantic Ocean. With a total area of 70,280 square kilometers (27,135 square miles) and a coastline measuring 1,448 kilometers (900 miles), the Republic of Ireland is slightly larger than the state of West Virginia. The capital city, Dublin, is located on the east coast.


The population of Ireland was estimated to be 3,797,257 in 2000. There has been a steady increase in the population since 1994 (3,586,000), marking a historic turn-about in demographic trends. This is attributed to growth in the economy, a decline in previously high levels of emigration , the return of former emigrants, and an increase in immigration to the point where net migration is inward. Despite having one of the lowest population densities in Europe, Ireland's population density has reached the highest sustained level since the foundation of the Republic in 1922.

Emigration lowered population to under 3 million in the early 1980s. Birth rates declined from a high of 17.6 per 1,000 in 1985 to a low of 13.4 in 1994, but this trend has slowly been reversed, reaching 15 per 1,000 in late 1998. If the population is to meet the demands of the labor market, further increases will be necessary. Government efforts to attract further immigration and to increase the population are marred by housing shortages and service deficiencies.

At the 1996 census, 40 percent of Ireland's population was under 25, and the Irish population is still relatively young, with only 11.33 percent over the age of 65. The people are largely concentrated in urban centers, with almost one-third of the total population living in the city of Dublin and its surrounding county. Population in the other major cities and their surrounding areas is on the increase. In the sparsely populated midlands and in the western and border counties, though, population is either stagnant or declining.


An economic policy that emphasized self-sufficiency and was characterized by huge tariffs on imports to encourage indigenous growth dominated in Ireland until the late 1950s. This ideology was then abandoned in favor of a more open economic policy. Ireland's first economic boom followed this change. The failure of domestic over-spending to induce growth, along with negative global influences such as the oil crises of the 1970s, made this boom relatively short lived. The 1980s brought fast-rising inflation (up to 21 percent), unemployment close to 20 percent, emigration at unprecedented high levels (50,000 per year) and a soaring national debt .

Since the early 1990s, however, the Irish economy has produced high growth rates. It is integrated into the global trading system and, between 1994 and 1998, was the fastest growing economy in the countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The economy was forecast to continue expanding well in excess of any of its European Union (EU) partners during 2001 and 2002. Robust growth rates averaged 9 percent from 1995 to 1999 and some analysts predicted growth at 11 percent in 2001. Unemployment, which climbed to record levels beginning in the mid-to late 1980s, reaching 14.8 percent, fell to just 3.8 percent in 2000. Unemployment was predicted to fall below 3 percent by 2002. Living standards, measured by gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, were estimated to have caught up with the European average by late 1998.

This transformation can be credited to many forces, both domestic and global. Recent government policies have emphasized tight fiscal control alongside the creation of an environment highly attractive to enterprise, particularly international business. Policies based on "social consensus" and wage agreements negotiated by the government with business, farmers, trade unions and other social partners, have kept wages at moderate, business-friendly levels. A corporation tax of 10 percent, alongside grants to attract foreign business, has further contributed to the pro-business environment, as has the existence of a highly educated workforce.

EU regional policy has emphasized cash transfers to economically weaker and poorer member states. This is done to prepare these states to manage in a single market and currency. These transfers developed the Irish economy to a point where it could sustain growth. As an English-speaking country with access to the European market, Ireland is proving attractive as a base for international companies, particularly from the United States.

The reason behind the current economic boom is the high-tech manufacturing industry sector; in particular the foreign-owned multinational companies in this sector. Agriculture, while still remaining an important indigenous activity, is in decline. The industrial sector has seen growth rates higher than most industrial economies and accounts for 39 percent of GDP and about 80 percent of exports. It employs approximately 28 percent of the labor force . This dominance can be seen in the gap between GDP and gross national product (GNP), which was 15 percent lower in 1998. Although the service sector is smaller than that of other industrialized countries, it is nonetheless dominant and growing, accounting for 54.1 percent of GDP in 1998. Government remains heavily involved in the provision of health and transport services and, together with the private service sector, employs 63 percent of the workforce.

Successive Irish governments have maintained responsible fiscal policies over the last decade that have led to the reduction of national debt from 94.5 percent of GDP in 1993 to 56 percent of GDP in 1998. There have been concerns about the effects of current fiscal policy, with its emphasis on reducing income tax , on the high levels of inflation in the economy since late 1998. The government has argued that inflation is primarily due to external pressures such as the weak euro and high oil prices, which have caused increased consumer prices. Nonetheless, consumer price inflation peaked at 6.8 percent in the 12 months running up to June 2000, considerably higher than any other EU country.


The Republic of Ireland is governed by a parliamentary democracy. Parliament consists of a Lower House, the Dáil (pronounced "doyl") and an upper house, the Seanad (pronounced "shinad"), or Senate. Together, the 2 houses and the president form the Oireachtas (pronounced "irrocktos"), or government. The Irish president, although directly elected, has relatively few formal powers and the government, elected by the Dáil from its membership, is led by the Taoiseach (pronounced "Teeshock"), or prime minister, who presides over a 15-member cabinet of ministers.

Fianna Fáil (pronounced "foil"), a highly organized, center-right party, dominates the party system, with popular support of between 35 and 45 percent in 2001. It leads a minority center-right coalition government (with the Progressive Democrats) that depends on the support of a number of independent TDs (member of parliament) in the Dáil for the 1997-2002 term. Fine Gael (pronounced "feena gale"), the second largest political party and commanding between 20 and 30 percent of the popular vote, also occupies the political center-right, though it has shifted more to the center and has developed a social-democratic and liberal agenda over the last 3 decades. Its support base is generally among the more affluent, but these class trends are not especially strong overall and many wealthy people, particularly from the business sector, support Fianna Fáil. Fine Gael led the 1995-97 "Rainbow" coalition government, thus referred to because of its inclusion of 3 parties and representation across the political spectrum. The Rainbow coalition included the Labor Party and the Democratic Left (a party further to the left), which has since merged with Labor.

Unlike practically all other European party systems, the Irish party system exhibits no strong left-right division. The 2 largest parties have not traditionally defined themselves in terms of ideology, but grew out of differences over the nationalist agenda at the time of independence. The Labor party, weak in comparison with its European counterparts, has consistently been the third largest party, commanding between 10 and 15 (some-times more) percent of support nationally, and has considerable power in a system dominated by coalitions.

A number of tribunals have been in operation since 1997-98, investigating allegations of political corruption. The allegations involve unacceptable links between politicians and big business, corrupt practices in the planning process, and inept and negligent public service on sensitive health issues from the 1970s to the 1990s. The ensuing revelations are assumed to have adversely affected Fianna Fáil's popularity, but opinion polls have proved inconclusive in measuring the amount of support the party might have lost.

A number of smaller political parties are also important in Ireland. Polls conducted in 2000-01 gave the Progressive Democrats 4 to 5 percent support, the Green Party 3 to 4 percent and Sinn Féin (pronounced "shin fane"), an all-Ireland Republican party with links to the Irish Republican Army (IRA), between 2 and 6 percent. Sinn Féin's association with the provisional IRA, which is responsible for punishment beatings in Northern Ireland and vigilante activity in the Republic, could, with its increase in popular support, present larger parties with controversial questions over coalition formation.

There is currently a broad consensus among the major political parties on how to run the economy. It is unlikely that a new government coalition would significantly alter the current pro-business economic policy.

The tax system incorporates standard elements of tax on income, goods and services, capital transfers, business profits, and property, and operates a system of social insurance contributions. Income tax has been reduced substantially, to 20 percent and 40 percent, with incomes over I£17,000 subject to the higher rate (2000 budget). A controversial individualization of income tax was introduced in the 2000 budget, with the object of encouraging more women to enter the labor force. Goods bought and sold are subject to value-added tax (VAT) at 20 percent, which is comparatively high, while luxury goods such as alcohol, tobacco, and petrol are subject to high government excise tax . Capital gains tax on profits has been reduced to 20 percent, and corporation tax, levied at between 10 percent and 28 percent, is to change to 12.5 percent across the board by 2003. Both employers and employees are subject to a social insurance tax, pay-related social insurance (PSRI), and an unusual business-unfriendly measure shifted the burden of the contributions to business in the 2001 budget. In terms of social spending, a means-tested (eligibility determined by financial status) system operates, resulting in about a third of the population receiving free medical and dental treatment. However, state medical-card holders suffer from long waiting lists for treatment, as opposed to the more than 50 percent or so of the population who have private medical insurance.

In line with EU policy, recent governments stress the importance of competition. A competition authority with enhanced powers is responsible for investigating alleged breaches of competition law in all sectors. This affects overly regulated private service providers such as taxicab companies, and it is anticipated that the restrictive pub licensing laws will be tackled next.

Government control over the economy is restricted by Ireland's membership in the EU and the euro zone, as well as by its own policy that has made Ireland one of the most open economies in the world. While the European Central Bank (ECB) controls monetary policy and largely controls interest rates, the government does retain control over fiscal policy.


Though vastly improved during the 1990s by grants of I£6 billion in European structural funds, the Republic of Ireland's infrastructure is still struggling to cope with the country's unprecedented economic growth. Long traffic delays and below average roads linking major business centers around the country are a potential threat to continued expansion. A late 1990s report commissioned by the Irish Business and Employers Association (IBEC) estimated that a further I£14 billion would have to be spent to raise the quality of the country's infrastructure to generally accepted European levels. Ireland's share of European structural funds for 2000 to 2006 has decreased to approximately I£3 billion, but increased government spending and planned joint public-private funding of projects should make up the shortfall.

Ireland has the most car-dependent transportation system in the EU, with roads carrying 86 percent of freight traffic and 97 percent of passenger traffic. Yet full inter-city motorways are not in place, making the links between Dublin and other major cities subject to heavy traffic and delays. Economic growth and increased consumer spending has pushed up car ownership levels dramatically, which, together with increased commercial traffic on the roads, has offset the considerable improvements of the 1990s. The road network is estimated to total 87,043 kilometers (54,089 miles) of paved roads and 5,457 kilometers (3,391 miles) of unpaved roads (1999).

Long rush hours and traffic gridlock occur in the major cities and gridlock in Dublin is estimated to cost the national economy around I£1.2 billion every year. Policies aiming to attract more daily users to the public transport system might take effect over the next decade. Following much debate and deliberation, the current government has commenced the implementation of a light rail system (3 lines) to cover some important routes into the capital, most importantly a link to the airport. This will add to the "Dart," Dublin's existing, relatively efficient suburban rail service, which consists of 5 lines covering 257 kilometers (160 miles) and 56 stations.

The railway linking Dublin to 2 major cities on the island, Belfast (Northern Ireland) and Cork, has been vastly improved over the last few years, but recent reports by external consultants have highlighted the poor, even dangerous, state of much of the rest of Ireland's 1,947-kilometer (1,210-mile) railway infrastructure.

Ireland has 3 international airportsat Dublin (east), Shannon (southwest), and Cork (south)and 6 independent regional airports. Air traffic increased dramatically during the 1990s, with the number of passengers up from 6.8 million (1992) to 12.1 million (1997), while annual air freight traffic also doubled. Inevitably, these increases have led to congestion, especially at Dublin's airport, and a major capital investment program launched by the government is nearing completion, with similar projects to follow in Cork and Shannon. Cargo traffic is similar, with increases of up to 50 percent in cargo tonnage and passenger traffic passing through the main ports over the 1990s. The government recognizes that capacity must increase if major congestion is to be avoided.

Liberalization in the telecommunications sector, completed in 1998, increased the number of providers from just 1 state-owned company to 29 fully licensed telecommunications companies, operating in residential,

Country Newspapers Radios TV Sets a Cable subscribers a Mobile Phones a Fax Machines a Personal Computers a Internet Hosts b Internet Users b
1996 1997 1998 1998 1998 1998 1998 1999 1999
Ireland 150 699 403 171.1 257 27.4 271.7 156.68 679
United States 215 2,146 847 244.3 256 78.4 458.6 1,508.77 74,100
United Kingdom 329 1,436 645 45.9 252 33.9 263.0 270.60 12,500
France 218 937 601 27.5 188 47.4 207.8 110.64 5,370
aData are from International Telecommunication Union, World Telecommunication Development Report 1999 and are per 1,000 people.
bData are from the Internet Software Consortium ( and are per 10,000 people.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

corporate, and specialized data services sectors. The government hopes that liberalization and the resulting competition in the market will encourage private investment and improve the state's poorly developed telecommunications infrastructure. The mobile phone market has been dominated by competition between Eircell and Esat Digi-phone. Both have now been bought by the British giants, Vodaphone and British Telecom (BT), respectively, while a third mobile phone company, Meteor, has recently entered the market.

Energy consumption is, not surprisingly, on the increase. Total energy consumption rose from 8.5 million metric tons (9.35 million tons) in 1996 to 9.5 million metric tons (10.45 million tons) in 1997, with household use accounting for 3.6 million metric tons (3.6 million tons). Two-thirds of energy is supplied by imported coal and oil, with the remaining third supplied by indigenous peat (12 percent of the total) and natural gas. The distribution of gas, oil, peat, and electricity remains state dominated, though industrial users hope that recent liberalization of the gas and electricity markets will result in a lowering of prices.


Strong growth (55 percent growth from 1993 to 1999) has been the recent trend in the Irish economy, but it lacks consistency across all sectors. Agriculture (forestry and fishing), as a share of total GDP, has seen a steady decline, while the fastest growth has occurred in industry, particularly high-tech industry. The expanding service sector accounted for 56 percent of GDP in 1998. Ireland's economy has remained the fastest growing economy in the EU and compares favorably with developed economies worldwide in terms of growth, output, trade volume, and employment levels.


Ireland's mild temperature, high rainfall, and fertile land offer ideal conditions for agriculture and, despite a pattern of decline over the past 2 decades, agricultural activity remains an important employer in rural and remote regions of the country.

The drop in agricultural output from 16 percent of GDP in 1975 to just 5 percent in 1998 reflects only a relative decline when measured against the steady increase in GDP driven by other sectors. While the fall in prices of agricultural products has been sharp, the volume of output has seen only a small decrease. The industry suffers from over-capacity and falling incomes and is increasingly reliant on EU subsidies and fixed prices. The number of small farmers remains high for an industrialized country, and many small farmers take up other employment to subsidize their income. While average farm size (29.5 hectares or 73 acres) is slowly increasing, the Irish Farmer's Association asserts that farm size remains the single biggest obstacle to generating adequate income in the agricultural sector. Adjusting to EU measures to bring prices more in line with world agricultural prices seems unlikely to help the industry, while reducing high levels of pollution in the waterways to comply with EU regulations is also not expected to aid farming profitability.

Average farming incomes fell by 6.2 percent in 1997, even though productivity per individual farmer increased significantly over the last decade. On 40 percent of all farms, the annual income was only I£5,000. On a further 25 percent of farms, it rose to between I£5,000 and I£10,000. Combined employment in agriculture, forestry, and fisheries fell from 175,000 at the beginning of the 1990s to 142,000 at the end of the decade. Figures that include related food-processing industries put employment at 176,000 in 1999, representing 12 percent of all workers in employment. Some figures estimate that agriculture generates so many service sector jobs that it indirectly accounts for 350,000 jobs (23 percent of the labor force).


The most productive agricultural sector is the largely export-oriented beef and livestock industry, which accounted for 50 percent of output value in 1998. Cattle and sheep farming have, however, been hard hit by a number of crises. After EU agreements in 1999 to reduce beef prices, in February 2000, farmers were badly affected when BSE (Bovine Spongi-form Encephalopathy), or "Mad Cow" disease, resulted in a 27 percent drop in beef consumption in the key European market. In February-March 2001, the unprecedentedly severe outbreak of foot and mouth disease in herds in Britain, with pockets in Northern Ireland and France also affected, brought another enormous challenge to the industry, threatening the export markets of Ireland and all the EU countries.

Overall, output decreased during the 1990s, with the annual value of livestock falling from I£1,885 million in 1993 to I£1,761 million in 1997. This represents decreases in the overall value of cattle livestock from I£1,349 million to I£1,097 million (1993 to 1997), with the value from pigs, sheep, and lambs showing small net increases in output value.

Livestock products, the most prominent of which is milk, also suffered a general, if undramatic decline in output during the mid-1990s, from I£1,132 to I£1,113 million. Crops output, with cereals and root crops dominant, also decreased marginallyfrom I£3,431 to I£3,315 millionduring this period. Sugar beet, wheat, and barley yielded the highest commercial value (1997), with milk, eggs, and fresh vegetables also important products.


Despite its reputation as a land of abundant greenery, Ireland has the lowest level of forest cover in Europe, with only 8 percent of the land under woodland, against a 25 percent average elsewhere. But this 8 percent is a considerable improvement from the 1 percent level of cover at the foundation of the state in 1922 and is the result of government reforestation programs. Current EU policy serves to encourage reforestation and the development of a timber-based agricultural sector. Reflecting this, timber output was expected (EIU estimate) to have reached 3 million square meters of timber by 2000. This would provide for an increase in the domestic market's share of local timber, as it previously imported 45 percent of its timber requirements.

Given Ireland's geographical position, fishing has been a naturally important economic activity, particularly in rural coastal areas where there are few other industries. The fishing industry has evolved to incorporate more diverse forms of activity such as fish farming, and employment rates have increased by 40 percent since 1980. Full and part-time workers together accounted for 16,000 jobs either directly or indirectly connected to the fishing industry in 1999. The value of exports increased from I£154 million in the early years of the 1990s to a peak of I£240 million in 1997. EU grants and government spending ensure that the industry will continue to expand.


The industrial sector has maintained its share in total economic activity at 39 percent of GDP throughout most of the 1980s and 1990s. This trend is unusual in developed countries and reflects strong growth. Although marking a slight slowdown from 1995 to 1998, growth in 1999 was high at 10.5 percent. Strong performance from both foreign-owned and indigenous Irish industry, primarily in the high-tech manufacturing sector, has driven the growth.

Significant reserves of zinc and lead ores, natural gas, and peat are to be found, and the latter 2 supply a third of domestic energy demand. Zinc and lead ores sustain one of the biggest zinc and lead mines in Europe and approximately 4,000 jobs. Ireland is a small country with limited natural resources, and a well-developed, open, and globally-integrated industrial economic policy is therefore essential to economic health.


There are more than 1,000 foreign-owned companies operating in Ireland, mostly, though not all, in the high-tech manufacturing sector. Foreign-owned manufacturing accounts for more than half of the country's total manufacturing output. In 1998, foreign companies produced more than two-thirds of export goods and employed around 45 percent of the manufacturing sector's workforce, or 28 percent (468,800) of the total workforce. Most foreign-owned manufacturing is concentrated in high-tech sectors such as chemical production, metals, electrical engineering, and computer hardware.

Between 1993 and 1997, output in metals and engineering increased by 96 percent and employment by 49 percent. Leading metal output is the manufacture of agricultural and transport machinery. In the chemicals sector, output increased by 116 percent and employment by 38 percent. Both sectors continue to enjoy high productivity.

Performance in the indigenous high-tech sector has also been impressive. The sector's growth in volume of output increased by 37 percent from 1987 to 1995, contributing to a 113 percent increase overall (including foreign-owned). World-class manufacturing and management standards have developed, partly encouraged by the productive foreign-owned companies and by growing links between foreign-owned and indigenous sectors. An increasing percentage of inputs purchased by foreign-owned industry for production are supplied by indigenous Irish industry. Total expenditure of foreign companies in the Irish economy has reached I£6.9 billion, up from I£2.9 billion in 1990. By 1999, this economically healthy situation had brought an unprecedented 30,000 worker increase in employment by Irish-owned manufacturing firms since 1992.

Also well represented in this high-tech sector are the Industrial Development Authority (IDA)-targeted sectors of the pharmaceutical and computer software industries. The IDA is a government body charged with the task of attracting foreign investment and is part of an umbrella organization called Enterprise Ireland. The concentration of high-tech industries they have encouraged has created a clustering effect that facilitates self-sustaining growth.


Dominated by indigenous industry, the labor-intensive textile, clothing, and footwear sectors registered no significant growth during the 1990s into the 2000s. They have suffered as a result of competition from cheaper foreign imports. Textile production in Ireland remained stagnant during the late 1990s, and employment in the sector fell by approximately 20 percent. Clothing and footwear output fell by almost 20 percent between 1993 and 1997 and has remained at that level.


Food, drink, and tobacco production recorded the strongest growth in the traditional indigenous manufacturing sector, with production output, which is aimed at both domestic and export markets, increasing by 6.1 percent in 1997. Providing the backbone for the food industry is the production of beef, milk, eggs, fresh vegetables, barley, sugar-beets, and wheat.


A combination of increased business investment, infrastructure development and an acute housing shortage resulted in an increase in the value of construction output from I£13.7 billion in 1993 to I£16.1 billion, or 14.2 percent of GDP in 1996. In 1998, the bulk of construction was directed at residential buildings. Quarried stone exists as an important indigenous supply for the construction industry. Conditions ensured that this boom continued into 2001, but it is threatened by a shortage of labor and the accompanying effect of increasing wage demands.

The open-market economic policies adopted by successive Irish governments since the late 1980s can, in large part, explain the rapid expansion of the industrial sector, particularly the high-tech industrial sector. Foreign direct investment has been attracted by a number of factors, including a carefully built, business-friendly environment, a relatively inexpensive but highly skilled labor force, access to the EU market, and a range of incentives offered by the Irish government. Economic policy is currently establishing new priorities aimed at attracting industry to the poorer regions of the country, strengthening the roots of foreign-owned industry, and encouraging research and development programs.


Services accounted for approximately 63 percent of employment and 54.1 percent of GDP in 1999. Banking and finance and retailing and tourism dominate the private services sector, with software engineering and business consulting services growing in importance. State-owned industries dominate the provision of education, health, distribution, transport, and communication services, accounting for 18 percent of GDP in 1997. Private service providers are slowly entering these markets.


Availability of branch banking is dominated by 4 main clearing banksBank of Ireland, Allied Irish Banks, Ulster Bank, and National Irish Bank. Since the early 1990s, banks and building societies have become increasingly involved in the providing of financial services, and total employment provided by these institutions increased from 25,200 in 1994 to just under 30,000 in 1998. A scheme introduced in 1987 created incentives to make Ireland an attractive base for foreign financial institutions. A particular incentive was the setting of corporation taxes at a low 10 percent. More than 300 banks, mostly North American and European, are established in the Irish Financial Services Center (IFSC) in Dublin, offering specialized services such as investment banking, fund management, capital markets, leasing, and re-insurance. The IFSC has created direct employment for between 5,000 and 7,000 people, as well as a considerable proportion of indirect employment connected with Dublin's concentration of banks.


The country's famously green and beautiful landscape, its fine beaches, a culture of small, atmospheric, and sociable pubs, and the friendliness of its people attract many tourists. Recent tourist expansion has largely resulted from Dublin's elevation to a very popular weekend-break destination, coupled with the government tourist board's overseas promotion programs, which highlight the country's attractions for fishing, walking, and golfing enthusiasts. Total revenue from tourism reached I£2.8 billionmore than 5.7 percent of GDP in 1997. This dropped slightly in 1999 (I£2.5 billion), but two-thirds of that year's revenue was generated by the arrival of more than 6 million overseas visitors. At the end of the 1990s, at least 120,000 jobs were estimated to depend on tourism. The biggest threat to the tourist industry is the poor quality of services. These are the result of a shortage of skilled labor, as well as increasing industrial unrest that periodically causes transportation disruptions and brings traffic chaos. Workers in the tourist industry have tended to be worse off than those in other sectors, but the I£4.50 per hour minimum wage introduced in 2000 stood to eradicate the worst cases of under-payment.


Economic expansion has facilitated increased diversification in the indigenous retailing industry. With consumer spending high, retail sales expanded by 53 percent in real value terms in 1997 and by 32 percent in volume terms. The surge in the growth of the retailing sector has attracted a large number of groups from the United Kingdom (UK), which have brought competition that has helped to control consumer price inflation. The volume of retail sales increased by 14 percent in the first quarter of 2000, with the purchase of new cars in the first half of that year up 42.9 percent.


Ireland has achieved the highest trade surplus relative to GDP in the EU and is in the top 20 exporting countries in the world. In 1999, the total value of the country's exports recorded a huge surplus, reaching I£44.8 billion, against imports of I£20.63 billion. The balance of trade between exports and imports continued the strong upward trend from I£13.7 billion (25 percent of GDP) in 1998 to I£24.17 billion in 1999. Figures from the first half of 2000 indicated a further increase. However, despite a robust 24 percent growth in export rates in 2000, trends indicated that import growth rates in response to high consumer demand would exceed export growth rates in 2000-01, thus threatening the surplus in the long run. The EU (including the UK) remains Ireland's most important export market. In 1998, export revenues from the EU accounted for 67 percent (I£30.27 billion) of total exports, with the UK contributing almost I£10 billion, or 22 percent of the total. Germany (14.6 percent), France, Italy, and the Netherlands are the other key European destinations, while the United States accounted for I£6.14 billion (13.7 percent) in 1998. Given the weak euro and the presence of many U.S. multi-nationals in Ireland, there are indications that the United States is set to become Ireland's biggest export market. Exports to U.S. markets increased by 54 percent to I£6.8 billion in the first 6 months of 2000. Exports to the UK, a non-euro zone, also increased by 22 percent during this period to I£6.9 billion. Ireland is a major center of computer manufacture, with

Trade (expressed in billions of US$): Ireland
exports Imports
1975 3.193 3.778
1980 8.398 11.153
1985 10.358 10.020
1990 23.743 20.669
1995 44.250 32.638
1998 63.959 44.355
SOURCE: International Monetary Fund. International Financial Statistics Yearbook 1999.

U.S.-owned corporations such as Dell conducting operations there. The high-tech sectors recorded Ireland's largest export increases in 2000, with computer equipment leading the field at I£8.1 billion. The export of organic chemicals was valued at I£7.3 billion, and electronic machinery at I£2.9 billion. Chemicals, transport equipment, and machinery (including computers) accounted for 80 percent of the increase in exports between 1993 and 1997. While foreign multinationals dominate these sectors, there are positive signs of increasing domestic production in high tech manufacturing industries, such as the production of chemicals, software development, optical equipment, and electronic equipment. The production of electronic equipment and optical equipment supplied 9.2 percent of domestic exports in 1997. However, exports represented only 34 percent of domestic manufacture, while up to 90 percent of foreign-owned company output was exported. In 1997, food and livestock remained the fourth largest export commodities, with food, drink, and tobacco together accounting for an important, though declining, percentage of indigenous exports (53.9 percent, down from 61.9 percent in 1991). Fuel, lubricants, and crude materials also remain important.

The value of imports has increased rapidly, from I£13.1 billion in 1998 to I£34.66 billion in 1999. Their value for the first 6 months of 2000 was at I£20.7 billion, recording a 25 percent increase. Once again, the high-tech sector dominated, with imports of computer equipment increasing by 28 percent and manufacturing industry inputs by 26 percent. Imports of road vehicles also increased dramatically during this period. Despite the weak euro, the UK and the United States remain Ireland's largest sources of imports, both supplying goods in the first half of 2000, showing an increase in volume of 20 percent. Machinery and transport equipment dominated the volume of imports and accounted for I£15.7 billion in 1998, with chemicals and miscellaneous manufacturing goods accounting for I£3.4 billion each. Food and live animals accounted for the next largest share in total import value at I£1.8 billion in 1998. Live animals are both imported and exported. A factor distinguishing

Exchange rates: Ireland
Irish pounds per US$1
Jan 2001 1.0658
2000 1.0823
1999 0.9374
1998 0.7014
1997 0.6588
1996 0.6248
SOURCE: CIA World Factbook 2001 [ONLINE].

Ireland from its 10 euro-zone partners is its relatively low volume of trade within the euro zone20 percent of imports and 45 percent of exports in 1998. Current trends do not predict a rapid change in this pattern.


Ireland severed its links with the British pound sterling in 1979 and relinquished control over its monetary policy to the European Central Bank (ECB) in 1999. Consequently, the government is no longer free to use exchange rates as part of economic and trade policy. The relationship of the Irish pound to the sterling and the U.S. dollar is determined by their relationship to the euro, which itself has been consistently weak since its launch in January 1999. Higher interest rates have been introduced by the ECB to help the euro, but they would need to be considerably higher to curb Irish domestic spending and demand. A downturn in the U.S. economy could, perhaps, result in a strengthening of the euro. This would reduce the costs of imports and help curb inflation, but would at the same time decrease the value of exports. The Irish Stock Exchange (ISE) separated from the international stock exchange of the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland in 1995. Since then, in keeping with global trends, the ISE has grown rapidly, with market capitalization increasing from I£7.4 billion in 1992 to I£66.8 billion in 1998, and 81 companies listed in 2001. It appears, however, to be too small to attract significant levels of venture capital, and Irish technology companies tend to look to the NASDAQ or the EASDAQ (proposed Europe equivalent) for this reason. With this coordination of stock exchanges across Europe, investor participation in Irish stocks may increase.


Unprecedented growth in the Irish economy during the late 1990s saw living standards in terms of per capita GDP reach the EU average for the first time in 1998. However, rapid growth does not automatically translate

GDP per Capita (US$)
Country 1975 1980 1985 1990 1998
Ireland 8,605 10,044 10,944 13,907 23,422
United States 19,364 21,529 23,200 25,363 29,683
United Kingdom 13,015 14,205 15,546 18,032 20,237
France 18,730 21,374 22,510 25,624 27,975
SOURCE: United Nations. Human Development Report 2000; Trends in human development and per capita income.

into a better quality of life, and Ireland is by no means immune to the risk in all industrial societies: that of creating a society where the rich get richer and the poor stay poor.

Inequality in Ireland falls generally into 2 categories. The first is essentially that of poverty traditionally created by unemployment. Despite almost full employment , pockets of deprivation characterized by long-term unemployment, high dropout rates from education, and a dependency culture, prevail. These disadvantaged groups, frequently plagued by social ills such as the drug-culture, suffer markedly from the considerable increase in the cost of living. To relieve deprivation of this nature requires a sustained effort at introducing more comprehensive social policies. In 2000, the Irish government spent only 16 percent of GDP on social welfare compared to the EU average of 28 percent.

The second category of poverty, arising from the disparity of income among the employed, affects a larger number of households. Comparative studies published in Brian Nolan, Chris Whelan, and P.J. O'Connell's Bust to Boom, reveal Ireland, along with the UK and Portugal, to have a high rate of relative income poverty compared to other EU member states. While there were improvements in income earned by the unskilled, skilled, highly

Distribution of Income or Consumption by Percentage Share: Ireland
Lowest 10% 2.5
Lowest 20% 6.7
Second 20% 11.6
Third 20% 16.4
Fourth 20% 22.4
Highest 20% 42.9
Highest 10% 27.4
Survey year: 1987
Note: This information refers to income shares by percentiles of the population and is ranked by per capita income.
SOURCE: 2000 World Development Indicators [CD-ROM].
Household Consumption in PPP Terms
Country All Food Clothing and footwear Fuel and power a Health care b Education b Transport & Communications Other
Ireland 21 9 10 4 7 10 40
United States 13 9 9 4 6 8 51
United Kingdom 14 7 9 3 3 6 58
France 22 7 9 3 8 12 40
Data represent percentage of consumption in PPP terms.
aExcludes energy used for transport.
bIncludes government and private expenditures.
SOURCE: World Bank. World Development Indicators 2000.

skilled, and educated employees alike, the overall trend from 1987 to 1997 brought more opportunities and higher wage increases for the latter 2 groups. This trend is more acute in Ireland than in other European states. The ESRI (Economic and Social Research Institute) points out that while the fortunes of wealthiest 10 percent of the employed population increased rapidly between 1987 and 1997, the top 5 percent rose even more rapidly. The only positive aspect of income distribution trends was that while the bottom, or poorest, 25 percent appeared to fall away from the average income, the bottom 10 percent did not, indicating that the very poor are not actually getting poorer. One further positive aspect is the increase in gender equality, with women moving to take advantage of increased employment opportunities. Women are establishing themselves as fundamental members of the labor force and improving their average take-home pay to 85 percent of that earned by their male counterparts.

However, trends in general income disparity are worsened by the crippling house prices. These either prevent many young people on average incomes from buying homes or leaves them with huge mortgage payments. Rents have spiraled due to shortages in the housing market. Exclusively located houses in Dublin have been sold for over I£6 million and, while this is not the norm, an adequate house with easy access to Dublin's city center costs between I£150,000 and I£500,000, having cost perhaps between I£30,000 and I£80,000 at the end of the 1980s.

The government does provide safety nets for those in need, granting free medical and dental care on the basis of means testing. Social welfare payments are available to the unemployed, but only to those who can provide an address, and there is some government-provided social, or corporation, housing. This scheme involves making low-rent housing available to the less well off, along with a tenant's long-term option of buying the government out. However, the service has suffered from the housing shortages, which show no signs of letting up (2001), and waiting lists are up to 18 months long.


The falling unemployment of the 1990s has accelerated to the extent that the key issue in 2001 is a shortage of skilled and unskilled labor. The labor force increased from 1,650,100 in early 1999 to 1,745,600 in mid-2000, with 1,670,700 in employment (mid-2000). In 1999 and 2000, surveys carried out by the Small Firms Association indicated that 91 percent of surveyed members were experiencing difficulties recruiting staff, particularly at the unskilled level. The labor market increased by 6.2 percent (96,000) in 1999, and the number of long-term unemployed decreased to just 1.7 percent of the workforce. There is a risk that this shrinkage in the volume of available labor will further fuel demands for wage increases.

Social partnership agreements over the last decade have kept wages moderate and generally lower than in other EU states. There is an increasingly widespread consensus on the part of workers, particularly in the public sector , that the fruits of economic growth have not been distributed, let alone distributed evenly. It is feared that demands for increased pay may undermine growth by fuelling inflation, thus pushing up the cost of living for individuals and of wages for business, both foreign and domestic owned.

The input of trade unions into economic policy-making was formalized with the introduction of national wage agreements in 1989. The umbrella body, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, incorporates 46 unions, with a total membership of 523,700 (2000). According to the largest union, the Services, Industrial, Professional and Technical Union (SIPTU), membership increased by 60,000 to more than 200,000 in 2000. However, many multinationals do not permit union membership. Despite overall improvements in wage and employment levels, the current industrial climate is at its worst this decade. Strikes are a more regular feature across the public sector, with nurses, the Garda (police), and teachers demanding increases of up to 40 percent. The most recent wage agreementthe Programme for Prosperity and Fairness ness (PPF)has proved almost impossible to implement, since the agreed annual 5 percent pay increases are no longer considered sufficient by unions; they argue that the cost of living has increased by more and, with inflation having peaked at almost 7 percent in November 2000, they appear to have a case.

Hourly rates of pay have increased significantly across all sectors. According to the government's Central Statistics Office, the average industrial wage of I£274.37 for a 40.5-hour week in 1996 rose to I£283.53 in 1997 and I£295.20 in 1998. In 1999, employees in private firms had higher average wage figures. Skilled workers earned I£461.86 for a 45.6-hour week and the unskilled and semi-skilled were paid I£346.55 for a 46.8-hour week. As indicated above, income differentialsthe difference between income levels across all sectors from the highest to the lowestare higher than in other EU countries.


1800. British rule over Ireland, present since the 12th century, is extended to the entire country by the 17th and 18th centuries and further centralized with the Act of Union in 1800 (whereby no parliament sat in Dublin anymore).

1870s. Strong national movement emerges in Ireland. The national political movement in favor of "home rule" succeeds in incorporating both members of the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and peasant famers who seek land reform. But resistance on the part of conservative British governments and the strong will of the Protestant population of the northern provinceUlsterto remain in the union delays home rule.

1914-18. A more radical stream of nationalism begins.

1919-21. Guerrilla-style war for independence ensues. The Unionist population of Northern Ireland remains adamant that no granting of either home rule or independence to the island should include them.

1922. The Anglo-Irish treaty gives 26 of the 32 counties of Ireland independence from the United Kingdom with some symbolic restrictions, such as the retention of the crown as head of state. The remaining 6 counties in the north of the island remain part of the UK.

1923. Those for and against the treaty fight a civil war over the spoils of government and some over the retention of symbolic links with Britain, which ends in the capitulation of the anti-treaty forces, who then form the political party Fianna Fáil in 1926.

1925. Partition of the island into Eire and Northern Island is informally made permanent.

1938. More than a decade of politically provoked and disastrous "economic war" with Britain ends.

1940. Ireland declares itself neutral in World War II.

1949. Although informally a republic since 1937, Ireland is formally declared a republic.

1950s. Emigration increases rapidly, and rural poverty becomes widespread.

1960s. The inward looking, tariff-centered economic policies are rejected in favor of an open policy, but the state still plays a huge role in the economy.

1970s. High government spending increases the national debt to unsustainable levels and sparks off high inflation. The oil crisis of 1979 also hits the country hard.

1973. Ireland joins the European Economic Community, along with Britain and Denmark.

1980s. High inflation and unemployment levels alongside income tax that reach over 65 percent.

1987. Ireland endorses the Single European Act, which establishes the common European market. The first social partnership agreements of the 1980s negotiate a plan for national economic recovery.

1990s. Tighter fiscal policies, trade and enterprise-friendly economic policies, and social partnership agreements, alongside other factors such as the long-term benefits of EU transfers, facilitate a turnaround in the economic fortunes of the country.

1991. EU countries sign the Maastricht Treaty, which formalizes the plan for European Monetary Union and agrees on the ground rules for entry into EMU.

1994-98. Following the paramilitary cease-fire in Northern Ireland and long negotiations, a peace process results in political agreements between Britain, Ireland, and Northern Ireland.

1995-96. The economy shows strong growth and a significant increase in employment opportunities.

1998. Ireland endorses the Amsterdam Treaty, which extends EU co-ordination of social and security policy and enlargement.

1999. EMU is introduced and the European Central Bank takes over monetary powers in Ireland.


For most of the latter half of the 20th century, Irish policy makers focused on the challenge of how to instigate sustainable economic growth that would serve to reduce high unemployment and emigration levels and to increase standards of living to the European level. In the 21st century, the key challenge is to implement a policy mix that sustains the benefits of growth while dealing with the key interlinked threats posed by inflation and acute labor market shortages. In 2001, rising inflation has seen the cost of living increase considerably, and this, alongside more demand than supply in the labor market, puts strong upward pressure on wages.

Dealing with inflation and labor market shortages is complicated by the extent to which external forces affect Ireland's economy, which is a regional, export-oriented economy within a monetary union. For example, the health of the euro and trends in global oil prices will either help or hinder the curbing of inflation. Lower oil prices and a stronger euro would reduce the cost of imports and, thus, inflation. Another important external force is the slow-down in the U.S. economy (2001). This could decrease the United States' domestic demand for imports, at the same time decreasing multi-national companies' investment in the Irish market, thus putting trade volume, employment, and growth at risk. In turn, spiraling inflation could result as job losses cause people to struggle to pay mortgages and the high levels of credit that have been the trend throughout the 1990s and beyond.

While there are differing opinions as to which policies are most effective to curb inflation and thus reduce the upward pressure on wages, most commentators agree that a flexible fiscal policy, in particular flexible wages (using wage agreements), is vital if both are to be avoided. Flexibility is necessary because of the dual and uncertain nature of external challenges to economic success.

Different external factors call for different reactions. The immediate problem facing the government in 2001 is the threat to social partnership policy-making posed by the increasing demands of unions for higher wage agreements. Higher wages and a break in the partnership would threaten the competitiveness of the Irish labor market, which remains relatively cheap compared to the rest of Europe. But competitiveness is also at risk as a result of labor market shortages.

It is likely that moderate wage increases to maintain social consensus (partnership agreements) are required alongside policies to encourage immigration (to increase the labor market supply) and policies to encourage savings (to reduce the threat of inflation). However, different policy responses would be required should the U.S. slowdown reach the point where foreign companies pull out, thus reducing employment. Attempts have been made to prepare for this scenario; the IDA has put more emphasis on health care and e-commerce companies and on research and development functions to deepen the roots of foreign investment, thus lessening the risk of an exodus.

A healthy future economy largely depends on how government responds to uncertain threats, and it would appear that the adoption of a flexible approach is vital. This is in turn a prerequisite for improving the quality of life and diverting a percentage of expenditure to programs designed to narrow the disparities in individual prosperity.


Ireland has no territories or colonies.


Duffy, David, John Fitzgerald, Kieran Kennedy, and Diarmaid Smyth. ESRI Quarterly Economic Commentary. Dublin: Economic and Social Research Institute, December 1999.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Profile: Ireland. London: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2001.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report: Ireland June 2000. London: EIU, 2000.

Economist Intelligence Unit. Country Report: Ireland November 2000. London: EIU, 2000.

Irish Business and Employers Association (IBEC). "Quarterly Economic Trends." Dublin: IBEC Statements, December 2000.

Irish Business and Employers Association (IBEC). "Economy Not All Boom." Dublin: IBEC Statements, January 2001.

Irish Farmer's Association. Structure and Competitiveness in Irish Agriculture. Dublin: IFA, July 1999.

Nolan, Brian, P.J. O'Connell, and C. Whelan. Bust to Boom: The Irish Experience of Growth and Inequality. Dublin: IPA and ERSI, 2000.

Nolan, Brian, and Bertrand Maitre. "Income Inequality." Bust to Boom: The Irish Experience of Growth and Inequality. Dublin: IPA and ERSI, 2000.

O'Hagan. The Economy of Ireland. 6th edition. Dublin: IPA, 2000.

Small Firms Association. End of Year Statement. Dublin: SFA, 2000.

Results of Pay Survey. Dublin: SFA, January 2001.

U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. CIA World FactBook 2000. <>. Accessed September 2001.

Catherine Lynch

Eoin O'Malley




Irish Pound (I£). One Irish pound equals 100 pence (p). There are notes of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, and 100 pounds. There are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 pence coins. Ireland is part of the European Monetary Union (EMU) implemented on paper in January 1999. From 1 January 2002, the pound will be phased out with the introduction of the euro. The euro has been set at 0.787564 Irish pence, with I£ equaling approximately 1.21 euros. There are 100 cents in the euro, which is denominated in notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros, and coins of 1 and 2 euros and 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents.


Machinery and equipment, computers (hardware and software), chemicals, pharmaceuticals, live animals, animal products.


Data processing equipment, other machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum and petroleum products, textiles, clothing.


US$83.6 billion (2000 est.).


Exports: US$73.8 billion (2000 est.). Imports: US$46.1 billion (2000 est.). [CIA World Factbook indicates exports to be US$66 billion (1999 est.) and imports to be US$44 billion (1999 est.).]

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Basic Data

Official Country Name: Ireland
Region (Map name): Europe
Population: 3,840,838
Language(s): English, Irish (Gaelic)
Literacy rate: 98.0%
Area: 70,280 sq km
GDP: 93,865 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 6
Total Circulation: 567,000
Circulation per 1,000: 191
Number of Nondaily Newspapers: 61
Total Circulation: 1,372,000
Circulation per 1,000: 462
Newspaper Consumption (minutes per day): 40
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts: 307 (Euro millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 46.80
Number of Television Stations: 4
Number of Television Sets: 1,820,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 473.9
Television Consumption (minutes per day): 199
Number of Cable Subscribers: 672,220
Cable Subscribers per 1,000: 176.9
Number of Satellite Subscribers: 130,000
Satellite Subscribers per 1,000: 33.8
Number of Radio Stations: 115
Number of Radio Receivers: 2,550,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 663.9
Radio Consumption (minutes per day): 305
Number of Individuals with Computers: 1,360,000
Computers per 1,000: 354.1
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 784,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 204.1
Internet Consumption (minutes per day): 23

Background & General Characteristics

The Republic of Ireland, which occupies 5/6 of the island of Ireland, is roughly equal to the state of South Caxsrolina in terms of size and population. Half the population is urban, with a third living in metropolitan Dublin. Ireland is 92 percent Roman Catholic and has a 98 percent literacy rate. Despite centuries of English rule that sought to obliterate Ireland's Celtic language, one-fifth of the population can speak Gaelic today. Full political independence from Great Britain came in 1948 when the Republic of Ireland was established, but the United Kingdom maintains a strong economic presence in Ireland.

The printing press came to Ireland in 1550. Early news sheets appeared a century later. The Irish Intelligencer began publication in 1662 as the first commercial newspaper, and the country's first penny newspaper, the Irish Times, began in 1859. The Limerick Chronicle, which was founded in 1766, is the second-oldest English-language newspaper still in existence (the oldest is the Belfast Newsletter ).

Irish newspapers are typically divided into two categories: the national press, most of which is based in Dublin, and the regional press, which is dispersed throughout the country. The national press consists of four dailies, two evening newspapers, and five Sunday newspapers. There are approximately 60 regional newspapers, most of which are published on a weekly basis. Competition among newspapers in Dublin is spirited, but few other cities in Ireland have competing local newspapers.

Roughly 460,000 national newspapers are sold in the Republic each day. The sales leader is the Irish Independent, a broadsheet especially popular among rural, conservative readers. The second best seller is the Irish Times, which is regularly read by highly educated urban professionals and managers. The Irish Times is probably Ireland's most influential paper. The third most popular national daily in Ireland is the tabloid The Star, an Irish edition of the British Daily Star. The Irish Examiner sells the least nationally, but it is the sales leader in Munster, Ireland's southwest quarter. Published in the city of Cork, the Irish Examiner is the only national daily issued outside of Dublin.

Some 130,000 evening newspapers are sold every day in Ireland. The leader is the Evening Herald, a tabloid popular in Dublin and along the east coast. The other evening paper is the Evening Echo, a tabloid published in Cork, and like its morning sister paper the Irish Examiner, popular in Munster.

Five Sunday newspapers are published in Ireland, with a total circulation of 800,000. The Sunday Independent, like the daily Irish Independent, has the largest circulation. Sunday World, a tabloid, comes in a close second. The other broadsheet, the Sunday Tribune, has a circulation of less than a third of Sunday Independent's. The fourth most popular Sunday paper is the Sunday Business Post, read by highly educated professionals and managers. The lowest circulating Sunday paper is the tabloid Ireland on Sunday, which is popular among young adult urban males. The other weekly national newspaper in Ireland is the tabloid Irish Farmer's Journal, which serves Ireland's agricultural sector.

Newspaper penetration in Ireland is about the same as that of the United States: 59 percent of adults read a daily paper. The newspapers that are most-often read are Irish. Of the 59 percent of adults who read daily newspapers, 50 percent read an Irish title only, 5 percent read both Irish and UK dailies, and 4 percent read UK titles only. Newspaper reading patterns change on Sunday, when 76 percent of adults read a paper. Of this 76 percent, 51 percent read an Irish title only, 16 percent read both Irish and UK Sundays, and 9 percent read UK titles only. The total readership of UK Sunday newspapers is 25 percent, compared with 9 percent who read UK daily papers.

Regional newspapers have a small readership, but one that is loyal, a fact that has turned regional papers into attractive properties for larger companies to buy. Examiner Publications, for example, has bought nine regional papers: Carlow Nationalist, Down Democrat, Kildare Nationalist, The Kingdom, Laois Nationalist, Newry Democrat, Sligo Weekender, Waterford News & Star, and Western People. Other major buyers of regional newspapers include Independent News & Media and Scottish Radio Holdings.

Unlike their national counterparts, regional newspapers carry little national news and have traditionally been reluctant to advocate political positions. This pattern did not hold during the 2002 abortion referendum, however. The Longford Leader was reserved, complaining that various organizations had pressured "people to vote, on what is essentially a moral issue, in accordance with what they tell us instead of in accordance with our own consciences." The Limerick Leader, by contrast, urged its readers to vote for the referendum: "Essentially the current proposal protects the baby and the mother. Defeat would open up the possibility of increased dangers to both."

There are 30 magazine publishers in Ireland publishing 156 consumer magazines and 7 trade magazines. Only five percent of magazines are sold through subscription in Ireland; most are sold at the retail counter. One-fourth of magazine revenues come from advertising; the remaining three-fourths comes from sales. By far the most popular magazine in Ireland is the weekly radio and television guide, RTÉ Guide, which far outsells the most popular titles for women (VIP and VIP Style ), general interest (Buy & Sell and Magill ), and sports (Breaking Ball and Gaelic Sport ).

Like Ireland's newspapers, Ireland's indigenous magazine publishers face strong competition from UK titles. According to the Periodical Publishers Association of Ireland, four out of every ten magazines bought in Ireland are imported. Magazines suffered a financial blow in 2000 when the government banned tobacco advertising, which had been the second-largest source of magazine advertising revenue. Magazines receive a very small share of Ireland's advertising expenditure: in 2000, magazines received only 2 percent; newspapers received 55 percent; and radio and television received 33 percent.

A recent survey of 46 Irish book publishers found a vital book publishing industry. Seventy percent of book publishing in Ireland is for primary, secondary, and post-secondary education. Most of the remaining 30 percent is non-fiction, but the market for Irish fiction and children's books is active. Irish book publishers sell most of their books domestically (89 percent), although export sales (11 percent) are notable. More than 800 new titles are published each year, and Irish publishers keep about 7,400 titles in print.

Economic Framework

During the 1990s, Ireland earned the nickname "Celtic tiger" because of its robust economic growth. No longer an agricultural economy in the bottom quarter of the European Union, Ireland rose to the top quarter through industry, which accounts for 38 percent of its GDP, 80 percent of its exports, and 28 percent of its labor force. Ireland became a country with significant immigration. The economic boom, which included a 50 percent jump in disposable income, also led to increased spending in the media as well as increased numbers of media operators in Ireland. The underside of these achievements is child poverty, real estate inflation, and traffic congestion.

By far, the largest Irish media company is Independent News and Media PLC, which sells 80 percent of the Irish newspapers sold in Ireland. Independent News publishes the Irish Independent, the national daily with the highest circulation in Ireland, the two leading national Sunday newspapers, the national Evening Herald, 11 regional newspapers, and the Irish edition of the British Daily Star. Yet these properties, along with a yellow page directory, contribute only 28 percent of the revenues of Independent News; most of the rest comes from its international media properties. Despite the dominance of Independent News in Ireland, the Irish Competition Authority has concluded that the Irish newspaper industry remains editorially diverse.

The mind behind Independent News is Tony O'Reilly, whose 30 percent stake in the company is worth $430 million. O'Reilly founded Independent News in 1973 with a $2.4 million investment in the Irish Independent. Now the company includes the largest chains in South Africa and New Zealand, regional papers in Australia, and London's Independent. O'Reilly, who is the richest living Irishman with a personal fortune of $1.3 billion, has been a rugby star, CEO of the H. J. Heinz Company, and chairman of Waterford Wedgwood. He earned a Ph.D. in agricultural marketing from the University of Bradford, England, and was knighted in 2001. "I am a maximalist," O'Reilly says. "I want more of everything."

There is some media cross-ownership in Ireland. A few local newspapers own shares in local commercial radio stations. Independent News has a 50 percent financial interest in Chorus, the second largest cable operator in Ireland. Scottish Radio Holdings owns the national commercial radio service Today FM as well as six regional newspapers. O'Reilly is the Chairman not only of Independent News, but also of the Valentia consortium, which owns Eircom, operator of one of the largest online services in Ireland,

Most Irish journalists, both in print and in broadcast, belong to the National Union of Journalists, which serves as both a trade union and a professional organization. The NUJ is the world's largest union of journalists, with over 25,000 members in England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Recently, the NUJ fought a newspaper publishers' proposal to give copyright of staff-generated material to media companies to stop them from being able to syndicate material without paying royalties to journalists.

Ireland's largest publishers are represented by National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI). Originally formed to promote newspaper advertising, it has expanded to lobby the government on major concerns of the newspaper industry.

Press Laws

Although the Irish Constitution does not mention privacy per se, the Supreme Court has said, "The right to privacy is one of the fundamental personal rights of the citizen which flow from the Christian and democratic nature of the State." Legislative measures to protect privacy include the Data Protection Act of 1988, which regulates the collection, use, storage, and disclosure of personal information that is processed electronically. Individuals have a right to read and correct information that is held about them. Wiretapping and electronic surveil-lance are regulated under the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulation) Act, which was passed after the Supreme Court ruled in 1987 that the unwarranted wiretaps of two reporters violated the constitution.

Because there is no press council or ombudsman for the press in Ireland, the main way to deal with complaints about the Irish media is to go to court. Irish libel laws leave the media vulnerable to defamation lawsuits, which are common. Libel suits are hard to defend against, so the press often settles out of court rather than go through the expense of a trial and then pay the increasingly large judgments that juries award to plaintiffs. Defamation suits cost Ireland's newspapers and broadcasters tens of millions of Euros every year. As a result, lawyers are kept on staff to advise on everything from story ideas to book manuscripts. "When in doubt, leave it out," has become editorial wisdom. The media keeps one eye on the courtroom and the other on distributors and stores, some of which have refused to carry publications for fear that they too could be sued for libel.

Defamation has not chilled the Irish press entirely, but it has made investigative journalism difficult. Veronica Guerin's exposés about the Irish drug underworld in The Sunday Independent are a case in point. Naming persons as drug dealers is a sure-fire way to elicit a libel suit in Ireland, unless, that is, the criminals explicitly comment on allegations made against them. So despite being threatened, beaten, and even shot, Guerin persisted in confronting drug dealers to get them to say something that she could report in the newspaper. Mostly Guerin used nicknames to identify the criminals, making sure not to use details that would make them readily identifiable. This strategy averred libel suits, because in order to sue, the criminals would have to prove that they were the persons who were nicknamed. In 1995, Guerin received the 1995 International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists. The following year she was shot to death.

According to Irish law, defamation is the publication of a false statement about a person that lowers the individual in the estimation of right-thinking members of society. The Defamation Act of 1961 does not require the plaintiff to prove that the reporter was negligent or that the reporter failed to exercise reasonable care. The plaintiff does not even have to give evidence that he or she was harmed personally or professionally: the law assumes that false reports are harmful. The plaintiff merely has to show that the offensive words referred to him or her and were published by the defendant. It is up to the defendant to prove that the report is true.

The truth of media reports can be hard to prove. In 2002, John Waters, a columnist for the Irish Times, sued The Sunday Times of London for an article written by gossip columnist Terry Keane. The article was about a talk that Waters had given before a performance of the Greek tragedy Medea. Keane called Waters' talk "a gender-based assault," and added that she felt sorry for Waters' daughter: "When she becomes a teenager and, I hope, believes in love, should she suffer from mood swings or any affliction of womanhood, she will be truly goosed. And better not ask Dad for tea or sympathy or help." Waters said that the article tarnished his reputation as a father, and the jury agreed, awarding him 84,000 euro in damages plus court costs.

As this case shows, even journalists are not reluctant to sue for libel in Ireland. But other groups sue more frequently. Business people and professionals, particularly lawyers, file libel suits most often; they are followed by politicians. Indeed, Irish libel laws favor public officials and civil servants, who can sue for defamation at government expense. If they lose, they owe the government nothing, but if they win, they get to keep the award.

Two strategies are under consideration to reform libel law in Ireland. The first is legislative. National Newspapers of Ireland (NNI) advocates changes in libel law in exchange for formal self-regulation. According to NNI, the Irish public would be better served by having the courts be the forum of last, rather than first, resort in defamation cases. NNI would like to see a strong code of ethics that would be enforced by the ombudsmen of individual media if possible and by a country-wide press council if necessary. But this system can be established only with libel reform, because as the law stands now, a newspaper that publishes an apology is in essence documenting evidence of its own legal liability.

The second strategy to reform libel law in Ireland is judicial. Civil libertarians want an Irish media organization to challenge a libel judgment all the way to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, a court to which Ireland owes allegiance by treaty. If the Irish government loses its case in the Strasbourg court, it is obliged to change its laws to conform to the ruling. Many civil libertarians pin their hope for significant libel reform upon the Strasbourg court because it has ruled that excessive levels of defamation awards impinge free expression.

Despite these strategies for libel reform, the Defamation Act of 1961 still stands because politicians tend to view the media with skepticism and have grave doubts about the sincerity and efficacy of media self-regulation. The Irish public, meanwhile, tends to believe that the media want libel reform more for reasons of self interest than for public service. Change, therefore, is slow. Political scientist Michael Foley fears that "the Irish media will remain a sort of lottery in which many of the players win. Freedom of the press will continue to be the big loser."


The Irish Constitution simultaneously advocates freedom of expression and, by forbidding expression that is socially undesirable, permits censorship: "The education of public opinion being, however, a matter of such grave import to the common good, the State shall endeavour to ensure that organs of public opinion, such as the radio, the press, the cinema, while preserving their rightful liberty of expression, including criticism of Government policy, shall not be used to undermine public order or morality or the authority of the State." The Constitution also says, "The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law." Accordingly, the government has enacted and rigorously enforced several censorship laws including Censorship of Film Acts, Censorship of Publications Acts, Offenses Against the State Acts, and the Official Secrets Act.

The history of censorship in Ireland is also a history of diminishing suppression. A case in point is the 1997 Freedom of Information Act, which changed the longstanding Official Secrets Act, under which all government documents were secret unless specified otherwise. Now most government documents, except for those pertaining to Irish law enforcement and other subjects of sensitive national interest, are made available upon request. The number of requests for information under the Freedom of Information Act has increased steadily since the law was passed.

The Censorship of Publications Acts of 1929, 1946, and 1967 have governed the censorship of publications. The Acts set up a Censorship and Publications Board, which replaced a group called the Committee of Enquiry on Evil Literature, to examine books and periodicals about which any person has filed a complaint. The Board may prohibit the sale and distribution in Ireland of any publications that it judges to be indecent, defined as "suggestive of, or inciting to sexual immorality or unnatural vice or likely in any other similar way to corrupt or deprave," or that advocate "the unnatural prevention of conception or the procurement of abortion," or that provide titillating details of judicial proceedings, especially divorce. A prohibition order lasts up to twelve years, but decisions made by the Board are subject to judicial review.

The first decades under censorship laws were a time of strong enforcement, thanks in large measure to the Catholic Truth Society, which was relentless in its petitions to the Censorship Board. Before the 1980s, hundreds of books and movies were banned every year in Ireland, titles including such notable works as Hemingway's A Farewell To Arms, Huxley's Brave New World, Mead's Coming Of Age In Samoa, and Steinbeck's The Grapes Of Wrath. Playboy magazine was not legally available in Ireland until 1995. The English writer Robert Graves described Ireland as having "the fiercest literary censorship this side of the Iron Curtain," and the Irish writer Frank O'Connor referred to the "great Gaelic heritage of intolerance."

Although the flood of censorship has slowed to a trickle, recent cases serve as a reminder that censorship efforts still exist in Ireland today. A Dublin Public Library patron complained to the Censorship Board that Every Woman's Life Guide and Our Bodies, Ourselves contained references to abortion. The library removed the books because, according to a Dublin Public Library spokesperson, "We're not employed to put ourselves at legal risk." In 1994, the Oliver Stone film Natural Born Killers was banned. In 1999, the Censorship Board banned for six months the publication of In Dublin, a twice-monthly events guide, because the magazine published advertisements for massage parlors. The High Court chastised the board for excessiveness and lifted the ban on condition that the offending advertisements would appear no longer.

The potential for censorship in Ireland is real, but circumscribed. Not only have recent government censors shown restraint in inverse proportion to the power they have on paper, but most of the censorship that they have exercised is over blatant pornography. Furthermore, Ireland is awash with foreign media, so parochial censorship is likely to be countered readily by information from the UK, Western Europe, and the United States.

State-Press Relations

Like other western European countries, Ireland has an established free press tradition. The Irish Constitution guarantees "liberty of expression, including criticism of Government policy" but makes it unlawful to undermine "the authority of the State." Although not absolute, press freedom is fundamental to Irish society.

The extent to which the Irish media exercise their right to criticize government policy is a matter of perspective. Many politicians and government officials believe that the press is critical to the point of being downright carnivorous. Garrett Fitzgerald, former prime minister of Ireland, agreed with Edward Pearce of New Statesman & Society who said that the media "devour our politicians, briefly exalting them before commencing a sort of car-crushing process." However, others disagree, complaining that the press acquiesces to the wishes of the government. "The relationship between the media, especially the broadcast media, and the political establishment is the aorta in the heart of any functioning democracy. Unfortunately, in Ireland this relationship has become so profoundly skewed that it threatens the health of the body politic," Liam Fay complained in the London Sunday Times. While RTÉ [Radio Telefís Éireann] will never become "the proverbial dog to the politicians' lamppost," said Fay, "the station has a responsibility to do more than simply provide a leafy green backdrop against which our leaders and would-be leaders can display their policies in full bloom. Yet this is precisely what much of RTÉ's political coverage now amounts to."

Revelations in the 1980s that the government had tapped the phones of three journalists for long periods of time helped to spur further adversity between news reporters and the government. Because the government had tapped the phones of Geraldine Kennedy of the Sunday Tribune and Bruce Arnold of the Irish Independent without proper authorization in an attempt to track down cabinet leaks, the High Court awarded£20,000 each to Kennedy and Arnold and an additional£10,000 to Arnold's wife. Vincent Brown of Magill magazine, whose phone was tapped when his research had put him in touch with members of the IRA, settled out of court in 1995 for £95,000.

The government office established to deal with the media is Government Information Services (GIS), made up of the Government Press Secretary, the Deputy Government Press Secretary, and four government press officers. Charged with providing "a free flow of government-related information," GIS issues press releases and statements, arranges access to officials, and coordinates public information campaigns.

Attitude toward Foreign Media

The government of Ireland has a cooperative relationship with foreign media. The Department of Foreign Affairs keeps domestic and international media up to date on developments in Irish foreign policy by publishing a range of information on paper and electronically, providing press briefings, and arranging meetings between foreign correspondents and the agencies about which they want to report.

Opposition to foreign media in Ireland thus comes not from the government but rather from Irish publishers, who complain of unfair competition from British media companies. One complaint involves below-cost selling. Irish publishers protest that their British competitors sell newspapers in Ireland at a cover price with which Irish newspaper companies cannot compete. Irish publishers also complain that the 12.5 percent valued added tax (VAT) on newspaper sales in Ireland causes an unfair burden. Huge British companies, which have no VAT tax at home, are able to absorb the Irish tax more easily than Irish publishers, who lack the cushion British publishers enjoy. Irish publishers claim that below-cost selling and the VAT tax have helped ensure that a significant portion of daily and Sunday newspapers sold in Ireland are British.

Besides competing with imported media, Irish companies are increasingly finding themselves competing with foreign-owned companies at home. Scottish Radio Holdings owns Today FM, the national newspaper Ireland on Sunday, and five regional papers. CanWest Global Communications has a 45 percent stake in TV3, as does Granada, the largest commercial television company in the UK. And Trinity Mirror, the biggest newspaper publisher in the UK and the second largest in Europe, owns Irish Daily Mirror, The Sunday Business Post,Donegal Democrat, and Donegal Peoples Press. Until recently, foreign ownership of Irish media has been limited. But the Irish media market is attractive and there is no legislation that prevents foreign ownership of Irish media, so the sale of Irish media properties to foreign (primarily British) companies is expected to continue.

News Agencies

Because Ireland is a small country, there are no domestic Irish news agencies. Irish media use international news agencies and their own reporters for news gathering. Although some of the major international agencies have a bureau in Dublinrepresentatives include Dow Jones Newswires, ITAR-TASS, Reuters, and BBC many do not, choosing instead to rely upon their London correspondents to report on Ireland as stories arise.

Broadcast Media

Since the 1920s, broadcasting in Ireland has been dominated by RTÉ, a public service agency that is funded by license fees and the sale of advertising time. RTÉ runs four radio and three television channels. Radio 1 is RTÉ's flagship radio station. Begun in 1926, it broadcasts a mixture of news, information, music, and drama. RTÉ's popular music station 2 FM is known for its support of new and emerging Irish artists and musicians. Lyric FM is RTÉ's 24-hour classical music and arts station. The fourth RTÉ station is Radió na Gaeltachta, which was established in 1972 to provide full service broadcasting in Irish. RTÉ also operates RTÉ 1, a television station that emphasizes news and current affairs programming; Network 2, a sports and entertainment channel; and TG4, which televises Irish-language programs. RTÉ is currently in the process of launching four new digital television channels: a 24-hour news and sports channel, an education channel, a youth channel, and a legislative channel.

The funding for RTÉ has been a source of contention among Ireland's commercial broadcasters, who complain that license fees contribute to unfair competition. RTÉ receives license fees to support public service broadcasting even though RTÉ's schedule is by no means exclusively noncommercial. Commercial broadcasters, by contrast, are required to program news and current affairs, but without any support from license fees. Meanwhile, because the government is loath to increase license fees, RTÉ is finding it must rely more upon advertising even as increasing competition among broadcasters is making advertising revenue more difficult to obtain.

Besides RTÉ's public stations, there are many independent radio and television stations in Ireland. There are 43 licensed independent radio stations in Ireland. In addition to the independent national station, Today FM, there are 23 local commercial stations, 16 non-commercial community stations, and four hospital or college stations. Although many of the independent stations broadcast a rather stock set of music, advertising, disk jockey chatter, and current affairs programs, some serve their communities with unique discussion programs.

Pirate radio stations have existed in Ireland as long as Ireland has had radio. Today about 50 pirate stations operate throughout Ireland. The Irish government tolerates these stations as long as they do not interfere with the signals of licensed broadcasters.

The only independent indigenous television station in Ireland is TV3. Although licensed to broadcast in 1988, TV3 did not begin broadcasting until 1998. It took ten years to find financial backing, 90 percent of which finally came from the television giants Granada (UK) and CanWest Global Communications (Canada). TV3 produces few programs in house; most TV3 programs are sitcoms and soap operas imported from the United States, UK, and Australia.

More than half of Irish households subscribe to cable TV. (Cable penetration in Dublin is an astounding 83 percent.) Those who subscribe to cable receive the three Irish television channels, four UK channels, and a dozen satellite stations. Two companies, NTL and Chorus, control most cable TV in Ireland. The US-owned NTL is the largest. Chorus Communication is owned by a partnership of Independent News and Media, the Irish conglomerate, and Liberty Media International, which is owned by AT&T.

The only provider of digital satellite in Ireland is Sky Digital, operated by British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB). Twenty percent of households in Ireland subscribe to Sky Digital. Sky offers more than 100 broadcast television channels plus audio music and pay-per-view channels. Beginning with two matches between middleweight boxers Steve Collins and Chris Eubank in 1995, and quickly followed by golf tournaments and even an Ireland-USA rugby game, Sky has bought exclusive rights to Irish sports events for broadcast on a pay-per-view basis. Sky's purchases have had the effect of making certain events exclusive that had customarily been broadcast freely. Irish viewers can no longer expect to see every domestic sports event without paying extra.

All information transmitted electronically, from broadcast to cable to satellite and Internet, is under the authority of the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland (BCI), as set forth in the Broadcasting Act of 2001. BCI is responsible for the licensing and oversight of broadcasting as well as for writing and enforcing a code of broadcasting standards.

Electronic News Media

Ireland today is a center for the production and use of computers in Europe. One-third of all PCs sold in Europe are made in Ireland, and many software companies have plants there. Indigenous companies include the Internet security firm Baltimore Technologies and the software integration company Iona Technologies.

The longest running Internet news service in the world is The Irish Emigrant, which Liam Ferrie began as an electronic newsletter in 1987 to keep his overseas colleagues at Digital Equipment Corporation informed of news from Ireland. Today, The Irish Emigrant reaches readers in over 130 countries. A hard copy version has appeared on green newsprint in Boston and New York since 1995. The Irish Internet Association gave Ferrie its first Net Visionary Award in 1999.

Virtually all broadcasters and newspapers in Ireland have a web page. The Irish Times launched its website in 1994 and transformed it into the portal site,, four years later. This website attracts 1.7 million visits from 630,000 unique users each month, a rate in Ireland second only to the site of the discount airline Ryanair. Following the trend among content-driven web sites throughout the world, began to charge for access to certain sections of the site in 2002. Ireland's Internet penetration rate was 33 percent in 2002; the penetration rate in Dublin was 53 percent.

Education & TRAINING

Journalism education is becoming increasingly common in Ireland. At least three institutions of higher education offer degrees in journalism. Dublin City University's School of Communications offers several undergraduate and graduate degrees including specialties in journalism, multimedia, and political communication. Dublin Institute of Technology offers a B.A. degree in Journalism Studies and a Language, designed to educate journalists for international assignments or for dual-language careers at home. Griffith College Dublin offers a B.A. degree in Journalism & Media Communications as well as a one-year program to prepare students for a career in radio broadcasting. Irish students who need financial assistance in order to study journalism can apply for the Tom McPhail Journalism Bursary, a scholarship administered by the National Union of Journalists in honor of the Irish Press and Granada Television news editor who co-founded the short-lived Ireland International News Agency.


Given its relatively small population of 3.8 million, the Republic of Ireland has a rich media environment. It is served by 12 national newspapersfour dailies, two evenings, five Sundays, and one weeklyand by more than 60 regional newspapers. There are more than 150 indigenous consumer magazines and nearly 50 indigenous book publishers. Ireland has four national television stations, five national radio stations, and dozens of regional radio stations. There is a growing Irish presence on the Internet as well as an increasing Internet penetration rate in Ireland. There are also a plethora of imported books, magazines, and newspapers, as well as radio and television channels available through cable and satellite. Ireland's media environment is both populous and diverse, essential qualities for any healthy democracy.

Politically, the media in Ireland is as free from government interference as it has ever been. Before the 1990s, the Censorship Board banned hundreds of books and movies every year, a pattern that inhibited creativity at home and attempts at importing from abroad. Today the Censorship Board screens for pornography, but little more. Literature and film are free to circulate.

The government has also granted the media far wider access to its records. Until recently government records in Ireland were presumed to be private and unavailable to the public. But with the Freedom of Information Act of 1997, the pressor any Irish citizencan now make formal requests to see government records, and with very few exceptions, those requests will be granted. The Freedom of Information Act has had the effect of encouraging more investigative reporting.

Libel, however, continues to be a problem for the press in Ireland. Libel suits are relatively easy to win in Ireland because the plaintiff has only to prove publication of defamatory statements, not their falsity, which in Ireland is the defendant's task. Furthermore, the more public the figure in Ireland, the greater the award for defamation that juries are likely to give. Such conditions make investigative reporting risky and, with the cost for lawyers on retainer, expensive. Nevertheless, the national Irish media continue to criticize government officials and discuss important social, political, economic, and religious issues. The chilling effect seems more potential than real at this point.

The media in Ireland are also facing economic challenges. One is globalization. Irish media confront stiff competition from magazines, books, and newspapers, as well as radio and television programs, that pour into Ireland from transnational UK companies with such economies of scale that they can undersell indigenous Irish products. Increasingly, media companies from the UK are buying Irish media, and large Irish companies are doing the same, so that there are fewer and fewer owners of the media. This increasing concentration is likely to diminish diversity in media content.

The public service tradition in Irish broadcasting is experiencing similar difficulties. RTÉ relies upon license fees supplemented with advertising revenue to fund its programming, which ranges from news and current affairs to entertainment and cultural programming both in English and in Gaelic. At the same time, RTÉ is facing increasing competition from commercial broadcasters that offer popular, lighter fare. Under these circumstances, RTÉ audiences will decline, making it both more difficult to generate advertising revenue and to justify increased license fees. Although RTÉ operates under a mandate to offer programs that serve viewers rather than merely satisfy them, the pressure on RTÉ is to compete with its commercial counterparts by shifting from a model of public service to a marketplace model.

The trends toward concentration and commercialization of the media in Ireland are indeed powerful, but their effects are likely to be mitigated, at least in part, by other forces. One of these forces is technology. The Internet, with its small but growing presence in Ireland, offers the very real opportunity to contribute ideas to the public sphere that have little apparent commercial appeal. Businesses and established publishers and broadcasters dominate the Internet, but not exclusively, so the Internet will continue to be available as an avenue for dissent and other alternative expression. Furthermore, as long as the desire to preserve, promote, and explore Irish culture and language is strong, unique, and compelling, Irish communications will continue to circulate, sometimes commercially and sometimes as the result of government planning and investment.

Significant Dates

  • 1997: Freedom of Information Act passed.
  • 1998: TV3, Ireland's first commercial television station, began broadcasting.
  • 2001: Broadcasting Act passed.


Farrell, Brian. Communications and Community in Ireland. Dublin: Mercier, 1984.

Horgan, John. Irish Media: A Critical History Since 1922. London: Routledge, 2001.

Kelly, Mary J. and Barbara O'Connor, eds. Media Audiences in Ireland: Power and Cultural Identity. Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 1997.

Kiberd, Damien, ed. Media in Ireland: The Search for Ethical Journalism. Dublin: Four Courts, 1999.

. Media in Ireland: The Search for Diversity. Dublin: Four Courts, 1997.

Oram, Hugh. The Newspaper Book: A History of Newspapers in Ireland, 1649-1983. Dublin: MO Books, 1983.

Woodman, Kieran. Media Control in Ireland, 1923-1983. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1985.

John P. Ferré

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Traditional Irish Stew................................................. 105
Soda Bread................................................................ 105
Corned Beef with Cabbage ....................................... 106
Champ...................................................................... 106
Colcannon ................................................................ 107
Barm Brack................................................................ 108
Irish Christmas Cake.................................................. 109
Dublin Coddle........................................................... 110
Scones ...................................................................... 110
Apple Cake................................................................ 111


Ireland, or officially the Republic of Ireland, is an island nation in the North Atlantic Ocean. (The northernmost part of the island is Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.) Almost 20 percent of the land is devoted to farming. Less than 10 percent of farmland is used to grow crops and the majority is used as grazing land for livestock.


The arrival of the Anglo-Normans in Ireland in 1169 affected both farming and diet in Ireland. (Anglo-Normans are the Normans who remained in England after the Norman Conquest. Led by William the Conqueror, the Normans came from the Normandy region of France in 1066.) Wheat, peas, and beans became staple foods and people began preparing more elaborate dishes. Food customs were also changing, as French and Italian cooking customs influenced the upper-class cuisine.

The potato was introduced to Ireland by the late 1500s. Within 200 years it had replaced older staples, including oats and dairy products. The potato became the mainstay of the Irish diet. In the 1840s, the country's heavy reliance on potatoes led to the disaster known as the Irish Potato Famine. Most Irish farmers grew one particular variety of potato, which turned out to be highly sensitive to disease. A potato blight that had started in Belgium swept the country. It destroyed one-third of Ireland's potato crop in 1845 and triggered widespread famine. In the next two years, two-thirds of the crop was destroyed. More than one million people died as a result of the potato blight, and two million emigrated (moved away) to other countries. Even though they had suffered through the Irish Potato Famine (also called the Great Famine), Irish people continued to love potatoes. As soon as the spread of the disease stopped, the potato returned its place as the staple food in the Irish diet. Farmers began to spray their crops with chemicals to protect them from disease. As of 2001 the Irish were consuming more potatoes than most countries in the world.


Irish food is known for the quality and freshness of its ingredients. Most cooking is done without herbs or spices, except for salt and pepper. Foods are usually served without sauce or gravy.

The staples of the Irish diet have traditionally been potatoes, grains (especially oats), and dairy products. Potatoes still appear at most Irish meals, with potato scones, similar to biscuits or muffins, a specialty in the north. The Irish have also been accomplished cheesemakers for centuries. Ireland makes about fifty types of homemade "farmhouse" cheeses, which are considered delicacies.

Soups of all types, seafood, and meats also play important roles in the Irish diet. Irish soups are thick, hearty, and filling, with potatoes, seafood, and various meats being common ingredients. Since their country is surrounded by water, the Irish enjoy many types of seafood, including salmon, scallops, lobster, mussels, and oysters. However, meat is eaten more frequently at Irish meals. The most common meats are beef, lamb, and pork. A typical Irish dinner consists of potatoes (cooked whole), cabbage, and meat.

Irish stew has been recognized as the national dish for at least two centuries. A poem from the early 1800s praised Irish stew for satisfying the hunger of anyone who ate it:

Then hurrah for an Irish Stew
That will stick to your belly like glue.

Bread is an important part of Irish culture. Fresh soda bread, a crusty brown bread made from whole-wheat flour and buttermilk, is a national dish of Ireland. Irish bakers don't stop with soda bread, however. They bake a wide variety of other hearty breads and cakes.

The most common everyday beverage in Ireland is tea. Popular alcoholic beverages include whiskey, beer, and ale. Coffee mixed with whiskey and whipped cream is known throughout the world as "Irish coffee."

Traditional Irish Stew


  • 4 potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 4 medium onions, thinly sliced
  • 6 carrots, sliced
  • 1 pound Canadian bacon, chopped
  • 3 pounds lamb chops, 1-inch thick, trimmed, and cut into small pieces
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2½ cups water
  • 4 potatoes, halved
  • Fresh parsley, finely chopped


  1. To make Irish stew, all the ingredients are assembled in layers in a large stew pot.
  2. Begin with layers of sliced potatoes, onions, and carrots.
  3. Top with a layer of Canadian bacon and lamb.
  4. Sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper.
  5. Repeat these steps until all the ingredients are used.
  6. Add enough water to just cover the ingredients.
  7. Arrange the halved potatoes on top of the stew, but not in contact with the water, so they can steam as the rest is cooking.
  8. Simmer over a very low heat for about 2 hours.
  9. Sprinkle liberally with the chopped parsley and serve in soup bowls.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Irish Soda Bread


  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ¾ cup raisins
  • 2 Tablespoons caraway seeds
  • 1 cup buttermilk


  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Mix flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Add raisins and caraway seeds.
  3. Add buttermilk all at once and mix.
  4. Knead the dough on a lightly floured board. (To knead, press the dough flat, fold it in half, turn the dough, and repeat.) Form into a round loaf on a well-greased baking sheet.
  5. With a knife, carefully mark an X across the top of the loaf. Lay a piece of foil over the loaf. Bake for 5 minutes.
  6. Lower heat to 250°F and bake 30 minutes more. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes, until the loaf is slightly browned.
  7. Cut into wedges and serve with butter.

Serves 10 to 12.

Corned Beef with Cabbage


  • 4 pounds corned brisket of beef
  • 3 large carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 6 to 8 small onions
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon parsley
  • 1 head of cabbage (remove two layers of outer leaves)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Boiled potatoes as accompaniment


  1. Place brisket in a large pot. Top with carrots, onions, mustard, thyme, and parsley.
  2. Cover with cold water, and heat until the water just begins to boil.
  3. Cover the pot with the lid, lower the heat, and simmer the mixture for 2 hours.
  4. Using a large knife, cut the cabbage into quarters, and add the cabbage wedges to the pot.
  5. Cook for another 1 to 2 hours or until the meat and vegetables are soft and tender.
  6. Remove the vegetables to a platter or bowl, cover with foil, and keep them warm.
  7. Remove the brisket, place it on a cutting board, and slice it.
  8. Serve the corned beef slices on a platter, surrounded by the vegetables.
  9. Ladle a little of the cooking liquid over the meat and vegetables.

Serves 12 to 16.


This is one of the most widely eaten potato dishes in Ireland.


  • 6 to 8 baking potatoes, unpeeled
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 1½ cups milk
  • 4 to 8 Tablespoons butter (to taste)
  • Salt and pepper


  1. Scrub potatoes (do not peel), place them in a pot, and cover them with water.
  2. Heat the water to boiling, and cook the potatoes until they can be pierced with a fork (about 25 minutes).
  3. Finely chop the scallions (use both the white bulbs and the green stems) and put them in a small saucepan.
  4. Cover the scallions with the milk and bring slowly just to a boil.
  5. Simmer for about 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Turn off the heat and let the mixture stand.
  6. Peel and mash the hot boiled potatoes in a saucepan. Add the milk and scallions mixture and beat well.
  7. Beat in the butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8. Serve in 1 large or 4 individual bowls with a pat of butter melting in the center of each serving. May be reheated.

Serves 4 to 6.


The most festive holiday meal of the year is Christmas dinner, followed by Easter Sunday dinner. During the 40 days of Lent, Irish Catholics choose certain foods they wish to not eat. At one time, all animal products, including milk, butter, and eggs, were not to be consumed during Lent. The poorer Catholics of Ireland were often left to eat only oatcakes for the 40-day period. On Good Friday, the Friday before Easter Sunday, the Irish eat hot cross buns, a light, bread-like pastry topped with a frosting cross that holds spiritual meaning.

Another day on the Catholic calendar that the Irish Catholics do not eat meat is All Saints' Day (November 1). Each county has its own special meatless dishes for this occasion. Popular dishes include oatcakes, pancakes, potato pudding, apple cake, and blackberry pies. For Christmas, people throughout Ireland eat spiced beef, and a fancy Christmas cake full of dried and candied fruits for dessert.

All Saints' Day Dinner
  • Nettle soup
  • Colcannon
  • Poached plaice fillets
  • Soda bread
  • Barm Brack
  • Carrot pudding
Christmas Dinner
  • Kidney soup
  • Christmas goose (roasted) with chestnut stuffing and port sauce
  • Garden peas with fresh mint
  • Potato oat cakes
  • Christmas cake
  • Mince pies


This potato and cabbage dish is traditionally served on Halloween with a ring or lucky charm hidden in the center.


  • 1 pound kale (or green leafy cabbage)
  • 1 pound potatoes
  • 6 scallions (or small bunch of chives)
  • cup milk (or half-and-half)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 to 8 Tablespoons butter, melted


  1. Remove the tough stalk from the kale or cabbage and shred the leaves finely.
  2. Put about 1 inch of water in a saucepan large enough to hold the kale, and add a teaspoon of salt.
  3. Heat the salted water until it boils, and add the kale. Cook, covered for 10 to 20 minutes until the kale is very tender. Drain well.
  4. Scrub the potatoes and place them in a saucepan, unpeeled. Add water to cover.
  5. Heat the water to boiling, and cook the potatoes until tender (about 25 minutes).
  6. Drain, peel, and return to the pan over low heat to evaporate any moisture (This will take just a minute or so).
  7. Mash the potatoes while warm until they are smooth.
  8. Chop scallions and simmer in the milk or cream for about 5 minutes.
  9. Gradually add this liquid to the potatoes, beating well to give a soft, fluffy texture.
  10. Beat in the kale or cabbage along with the salt and pepper.
  11. Heat thoroughly over low heat and serve in bowls. Make an indentation in the center and pour in some melted butter.

Barm Brack

Barm Brack is the traditional cake bread eaten at Halloween.


  • 6 cups flour
  • ½ teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1¼ cups warm milk
  • cup warm water
  • 4 Tablespoons butter, softened
  • 4 Tablespoons currants
  • 5 Tablespoons orange or lemon peel, chopped
  • Milk or syrup, to glaze
  • Powdered sugar, to decorate


  1. The night before baking, make a cup of tea, and put the currants and chopped peel into it to soak overnight.
  2. Mix the flour, allspice, and salt together. Stir in the yeast and sugar.
  3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture, and pour in the milk and water, and mix into a dough.
  4. Move dough to a floured board and knead for 5 or 6 minutes, adding flour as necessary, until smooth and no longer sticky. (To knead, flatten the dough slightly, fold it over, flatten again, turn.)
  5. Place dough in a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave in a warm place for 1 hour to rise (expand) to about double in size.
  6. Turn the dough back out onto the floured board, and add the butter, currants, and chopped peel and knead into the dough.
  7. Return the dough to the bowl and cover again with plastic wrap. Leave to rise for another 30 minutes.
  8. Grease a 9-inch round cake pan. Fit the dough into pan, cover with plastic wrap, and leave until the dough rises to the edge of the tin (about 30 minutes).
  9. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  10. Brush the surface of the dough with milk and bake for 15 minutes.
  11. Cover loosely with foil; reduce the heat to 350°F and bake for 45 minutes more.
  12. Sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Serves 12.

Irish Christmas Cake

The cake tastes best when baked 13 weeks ahead of time. This traditional cake is served at holiday festivities throughout December. It is traditionally decorated with marzipan (almond paste), white icing, and holly sprigs.


  • 2¼ cups dried currants
  • 2 cups golden raisins
  • 1 cup dark raisins
  • ¼ cup candied cherries
  • ¼ cup candied fruit peel
  • cup almonds, chopped
  • 1 lemon (juice and grated rind of its peel)
  • 1½ teaspoons allspice
  • ½ teaspoon nutmeg, ground
  • 1 cup Irish whiskey (used in ½-cup amounts; may substitute ½-cup strong tea)
  • 2 sticks butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup firmly-packed light brown sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • Marzipan (almond paste)
  • White icing (purchased)
  • Holly sprigs (optional decoration)


  1. The day before baking: Combine all the fruit, peel, rind and juice, spices, and nuts in a large bowl with ½ cup of the whiskey (or tea) and let soak overnight.
  2. The day of baking: Preheat oven to 275°F and grease a 9-inch round cake pan, lining the bottom with cooking parchment paper.
  3. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  4. Beat the eggs in one at a time, adding flour with each egg.
  5. Mix in the remaining flour and soaked fruit.
  6. Pour the mixture into the cake pan and bake until it is firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 2 hours.
  7. Let the cake cool in the pan for 30 minutes. If substituting tea for whiskey, skip this step: Prick the top in several places and pour the remaining ½ cup whiskey over the top.
  8. Wrap in plastic wrap, then foil, and store in a cool, dark place for several weeks to allow the cake to mature (fully absorb the flavors). The cake can be unwrapped occasionally and more whiskey added, if desired.


The Irish value hospitality, and generous portions of food are common at home and in restaurants.

A large breakfast was traditionally eaten in rural Ireland. Common breakfast foods included soda bread, pancakes, porridge, eggs, and various meat products. A full oldfashioned country breakfast might include fresh fruit juice, porridge, a "mixed grill" of breakfast meats and black pudding, scones, and soda bread with butter and preserves, tea, and coffee with hot milk.

Dinner, the main meal of the day, used to be eaten at lunchtime. A typical dish was "Dublin coddle," a bacon, sausage, potato, and onion soup. Today, however, many Irish people eat lighter meals in the morning and at midday. They have their main meal later in the day, when they come home from work or school. Lunch is often a bowl of hot soup that is served with freshly baked soda bread. However, many pubs (bars) still serve the traditional large midday dinner. "Supper" in Ireland means a late-night snack. A typical supper is a slice of bread with butter and a glass of milk.

Dublin Coddle


  • 1 pound bacon, sliced
  • 2 pounds pork sausage links
  • 2 onions, peeled and sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, whole
  • 4 large potatoes, thickly sliced
  • 2 carrots, thickly sliced
  • 1 bouquet garni (bay leaf, tarragon, whole cloves, whole peppercorns; see Procedure step 8)
  • Black pepper
  • Apple cider (about 4 cups)
  • Chopped parsley for garnish


  1. Separate bacon into slices and place them side by side in a large frying pan. (The bacon may be cooked in batches.) Fry over low heat, turning once, until crisp. Drain bacon grease from pan before cooking another batch.
  2. Drain the pan and wipe most of the bacon grease out with a paper towel.
  3. Place sausages in the pan to brown (again, the sausage may be browned in batches).
  4. Place bacon and sausages in a large pot.
  5. Drain frying pan again, wipe it with a paper towel, and add the sliced onions and garlic cloves, cooking them over low heat until the onions are softened.
  6. Add onions and garlic to the bacon and sausage in the pot.
  7. Add the thick slices of potato and carrot.
  8. Make a bouquet garni: In a 3-inch square of cheesecloth, place 1 bay leaf, ½ teaspoon tarragon, 2 whole cloves, and 2 whole peppercorns. Tie with twine, and place in pot.
  9. Cover everything with apple cider (or apple juice).
  10. Cover, and simmer 1½ hours over medium-low heat. The soup should not boil.
  11. Serve, garnished with a sprinkling of parsley and black pepper.

Serves 8 to 10.

The Irish are known for their rich, dark beer, called stout. The most famous and widely known brand is called Guinness. Tea is another popular beverage. It is served with scones, probably the most popular snack in Ireland. "Fish and chips," or battered and fried fish served with French fries, is also very popular.



  • 8 cups flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • cup sugar
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1½ sticks butter (¾ cup)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1¾ cups milk


  1. Preheat oven to 475°F.
  2. Combine flour, salt, sugar, and baking powder in medium mixing bowl.
  3. Cut butter into small cubes and add it to the flour mixture. With clean fingertips, rub the butter into the flour.
  4. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and milk together. Add to the flour-butter mixture to make a soft dough.
  5. Place mixture on a floured board. Knead lightly for 3 or 4 minutes.
  6. Roll out with a rolling pin to a thickness of about one inch.
  7. Cut dough into 3-inch circles, using a cookie or biscuit cutter.
  8. Place dough circles onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown.
  9. Cool on a wire rack.
  10. Serve, split in half, with berry jam.

Makes 18 to 20 scones.

Apple Cake


  • 1 pound of apples (about 3 or 4 medium)
  • Juice and grated rind of 1 lemon
  • ¾ cup butter (1½ sticks)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups self-rising flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • 5 Tablespoons raisins
  • 2 Tablespoons hazelnuts, chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons powdered sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and grease a 9-inch round cake pan.
  2. Peel, core, and slice the cooking apples and place them in a bowl.
  3. Sprinkle apples with the lemon juice and set aside.
  4. In another bowl, beat together the butter, lemon rind, and all but 1 Tablespoon of the sugar until light and fluffy.
  5. Gradually beat in the eggs.
  6. Add the flour and baking powder to the butter mixture and mix well.
  7. Spoon half of the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Arrange the apple slices on top.
  8. Mix the remaining Tablespoon of sugar and the cinnamon together in small bowl. Sprinkle evenly over the apples.
  9. Scatter the raisins and hazelnuts on top.
  10. Smooth the remaining cake mixture over the raisins and hazelnuts.
  11. Bake for 1 hour.
  12. Cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Remove, transfer to a serving platter, and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Serves 12.


Modern Ireland has few problems related to availability of food. In the early part of 2001, Irish cattle and sheep farmers, like other farmers in Europe, were fighting against an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease, a deadly viral disease that is fatal to hoofed animals. By summer, the outbreak had been brought under control.

Irish citizens generally receive adequate nutrition in their diets, and Irish children are considered healthy by international health care agencies.



Albyn, Carole Lisa, and Lois Webb. The Multicultural Cookbook for Students. Phoenix: Oryx Press, 1993.

Allen, Darina. The Complete Book of Irish Country Cooking: Traditional and Wholesome Recipes from Ireland. New York: Penguin, 1995.

Connery, Clare.In An Irish Country Kitchen. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992.

Drennan, Matthew. Irish: The Taste of Ireland in Traditional Home Cooking. London: Lorenz Books, 1999.

Halvorsen, Francine. Eating Around the World in Your Neighborhood. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1998.

Johnson, Margaret M. The Irish Heritage Cookbook. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1999.

Web Sites [Online] Available (accessed August 7, 2001).

Ireland, The Food Island. [Online] Available (accessed July 9, 2001).

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IRELAND. Ireland's history has been shaped by the inescapable facts of geography. A small island at the western edge of Europe, barely within the mainstream of Continental experience, it lay beyond the reach of the Roman Empire (with all that that entailed for the development of law and modes of administration) yet would later become one of the great depositories of Christian art, spirituality, and learning. The European context is crucial to an understanding of Ireland's past, but the critical geographical fact is the island's proximity to Britain. On a clear day, the Mull of Kintyre in southwest Scotland is visible from the Antrim coast in northeast Ireland. Gaelic civilization, moreover, extended like an arc along the western and northern coasts of Ireland into the Scottish Highlands. Scottish Lowlanders and the English referred to Scots Gaelic as the "Irish language." From the importation by Gaelic lords of Highland mercenary soldiersthe gallowglass and the redshanksto the role of Scots settlers in the Ulster plantation and the Scots army in the North in the 1640s, a strong Scottish dimension runs through early modern Irish history, though ultimately Ireland's troubled relationship with its larger neighbor, England, would have the greater impact.


In 1450 Ireland was a lordship, and the king of England its lord. The English crown's claim to sovereignty over the whole island had never been vindicated in practice, however, and during the later Middle Ages English power and jurisdiction were in retreat. Effectively, the king's writ and the common law were confined to the Pale, the area of English settlement around Dublin, capital city and seat of royal authority. Beyond the Pale and the towns, the great Anglo-Norman magnates negotiated the shifting frontiers of Gaeldom through "march law," a bastardized amalgam of common and Irish brehon (native) laws and customs. Even the levers of royal authority began to slip from the king's grasp. The crown in Ireland was represented either by a lord lieutenant, a lord deputy, or, in the absence of one or the other, by lords justices. Between 1447 and 1460, Richard of York's (14111460) political standing conferred stature upon the lord lieutenancy and, equally important, kept it within the orbit of the court. Then, between the 1470s and 1520, successive earls of Kildare virtually monopolized the office, using it as a source of patronage to extend their local power base and network of alliances.

The local autonomy enjoyed by the "Kildare ascendancy" has struck some historians of the old nationalist school as part of a wider pattern of incipient Anglo-Irish separatism. But it is surely anachronistic to attribute proto-nationalist ambitions to a political community, the descendants of the original Anglo-Norman settlers, that had no concept of an Irish "nation" in the modern sense. It did, however, have a strong sense of English identity, albeit "English by blood" rather than by birth. Nevertheless, from Parliament's declaration that Ireland was "corporate of itself" (1460) to its declaration of legislative independence in 1782, Anglo-Irish constitutional relations provides a major framework for Irish political history. Subordination of Ireland to England (and, after 1707, Great Britain) and Irish resistance to subordination, though rarely rising to outright separatist aspirations, runs like a leitmotiv through these centuries.

The ascendancy of the earls of Kildare entailed a sometimes spectacular loss of royal control over Irish affairs, most vividly in 1487 when the Yorkist eighth earl, Garrett Mor, crowned the pretender, Lambert Simnel (c. 14751535), king of England in Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin. Kildare's survival in office, despite his treason, underlines the weakness of the English crown in the fifteenth century. From a position of greater strength and internal stability, however, Henry VIII would not countenance such overmighty subjects anywhere within his realm. Thus, when the ninth earl was summoned to London under the shadow of the executioner in 1534, his son, Lord Offaly, "Silken Thomas," led his followers in the Geraldine League into rebellion. The Geraldine revolt, which lasted until 1540, opened a new, blood-drenched chapter in Irish history. The advent of a new era was signaled by the first ever use of artilleryagainst the Kildare stronghold of Maynoothby the ruthless suppression of the rebellion, and by the first stirrings of anti-Reformation Catholicism among the rebels.

The fall of the house of Kildare also inaugurated a prolonged phase of direct rule from London. That practice became the sine qua non of England's Irish policy, and several illustrious names among England's governing elite occupied Dublin Castle, namely the earls of Essex (1599), Strafford (16331640), and Chesterfield (17451747). There were notable exceptions to the rule: the Irish-born Protestant first duke of Ormond served as lord lieutenant under both Charles I and Charles II, while the Irish-born old English Catholic, the earl of Tyrconnell, held the office under James II in the 1680s. But after the first decade of the eighteenth century (when the second duke, Ormond's grandson, served) occupation of Dublin Castle was reserved for Englishmen. Until the very end of that century, and the appointments of John Fitzgibbon as lord chancellor and Viscount Castlereagh as chief secretary, Englishmen monopolized all senior executive posts, including the lord lieutenancy, chief secretaryship, lord chancellery, and the archbishopric of Armagh. On one level, official Ireland, especially its established church, functioned merely as a patronage outpost for a British political system oiled by the disbursement of places, preferments, pensions, promotions, titles, and favors. On another level, control of the executive rested on British security considerations.


Security underpinned England's Irish policy. In essence, the concern was strategic. As Thomas Waring put it in the wake of the Cromwellian reconquest of 16491650, "humane reason and policie dictate's that the hous cannot bee safe so long as the back door is open." Ireland served as England's "back door" as early as 1497, when another Yorkist pretender, Perkin Warbeck, landed at Cornwall with a retinue of Irish supporters. Then, as Reformation and Counter-Reformation Europe split into warring camps, the vulnerability of Protestant England's western seaboard (and the dangers of Spain's sponsorship of Irish Catholic rebels) concentrated the Tudor mind. Spain (and the papacy) twice intervened in Ireland, landing troops at Smerwick, County Kerry (1580), and, in greater force, at Kinsale, County Cork (1601). Strategic necessity lent urgency to the Tudor reconquest of the sixteenth century and galvanized English determination to hold onto Ireland thereafter. Enemies changed, geography did not: French soldiers fought in Ireland in 1690 and 1798.

England's dominance depended, at bottom, on coercive force. Beyond that, Whitehall and Westminster exercised an array of political, legislative, and administrative controls. These included the retention in English hands of key public offices and the imposition of restrictive laws limiting the autonomy of the Irish Parliament and regulating Irish trade. A few legislative landmarks plot the troubled course of Anglo-Irish relations. First, "Poynings's Law" (1494), aimed originally at too-powerful lord deputies of the Kildare type, evolved into a procedure whereby all Irish parliamentary bills were subject to amendmentamounting to a vetoby the English Privy Council. The repeal of Poynings's Law constitutes the so-called revolution of 1782. Second, the Irish Parliament's subordinate status, institutionalized under Poynings, received confirmation in the Declaratory Act of 1720, a forthright assertion of Westminster's supremacy in the Kingdom of Ireland. Finally, Westminster used its claim of jurisdiction to impose laws prohibiting the import of Irish cattle to England (1667) and the export of Irish wool (1699). Both laws long caused bitter resentment in Ireland, the preliminary controversy surrounding the latter provoking the classic defense of Ireland's historic right to legislative independence, William Molyneux's The Case of Ireland Being Bound by Acts of Parliament in England, Stated (London, 1698).

The roots of England's perennial "Irish problem" lay in the failures of England's Irish policies. By 1450, although the territory of the Pale had contracted, it still boasted the most densely populated, intensively cultivated, and economically diverse region of the country. Yet Gaeldom had also demonstrated its military and cultural vitality. And, as Sir John Davies recognized in his Discovery of the True Causes Why Ireland Was Never Entirely Subdued (1612), the Irish problem would remain intractable for so long as the Gael remained outsideand indeed resistant tothe boon of common law, civility, and, by Davies's time, Protestantism or "true religion." "All the world knows their barbarism," Cromwell remarked of his Irish enemies. Only the adoption of English customs, Reformed religion, language, and lawin a word, anglicizationcould save them from their wretched condition.


The Gaelic Irish saw matters differently, and while the story of English-Irish conflict supplies the historian with a ready, dramatic, and compelling narrative structure, it is vital that historians not view the past solely in terms of that conflict. Early modern Ireland, viewed from the Atlantic shores of Donegal, looks rather different from the anglophone Ireland mapped and preserved in the Public Record Office. For the historian, the question of perspective is precisely about rescuing the Gaelic-speaking O'Donnell retainer and MacSweeny swordsman from the enormous condescension of the state papers. Gaelic politics, economy, and society are more difficult to reconstruct than Anglo-Ireland because they never generated the sorts of recordstax rolls, bureaucratic memoranda, even paintingsupon which historians usually rely. The Gaelic world has thus either remained hidden, or, as recently as 1988, been caricatured on the basis of the naive or hostile reportage of outsiders. Fortunately, the dearth of conventional sources has been circumvented somewhat by the mining of a rich, if tricky, lode of nontraditional evidence: Irish-language poetry. Excavations (and cataloguing) are still in the heroic phase, but already the findings of scholars working with these hitherto underused sources have altered and enhanced our understanding of, for example, the depth and range of Irish Jacobite sentiment in the eighteenth century.

English late medieval society, including the Irish Pale, was organized around legally binding principles of mutual obligation and services based on land tenures. In contrast, in Gaelic society land ownership and inheritance, obligation, and political succession were determined by kinship. A chief's power rested on his ability to enforce it, and under the system of "tanistry" his designated heir was as likely a brother or cousin as an eldest son. Kinship, alliances through marriage and fosterage and the receipt of tribute from lesser clans defined a great chief's status more than territory or even cattlethe staple of the Gaelic pastoral economy. Certain families, notably the O'Neills and O'Donnells in Ulster, the O'Connors in Connacht, and the MacCarthys and O'Briens in Munster, predominated. They inhabited a world of insistent, lowintensity warfare and comparative political instability. Exactions of tributein kind, or in military or labor serviceslacked regulation, and by the early modern period were epitomized by the abuses of "coign and livery"the billeting at free quarters by a chief of his dependants on his tenants.

The crown and the Dublin administration were not prepared to leave the natives to their own ways for three reasons. First, the inevitable processes of intermarriage, cultural interaction, and linguistic borrowings (in both directions) of the Gaedhil (or Irish) and the Gaill (or foreigners)which historians call gaelicization but which the English called degeneracycould not be permitted to continue. Second, the English "common law mind" embraced legal uniformity and abhorred local particularism. Ireland, reported an early-sixteenth-century English observer, comprised a patchwork of over sixty "countries" ruled by captains, each of whom "maketh war and peace for himself, and holdeth by the sword, and hath imperial jurisdiction within his room, and obeyeth to no other person." Worse still, degenerate "captains of English noble family . . . folloeth the same Irish order." The gaelicized Anglo-Norman House of Desmond cast its shadow across the common law mind. Finally, particularistic march law and Gaelic custom rooted in local power bases challenged royal sovereignty as well as legal uniformity.


Whereas conventional nationalist histories of sixteenth-century Ireland focused on reconquest, revisionist historians have recovered the Tudor commitment to reform, although conquest and, in Brendan Bradshaw's terminology, "the catastrophic dimension of Irish history" are now being reintroduced to a more complicated picture. The set pieces of reform are the Act of Kingly Title (1541), which upgraded Ireland from a lordship to a kingdom, and "surrender and regrant," under which Gaelic chieftains surrendered their titles to the crown and were regranted them in English law. Several leading figures were ennobled, for example "the O'Neill" now became Earl of Tyrone, and succession and inheritance were at least theoretically stabilized by the extension of primogeniture. In the longer run, however, the prospects for reform were dashed by the rise of confessional conflict.

In Ireland, the Protestant Reformation assumed the character of an alien imposition. Decisively, the old English, as well as the native Irish, remained Catholic. Protestants wereand remaineda minority. When the Tudors completed the reconquest by the subjugation of Hugh O'Neill (1603), Gaelic Ireland had suffered military defeat but retained its cultural identity. Ethnic origin divided the Gael from his fellow Catholic old English almost as much as from the Protestant new English, yet shared adversity during the first decades of the seventeenth century conspired to forge a common Catholic identity. The defeat of O'Neill was followed by "the flight of the Earls" (1607) when O'Neill and others fled to Catholic Europe. Interpreted as an act of rebellion, the fugitives' lands escheated to the crown and were redistributed to English and Scottish settlers in the plantation of Ulster. The last bastion of Gaelic civilization thereby became the beachhead of British Protestantism in Ireland. The Scottish communities, moreover, laid the seedbed for Presbyterianism.

Stuart Ireland thus hosted four major ethno-religious groups: native Irish Catholics, old English Catholics, new English Protestants of the established church, and (before 1642, informally) Scots Presbyterians. Intra-denominational relations, already tense, strained to breaking point with the crisis of the Stuart monarchies in the late 1630s. Ireland, in fact, helped detonate the wars of the three kingdoms with the Ulster rebellion of 1641. Many Protestant planters were killed by insurgents, and lurid tales of massacre swept England, deepening the rage against popery and suspicion of the king, in whose defense the rebels claimed to act. Ireland, like England and Scotland, experienced the trauma of civil war in the 1640s. Alliances and allegiances shifted bewilderingly but, crucially, the old English were forced into military coalition with their Gaelic coreligionists. When Cromwell arrived in 1649 once more to subjugate the Irish and to revenge 1641, he made no ethnic distinctions among his papist enemies.

The land confiscations begun in the Tudor era and continued by the Ulster plantation reached unprecedented levels with the Cromwellian settlement. In 1603 Catholics owned more than 60 percent of the land; by 1659 that figure had been reduced to about 9 percent. During the reign of Charles II, Catholic ownership climbed back to around 25 percent, thanks to successful pleas in the court of claims, but fell again to 14 percent by the end of the century as a result of the forfeitures that followed the second defeat of Catholic Ireland in 1691. This time there would be no court of claims, but rather a relentless chipping away, by the implementation of penal laws, at the remaining Catholic-owned land. By 1775 it stood at 5 percent. The political nation, like the landowning elite, of eighteenth-century Ireland was Protestant. But the Protestants were a minority, and if anything is inevitable in history, the Catholics could not be excluded from public life and political power forever. A rising Catholic mercantile class had already begun to articulate its grievances by the 1780s, but once more it was events outside the island that catalyzed Irish politics, including the "Catholic question." With the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789, a new epoch opened in Europeanand Irishhistory.

See also Cromwell, Oliver ; Dublin ; England ; Landholding ; Law ; Nationalism ; Provincial Government ; Revolutions, Age of .


Brady, Ciaran, and Raymond Gillespie, eds. Natives and Newcomers: Essays on the Making of Irish Colonial Society, 15341641. Dublin, 1986.

Connolly, Sean J. Law, Religion and Power: The Making of Protestant Ireland, 16601760. Oxford, 1992.

Ellis, Steven G. Ireland in the Age of the Tudors, 14471603: English Expansion and the End of Gaelic Rule. London and New York, 1998.

Moody, T. W., F. X. Martin, and F. J. Byrne, eds. A New History of Ireland III: Early Modern Ireland, 15341691. Oxford, 1976.

Jim Smyth

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Pagan and Christian Beliefs

[For information regarding ancient Ireland, see Celts. ]

Although nominally Christianized, there is little doubt that the early medieval Irish retained many remnants of their former paganism, especially those with elements of magic. The writings of the Welsh historian Giraldus Cambrensis (ca. 1147-1220) point to this. This is the first known account of Irish manners and customs after the invasion of the country by the Anglo-Normans. His description, for example, of the Purgatory of St. Patrick in Lough Derg, County Donegal, suggests that the demonology of the Catholic Church had already fused with the animism of earlier Irish tradition. He states:

There is a lake in Ulster containing an island divided into two parts. In one of these stands a church of especial sanctity, and it is most agreeable and delightful, as well as beyond measure glorious for the visitations of angels and the multitude of the saints who visibly frequent it. The other part, being covered with rugged crags, is reported to be the resort of devils only, and to be almost always the theatre on which crowds of evil spirits visibly perform their rites. This part of the island contains nine pits, and should any one perchance venture to spend the night in one of them (which has been done, we know, at times, by some rash men), he is immediately seized by the malignant spirits, who so severely torture him during the whole night, inflicting on him such unutterable sufferings by fire and water, and other torments of various kinds, that when morning comes scarcely any spark of life is found left in his wretched body. It is said that any one who has once submitted to these torments as a penance imposed upon him, will not afterwards undergo the pains of hell, unless he commit some sin of a deeper dye.

"This place is called by the natives the Purgatory of St. Patrick. For he, having to argue with a heathen race concerning the torments of hell, reserved for the reprobate, and the real nature and eternal duration of the future life, in order to impress on the rude minds of the unbelievers a mysterious faith in doctrines so new, so strange, so opposed to their prejudices, procured by the efficacy of his prayers an exemplification of both states even on earth, as a salutary lesson to the stubborn minds of the people.

Human Animals

The ancient Irish believed in the possibility of the transformation of human beings into animals. Giraldus, in another narrative of facts purporting to have come under his personal notice, shows that this belief had lost none of its significance with the Irish of the latter half of the twelfth century. The case is also interesting as being one of the first recorded examples of lycanthropy in the British Isles:

"About three years before the arrival of Earl John in Ireland, it chanced that a priest, who was journeying from Ulster towards Meath, was benighted in a certain wood on the borders of Meath. While, in company with only a young lad, he was watching by a fire which he had kindled under the branches of a spreading tree, lo! a wolf came up to them, and immediately addressed them to this effect: 'Rest secure, and be not afraid, for there is no reason you should fear, where no fear is!' The travellers being struck with astonishment and alarm, the wolf added some orthodox words referring to God. The priest then implored him, and adjured him by Almighty God and faith in the Trinity, not to hurt them, but to inform them what creature it was in the shape of a beast uttered human words. The wolf, after giving catholic replies to all questions, added at last: 'There are two of us, a man and a woman, natives of Ossory, who, through the curse of Natalis, saint and abbot, are compelled every seven years to put off the human form, and depart from the dwellings of men. Quitting entirely the human form, we assume that of wolves. At the end of the seven years, if they chance to survive, two others being substituted in their places, they return to their country and their former shape. And now, she who is my partner in this visitation lies dangerously sick not far from hence, and, as she is at the point of death, I beseech you, inspired by divine charity, to give her the consolations of your priestly office.'

"At this wood the priest followed the wolf trembling, as he led the way to a tree at no great distance, in the hollow of which he beheld a she-wolf, who under that shape was pouring forth human sighs and groans. On seeing the priest, having saluted him with human courtesy, she gave thanks to God, who in this extremity had vouchsafed to visit her with such consolation. She then received from the priest all the rites of the church duly performed, as far as the last communion. This also she importunately demanded, earnestly supplicating him to complete his good offices by giving her the viaticum. The priest stoutly asserting that he was not provided with it, the he-wolf, who had withdrawn to a short distance, came back and pointed out a small missal-book, containing some consecrated wafers, which the priest carried on his journey, suspended from his neck, under his garment, after the fashion of the country. He then intreated him not to deny them the gift of God, and the aid destined for them by Divine Providence; and, to remove all doubt, using his claw for a hand, he tore off the skin of the she-wolf, from the head down to the navel, folding it back. Thus she immediately presented the form of an old woman. The priest, seeing this, and compelled by his fear more than his reason, gave the communion; the recipient having earnestly implored it, and devoutly partaking of it. Immediately afterwards the he-wolf rolled back the skin and fitted it to its original form.

"These rites having been duly, rather than rightly performed, the he-wolf gave them his company during the whole night at their little fire, behaving more like a man than a beast. When morning came, he led them out of the wood, and, leaving the priest to pursue his journey pointed out to him the direct road for a long distance. At his departure, he also gave him many thanks for the benefit he had conferred, promising him still greater returns of gratitude, if the Lord should call him back from his present exile, two parts of which he had already completed.

"In our own time we have seen persons who, by magical arts, turned any substance about them into fat pigs, as they appeared (but they were always red), and sold them in the markets. However, they disappeared as soon as they crossed any water, returning to their real nature; and with whatever care they were kept, their assumed form did not last beyond three days. It was also a frequent complaint, from old times as well as in the present, that certain hags in Wales, as well as in Ireland and Scotland, changed themselves into the shape of hares, that, sucking teats under this counterfeit form, they might stealthily rob other people's milk."

Witchcraft in Ireland

In Anglo-Norman times, sorcery, malevolent magic, was apparently widelly practiced, but records are scarce. It is only by fugitive passages in the works of English writers who constantly comment on the superstitious nature and practices of the Irish that any information concerning the occult history of the country emerges. The great scandal of the accused witch Dame Alice Kyteler did shake the entire Anglo-Norman colony during several successive years in the first half of the fourteenth century. The party of the Bishop of Ossory, the relentless opponent of the Dame Alice, boasted that by her prosecution they had rid Ireland of a nest of sorcerers; and, yet, there is reason to believe that Ireland could have furnished other similar instances of black magic had the actors in them been of royal statusthat is, of sufficient importance in the eyes of chroniclers.

In this connection St. John D. Seymour's Irish Witchcraft and Demonology (1913) is of striking interest. The author seems to take it for granted that witchcraft in Ireland is purely an alien system, imported into the island by the Anglo-Normans and Scottish immigrants to the north. This is a possibility because the districts of the Pale and of Ulster are concerned, even if it cannot be applied to the Celtic districts of Ireland.

Early Irish works contain numerous references to sorcery, and practices are chronicled in them that bear a close resemblance to those of the shamans and medicine men of tribes around the world. The ancient Irish cycles frequently allude to animal transformation, one of the most common feats of the witch, and in Hibernian legend most heroes have a considerable working magic available to them. Wonder-working druids also abound.

Seymour claimed that, "In Celtic Ireland dealings with the unseen were not regarded with such abhorrence, and indeed had the sanction of custom and antiquity." He added that "the Celtic element had its own superstitious beliefs, but these never developed in this direction," by which he meant witchcraft. He lacked support for this observation. An absence of records of such a system is no proof that one never existed, and it is possible that a thorough examination of the subject would prove that a veritable system of witchcraft obtained in Celtic Ireland as elsewhere, although it may not have been of "Celtic" origin.

Seymour's book nonetheless is most informative on those Anglo-Norman and Scottish portions of Ireland where the belief in sorcery followed the lines of those in vogue in the mother-countries of the immigrant populations. He sketched the famous Kyteler case; touched on the circumstances connected with the Earl of Desmond; and, he noted the case of the Irish prophetess who insisted upon warning the ill-fated James I of Scotland on the night of his assassination at Perth. It is not stated by the ancient chronicler whom Seymour quotes where in Ireland the witch in question came fromand undoubtedly she was a witch because she possessed a familiar spirit, "Huthart," whom she alleged warned her of the coming catastrophe. This spirit is the Teutonic Hudekin or Hildekin, the wearer of the hood, sometimes also alluded to as Heckdekin, well known throughout Germany and Flanders as a species of house-spirit or brownie. Trithemius alludes to this spirit as a "spirit known to the Saxons who attached himself to the Bishop of Hildesheim" and it is cited here and there in occult history. From this circumstance it might be inferred that the witch in question came from some part of Ireland that had been settled by Teutonic immigrants, probably Ulster.

Seymour continued his survey with a review of the witchcraft trials of the sixteenth century; the burning of Adam Dubh; the Leinster trial of O'Toole and College Green in 1327 for heresy; and, the important passing of the statute against witchcraft in Ireland in 1586. He noted the enchantments of the Earl of Desmond, who demonstrated to his young and beautiful wife the possibilities of animal transformation by changing himself into a bird, a hag, a vulture, and a gigantic serpent. One full chapter was devoted to Florence Newton, the witch of Youghal, who was one of the most absorbing in the history of witchcraft.

Ghostly doings and apparitions, fairy possession, and dealings with fairies are also included in the volume, and Seymour did not confine himself to Ireland. He followed one of his countrywomen to the United States, where he demonstrated her influence on the "supernatural" speculations of Congregationalist minister Cotton Mather.

Seymour completed his survey with seventeenth-century witchcraft notices from Antrim and Island Magee and the affairs of sorcery in Ireland from the year 1807 to the early twentieth century. The last notice is that of a trial for murder in 1911, when a woman was tried for killing another (an old-age pensioner) in a fit of insanity. A witness deposed that he met the accused on the road on the morning of the crime holding a statue or figure in her hand and repeating three times, "I have the old witch killed. I got power from the Blessed Virgin to kill her." It appears that the witch in question had threatened to plague the woman with rats and mice. A single rodent had evidently entered her home and was followed by the bright vision of a lady who told the accused that she was in danger, and further informed her that if she received the senior citizen's pension book without taking off her clothes and cleaning them and putting out her bed and cleaning up the house, she would "receive dirt for ever and rats and mice."

Modern Occultism

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Celtic mysticism and legends of ghosts and fairies received a new infusion from Hindu mysticism through the Dublin lodge of the Theosophical Society and the writings of poets William Butler Yeats and "AE" (pseudonym of George W. Russell ). Through the society, Russell was profoundly influenced by Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad-Gita and came to understand that mysticism should be interfused with one's everyday social responsibilities. Russell wrote mystical poems and painted pictures of nature spirits.

Yeats became a noted member of the Hermetic order of the Golden Dawn, a ritual magic society. Its teachings had a primary influence on the symbolism of his poems and on his own mystical vision. He was also impressed by Hindu mystical teachings, and collaborated with Shri Purohit Swami in the translation of Hindu religious works.

After the death of Yeats and Russell, occultism did not make much headway in Irish life and literature. The occult and witchcraft boom of the 1950s and 1960s was largely ignored in Ireland. Janet and Stewart Farrar, both neo-pagan witches trained by Alexander Sanders, did take up residence in the Republic of Ireland. Stewart Farrar has written a number of books on witchcraft, including the early neo-pagan classic What Witches Do: The Modern Coven Revealed (1971).

The Fellowship of Isis, headquartered at Huntingdon Castle, Clonegal, Enniscorthy, has become an international association of neo-pagans and witches. It is devoted to the deity in the form of the goddess, and publishes material concerning matriarchal religion and mysticism.

Irish writer Desmond Leslie was coauthor with George Adamski of the influential book Flying Saucers Have Landed (1953) an important early book introducing the topic to the English-speaking public. The book was eventually translated into 16 languages.

Psychical Research & Parapsychology

Although Ireland is traditionally a land of ghosts, fairies, banshees, and haunted castles, there have been few systematic attempts to conduct psychical research there. The exceptions have been some interest in dowsing (water-divining), and the work of medium Kathleen Goligher. In 1914, then 16 year-old Goligher came into the world's attention by Dr. William Crawford, in Belfast. Goligher was from a family of physical mediums, but considered the best of them. The phenomena demonstrated consisted of raps that reportedly shook the room, and levitation of a ten and a half pound table, often for as long as five minutes. Crawford photographed the manifestations that supported the levitations-ectoplasmic structures that resembled rods. Harry Houdini saw the pictures that Crawford had intended to use in his book. He remained completely skeptical and decided that Crawford was insane. Following Crawford's suicide in 1920, another photograph of plasma coming out of Goligher's body was thought to be genuine. By 1922 Dr. E. E. Fournier d'Albe claimed she was a fraud after 20 sittings with her. Following a ten-year period of retirement, it was reported in 1933 that Goligher produced cloth-like ectoplasm. Researchers did not investigate that claim, so no verification could be made. That Crawford introduced technology to verify the investigation is what remained of prime interest historically.

Currently, the Belfast Spiritual Fellowship, a group ascribing to Spiritualist beliefs, can be contacted at 44 Barnsmore Drive, Belfast, Northern Ireland BT13 3FF.


AE [George W. Russell]. The Candle of Vision. London: Macmillan, 1918. Reprint, New Hyde Park, NY: University Books, 1965.

Berger, Arthur S., and Joyce Berger. The Encyclopedia of Parapsychology and Psychical Research. New York: Paragon House, 1991.

Curtin, Jeremiah. Tales of the Fairies and of the Ghost World, Collected from Oral Tradition in Southwest Munster. London: D. Nutt, 1895. Reprint, Dublin: Talbot Press, 1974.

Dunne, John J. Haunted Ireland: Her Romantic and Mysterious Ghosts. Belfast: Appletree Press, 1977.

Farrar, Stewart. What Witches Do: The Modern Coven Revealed. New York: Coward, McCann & Geoghegan; London: Peter Davies, 1971.

Giraldus Cambrensis. The Historical Works of Giraldus Cambrensis, Containing the Topography of Ireland, and The History of the Conquest of Ireland. Translated by R. C. Hoare. London: Bohn's Antiquarian Library, 1847.

Gregory, Lady. Visions and Beliefs in the West of Ireland. 2 vols. New York: George Putnam's Sons, 1920. Reprint, U.K.: Colin Smythe, 1970.

Harper, George Mills. Yeats's Golden Dawn. London: Macmillan, 1974.

McAnally, D. R., Jr. Irish Wonders: The Ghosts, Giants, Pookas, Demons, Leprechawns, Banshees, Fairies, Witches, Widows, Old Maids and Other Marvels of the Emerald Isle. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1888. Reprint, Detroit: Grand River Books, 1971.

O'Donnell, Elliot. The Banshee. London: Sands, 1920.

Seymour, St. John D. and Harry L. Neligan. True Irish Ghost Stories. London: Oxford University Press, 1915. Reprint, New York: Causeway Books, 1974.

Spiritualist Webring. Available at:

Washington, Peter. Madame Blavatsky's Baboon, A History of the Mystics, Mediums, and Misfits Who Brought Spiritualism to America. New York: Schocken Books, 1993.

White, Carolyn. A History of Irish Fairies. Cork, Ireland: Mercier Press, 1976.

Yeats, W. B., ed. Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry. London: Walter Scott Publishing, 1888. Reprint, New York: Grosset & Dunlap, 1957.

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The most striking feature of the family in Ireland during the last decades of the twentieth century is the rapid rate at which it has changed. From around the late 1960s the Irish family, in response to a national program of economic development, changed from a traditional rural form typical of economies based on agriculture to a postmodern form typical of postindustrial societies. Although the changes that occurred are common to most Western European societies, the rate of change in Ireland was exceptional. In less than one generation, the Irish family was transformed.

Demographic Change

Since the time of the Great Famine in 1847, the population of Ireland steadily decreased until the time of economic expansion in the 1960s. The principal causes of this decline were high emigration and low marriage rates due to a stagnant economy and large-scale unemployment. Ireland did not experience the demographic transition typical of most Western European countries in the post-World War II period. It was not until much later that Ireland manifested the characteristics of this transition, giving rise in the 1970s to a baby boom. The effects of this baby boom have been a major influence on Irish families since then, with Ireland having the youngest population in the European Union.

With an upsurge in the economy in the 1960s, birth rates increased. By 1971 the birth rate had reached a high of 22.7 per 1000 of population, giving a total period fertility rate of four, which is almost twice the replacement level. Since then, birth rates have declined, and by the 1990s they were below replacement level. By 2000 the birth rate had fallen to 14.3 and the total period fertility rate to 1.89 (Vital Statistics 2001). However, due to an increase in net immigration, largely because of the return of Irish workers and their families to take up employment in Ireland's new booming economy of the 1990s, the population continued to increase.

These changes were also accompanied by changes in marriage rates, age at time of marriage, age at the time of first maternity, family size, the number of out-of-wedlock births, marital separation, and cohabitation. By the end of the twentieth century Ireland had caught up with the demographic trends in most Western European countries and, apart from some differences, the overall pattern is much the same. The biggest difference is that while most of Europe experienced these changes over a period of two generations, Ireland went through them in one.

Family Change

Change over time is also evident in the internal structure and dynamics of the family. This is seen when comparing the findings of two classical anthropological studies of the rural Irish family. The first of these studies was carried out by Conrad Arensberg and Solon Kimball (1940) in the 1930s. This study showed that there was a single family type in rural Ireland that was characterized as having a dominant patriarchal authority system with a rigidly defined division of labor based on gender. In contrast, the second study carried out by Damian Hannan and Louise Katsiaouni (1977) in the 1970s, when the process of change had begun, found a wide variety among farm families, including the socialization experiences of spouses and family interaction patterns. They also found that families were more democratic in structure and that there was a move towards a division of labor based on competence rather than gender. The authors concluded that the family was going through a process of change from a traditional to a modern form, and they linked these changes to the changes taking place in the economic, social, and cultural environments in Ireland at the time.

Changes in the family are also associated with the decline in the influence of the Catholic Church on Irish family life, especially in the area of sexual morality. The traditional family in Ireland has long been characterized as highly conservative, reflecting the dominant value system of the Catholic Church. Although religious practice continues to be high, evidence shows that the influence of Catholic teaching on family life has greatly diminished. This is seen, for example, with the widespread use of contraception and the extent of sexual activity outside marriage. These behavioral changes were also accompanied by the introduction of extensive new legislation on family matters in the 1980s and 1990s, including the passage of a referendum on divorce that led to the introduction of no-fault divorce. Much of this legislation challenged the traditional ideology of the Catholic Church that promoted the privatization of the family and was strongly opposed to state "interference" in family matters.


Under Article 41 of the Irish Constitution, the state pledges to "guard with special care the institution of marriage, on which the family is founded." This position of marriage as the basis of the family was further reinforced in 1966 when the Supreme Court interpreted this Article to mean that the family as structurally defined is based on the institution of marriage. Although this Article in the Constitution reflects the ideology of Ireland in the 1930s and does not represent the reality of Irish family life today, marriage has remained relatively stable when compared to other European countries.

Although the marriage rate has decreased from a high of 7.4 per 1,000 of population in the early 1970s, to a low of 4.3 by 1997, marital break-up has remained relatively low. For example, the divorce rate in the European Union for the year 1998 was 1.8 per 1,000 of population, while in Ireland it was 0.6 (Census 1996). However, divorce rates alone are misleading in Ireland because most couples who break up tend to separate rather than divorce. Trends seem to indicate a pattern of people using separation as an exit from marriage and divorce as an entry to a new relationship. In addition, divorce has only been available in Ireland since 1996. In the 1996 census 78,005 people reported themselves as separated, compared to fewer than 10,000 divorced. Nonetheless, even taking account of the numbers reported, marital break-up is comparatively low, and there has been a slight upward turn in the marriage rate, which in 2000 was 5.1 per 1,000 of population (Vital Statistics 2001).

Attitude studies also show a strong commitment to marriage, with companionship more highly valued than personal freedom outside of marriage (MacGreil 1996). These attitudes are further reflected in a Eurobarometer study (1993) that showed that 97.1 percent of Irish respondents placed the family highest in a hierarchy of values. In addition, alternatives to marriage, such as cohabitation, are not a strong feature of Irish families, with only 2 percent of couples living in consensual unions.

Single-Parent Families

The typical family type is that of two parents and their children, but there has been an increase in single-parent families. In the year 2000 nonmarital births accounted for 31.8 percent of all births (Vital Statistics 2000). These births were to women in their twenties and older, not to teenagers. (Teenage births are not a significant proportion of non-marital births in Ireland.) The average age of non-married mothers is twenty-five. Nonmarital births reflect a diversity of family forms that includes cohabiting couples, reconstituted families following marital separation that have not been legally regulated, and single-parent families.

It is not known to what extent these nonmarital births reflect a trend towards increased single-parent households or simply a prelude to marriage. In the year 2000 single-parent families represented 10 percent of all households, and the largest group of these consisted of widows and their children.


The presence of children still continues to be an important part of Irish families, even though the birth rate is below replacement level. The traditional large family consisting of four or more children has been replaced by smaller families. In 1968, for example, 37.4 percent of births were to mothers with three or more children. By 1998 this had fallen to 12.7 percent (Health Statistics 1999, p. 28). The trend is for more women to have children, but to have fewer of them. Only 15 percent of couples live in households where there are no dependent children (Social Situation in the EU 2000). This strong positive attitude towards having children is supported by attitude surveys, which show that the Irish adult population places great value on having children for their own sake (MacGrail 1996).

Although children are highly valued, they are still at risk of poverty; studies consistently show that single-parent families and families with three or more children are most at risk ( Johnson 1999). In an attempt to combat this, successive governments in the 1990s introduced a range of measures, including significant increases in child benefit and employment incentives for unemployed parents. In an effort to protect children from poverty and abuse, the government launched a National Children's Strategy in 2000 and established an Ombudsman for Children.

Mothers and Employment

A relatively new feature of family life in Ireland is the increased participation of mothers in the active labor force outside the home. In 1987 only 32.7 percent of mothers with children under the age of fifteen years and at least one child under five were active in the paid labor force (Labour Force Survey 1987). Ten years later in 1997, this had risen to 53.1 percent (Labor Force Survey 1997). Of particular significance is that the highest percentage of mothers in full-time employment are mothers of children under age two. In contrast, the highest percentage of mothers in part-time employment is of mothers with children over age ten.

This trend poses difficulties in balancing work and family responsibilities. For example, a 1998 study (National Childcare Strategy 1999) found that 22 percent of mothers of children from infants to four-year-olds, and 68 percent of mothers of children aged five to nine years who were in full-time employment, did not use any form of paid childcare. The study assumed that the younger age group of children were cared for by their fathers and other nonpaid relatives, such as grandparents, but made no comment on who cares for the much larger group of children aged five to nine. These findings seem to support other studies that suggest that the provision of affordable quality childcare, and not attitudes towards paid employment of mothers, is the crucial factor influencing mothers to take up paid employment.

The increased participation of mothers in the paid labor force is not, however, matched by any significant increase in the amount of work undertaken by fathers in the home. The only major study on the division of household tasks of urban Irish families (Kiely 1995) found that, while more than 80 percent of mothers in the study thought that husbands should share housework equally, the reality was that mothers not only did most of the housework but also provided most of the care for the children. Fathers were generally inclined to participate in the more pleasurable aspects of childcare such as playing with the children and going on outings with them, while the mothers did most of the less glamorous tasks like changing diapers and putting the children to bed. The study did, however, show that young, educated, middle-class fathers whose wives were also employed had higher rates of participation than other fathers, although this was still relatively low.

Household Composition

A reflection of the position of the family in Irish life can be seen by the composition of households. Although many factors influence household composition, the relatively low percentage of households consisting of one adult and no children (7% of all households), compared to households with children (66% of all households), shows the dominance of families composed of one or more adults with dependent children.

Only 15 percent of households are composed of two adults without children. The remainder of households are composed of three or more adults without dependent children. When the number of persons living in family households is calculated as a percentage of people living in all private households, the dominance of family households is all the more striking—with almost 88 percent of the population living in such households (Census 1996).

With rising house prices in the late 1990s, more young adults appear to remain in their parents' home for longer periods, including young mothers and their children. This probably accounts for the increase in households consisting of three or more generations. These households also include families where an adult child cares for a dependent parent. In both of these three or more generation family types, the key caretakers are women in their midlife, caring either for a parent or a grandchild. These are also the people who have the least attachment to the paid labor force.

Family Diversity

Family diversity is found not only in family composition, but also in its structure and functions. Thus, while studies show a movement from a traditional to a modern form of the family, this movement is in no way uniform. Some families, for example, are democratic in structure, while others are hierarchical. Also, some continue to fulfill a variety of functions, while others are more specific. Again, some families place a higher value on relationships over the importance of the family as an institution. These variations are consistent with the patterns found in most countries that have gone through a modernizing process and reflect a blend of traditional and modern value positions. Diversity, not uniformity, is the hallmark of modernity, and this is now also the hallmark of Irish families.

See also:War/Political Violence


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johnson, h. (1999) "poverty in ireland." in irish socialpolicy in context, ed. g. kiely, a. o'donnell, s.kennedy, and s. quin. dublin: university college dublin press.

kiely, g. (1995). "fathers in families." in irish family studies: selected papers, ed. i. colgan mccarthy. dublin: family studies centre, university college dublin.

macgréil, m. (1996). prejudice in ireland revisited.maynooth, co. kildare: survey and research unit, st patrick's college.

mckeown, k.; ferguson, h.; and rooney, d. (1998).changing fathers? fatherhood and family life in modern ireland. cork: the collins press.

malpas, n., and lambert, p. (1993). europeans and thefamily. (eurobarometer 39). brussels: commission of the european communities.

partnership 2000 expert working group on childcare.(1999). national childcare strategy. dublin: stationery office.

gabriel kiely

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The first settlers, the Mesolithic people, came to Ireland about 7000 b.c.e. and lived by hunting, fishing, and gathering. Neolithic colonists introduced domestic animals and crops about 4000 b.c.e. Cultivated cereals included emmer wheat (Triticum dicoccum), bread wheat (Triticum aestivum), and barley. Wild foods, such as hazelnuts and dried crabapples, were stored. Farming, crops and livestock, continued during the Bronze Age (2000700 b.c.e.) and the pre-Christian Iron Age (700 b.c.e.500 c.e.), as is evident from faunal remains and from the range of quernstones for saddle, beehive, and disk querns used to process cereals for domestic use.

In the historical period literary data of various kinds supplement the archaeological record. Religious texts in Old Irish and Latin from the Early Christian period (5001000 c.e.) describe monastic and penitential diets, and the Old Irish law tracts of the seventh and eighth centuries provide insight into food-production strategies, diets, and hospitality obligations. Prestige foods are correlated with social rank according to the general principle that everyone is to be fed according to his or her rank. Persons of higher social status enjoyed a greater variety and quality of food than those of lower rank. Milk and cereal products were the basis of the diet, and a distinction was sometimes made between winter and summer foods. The former apparently consisted of cereals and meat and the latter mainly of dairy produce.

Milk and Milk Products

Milk, "good when fresh, good when old, good when thick, good when thin," was considered the best food. Fresh milk was a high-status food of sufficient prestige to be served as a refreshment to guests in secular and monastic settings. Many milk products are mentioned in the early Irish legal tracts and in Aislinge Meic Con Glinne (Vision of Mac Con Glinne), an early medieval satirical text in the Irish language rich in food imagery and probably the most important source of information about food in medieval Ireland. Butter, curds, cheese, and whole-milk or skim-milk whey were common elements of the diet. Butter was often portrayed as a luxury food. It was part of the food rents a client was obliged to give to his or her lord and a festive food for monastic communities. Curds, formed naturally in milk or by using rennet, were a common summer food included in food rents and apparently a normal part of the monastic diet. Cheese, in soft and hard varieties, was of great importance in the early Irish and medieval diet. Whey, the liquid product of the preparation of curds and cheese, was rather sour, but diluted with water it was prominent in the stricter monastic diets of the early Irish Church. Goat's milk whey, considered to have medicinal properties, was still in regular use in parts of Ireland in the early nineteenth century.

These milk products held their ancient status in the diet to varying degrees until the threshold of the eighteenth century, when forces of commercialization and modernization during the modern period altered levels of consumption and ultimately the dietary status of some milk products. Milk and butter remained basic foodstuffs, and their dietary and economic significance is reflected in the richness of the repertoire of beliefs, customs, and legends concerned with the protection of cows at the boundary festival of May, traditionally regarded as the commencement of summer and the milking seasons in Ireland, when the milch cows were transferred to the lush green pastures. Cheese making, which essentially died out in the eighteenth century, probably due to the substantial international butter and provisions trade from Ireland, made a significant comeback in the late twentieth century.

Cereal Products

Wheat products were consumed mainly as porridge and bread in early and medieval Ireland. Porridge was food for children especially, and a watery type figured prominently as penitential fare in monasteries. Wheaten bread was a high-status food. Climatic conditions favored barley and oat growing. Barley, used in ale production, was also a bread grain with monastic and penitential connotations. Oat, a low-status grain, was probably the chief cereal crop, most commonly used for oaten porridge and bread. Baking equipment mentioned in the early literature, iron griddles and bake stones, indicates flat bread production on an ovenless hearth. Thin, unleavened oaten bread, eaten mostly with butter, was universal in medieval Ireland and remained the everyday bread in parts of the north and west until the nineteenth century. Barley and rye breads or breads of mixed cereals were still eaten in parts of eastern Ireland in the early nineteenth century.

Leavened wheaten bread baked in built-up ovens also has been eaten since medieval times, especially in strong Anglo-Norman areas in East Ireland, where commercial bakeries were established. English-style breads were available in cities in the early seventeenth century, and public or common bake houses are attested from this period in some urban areas. Built-up ovens might be found in larger inns and prosperous households, but general home production of leavened bread, baked in a pot oven on the open hearth, dates from the nineteenth century, when bicarbonate of soda, combined with sour milk or buttermilk, was used as a leaven.

A refreshing drink called sowens was made from slightly fermented wheat husks. Used as a substitute for fresh milk in tea or for sour milk in bread making when milk was scarce, it replaced milk on Spy Wednesday (the Wednesday of Holy Week) and Good Friday as a form of penance. A jelly called flummery, procured from the liquid by boiling, was widely used.

Meat, Fowl, and Fish

Beef and mutton have been eaten in Ireland from prehistoric times, and meat was still considered a status food in the early twenty-first century. Pigs have been raised exclusively for their meat, and a variety of pork products have always been highly valued foodstuffs. Domestic fowl have been a significant part of the diet since early times, and eggs have also figured prominently. Wild fowl have been hunted, and seafowl provide seasonal, supplementary variations in diet in some seacoast areas.

Fish, including shellfish, have been a food of coastal communities since prehistoric times. Freshwater fish are mentioned prominently in early sources and in travelers' accounts throughout the medieval period. Fish were included in festive menus in the nineteenth century and were eaten fresh or cured in many ordinary households while the obligation of Friday abstinence from flesh meat remained in force.


Milk and whey were the most popular drinks in early and medieval Ireland, but ale was a drink of great social importance. It was also regarded as a nutritional drink suitable for invalids and was featured in monastic diets at the celebration of Easter. Mead made by fermenting honey with water apparently was more prestigious than beer. Wine, an expensive import, was a festive drink in secular and monastic contexts. Whiskey distillation was known from the thirteenth century. Domestic ale and cider brewing declined drastically after the eighteenth century in the face of commercial breweries and distilleries.

Nonalcoholic beverages, such as coffee, chocolate, and tea, were consumed initially by the upper sections of society, as the elegant silverware of the eighteenth and nineteenth century shows. But tea was consumed by all sections of society by the end of the nineteenth century.

Vegetables and Fruit

From early times the Irish cultivated a variety of plants for food. Garden peas and broad beans are mentioned in an eighth-century law text, and it appears that some member of the allium family (possibly onion), leeks, cabbages, chives, and some root vegetables were also grown. Pulses were significant in areas of strong Anglo-Norman settlement in medieval times but were disappearing as a field crop by 1800, when vegetable growing declined due to market forces. Cabbage remained the main vegetable of the poor. Apples and plums were cultivated in early Ireland, and orchards were especially prominent in English-settled areas. Exotic fruits were grown in the walled gardens of the gentry or were imported for the large urban markets. A range of wild vegetables and fruits, especially crabapples, bilberries, and blackberries, were exploited seasonally.

Edible Seaweeds

Edible algae have been traditionally used as supplementary food products along the coast of Ireland. Duileasc (Palmaria palmata), anglicized as "dulse" or "dilisk" and frequently mentioned in the early Irish law texts, is one of the most popularly consumed seaweeds in Ireland. Rich in potassium and magnesium, it is eaten raw on its own or in salads, or it is stewed and served as a relish or a condiment for potatoes or bread. Sleabhach (Porphyra), anglicized as "sloke," is boiled, dressed with butter, and seasoned and eaten as an independent dish or with potatoes. Carraigin (Chondrus crispus), or carrageen moss, has traditionally been valued for its medicinal and nutritional qualities. Used earlier as a milk thickener and boiled in milk to make a blancmange, it has come to be regarded as a health food.

Collecting shore foods, such as edible seaweeds and shellfish, was a common activity along the Atlantic Coast of Ireland on Good Friday, a day of strict abstinence. The foodstuffs collected were eaten as the main meal rather than as an accompaniment to potatoes.


Introduced in Ireland toward the end of the sixteenth century, the potato was widely consumed by all social classes, with varying degrees of emphasis, by the nineteenth century. Its widespread diffusion is evident in the broad context of the evolution in the Irish diet from the seventeenth century. In the wake of the English conquest of Ireland, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were a time of sustained transition in Irish economic, demographic, and social life. Demographic expansion beginning in 1600 led to a population in excess of 8 million by 1800. The food supply altered strikingly during that period. The diet of the affluent remained rich and varied, while commercialization gradually removed milk and butter from the diet of the poor and resulted in an increased emphasis on grain products. The commercialization of grain and the difficulty in accessing land during the eighteenth century forced the poorer sections of society to depend on the potato, which was the dietary staple par excellence of about 3 million Irish people by the early nineteenth century. Fungus-induced potato crop failures from 1845 to 1848 caused the great Irish famine, a major human disaster.

Diets changed gradually in the postfamine years, and while the potato was but one of many staples by the end of the nineteenth century, it never lost its appeal. The ripening of the new potato crop in the autumn remained a matter for celebration. In many parts of the country the first meal of this crop consisted of mashed potatoes with scallions and seasoning. Colcannon, typically associated with Halloween, is made of mashed potatoes mixed with a little fresh milk, chopped kale or green cabbage, fresh onions, and seasoning with a large knob of butter placed on the top. In some parts people originally ate it from a communal dish.

Boiled potatoes are also the basic ingredient for potato cakes. The mashed potatoes are mixed with melted butter, seasoning, and sufficient flour to bind the dough. Cut into triangles, called farls, or individual small, round cakes, they are cooked on both sides on a hot, lightly floured griddle or in a hot pan with melted butter or bacon fat. Apple potato cake or "fadge" was popularly associated with Halloween in northeast Ireland. The potato cake mixture was divided in two, and layers of raw sliced apples were placed on the base, then the apples were covered with the remaining dough. The cake was baked in the pot oven until almost ready. At that point the upper crust was peeled back, and brown sugar was sprinkled on the apples. The cake was returned to the oven until the sugar melted. "Stampy" cakes or pancakes were raw grated potatoes sieved and mixed with flour, baking powder, seasoning, a beaten egg, and fresh milk and cooked on the griddle or pan.

The menus of restaurants that offer "traditional Irish cuisine" include such popular foods, which also were commercially produced by the late twentieth century. But as Irish society becomes increasingly pluralistic, the socalled "international cuisine" and a wide range of ethnic restaurants characterize the public provision of food in major urban areas. In the private sphere, however, relatively plain, freshly cooked food for each meal is the norm. Milk, bread, butter, meat, vegetables, and potatoes, though the last are of declining importance, remain the basic elements of the Irish diet.

See also Potato; Sea Birds and Their Eggs.


Cullen, L. M. The Emergence of Modern Ireland, 16001900. London: Batsford, 1981.

Danaher, Kevin. The Year in Ireland. Cork, Ireland: Mercier, 1972.

Flanagan, Laurence. Ancient Ireland: Life before the Celts. Dublin, Ireland: Gill and Macmillan, 1998.

Jackson, Kenneth Hurlstone, ed. Aislinge Meic Con Glinne (Vision of Mac Con Glinne). Dublin: School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, 1990.

Kelly, Fergus. Early Irish Farming: A Study Based Mainly on the Law-Texts of the 7th and 8th Centuries A . D . Dublin: School of Celtic Studies, Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies, 1997.

Lucas, A. T. "Irish Food before the Potato." Gwerin 3, no. 2 (1960): 840.

Lysaght, Patricia. "Bealtaine: Women, Milk, and Magic at the Boundary Festival of May." In Milk and Milk Products from Medieval to Modern Times, edited by Patricia Lysaght, pp. 208229. Edinburgh: Canongate Academic, 1994.

Lysaght, Patricia. "Food-Provision Strategies on the Great Blasket Island: Sea-bird Fowling." In Food from Nature: Attitudes, Strategies, and Culinary Practices, edited by Patricia Lysaght, pp. 333336. Uppsala: The Royal Gustavus Adolphus Academy for Swedish Folk Culture, 2000.

Lysaght, Patricia. "Innovation in FoodThe Case of Tea in Ireland." Ulster Folklife 33 (1987): 4471.

Ó Danachair, Caoimhín. "Bread in Ireland." In Food in Perspective, edited by Trefor M. Owen and Alexander Fenton, pp. 5767. Edinburgh: John Donald, 1981.

O'Neill, Timothy P. "Food." In Life and Tradition in Rural Ireland, edited by Timothy P. O'Neill, pp. 5667. London: Dent, 1977.

Ó Sé, Michael. "Old Irish Cheeses and Other Milk Products." Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 53 (1948): 8287.

Sexton, Regina. A Little History of Irish Food. Dublin, Ireland: Gill and Macmillan, 1998.

Patricia Lysaght

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Ireland, Irish Eire (âr´ə) [to it are related the poetic Erin and perhaps the Latin Hibernia], island, 32,598 sq mi (84,429 sq km), second largest of the British Isles. The island is divided into two major political units—Northern Ireland (see Ireland, Northern), which is joined with Great Britain in the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland (see Ireland, Republic of). Of the 32 counties of Ireland, 26 lie in the Republic, and of the four historic provinces, three and part of the fourth are in the Republic.

Geology and Geography

Ireland lies west of the island of Great Britain, from which it is separated by the narrow North Channel, the Irish Sea (which attains a width of 130 mi/209 km), and St. George's Channel. More than a third the size of Britain, the island averages 140 mi (225 km) in width and 225 mi (362 km) in length. A large central plain extending to the Irish Sea between the Mourne Mts. in the north and the mountains of Wicklow in the south is roughly enclosed by a highland rim. The highlands of the north, west, and south, which rise to more than 3,000 ft (914 m), are generally barren, but the central plain is extremely fertile and the climate is temperate and moist, warmed by southwesterly winds. The rains, which are heaviest in the west (some areas have more than 80 in./203 cm annually), are responsible for the brilliant green grass of the "emerald isle," and for the large stretches of peat bog, a source of valuable fuel. The coastline is irregular, affording many natural harbors. Off the west coast are numerous small islands, including the Aran Islands, the Blasket Islands, Achill, and Clare Island. The interior is dotted with lakes (the most celebrated are the Lakes of Killarney) and wide stretches of river called loughs. The Shannon, the longest of Irish rivers, drains the western plain and widens into the beautiful loughs Allen, Ree, and Derg. The River Liffey empties into Dublin Bay, the Lee into Cork Harbour at Cobh, the Foyle into Lough Royle near Derry, and the Lagan into Belfast Lough.


Ireland to the English Conquest

The earliest known people in Ireland belonged to the groups that inhabited all of the British Isles in prehistoric times. In the several centuries preceding the birth of Jesus a number of Celtic tribes invaded and conquered Ireland and established their distinctive culture (see Celt), although they do not seem to have come in great numbers. Ancient Irish legend tells of four successive peoples who invaded the country—the Firbolgs, the Fomors, the Tuatha De Danann, and the Milesians. Oddly enough, the Romans, who occupied Britain for 400 years, never came to Ireland, and the Anglo-Saxon invaders of Britain, who largely replaced the Celtic population there, did not greatly affect Ireland.

Until the raids of the Norse in the late 8th cent., Ireland remained relatively untouched by foreign incursions and enjoyed the golden age of its culture. The people, Celtic and non-Celtic alike, were organized into clans, or tribes, which in the early period owed allegiance to one of five provincial kings—of Ulster, Munster, Connacht, Leinster, and Meath (now the northern part of Leinster). These kings nominally served the high king of all Ireland at Tara (in Meath). The clans fought constantly among themselves, but despite civil strife, literature and art were held in high respect. Each chief or king kept an official poet (Druid) who preserved the oral traditions of the people. The Gaelic language and culture were extended into Scotland by Irish emigrants in the 5th and 6th cent.

Parts of Ireland had already been Christianized before the arrival of St. Patrick in the 5th cent., but pagan tradition continued to appeal to the imagination of Irish poets even after the complete conversion of the country. The Celtic Christianity of Ireland produced many scholars and missionaries who traveled to England and the Continent, and it attracted students to Irish monasteries, until the 8th cent. perhaps the most brilliant of Europe. St. Columba and St. Columban were among the most famous of Ireland's missionaries. All the arts flourished; Irish illuminated manuscripts were particularly noteworthy. The Book of Kells (see Ceanannus Mór) is especially famous.

The country did not develop a strong central government, however, and it was not united to meet the invasions of the Norse, who settled on the shores of the island late in the 8th cent., establishing trading towns (including Dublin, Waterford, and Limerick) and creating new petty kingdoms. In 1014, at Clontarf, Brian Boru, who had become high king by conquest in 1002, broke the strength of the Norse invaders. There followed a period of 150 years during which Ireland was free from foreign interference but was torn by clan warfare.

Ireland and the English

In the 12th cent., Pope Adrian IV granted overlordship of Ireland to Henry II of England. The English conquest of Ireland was begun by Richard de Clare, 2d earl of Pembroke, known as Strongbow, who intervened in behalf of a claimant to the throne of Leinster; in 1171, Henry himself went to Ireland, temporarily establishing his overlordship there. With this invasion commenced an Anglo-Irish struggle that continued for nearly 800 years.

The English established themselves in Dublin. Roughly a century of warfare ensued as Ireland was divided into English shires ruled from Dublin, the domains of feudal magnates who acknowledged English sovereignty, and the independent Irish kingdoms. Many English intermarried with the Irish and were assimilated into Irish society. In the late 13th cent. the English introduced a parliament in Ireland. In 1315, Edward Bruce of Scotland invaded Ireland and was joined by many Irish kings. Although Bruce was killed in 1318, the English authority in Ireland was weakening, becoming limited to a small district around Dublin known as the Pale; the rest of the country fell into a struggle for power among the ruling Anglo-Irish families and Irish chieftains.

English attention was diverted by the Hundred Years War with France (1337–1453) and the Wars of the Roses (1455–85). However, under Henry VII new interest in the island was aroused by Irish support for Lambert Simnel, a Yorkist pretender to the English throne. To crush this support, Henry sent to Ireland Sir Edward Poynings, who summoned an Irish Parliament at Drogheda and forced it to pass the legislation known as Poynings' Law (1495). These acts provided that future Irish Parliaments and legislation receive prior approval from the English Privy Council. A free Irish Parliament was thus rendered impossible.

The English Reformation under Henry VIII gave rise in England to increased fears of foreign, Catholic invasion; control of Ireland thus became even more imperative. Henry VIII put down a rebellion (1534–37), abolished the monasteries, confiscated lands, and established a Protestant "Church of Ireland" (1537). But since the vast majority of Irish remained Roman Catholic, the seeds of bitter religious contention were added to the already rancorous Anglo-Irish relations. The Irish rebelled three times during the reign of Elizabeth I and were brutally suppressed. Under James I, Ulster was settled by Scottish and English Protestants, and many of the Catholic inhabitants were driven off their lands; thus two sharply antagonistic communities were established.

Another Irish rebellion, begun in 1641 in reaction to the hated rule of Charles I's deputy, Thomas Wentworth, earl of Strafford, was crushed (1649–50) by Oliver Cromwell with the loss of hundreds of thousands of lives. More land was confiscated (and often given to absentee landlords), and more Protestants settled in Ireland. The intractable landlord-tenant problem that plagued Ireland in later centuries can be traced to the English confiscations of the 16th and 17th cent.

Irish Catholics rallied to the cause of James II after his overthrow (1688) in England (see the Glorious Revolution), while the Protestants in Ulster enthusiastically supported William III. At the battle of the Boyne (1690) near Dublin, James and his French allies were defeated by William. The English-controlled Irish Parliament passed harsh Penal Laws designed to keep the Catholic Irish powerless; political equality was also denied to Presbyterians. At the same time English trade policy depressed the economy of Protestant Ireland, causing many so-called Scotch-Irish to emigrate to America. A newly flourishing woolen industry was destroyed when export from Ireland was forbidden.

During the American Revolution, fear of a French invasion of Ireland led Irish Protestants to form (1778–82) the Protestant Volunteer Army. The Protestants, led by Henry Grattan, and even supported by some Catholics, used their military strength to extract concessions for Ireland from Britain. Trade concessions were granted in 1779, and, with the repeal of Poynings' Law (1782), the Irish Parliament had its independence restored. But the Parliament was still chosen undemocratically, and Catholics continued to be denied the right to hold political office.

Another unsuccessful rebellion was staged in 1798 by Wolfe Tone, a Protestant who had formed the Society of United Irishmen and who accepted French aid in the uprising. The reliance on French assistance revived anti-Catholic feeling among the Irish Protestants, who remembered French support of the Jacobite restoration. The rebellion convinced the British prime minister, William Pitt, that the Irish problem could be solved by the adoption of three policies: abolition of the Irish Parliament, legislative union with Britain in a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and Catholic Emancipation. The first two goals were achieved in 1800, but the opposition of George III and British Protestants prevented the enactment of the Catholic Emancipation Act until 1829, when it was accomplished largely through the efforts of the Irish leader Daniel O'Connell.

Ireland under the Union

After 1829 the Irish representatives in the British Parliament attempted to maintain the Irish question as a major issue in British politics. O'Connell worked to repeal the union with Britain, which was felt to operate to Ireland's disadvantage, and to reform the government in Ireland. Toward the middle of the century, the Irish Land Question grew increasingly urgent. But the Great Potato Famine (1845–49), one of the worst natural disasters in history, dwarfed political developments. During these years blight ruined the potato crop, destroying the staple food of the Irish population; hundreds of thousands perished from hunger and disease. Many thousands of others emigrated; between 1847 and 1854 about 1.6 million went to the United States. The population dropped from an estimated 8.5 million in 1845 to 6.55 million in 1851 (and continued to decline until the 1960s). Exascerbating the situation was the lack of attention given to it in England, whose press scarcely mentioned the famine and whose leaders did almost nothing to alleviate Ireland's suffering. Irish emigrants in America formed the secret Fenian movement, dedicated to Irish independence. In 1869 the British prime minister William Gladstone sponsored an act disestablishing the Protestant "Church of Ireland" and thereby removed one Irish grievance.

In the 1870s, Irish politicians renewed efforts to achieve Home Rule within the union, while in Britain Gladstone and others attempted to solve the Irish problem through land legislation and Home Rule. Gladstone twice submitted Home Rule bills (1886 and 1893) that failed. The proposals alarmed Protestant Ulster, which began to organize against Home Rule. In 1905, Arthur Griffith founded Sinn Féin among Irish Catholics, but for the time being the dominant Irish nationalist group was the Home Rule party of John Redmond.

Home Rule was finally enacted in 1914, with the provision that Ulster could remain in the union for six more years, but the act was suspended for the duration of World War I and never went into effect. In both Ulster and Catholic Ireland militias were formed. The Irish Republican Brotherhood, a descendent of the Fenians, organized a rebellion on Easter Sunday, 1916; although unsuccessful, the rising acquired great propaganda value when the British executed its leaders.

Sinn Fein, linked in the Irish public's mind with the rising and aided by Britain's attempt to apply conscription to Ireland, scored a tremendous victory in the parliamentary elections of 1918. Its members refused to take their seats in Westminster, declared themselves the Dáil Éireann (Irish Assembly), and proclaimed an Irish Republic. The British outlawed both Sinn Fein and the Dáil, which went underground and engaged in guerrilla warfare (1919–21) against local Irish authorities representing the union. The British sent troops, the Black and Tans, who inflamed the situation further.


A new Home Rule bill was enacted in 1920, establishing separate parliaments for Ulster and Catholic Ireland. This was accepted by Ulster, and Northern Ireland was created. The plan was rejected by the Dáil, but in autumn 1921, Prime Minister Lloyd George negotiated with Griffith and Michael Collins of the Dáil a treaty granting Dominion status within the British Empire to Catholic Ireland. The Irish Free State was established in Jan., 1922. A new constitution was ratified in 1937 that terminated Great Britain's sovereignty. In 1948, all semblance of Commonwealth membership ended with the Republic of Ireland Act.

See Ireland, Republic of and Ireland, Northern.


See N. Mansergh, The Irish Question, 1840–1921 (1965); J. C. Beckett, The Making of Modern Ireland, 1603–1921 (1966); K. S. Bottigheimer, Ireland and the Irish (1982); R. Munck, Ireland (1985); R. D. Crotty, Ireland in Crisis (1986); R. F. Foster, Modern Ireland, 1600–1972 (1989); J. Lee, Ireland, 1912–1985 (1989); T. Cahill, How the Irish Saved Civilization (1995); C. C. O'Brien, Religion and Nationalism in Ireland (1995); D. Kiberd, Inventing Ireland (1996); N. Davies, The Isles (2000); T. Bartlett, Ireland (2010); J. Crowley et al., Atlas of the Great Irish Famine (2012); J. Kelly, The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People (2012); R. F. Foster, Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland, 1890–1923 (2015).

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Official name: Ireland

Area: 70,280 square kilometers (27,135 square miles)

Highest point on mainland: Mount Carrantuohil (1,041 meters/3,416 feet)

Lowest point on land: Sea level

Hemispheres: Northern and Eastern

Time zone: Noon = noon GMT

Longest distances: 275 kilometers (171 miles) from east to west; 486 kilometers (302 miles) from north to south

Land boundaries: 360 kilometers (224 miles) total boundary length; all with the United Kingdom (Northern Ireland)

Coastline: 1,448 kilometers (900 miles)

Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers (12 nautical miles)


Ireland is located on an island in the eastern part of the North Atlantic Ocean. Situated on the European continental shelf, it lies at the westernmost edge of Europe, to the west of Great Britain. The northeastern corner of the island is occupied by Northern Ireland, which belongs to Britain and is separated from the independent republic to its south by a winding border. Covering an area of 70,280 square kilometers (27,135 square miles), Ireland is slightly larger than the state of West Virginia.


Ireland has no territories or dependencies.


Ireland's proximity to the Atlantic Ocean gives it a mild maritime climate. Average temperatures range from 4°C to 7°C (39°F to 45°F) in January, and from 14°C to 16°C (57°F to 61°F) in July. Ireland's weather is humid and highly changeable. A common saying about Irish weather is "If you don't like it, wait a couple of minutes!" Average annual rainfall ranges from roughly 76 centimeters (30 inches) in the eastern part of the country to over 250 centimeters (100 inches) in the western highlands.


Ireland's low, central limestone plateau rimmed by coastal highlands has been compared to a gigantic saucer. In spite of these coastal highlands, Ireland is generally a low country. Only about 20 percent of its terrain is higher than 150 meters (500 feet) above sea level, and even its mountains rarely exceed altitudes of 900 meters (3,000 feet).


Ireland is bounded on the east and southeast by the Irish Sea and St. George's Channel, and on the north and west by the Atlantic Ocean. The North Channel separates Northern Ireland from Scotland.

Seacoast and Undersea Features

There are deepwater coral reefs off the western coast of Ireland. Their presence is considered a possible indicator of underwater oil and gas reserves.

Sea Inlets and Straits

The western and northwestern parts of the Irish coast have numerous bays and inlets, of which the largest are Donegal Bay and Galway Bay, where the Aran Islands are located. The deepest coastal indentation is at the mouth of the Shannon River in the southwest. The southwestern corner of Ireland has deep, fjord-like indentations between a series of capes, where the mountains of Kerry and Cork jut out into the sea.

Islands and Archipelagos

Of the several small islands off the western coast, the best-known are the three Aran Islands situated at the mouth of Galway Bay.

Coastal Features

Ireland's eastern coast, which faces England and Wales, is smooth, while the coasts to the west and northwest are deeply indented. Much of the Irish coastline is rocky; however, there are also long stretches of sandy beach known as strands. Many are lined with dunes.


Ireland's slow-moving rivers widen into loughs (lakes) at many points in the central lowlands before moving on to the sea. Among the largest loughs are Lough Corrib, Lough Mask, and Lough Conn, all in the western counties of Galway and Mayo.


The rivers of Ireland are among the most attractive features of the landscape. The Shannon, which is the longest river, rises near Sligo Bay. Altogether, it drains over 10,360 square kilometers (4,000 square miles) of the central lowlands. Other rivers of the lowlands include the Boyne and the Barrow. The Clare and Moy Rivers flow through the west, the Finn flows in the north, and the Barrow, Suir, and Blackwater are among the southern rivers.


There are no deserts in Ireland.


The average elevation of the central lowlands is about 60 meters (200 feet), although various hills, ridges, and loughs break up this terrain in many places. The Irish peat bogs, although rapidly diminishing in number, are still the country's most distinctive physical feature. Ireland also has both coastal and interior wetlands.


Ireland has a number of mountain systems. The highest rise to elevations of about 914 meters (3,000 feet), while the lower ranges have peak elevations between 610 and 914 meters (2,000 and 3,000 feet). Among the higher ranges are the Wicklow Mountains between Dublin and Wexford. The country's highest peak, Mount Carrantuohil (1,041 meters/3,416 feet), is found in Macgillycuddy's Reeks, in the southwest.


Lough Hyne, which lies below sea level, is one of Europe's only saltwater lakes (or inland seas).


Areas of limestone karst are widespread in Ireland, resulting in a large number of caves throughout the country. Major cave sites are found in the counties of Cork and Tipperary in the south, Clare and Kerry in the west, and Sligo and Cavan in the north. The Poulnagollum/Poll Elva cave, the longest in Ireland, is found in the Burren, located in County Clare.


Distinctive areas of karst plateau are found in northwestern Ireland, in the counties of Leitrim, Cavan, Sligo, and Fermanagh. Among these areas is the plateau known as the Burren in County Clare.


There are a number of bridges in the capital city of Dublin, which is divided into two parts by the River Liffey. Among these are the Grattan, O'Connell, Butt, Queen Maeve, Ha'Penny, and Heuston Bridges.

The Grand Canal connects Dublin with Ireland's longest river, the Shannon.



De Breffny, Brian. In the Steps of St. Patrick. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1982.

Hawks, Tony. Round Ireland with a Fridge. New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2000.

Wilson, David A. Ireland a Bicycle and a Tin Whistle. Montreal: McGill-Queens University Press, 1995.

Web Sites (accessed April 24, 2003).

Heritage Ireland. (accessed April 24, 2003).

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Ireland Second largest island of the British Isles. Ireland is w of Great Britain. The Irish Sea and St Georges Channel run between the two islands. Ireland is divided into two separate countries, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Land and climate

The central area of Ireland is a lowland with a mild, wet climate. This area is covered with peat bogs (an important source of fuel) and sections of fertile limestone (the location of dairy farming). Most coastal regions are barren highlands. The interior of Ireland has many lakes and wide rivers (loughs). It boasts the longest river in the British Isles, the Shannon.


From c.3rd century bc to the late 8th century, Ireland was divided into five kingdoms inhabited by Celtic and pre-Celtic tribes. In the 8th century ad, the Danes invaded, establishing trading towns, including Dublin, and creating new kingdoms. In 1014, Brian Boru defeated the Danes, and for the next 150 years Ireland was free from invasion but subject to clan warfare. In 1171, Henry II of England invaded Ireland and established English control. In the late 13th century, an Irish Parliament was formed. In 1315, English dominance was threatened by a Scottish invasion. In the late 15th century, Henry VII restored English hegemony and began the plantation of Ireland by English settlers. Edward Poynings forced the Irish Parliament to pass Poynings Law (1495), stating that future Irish legislation must be sanctioned by the English Privy Council. Under James I, the plantation of Ulster intensified. An Irish rebellion (1641–49) was eventually thwarted by Oliver Cromwell. During the Glorious Revolution, Irish Catholics supported James II, while Ulster Protestants backed William III. After James' defeat, the English-controlled Irish Parliament passed a series of punitive laws against Catholics. In 1782, Henry Grattan forced trade concessions and the repeal of Poynings Law. William Pitt's government passed the Act of Union (1801), which abolished the Irish Assembly and created the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1829, largely due to the efforts of Daniel O'Connell, the Act of Catholic Emancipation was passed, which secured Irish representation in the British Parliament. A blight ruined the Irish potato crop and caused the Irish Famine (1845–49). Nationalist demands intensified. Gladstone failed to secure Irish Home Rule amid mounting pressure from fearful Ulster Protestants. In 1905 Arthur Griffith founded Sinn Féin. In 1914 Home Rule was agreed, but implementation was suspended during World War I. In the Easter Rising (April 1916), Irish nationalists announced the creation of the Republic of Ireland. The British Army's brutal crushing of the rebellion was a propaganda victory for Sinn Féin and led to a landslide victory in Irish elections (1918). Between 1918 and 1921 the Irish Republican Army (IRA), founded by Michael Collins, fought a guerrilla war against British forces. In 1920, a new Home Rule Bill established separate parliaments for Ulster and Catholic Ireland. The Anglo-Irish Treaty (1921) led to the creation of an Irish Free State in January 1922 and de facto acceptance of partition. (For history post-1922, see Ireland; Ireland)

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The people of Ireland are called Irish. Throughout history, Ireland has been inhabited by Celts, Norsemen, French Normans, and English, and these groups have been so intermingled that no purely ethnic divisions remain.

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Culture Name


Alternative Names

Na hÉireanneach; Na Gaeil


Identification. The Republic of Ireland (Poblacht na hÉireann in Irish, although commonly referred to as Éire, or Ireland) occupies five-sixths of the island of Ireland, the second largest island of the British Isles. Irish is the common term of reference for the country's citizens, its national culture, and its national language. While Irish national culture is relatively homogeneous when compared to multinational and multicultural states elsewhere, Irish people recognize both some minor and some significant cultural distinctions that are internal to the country and to the island. In 1922 Ireland, which until then had been part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, was politically divided into the Irish Free State (later the Republic of Ireland) and Northern Ireland, which continued as part of the renamed United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland occupies the remaining sixth of the island. Almost eighty years of separation have resulted in diverging patterns of national cultural development between these two neighbors, as seen in language and dialect, religion, government and politics, sport, music, and business culture. Nevertheless, the largest minority population in Northern Ireland (approximately 42 percent of the total population of 1.66 million) consider themselves to be nationally and ethnically Irish, and they point to the similarities between their national culture and that of the Republic as one reason why they, and Northern Ireland, should be reunited with the Republic, in what would then constitute an all-island nation-state. The majority population in Northern Ireland, who consider themselves to be nationally British, and who identify with the political communities of Unionism and Loyalism, do not seek unification with Ireland, but rather wish to maintain their traditional ties to Britain.

Within the Republic, cultural distinctions are recognized between urban and rural areas (especially between the capital city Dublin and the rest of the country), and between regional cultures, which are most often discussed in terms of the West, the South, the Midlands, and the North, and which correspond roughly to the traditional Irish provinces of Connacht, Munster, Leinster, and Ulster, respectively. While the overwhelming majority of Irish people consider themselves to be ethnically Irish, some Irish nationals see themselves as Irish of British descent, a group sometimes referred to as the "Anglo-Irish" or "West Britons." Another important cultural minority are Irish "Travellers," who have historically been an itinerant ethnic group known for their roles in the informal economy as artisans, traders, and entertainers. There are also small religious minorities (such as Irish Jews), and ethnic minorities (such as Chinese, Indians, and Pakistanis), who have retained many aspects of cultural identification with their original national cultures.

Location and Geography. Ireland is in the far west of Europe, in the North Atlantic Ocean, west of the island of Great Britain. The island is 302 miles (486 kilometers) long, north to south, and 174 miles (280 kilometers) at its widest point. The area of the island is 32,599 square miles (84,431 square kilometers), of which the Republic covers 27, 136 square miles (70,280 square kilometers). The Republic has 223 miles (360 kilometers) of land border, all with the United Kingdom, and 898 miles (1,448 kilometers) of coastline. It is separated from its neighboring island of Great Britain to the east by the Irish Sea, the North Channel, and Saint George's Channel. The climate is temperate maritime, modified by the North Atlantic Current. Ireland has mild winters and cool summers. Because of the high precipitation, the climate is consistently humid. The Republic is marked by a low-lying fertile central plain surrounded by hills and uncultivated small mountains around the outer rim of the island. Its high point is 3,414 feet (1,041 meters). The largest river is the Shannon, which rises in the northern hills and flows south and west into the Atlantic. The capital city, Dublin (Baile Átha Cliath in Irish), at the mouth of the River Liffey in central eastern Ireland, on the original site of a Viking settlement, is currently home to almost 40 percent of the Irish population; it served as the capital of Ireland before and during Ireland's integration within the United Kingdom. As a result, Dublin has long been noted as the center of the oldest Anglophone and British-oriented area of Ireland; the region around the city has been known as the "English Pale" since medieval times.

Demography. The population of the Republic of Ireland was 3,626,087 in 1996, an increase of 100,368 since the 1991 census. The Irish population has increased slowly since the drop in population that occurred in the 1920s. This rise in population is expected to continue as the birthrate has steadily increased while the death rate has steadily decreased. Life expectancy for males and females born in 1991 was 72.3 and 77.9, respectively (these figures for 1926 were 57.4 and 57.9, respectively). The national population in 1996 was relatively young: 1,016,000 people were in the 2544 age group, and 1,492,000 people were younger than 25. The greater Dublin area had 953,000 people in 1996, while Cork, the nation's second largest city, was home to 180,000. Although Ireland is known worldwide for its rural scenery and lifestyle, in 1996 1,611,000 of its people lived in its 21 most populated cities and towns, and 59 percent of the population lived in urban areas of one thousand people or more. The population density in 1996 was 135 per square mile (52 per square kilometer).

Linguistic Affiliation. Irish (Gaelic) and English are the two official languages of Ireland. Irish is a Celtic (Indo-European) language, part of the Goidelic branch of insular Celtic (as are Scottish Gaelic and Manx). Irish evolved from the language brought to the island in the Celtic migrations between the sixth and the second century b.c.e. Despite hundreds of years of Norse and Anglo-Norman migration, by the sixteenth century Irish was the vernacular for almost all of the population of Ireland. The subsequent Tudor and Stuart conquests and plantations (15341610), the Cromwellian settlement (1654), the Williamite war (16891691), and the enactment of the Penal Laws (1695) began the long process of the subversion of the language. Nevertheless, in 1835 there were four million Irish speakers in Ireland, a number that was severely reduced in the Great Famine of the late 1840s. By 1891 there were only 680,000 Irish speakers, but the key role that the Irish language played in the development of Irish nationalism in the nineteenth century, as well as its symbolic importance in the new Irish state of the twentieth century, have not been enough to reverse the process of vernacular language shift from Irish to English. In the 1991 census, in those few areas where Irish remains the vernacular, and which are officially defined as the Gaeltacht, there were only 56,469 Irish-speakers. Most primary and secondary school students in Ireland study Irish, however, and it remains an important means of communication in governmental, educational, literary, sports, and cultural circles beyond the Gaeltacht. (In the 1991 census, almost 1.1 million Irish people claimed to be Irish-speaking, but this number does not distinguish levels of fluency and usage.)

Irish is one of the preeminent symbols of the Irish state and nation, but by the start of the twentieth century English had supplanted Irish as the vernacular language, and all but a very few ethnic Irish are fluent in English. Hiberno-English (the English language spoken in Ireland) has been a strong influence in the evolution of British and Irish literature, poetry, theater, and education since the end of the nineteenth century. The language has also been an important symbol to the Irish national minority in Northern Ireland, where despite many social and political impediments its use has been slowly increasing since the return of armed conflict there in 1969.

Symbolism. The flag of Ireland has three equal vertical bands of green (hoist side), white, and orange. This tricolor is also the symbol of the Irish nation in other countries, most notably in Northern Ireland among the Irish national minority. Other flags that are meaningful to the Irish include the golden harp on a green background and the Dublin workers' flag of "The Plough and the Stars." The harp is the principal symbol on the national coat of arms, and the badge of the Irish state is the shamrock. Many symbols of Irish national identity derive in part from their association with religion and church. The shamrock clover is associated with Ireland's patron Saint Patrick, and with the Holy Trinity of Christian belief. A Saint Brigid's cross is often found over the entrance to homes, as are representations of saints and other holy people, as well as portraits of the greatly admired, such as Pope John XXIII and John F. Kennedy.

Green is the color associated worldwide with Irishness, but within Ireland, and especially in Northern Ireland, it is more closely associated with being both Irish and Roman Catholic, whereas orange is the color associated with Protestantism, and more especially with Northern Irish people who support Loyalism to the British crown and continued union with Great Britain. The colors of red, white, and blue, those of the British Union Jack, are often used to mark the territory of Loyalist communities in Northern Ireland, just as orange, white, and green mark Irish Nationalist territory there. Sports, especially the national ones organized by the Gaelic Athletic Association such as hurling, camogie, and Gaelic football, also serve as central symbols of the nation.

History and Ethnic Relations

Emergence of the Nation. The nation that evolved in Ireland was formed over two millennia, the result of diverse forces both internal and external to the island. While there were a number of groups of people living on the island in prehistory, the Celtic migrations of the first millennium b.c.e. brought the language and many aspects of Gaelic society that have figured so prominently in more recent nationalist revivals. Christianity was introduced in the fifth century c.e., and from its beginning Irish Christianity has been associated with monasticism. Irish monks did much to preserve European Christian heritage before and during the Middle Ages, and they ranged throughout the continent in their efforts to establish their holy orders and serve their God and church.

From the early ninth century Norsemen raided Ireland's monasteries and settlements, and by the next century they had established their own coastal communities and trading centers. The traditional Irish political system, based on five provinces (Meath, Connacht, Munster, Leinster, and Ulster), assimilated many Norse people, as well as many of the Norman invaders from England after 1169. Over the next four centuries, although the Anglo-Normans succeeded in controlling most of the island, thereby establishing feudalism and their structures of parliament, law, and administration, they also adopted the Irish language and customs, and intermarriage between Norman and Irish elites had become common. By the end of the fifteenth century, the Gaelicization of the Normans had resulted in only the Pale, around Dublin, being controlled by English lords.

In the sixteenth century, the Tudors sought to reestablish English control over much of the island. The efforts of Henry VIII to disestablish the Catholic Church in Ireland began the long association between Irish Catholicism and Irish nationalism. His daughter, Elizabeth I, accomplished the English conquest of the island. In the early seventeenth century the English government began a policy of colonization by importing English and Scottish immigrants, a policy that often necessitated the forcible removal of the native Irish. Today's nationalist conflict in Northern Ireland has its historical roots in this period, when New English Protestants and Scottish Presbyterians moved into Ulster. William of Orange's victory over the Stuarts at the end of the seventeenth century led to the period of the Protestant Ascendancy, in which the civil and human rights of the native Irish, the vast majority of whom were Catholics, were repressed. By the end of the eighteenth century the cultural roots of the nation were strong, having grown through a mixture of Irish, Norse, Norman, and English language and customs, and were a product of English conquest, the forced introduction of colonists with different national backgrounds and religions, and the development of an Irish identity that was all but inseparable from Catholicism.

National Identity. The long history of modern Irish revolutions began in 1798, when Catholic and Presbyterian leaders, influenced by the American and French Revolutions and desirous of the introduction of some measure of Irish national self-government, joined together to use force to attempt to break the link between Ireland and England. This, and subsequent rebellions in 1803, 1848, and 1867, failed. Ireland was made part of the United Kingdom in the Act of Union of 1801, which lasted until the end of World War I (19141918), when the Irish War of Independence led to a compromise agreement between the Irish belligerents, the British government, and Northern Irish Protestants who wanted Ulster to remain part of the United Kingdom. This compromise established the Irish Free State, which was composed of twenty-six of Ireland's thirty-two counties. The remainder became Northern Ireland, the only part of Ireland to stay in the United Kingdom, and wherein the majority population were Protestant and Unionist.

The cultural nationalism that succeeded in gaining Ireland's independence had its origin in the Catholic emancipation movement of the early nineteenth century, but it was galvanized by Anglo-Irish and other leaders who sought to use the revitalization of Irish language, sport, literature, drama, and poetry to demonstrate the cultural and historical bases of the Irish nation. This Gaelic Revival stimulated great popular support for both the idea of the Irish nation, and for diverse groups who sought various ways of expressing this modern nationalism. The intellectual life of Ireland began to have a great impact throughout the British Isles and beyond, most notably among the Irish Diaspora who had been forced to flee the disease, starvation, and death of the Great Famine of 18461849, when a blight destroyed the potato crop, upon which the Irish peasantry depended for food. Estimates vary, but this famine period resulted in approximately one million dead and two million emigrants.

By the end of the nineteenth century many Irish at home and abroad were committed to the peaceful attainment of "Home Rule" with a separate Irish parliament within the United Kingdom while many others were committed to the violent severing of Irish and British ties. Secret societies, forerunners of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), joined with public groups, such as trade union organizations, to plan another rebellion, which took place on Easter Monday, 24 April 1916. The ruthlessness that the British government displayed in putting down this insurrection led to the wide-scale disenchantment of the Irish people with Britain. The Irish War of Independence (19191921), followed by the Irish Civil War (19211923), ended with the creation of an independent state.

Ethnic Relations. Many countries in the world have sizable Irish ethnic minorities, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, and Argentina. While many of these people descend from emigrants of the mid- to late nineteenth century, many others are descendants of more recent Irish emigrants, while still others were born in Ireland. These ethnic communities identify in varying degrees with Irish culture, and they are distinguished by their religion, dance, music, dress, food, and secular and religious celebrations (the most famous of which is the Saint Patrick Day's parades that are held in Irish communities around the world on 17 March).

While Irish immigrants often suffered from religious, ethnic, and racial bigotry in the nineteenth century, their communities today are characterized by both the resilience of their ethnic identities and the degree to which they have assimilated to host national cultures. Ties to the "old country" remain strong. Many people of Irish descent worldwide have been active in seeking a solution to the national conflict in Northern Ireland, known as the "Troubles."

Ethnic relations in the Republic of Ireland are relatively peaceful, given the homogeneity of national culture, but Irish Travellers have often been the victims of prejudice. In Northern Ireland the level of ethnic conflict, which is inextricably linked to the province's bifurcation of religion, nationalism, and ethnic identity, is high, and has been since the outbreak of political violence in 1969. Since 1994 there has been a shaky and intermittent cease-fire among the paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. The 1998 Good Friday agreement is the most recent accord.

Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space

The public architecture of Ireland reflects the country's past role in the British Empire, as most Irish cities and towns were either designed or remodeled as Ireland evolved with Britain. Since independence, much of the architectural iconography and symbolism, in terms of statues, monuments, museums, and landscaping, has reflected the sacrifices of those who fought for Irish freedom. Residential and business architecture is similar to that found elsewhere in the British Isles and Northern Europe.

The Irish put great emphasis on nuclear families establishing residences independent of the residences of the families from which the husband and wife hail, with the intention of owning these residences; Ireland has a very high percentage of owner-occupiers. As a result, the suburbanization of Dublin is resulting in a number of social, economic, transportation, architectural, and legal problems that Ireland must solve in the near future.

The informality of Irish culture, which is one thing that Irish people believe sets them apart from British people, facilitates an open and fluid approach between people in public and private spaces. Personal space is small and negotiable; while it is not common for Irish people to touch each other when walking or talking, there is no prohibition on public displays of emotion, affection, or attachment. Humor, literacy, and verbal acuity are valued; sarcasm and humor are the preferred sanctions if a person transgresses the few rules that govern public social interaction.

Food and Economy

Food in Daily Life. The Irish diet is similar to that of other Northern European nations. There is an emphasis on the consumption of meat, cereals, bread, and potatoes at most meals. Vegetables such as cabbage, turnips, carrots, and broccoli are also popular as accompaniments to the meat and potatoes. Traditional Irish daily eating habits, influenced by a farming ethos, involved four meals: breakfast, dinner (the midday meal and the main one of the day), tea (in early evening, and distinct from "high tea" which is normally served at 4:00 p.m. and is associated with British customs), and supper (a light repast before retiring). Roasts and stews, of lamb, beef, chicken, ham, pork, and turkey, are the centerpieces of traditional meals. Fish, especially salmon, and seafood, especially prawns, are also popular meals. Until recently, most shops closed at the dinner hour (between 1:00 and 2:00 p.m.) to allow staff to return home for their meal. These patterns, however, are changing, because of the growing importance of new lifestyles, professions, and patterns of work, as well as the increased consumption of frozen, ethnic, take-out, and processed foods. Nevertheless, some foods (such as wheaten breads, sausages, and bacon rashers) and some drinks (such as the national beer, Guinness, and Irish whiskey) maintain their important gustatory and symbolic roles in Irish meals and socializing. Regional dishes, consisting of variants on stews, potato casseroles, and breads, also exist. The public house is an essential meeting place for all Irish communities, but these establishments traditionally seldom served dinner. In the past pubs had two separate sections, that of the bar, reserved for males, and the lounge, open to men and women. This distinction is eroding, as are expectations of gender preference in the consumption of alcohol.

Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. There are few ceremonial food customs. Large family gatherings often sit down to a main meal of roast chicken and ham, and turkey is becoming the preferred dish for Christmas (followed by Christmas cake or plum pudding). Drinking behavior in pubs is ordered informally, in what is perceived by some to be a ritualistic manner of buying drinks in rounds.

Basic Economy. Agriculture is no longer the principal economic activity. Industry accounts for 38 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and 80 percent of exports, and employs 27 percent of the workforce. During the 1990s Ireland enjoyed annual trade surpluses, falling inflation, and increases in construction, consumer spending, and business and consumer investment. Unemployment was down (from 12 percent in 1995 to around 7 percent in 1999) and emigration declined. As of 1998, the labor force consisted of 1.54 million people; as of 1996, 62 percent of the labor force was in services, 27 percent in manufacturing and construction, and 10 percent in agriculture, forestry, and fishing. In 1999 Ireland had the fastest growing economy in the European Union. In the five years to 1999 GDP per capita rose by 60 percent, to approximately $22,000 (U.S.).

Despite its industrialization, Ireland still is an agricultural country, which is important to its self-image and its image for tourists. As of 1993, only 13 percent of its land was arable, while 68 percent was devoted to permanent pastures. While all Irish food producers consume a modest amount of their product, agriculture and fishing are modern, mechanized, and commercial enterprises, with the vast bulk of production going to the national and international markets. Although the image of the small-holding subsistence farmer persists in art, literary, and academic circles, Irish farming and farmers are as advanced in technology and technique as most of their European neighbors. Poverty persists, however, among farmers with small holdings, on poor land, particularly in many parts of the west and south. These farmers, who to survive must rely more on subsistence crops and mixed farming than do their more commercial neighbors, involve all family members in a variety of economic strategies. These activities include off-farm wage labor and the acquisition of state pensions and unemployment benefits ("the dole").

Land Tenure and Property. Ireland was one of the first countries in Europe in which peasants could purchase their landholdings. Today all but a very few farms are family-owned, although some mountain pasture and bog lands are held in common. Cooperatives are principally production and marketing enterprises. An annually changing proportion of pasture and arable land is leased out each year, usually for an eleven-month period, in a traditional system known as conacre.

Major Industries. The main industries are food products, brewing, textiles, clothing, and pharmaceuticals, and Ireland is fast becoming known for its roles in the development and design of information technologies and financial support services. In agriculture the main products are meat and dairy, potatoes, sugar beets, barley, wheat, and turnips. The fishing industry concentrates on cod, haddock, herring, mackerel, and shellfish (crab and lobster). Tourism increases its share of the economy annually; in 1998 total tourism and travel earnings were $3.1 billion (U.S.).

Trade. Ireland had a consistent trade surplus at the end of the 1990s. In 1997 this surplus amounted to $13 billion (U.S). Ireland's main trading partners are the United Kingdom, the rest of the European Union, and the United States.

Division of Labor. In farming, daily and seasonal tasks are divided according to age and gender. Most public activities that deal with farm production are handled by adult males, although some agricultural production associated with the domestic household, such as eggs and honey, are marketed by adult females. Neighbors often help each other with their labor or equipment when seasonal production demands, and this network of local support is sustained through ties of marriage, religion and church, education, political party, and sports. While in the past most blue-collar and wage-labor jobs were held by males, women have increasingly entered the workforce over the last generation, especially in tourism, sales, and information and financial services. Wages and salaries are consistently lower for women, and employment in the tourism industry is often seasonal or temporary. There are very few legal age or gender restrictions to entering professions, but here too men dominate in numbers if not also in influence and control. Irish economic policy has encouraged foreign-owned businesses, as one way to inject capital into underdeveloped parts of the country. The United States and the United Kingdom top the list of foreign investors in Ireland.

Social Stratification

Classes and Castes. The Irish often perceive that their culture is set off from their neighbors by its egalitarianism, reciprocity, and informality, wherein strangers do not wait for introductions to converse, the first name is quickly adopted in business and professional discourse, and the sharing of food, tools, and other valuables is commonplace. These leveling mechanisms alleviate many pressures engendered by class relations, and often belie rather strong divisions of status, prestige, class, and national identity. While the rigid class structure for which the English are renowned is largely absent, social and economic class distinctions exist, and are often reproduced through educational and religious institutions, and the professions. The old British and Anglo-Irish aristocracy are small in number and relatively powerless. They have been replaced at the apex of Irish society by the wealthy, many of whom have made their fortunes in business and professions, and by celebrities from the arts and sports worlds. Social classes are discussed in terms of working class, middle class, and gentry, with certain occupations, such as farmers, often categorized according to their wealth, such as large and small farmers, grouped according to the size of their landholding and capital. The social boundaries between these groups are often indistinct and permeable, but their basic dimensions are clearly discernible to locals through dress, language, conspicuous consumption, leisure activities, social networks, and occupation and profession. Relative wealth and social class also influence life choices, perhaps the most important being that of primary and secondary school, and university, which in turn affects one's class mobility. Some minority groups, such as Travellers, are often portrayed in popular culture as being outside or beneath the accepted social class system, making escape from the underclass as difficult for them as for the long-term unemployed of the inner cities.

Symbols of Social Stratification. Use of language, especially dialect, is a clear indicator of class and other social standing. Dress codes have relaxed over the last generation, but the conspicuous consumption of important symbols of wealth and success, such as designer clothing, good food, travel, and expensive cars and houses, provides important strategies for class mobility and social advancement.

Political Life

Government. The Republic of Ireland is a parliamentary democracy. The National Parliament (Oireachtas ) consists of the president (directly elected by the people), and two houses: Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives) and Seanad Éireann (Senate). Their powers and functions derive from the constitution (enacted 1 July 1937). Representatives to Dáil Éireann, who are called Teachta Dála, or TDs, are elected through proportional representation with a single transferable vote. While legislative power is vested in the Oireachtas, all laws are subject to the obligations of European Community membership, which Ireland joined in 1973. The executive power of the state is vested in the government, composed of the Taoiseach (prime minister) and the cabinet. While a number of political parties are represented in the Oireachtas, governments since the 1930s have been led by either the Fianna Fáil or the Fine Gael party, both of which are center-right parties. County Councils are the principal form of local government, but they have few powers in what is one of the most centralized states in Europe.

Leadership and Political Officials. Irish political culture is marked by its postcolonialism, conservatism, localism, and familism, all of which were influenced by the Irish Catholic Church, British institutions and politics, and Gaelic culture. Irish political leaders must rely on their local political supportwhich depends more on their roles in local society, and their real or imagined roles in networks of patrons and clientsthan it does on their roles as legislators or political administrators. As a result there is no set career path to political prominence, but over the years sports heroes, family members of past politicians, publicans, and military people have had great success in being elected to the Oireachtas. Pervasive in Irish politics is admiration and political support for politicians who can provide pork barrel government services and supplies to his constituents (very few Irish women reach the higher levels of politics, industry, and academia). While there has always been a vocal left in Irish politics, especially in the cities, since the 1920s these parties have seldom been strong, with the occasional success of the Labour Party being the most notable exception. Most Irish political parties do not provide clear and distinct policy differences, and few espouse the political ideologies that characterize other European nations. The major political division is that between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the two largest parties, whose support still derives from the descendants of the two opposing sides in the Civil War, which was fought over whether to accept the compromise treaty that divided the island into the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland. As a result, the electorate does not vote for candidates because of their policy initiatives, but because of a candidate's personal skill in achieving material gain for constituents, and because the voter's family has traditionally supported the candidate's party. This voting pattern depends on local knowledge of the politician, and the informality of local culture, which encourages people to believe that they have direct access to their politicians. Most national and local politicians have regular open office hours where constituents can discuss their problems and concerns without having to make an appointment.

Social Problems and Control. The legal system is based on common law, modified by subsequent legislation and the constitution of 1937. Judicial review of legislation is made by the Supreme Court, which is appointed by the president of Ireland on the advice of the government. Ireland has a long history of political violence, which is still an important aspect of life in Northern Ireland, where paramilitary groups such as the IRA have enjoyed some support from people in the Republic. Under emergency powers acts, certain legal rights and protections can be suspended by the state in the pursuit of terrorists. Crimes of nonpolitical violence are rare, though some, such as spousal and child abuse, may go unreported. Most major crimes, and the crimes most important in popular culture, are those of burglary, theft, larceny, and corruption. Crime rates are higher in urban areas, which in some views results from the poverty endemic to some inner cities. There is a general respect for the law and its agents, but other social controls also exist to sustain moral order. Such institutions as the Catholic Church and the state education system are partly responsible for the overall adherence to rules and respect for authority, but there is an anarchic quality to Irish culture that sets it off from its neighboring British cultures. Interpersonal forms of informal social control include a heightened sense of humor and sarcasm, supported by the general Irish values of reciprocity, irony, and skepticism regarding social hierarchies.

Military Activity. The Irish Defence Forces have army, naval service and air corps branches. The total membership of the permanent forces is approximately 11,800, with 15,000 serving in the reserves. While the military is principally trained to defend Ireland, Irish soldiers have served in most United Nations peacekeeping missions, in part because of Ireland's policy of neutrality. The Defence Forces play an important security role on the border with Northern Ireland. The Irish National Police, An Garda Siochána, is an unarmed force of approximately 10,500 members.

Social Welfare and Change Programs

The national social welfare system mixes social insurance and social assistance programs to provide financial support to the ill, the aged, and the unemployed, benefitting roughly 1.3 million people. State spending on social welfare comprises 25 percent of government expenditures, and about 6 percent of GDP. Other relief agencies, many of which are connected to the churches, also provide valuable financial assistance and social relief programs for the amelioration of the conditions of poverty and inequity.

Nongvernmental Organizations and Other Associations

Civil society is well-developed, and nongovernmental organizations serve all classes, professions, regions, occupations, ethnic groups, and charitable causes. Some are very powerful, such as the Irish Farmers Association, while others, such as the international charitable support organization, Trócaire, a Catholic agency for world development, command widespread financial and moral support. Ireland is one of the highest per capita contributors to private international aid in the world. Since the creation of the Irish state a number of development agencies and utilities have been organized in partly state-owned bodies, such as the Industrial Development Agency, but these are slowly being privatized.

Gender Roles and Statuses

While gender equality in the workplace is guaranteed by law, remarkable inequities exist between the genders in such areas as pay, access to professional achievement, and parity of esteem in the workplace. Certain jobs and professions are still considered by large segments of the population to be gender linked. Some critics charge that gender biases continue to be established and reinforced in the nation's major institutions of government, education, and religion. Feminism is a growing movement in rural and urban areas, but it still faces many obstacles among traditionalists.

Marriage, Family, and Kinship

Marriage. Marriages are seldom arranged in modern Ireland. Monogamous marriages are the norm, as supported and sanctioned by the state and the Christian churches. Divorce has been legal since 1995. Most spouses are selected through the expected means of individual trial and error that have become the norm in Western European society. The demands of farm society and economy still place great pressure on rural men and women to marry, especially in some relatively poor rural districts where there is a high migration rate among women, who go to the cities or emigrate in search of employment and social standing commensurate with their education and social expectations. Marriage festivals for farm men and women, the most famous of which takes place in the early autumn in Lisdoonvarna, has served as one way to bring people together for possible marriage matches, but the increased criticism of such practices in Irish society may endanger their future. The estimated marriage rate per thousand people in 1998 was 4.5. While the average ages of partners at marriage continues to be older than other Western societies, the ages have dropped over the last generation.

Domestic Unit. The nuclear family household is the principal domestic unit, as well as the basic unit of production, consumption, and inheritance in Irish society.

Inheritance. Past rural practices of leaving the patrimony to one son, thereby forcing his siblings into wage labor, the church, the army, or emigration, have been modified by changes in Irish law, gender roles, and the size and structure of families. All children have legal rights to inheritance, although a preference still lingers for farmers' sons to inherit the land, and for a farm to be passed on without division. Similar patterns exist in urban areas, where gender and class are important determinants of the inheritance of property and capital.

Kin Groups. The main kin group is the nuclear family, but extended families and kindreds continue to play important roles in Irish life. Descent is from both parents' families. Children in general adopt their father's surnames. Christian (first) names are often selected to honor an ancestor (most commonly, a grandparent), and in the Catholic tradition most first names are those of saints. Many families continue to use the Irish form of their names (some "Christian" names are in fact pre-Christian and untranslatable into English). Children in the national primary school system are taught to know and use the Irish language equivalent of their names, and it is legal to use your name in either of the two official languages.


Child Rearing and Education. Socialization takes place in the domestic unit, in schools, at church, through the electronic and print media, and in voluntary youth organizations. Particular emphasis is placed on education and literacy; 98 percent of the population aged fifteen and over can read and write. The majority of four-year-olds attend nursery school, and all five-year-olds are in primary school. More than three thousand primary schools serve 500,000 children. Most primary schools are linked to the Catholic Church, and receive capital funding from the state, which also pays most teachers' salaries. Post-primary education involves 370,000 students, in secondary, vocational, community, and comprehensive schools.

Higher Education. Third-level education includes universities, technological colleges, and education colleges. All are self-governing, but are principally funded by the state. About 50 percent of youth attend some form of third-level education, half of whom pursue degrees. Ireland is world famous for its universities, which are the University of Dublin (Trinity College), the National University of Ireland, the University of Limerick, and Dublin City University.


General rules of social etiquette apply across ethnic, class, and religious barriers. Loud, boisterous, and boastful behavior are discouraged. Unacquainted people look directly at each other in public spaces, and often say "hello" in greeting. Outside of formal introductions greetings are often vocal and are not accompanied by a handshake or kiss. Individuals maintain a public personal space around themselves; public touching is rare. Generosity and reciprocity are key values in social exchange, especially in the ritualized forms of group drinking in pubs.


Religious Beliefs. The Irish Constitution guarantees freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion. There is no official state religion, but critics point to the special consideration given to the Catholic Church and its agents since the inception of the state. In the 1991 census 92 percent of the population were Roman Catholic, 2.4 percent belonged to the Church of Ireland (Anglican), 0.4 percent were Presbyterians, and 0.1 percent were Methodists. The Jewish community comprised .04 percent of the total, while approximately 3 percent belonged to other religious groups. No information on religion was returned for 2.4 percent of the population. Christian revivalism is changing many of the ways in which the people relate to each other and to their formal church institutions. Folk cultural beliefs also survive, as evidenced in the many holy and healing places, such as the holy wells that dot the landscape.

Religious Practitioners. The Catholic Church has four ecclesiastical provinces, which encompass the whole island, thus crossing the boundary with Northern Ireland. The Archbishop of Armagh in Northern Ireland is the Primate of All Ireland. The diocesan structure, in which thirteen hundred parishes are served by four thousand priests, dates to the twelfth century and does not coincide with political boundaries. There are approximately twenty thousand people serving in various Catholic religious orders, out of a combined Ireland and Northern Ireland Catholic population of 3.9 million. The Church of Ireland, which has twelve dioceses, is an autonomous church within the worldwide Anglican Communion. Its Primate of All Ireland is the Archbishop of Armagh, and its total membership is 380,000, 75 percent of whom are in Northern Ireland. There are 312,000 Presbyterians on the island (95 percent of whom are in Northern Ireland), grouped into 562 congregations and twenty-one presbyteries.

Rituals and Holy Places. In this predominantly Catholic country there are a number of Church-recognized shrines and holy places, most notably that of Knock, in County Mayo, the site of a reported apparition of the Blessed Mother. Traditional holy places, such as holy wells, attract local people at all times of the year, although many are associated with particular days, saints, rituals, and feasts. Internal pilgrimages to such places as Knock and Croagh Patrick (a mountain in County Mayo associated with Saint Patrick) are important aspects of Catholic belief, which often reflect the integration of formal and traditional religious practices. The holy days of the official Irish Catholic Church calendar are observed as national holidays.

Death and the Afterlife. Funerary customs are inextricably linked to various Catholic Church religious rituals. While wakes continue to be held in homes, the practice of utilizing funeral directors and parlors is gaining in popularity.

Medicine and Health Care

Medical services are provided free of charge by the state to approximately a third of the population. All others pay minimal charges at public health facilities. There are roughly 128 doctors for every 100,000 people. Various forms of folk and alternative medicines exist throughout the island; most rural communities have locally known healers or healing places. Religious sites, such as the pilgrimage destination of Knock, and rituals are also known for their healing powers.

Secular Celebrations

The national holidays are linked to national and religious history, such as Saint Patrick's Day, Christmas, and Easter, or are seasonal bank and public holidays which occur on Mondays, allowing for long weekends.

The Arts and Humanities

Literature. The literary renaissance of the late nineteenth century integrated the hundreds-year-old traditions of writing in Irish with those of English, in what has come to be known as Anglo-Irish literature. Some of the greatest writers in English over the last century were Irish: W. B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Frank O'Connor, Seán O'Faoláin, Seán O'Casey, Flann O'Brien, and Seamus Heaney. They and many others have constituted an unsurpassable record of a national experience that has universal appeal.

Graphic Arts. High, popular, and folk arts are highly valued aspects of local life throughout Ireland. Graphic and visual arts are strongly supported by the government through its Arts Council and the 1997-formed Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht, and the Islands. All major international art movements have their Irish representatives, who are often equally inspired by native or traditional motifs. Among the most important artists of the century are Jack B. Yeats and Paul Henry.

Performance Arts. Performers and artists are especially valued members of the Irish nation, which is renowned internationally for the quality of its music, acting, singing, dancing, composing, and writing. U2 and Van Morrison in rock, Daniel O'Donnell in country, James Galway in classical, and the Chieftains in Irish traditional music are but a sampling of the artists who have been important influences on the development of international music. Irish traditional music and dance have also spawned the global phenomenon of Riverdance. Irish cinema celebrated its centenary in 1996. Ireland has been the site and the inspiration for the production of feature films since 1910. Major directors (such as Neill Jordan and Jim Sheridan) and actors (such as Liam Neeson and Stephen Rhea) are part of a national interest in the representation of contemporary Ireland, as symbolized in the state-sponsored Film Institute of Ireland.

The State of the Physical and Social Sciences

The government is the principal source of financial support for academic research in the physical and social sciences, which are broadly and strongly represented in the nation's universities and in government-sponsored bodies, such as the Economic and Social Research Institute in Dublin. Institutions of higher learning draw relatively high numbers of international students at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, and Irish researchers are to be found in all areas of academic and applied research throughout the world.


Clancy, Patrick, Sheelagh Drudy, Kathleen Lynch, and Liam O'Dowd, eds.Irish Society: Sociological Perspectives, 1995.

Curtin, Chris, Hastings Donnan, and Thomas M. Wilson, eds. Irish Urban Cultures, 1993.

Taylor, Lawrence J. Occasions of Faith: An Anthropology of Irish Catholics, 1995.

Wilson, Thomas M. "Themes in the Anthropology of Ireland." In Susan Parman, ed., Europe in the Anthropological Imagination, 1998.

Web Sites

CAIN Project. Background Information on Northern Ireland SocietyPopulation and Vital Statistics. Electronic document. Available from:

Government of Ireland, Central Statistics Office, Principal Statistics. Electronic document. Available from

Government of Ireland, Department of Foreign Affairs. Facts about Ireland. Electronic document. Available from

Thomas M. Wilson

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