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About Ireland

For a small country, Ireland has made a big impact. We've given the world saints and scholars, artists and entrepreneurs, scientists and sporting heroes. We've built a reputation for innovation, hard work and determination but we've still kept our inimitable outlook on life. Ireland is unique - let us show you why...

Ireland at a glance

  • Name: Ireland (Éire in Irish)
  • Capital: Dublin
  • Population: 4.9 million
  • Languages: English and Irish
  • Government: Republic
  • Head of government: An Taoiseach Michéal Martin
  • Head of state: President Michael D Higgins
  • Currency: Euro
  • Flag: Tricolour of green, white and orange
  • Emblem: Harp
  • National Day: Saint Patrick's Day, 17 March

 

  • Our history
  • Our economy
  • Our culture
  • Our languages

Our history

Our History

From passage tombs older than the pyramids to cities founded by Vikings, crumbling castles to grand country estates, Ireland's history is etched on our landscape. In the 7,000 years that this country has been inhabited, we've been invaded and settled by the Celts, the Vikings, the Normans, the English and the Scots and they have all left their mark on our history, geography, culture, language and people.

Did you know? Saint Patrick is credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland in the fifth century.

Trinity Library  © Phil Behan / DFAT

The Long Room in Trinity College, Dublin. © Phil Behan.

A new state

When the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed in 1921, Ireland entered a new chapter in its history. The Treaty saw an end to the War of Independence, and the establishment of an Irish state made up of 26 counties, with six Ulster counties administered by a devolved Government within the United Kingdom. The Constitution of Ireland of 1937, provides that Ireland (or Éire in Irish) is the official name of the State and following the enactment of the Republic of Ireland Act of 1948, in 1949, Ireland became a Republic.

Did you know? Ireland became a member of the United Nations in 1955 and joined what is now the European Union in 1973.

Northern Ireland

After the War of Independence in 1921, Northern Ireland had its own devolved government, controlled by the Unionist majority until 1972. However, discrimination against Nationalists in voting, housing and employment and the repression of Nationalist civil rights campaigners led to civil unrest and was followed by the period of sustained conflict known as the Troubles.

From the 1980s onwards, the Irish and British governments began to work more closely together to achieve peace, culminating in the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. The Agreement set out a framework for both communities in Northern Ireland to resolve their differences and ended decades of violence.

Did you know? The Good Friday Agreement was overwhelmingly approved by the people of Ireland in referendums both North and South in 1998.

 

Our economy

 

A combination of the global financial crisis, a lengthy property market boom and severe problems within the Irish banking system led to a recession in 2008. The economy has since recovered and now enjoys one of the highest levels of economic growth in the European Union.

Foreign Direct Investment continues to play a key role in Ireland's economic development, supplying a large numbers of jobs that have helped to ensure continuous, and most importantly sustainable, growth since 2011. Ireland takes pride in being one of the best countries in the world in which to do business with many foreign-owned companies, including numerous global leaders, choosing Ireland as their strategic European base. A strong indigenous sector is also central to the economy, including the export-led food and drink industry; while an extensive tourism industry draws large numbers of visitors to Ireland.

While Brexit undoubtedly presents a considerable challenge to the Irish economy given our close links and high levels of bilateral trade, the Irish Government is preparing thoroughly and key indicators suggest that the economy will continue to perform strongly.

Our culture

Our Culture

Our unique culture and heritage feed our creativity and make us what we are. We tell the story of Ireland and her people through our music, poetry, art, literature and film. Sometimes it's joyous, sometimes tragic. It can make us laugh and it can force us to face uncomfortable truths but it is always, always inspiring.

Did you know? Ireland has produced four winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature: George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney.

 

Our languages

Bog, brogue, galore, whiskey, Tory, smithereens, the 'Mac' in 'Big Mac' – what do these English words have in common? They are all words which have entered into English from the Irish language. The Irish language (sometimes called Gaelic) is a Celtic language which came to Ireland over 2,500 years ago and is still spoken today in Ireland and around the world. It is one of the two official languages of Ireland, along with English, and is one of the 24 official languages of the European Union.

Unlike English, which is a Germanic language and is closely related to German, Dutch and the Nordic languages, the Irish language is a Celtic language and belongs to a separate branch of the Indo-European language tree. The other Celtic languages spoken today are Welsh, Scottish Gaelic, Manx, Cornish and Breton. Celtic languages were once widespread throughout continental Europe, but with the expansion of the Roman Empire they were pushed to the islands off the north western coast of the continent.

For many centuries Irish was the most widely spoken language on the island of Ireland. Over the years the language was influenced by successive arrivals of Latin, Norse and French-speaking settlers. Throughout this time Irish remained the language of government and commerce. This changed around the 16th century with the arrival of large numbers of English speaking settlers and the imposition of English as the language of government. Combined with the commercial benefits that came with learning English as well as the mass emigration of poor Irish speakers caused by the Great Famine of 1846-48, this led to the Irish language almost dying out by the late 19th century. The majority of remaining Irish speakers lived in areas along the west coast known as 'Gaeltachtaí'.

The late 19th century however saw a revival of the language through a cultural movement which aimed to bring Irish people back into contact with their own history and culture. Interestingly, this movement was started with the help of German Celtic scholars including Johann Kaspar Zeuss and Kuno Meyer. With the founding of Conradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League) in 1893 the language gained in popularity and began to be taught and studied again throughout the island. Many of the early members of the Gaelic League went on to play leading roles in the Irish independence movement, and the first president of the new independent Irish state was none other than the Gaelic League's founder, Douglas Hyde.

Today, with rise of the internet and of technology like machine assisted translation and social media, the Irish language is undergoing a second revival. It is especially gaining in popularity among young people and people of other nationalities who are coming into contact with the language for the first time through language learning apps. Social media allows groups of Irish speakers to communicate no matter where they are in Ireland or indeed around the globe. There are many groups of Irish speakers throughout Germany and the language is taught at some German universities.

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