Ireland is a country, which was first invaded by humans 9000 years ago. Comprised chiefly of low central plains, the countryside is uneven and mountainous in the southwestern and western side. Often referred as the Emerald Isle because of its green vegetation, Ireland is home to the largest river of the British Isle. River Shannon runs through the plain of Ireland for about 259 Kms.
Romans called Ireland Hibernia. At around AD 100 Ptolemy documented Ireland's geography and tribes. But local accounts of those times are found in Irish poetry and, myth, and archaeology. The relationship between Rome and the tribes of Hibernia is still unknown. In AD 432, St. Patrick arrived in Ireland and influenced the Irish to embrace Christianity. After this in the next few centuries Ireland produced many scholars who flourished in the study of Latin.
Republic of Ireland was neutral during World War II, but in the post war era suffered from extreme poverty and immigration problem. But the economy turned around dramatically during the 1990s and by the year 2000 was bracketed among the richest countries of the European Union. Today, people of different origins reside in Ireland helping their new homeland to become one of the major economic powers of the European Union.
Ireland covers an area of 84,079 km². Due to its thriving green vegetation it is often referred as the "Emerald Isle". The longest river in Ireland or Britain Shannon cuts this island into two and runs through its plains for about 259 Kms. The landscape consists mainly of low central plains surrounded by a ring of coastal mountains. The four main provinces of Ireland are Connacht, Leinster, Munster and Ulster, which are further subdivided into 32 counties for administrative reasons. The lands where southwestern and western counties are situated are rocky and mountainous, which provides beautiful green sceneries.
Ireland is blessed with a pleasant maritime climate. This is mainly due to its nearness to the Atlantic Ocean and the existence of the Gulf Stream.
During winters, weather is cloudy and there are frequent rainfall accompanied by the occasional sunshine. Though the mountains are covered with snow for many weeks in winter, it comes down only on a few days of the year. Temperatures hang around 5ºC in January. Overnight temperatures often go below freezing point, and ice and frosts are quite common.
Summers in Ireland are warm, which are accompanied occasionally by rain. In July and August, the conditions become very humid and thunderstorms usually occur with lightning. The average July temperature is 15ºC, although temperatures over 30ºC are not unheard of.
Areas close to the coast hardly ever have a great difference between summer and winter conditions. The weather is much more consistent than continental areas of the world. This consistency is due to the temperate effect of the Atlantic Ocean.
Across Ireland, the local climate varies from region to region. In terms of temperature, it is the south that enjoys the warmest weather. While the north coast is cooler than the south, the coolest areas are the inland areas, which are away from the warm waters of the ocean.
The Rock of Cashel
Facing numerous invasions by various tribes, the history of Ireland can be traced back to as early as 9th or 8th century BC. However, with the passing of time, the country went through numerous changes. Ireland saw the dawn of Bronze Age around 2500 BC. The gold and bronze ornaments and other weapons found from the relics are testimonies of the life led by the people of Ireland, during that time. Soon after, between 8th century and 1st century BC, Ireland was invaded by the Gael, belonging to the Celts, further colonizing the island and dividing into half a dozen kingdoms. Moreover, it is said that with the invasion of the Celts, Ireland experienced the Iron Age.
With the passing of time these invasions brought a new wave of cultural flow in Ireland. During the Middle Ages St. Patrick arrived in Ireland. It was around 432 Ad to be exact. He started preaching the ideals of Christianity. The new faith with its different rituals was accepted by the Irish with open arms. The impact resulting into thriving of Christianity. Monasteries flourished, spreading the new religion.
The intellectuals of Ireland excelled one and all where the study of Latin was concerned. During this period of time various works of art, metal works, carvings and writing of different manuscripts prospered in leaps and bounds. Designed during this time are numerous carved stone crosses, art manuscripts and ornate jewelleries that can be seen even in the present day. Few famous sites of this period include clochans, ringforts and promontory forts.
However, with the beginning of 9th century Ireland went through further turmoil. The Viking invaders attacked the island and this battle of wits and power continued for 200 long years. This resulted into the drainage of immense wealth. In addition art and architecture came to a halt. The Vikings destroyed towns, demolished monasteries bringing mammoth chaos all over the country. At the end they established many cities that include the modern day towns of Dublin, Cork, Waterford, and so on.
By the end of 12th century, England captured Ireland and thus under the reign of King Henry II English rule began. Between 13th and 16th century the English rule flourished. The English rulers slowly expanded their territories, bringing under their folds different towns and cities one by one. Ireland during this time saw the complete disintegration of Gaelic social and political scenario. Many Gaelic leaders took refuge in the neighbouring countries of France and Rome. Although, with the conquering of Elizabethan army in 1603, the Gaelic officials, unable to bear the English rule left their hometowns and took titles in Catholic Europe. With end of Gaelic autocracy the power of right to vote was taken away from the Irish Catholics.
Between the year 1800 and 1840, Ireland went through few rapid political changes. The Act of Union bill was passed by the Parliament that combined the two kingdoms of Ireland and Great Britain. This was a major change since this act brought the whole of Ireland under the British domain. The Great Famine that took place in the middle of 19th century wrecked havoc all over the country, killing over 1 million of Irish people.
Soon started the struggle for freedom in Ireland. Militant nationalism giving way to various movement and revolts began quite rapidly. With the conclusion of Anglo-Irish War in early 20th century, 1922 to be exact, twenty-six counties of Ireland got their sovereignty. Soon after this incident a Civil War broke.
Ireland never participated directly in the World Wars. At first the country remained as mere neutral onlooker. Nevertheless, during the Second World War they offered some support to the Allies. In 1949, Ireland became a republic and came to be known as Republic of Ireland. Earlier, Ireland had gone through severe economic disaster along with immigration crisis. But from 1990s, Ireland witnessed a drastic change in economic superstructure. This decade took Ireland to its financial peak. This sensational incident is known as “Celtic Tiger”. At present Ireland is one of the most affluent and prosperous country in Europe. Nonetheless, Ireland still strives to maintain its rich historical heritage taking all the past mayhems in its stride.
The River Liffey in Dublin
Presently Ireland is booming with economic growth and financial success. Being a completely trade dependent country, Ireland is at present the second richest country in Europe, the first being Luxemburg. Moreover, Dublin, the capital of the country, has been ranked 22nd, by a survey conducted in 2004 regarding worldwide cost of living. With an average growth of 10% per year in trade sectors, agriculture has taken up a backseat. From the year 1995, this trade and industry success has resulted into export in grand scale. Other than this the rapid increase consumer spending has also improved the scenario. The present economic infrastructure consists of 46% of GDP, about 80% of exports, and employs 29% of the labour force. Apart from this, construction companies have grown along with people bending more towards business investments. In the year 2005, the inflation stood at 2.3%, though the rates fluctuate between 4% and 5%. Rise in price are becoming some features of concern along with the subject of insurance, healthcare and other such sectors.
President is the head of state. Though his functions are largely ceremonial, he does possess some special power. He is elected by secret ballot and can remain in power for seven years. He cannot stand for more than 2 terms.
The cabinet comprises of Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and thirteen ministers. They take care of different Government run processes and to remain in power they should have the support of the lower house of parliament. The president appoints the cabinet members with previous nomination by the prime minister.
The parliament of the Republic of Ireland is also known as the Oireachtas. The Oireachtas comprises of the President and two houses: Dail Éireann or House of Representatives and Seanad Éireann, which is also known as the Senate. The Dail is the main tier of the legislature. It has 166 members who are elected through popular vote for five-year terms.
The Judiciary comprises of Supreme Court, the High Court and a few other lower courts established by law. The President appoints judges after the Government nominates them. They can be removed from office only for misbehaviour or inability. This is done by resolution of both houses of the Oireachtas.
Trinity College, Dublin