Ireland, Republic of
70,280sq km (27,135sq mi)
Irish and English (both official)
Christianity (Roman Catholic 93%, Protestant 3%)
Euro = 100 cents
History and PoliticsIn 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.