Ireland, Republic of

views updated May 29 2018

Ireland, Republic of


70,280sq km (27,135sq mi)



capital (population):

Dublin (953,000)


Multiparty republic

ethnic groups:

Irish 94%


Irish and English (both official)


Christianity (Roman Catholic 93%, Protestant 3%)


Euro = 100 cents

Country occupying most of the island of Ireland, nw Europe. The Republic of Ireland occupies more than 80% of the island of Ireland. It is divided into four provinces of 26 counties (see individual articles). The capital is Dublin (Gaelic, Baile Atha Cliath). Other major cities include Cork and Limerick. (For land, climate, and pre-1922 history and politics, see Ireland)

History and Politics

In January 1922, the Irish Free State was created as a Dominion within the British Empire. Arthur Griffith of Sinn Féin became Taoiseach. Civil war (1922–23) ensued between supporters of the settlement, and those who refused to countenance the partition of Ireland and the creation of Northern Ireland. The anti-settlement party, led by Eamon De Valera, were defeated by Irish Free State forces led by Michael Collins. Collins was assasinated and William Cosgrave became prime minister (1922–32). In 1926, De Valera formed a separate party, Fianna Fáil, and became Taoiseach (1932–48, 1951–54, 1957–59). In 1933, Fine Gael was founded.

In 1937 a new constitution declared the sovereign nation of Éire to be the whole island of Ireland, and abolished the oath of loyalty to the English crown. During World War II, Éire remained neutral. It opposed Allied operations in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) pursued a pro-German line. In 1949, Ireland became a republic outside of the Commonwealth. Its claim to the six counties of Northern Ireland was reiterated. In 1955, Ireland joined the United Nations. In 1959, De Valera became president (1959–73). During the 1950s, the IRA was banned by both Irish governments and, as a secret organization, it conducted bombing campaigns in Northern Ireland and England. Relations with Northern Ireland improved. In 1973, Ireland joined the European Community (EC). During the 1980s, a series of short-lived coalition governments led by Charles Haughey and Dr Garrett Fitzgerald caused political uncertainty. The Anglo-Irish Agreement (1985) gave Ireland a consultative role in the affairs of Northern Ireland. Mary Robinson became Ireland's first female president in 1990 elections.

The Downing Street Declaration (1993), signed by John Major and Albert Reynolds, continued the momentum for a peaceful settlement in Northern Ireland. The Republic agreed to relinquish its claim to Northern Ireland if a majority of the North voted to remain in the UK. In 1995 elections, John Bruton, leader of Fine Gael, defeated Reynolds. Following a 1995 referendum, divorce was legalized. Abortion remains a contentious political issue. In 1997 elections, Bertie Ahern became Taoiseach and Mary McAleese became president. In the Good Friday Agreement (1998), the Irish Republic gave up its constitutional claim to Northern Ireland and a North-South Ministerial Council was established. In 1999, Ireland joined the euro. Bertie Ahern was re-elected in 2002.


Ireland benefited greatly from its membership of the European Union (2000 GDP per capita, US$21,600). In particular, Common Agricultural Policy grants enabled the modernization of farming. Agriculture employs 14% of the workforce. Food and live animals account for more than 20% of exports. Fishing is also important. Industry greatly expanded in the 20th century and accounts for 35% of GNP. High-tech industries supplemented traditional sectors such as brewing, distilling, and textiles. The service sector employs 57% of the workforce and accounts for more than 50% of GNP. Tourism is very important; receipts from tourism amounted to US$3495 million (1999).

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Physical map


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Republic of Ireland

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