Republic of Ireland

This article deals with the Republic of Ireland. The island as a whole is dealt with at Ireland; there is also Northern Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland is a state which covers approximately five-sixths of the island of Ireland, off the coast of northwest Europe. The remaining sixth of the island of Ireland is known as Northern Ireland and is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The country's official constitutional name is Éire, and it is commonly called Ireland, a name which is sometimes controversially used as its diplomatic name. (In this article, unless otherwise indicated, Ireland refers to the Republic of Ireland.)

Éire / Republic of Ireland
(In Detail)
National motto: None
Official languages Irish, English secondary
Capital Dublin
Largest City Dublin
PresidentMary McAleese
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern, TD
Area
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 117th
70,273 km²
2%
Population
 - Total (2002)
 - Density
Ranked 121st
3,917,336
56/km²
Independence
 - Date
Anglo-Irish Treaty
December 6, 1921
Currency Euro¹, Irish euro coins
Time zone WET (UTC; UTC+1 in summer)
National anthem Amhrán na bhFiann (the Soldier's Song)
Internet TLD .IE
Calling Code353
(1) Prior to 1999: Irish Punt

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 Counties
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 Miscellaneous topics
9 Reference
10 External links

History

Main articles: History of Ireland, History of the Republic of Ireland

The difference between the island of Ireland (which was once governed as a unit) and the Republic of Ireland (which covers 26 of the 32 counties on the island) is a product of complex constitutional developments in the first half of the twentieth century.

From 1 January 1801 until 6 December 1922 Ireland as one unit was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1919, most Irish MPs elected in the 1918 British general election declined to take their seats in the British House of Commons. Instead they set up a rival extra-legal Irish parliament called Dáil Éireann. This Dáil in January 1919 issued a Unilateral Declaration of Independence in the name of a proclaimed Irish Republic. In reality this republic received no international recognition. After a bitterly fought Anglo-Irish War (also known as the Irish War of Independence) representatives of the British government and the Irish republic's Áireacht (cabinet) in 1921 negotiated an Anglo-Irish Treaty created a whole new system of legal Irish self government, known as dominion status.

A new internationally recognised Irish state called the Irish Free State (in the Irish language Saorstát Éireann) was created. The new Free State was in theory to cover the entire island, subject to the proviso that Northern Ireland (which had been created as a separate entity under the Government of Ireland Act, 1920 could opt out and choose to remain part of the United Kingdom, which it duly did. The remaining 26 counties of Ireland became the Irish Free State, a constitutional monarchy over which the British monarch reigned (from 1927 with the title King of Ireland). It had a Governor-General, a bicameral parliament, a cabinet called the Executive Council and a prime minister called the President of the Executive Council. The constitution was called the Irish Free State Constitution.

On the 29 December 1937 a new constitution Bunreacht na hÉireann came into being. It replaced the Irish Free State by a new state called Éire. Though this state's constitutional structures provided for a President of Ireland instead of a king, it was not a republic. The principal key role possessed by a head of state, that of representing the state symbolically internationally remained vested in statute law in the King as an organ. On 1 April 1949 the Republic of Ireland Act declared Éire a republic, with the functions previously given to the King given instead to the President of Ireland.

Though the official name of the state remained Éire,(Article 4, "The name of the state is Éire, or in the English language, Ireland.") the term Republic of Ireland (officially just the description of the new state), came to be used as its name. While the Republic choses to use the word Ireland to describe itself, particularly in the diplomatic sphere (thus it is always the President of Ireland and the Constitution of Ireland), many states avoid using that term because of the existence of a second Ireland, Northern Ireland, and because the 1937 constitution claimed that the south had jurisdiction over the north. Using the word 'Ireland' was taken as accepting that claim and so caused offence in Northern Ireland. That claim, in what was known as Articles 2 and 3 of the 1937 constitution, was repealed in 1999.

The Irish Free State/Éire remained a member of the British Commonwealth until the declaration of a republic in April 1949. Under Commonwealth rules at the time, declaration of a republic automatically terminated membership of the association. This was before the rules were changed to allow India to become a republic within the Commonweath. Although Ireland ceased to be a member and chose not to re-apply for membership, it retained many of the privileges of Commonwealth membership. To this day, for example, Irish citizens resident in the United Kingdom enjoy all the rights of citizenship, including the right to and stand for office in local or parliamentary elections, serve in the British forces.

Ireland joined the United Nations in 1955 and the European Economic Community (now called the European Union) in 1973. Irish governments have sought the peaceful unification of Ireland and have cooperated with Britain against the violent conflict between paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles. A peace settlement for Northern Ireland, known as the Belfast Agreement and approved in 1998 in a vote in both the Republic and Northern Ireland, is currently being implemented.

Politics

Main article: Politics of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland is a republic, with a parliamentary system of government. The President of Ireland (Uachtaráin na hÉireann), who serves as head of state, is elected for a 7-year term and can be re-elected only once. In carrying out certain constitutional powers and functions, the president is aided by the Council of State, an advisory body. The prime minister, the Taoiseach, is appointed by the president on the nomination of parliament. The Taoiseach is normally the leader of the political party, or a coalition, which wins the most seats in the national elections.

The bicameral parliament, the Oireachtas, consists of a Senate, the Seanad Éireann, and a House of Representatives, the Dáil Éireann. The Seanad is composed of 60 members; 11 nominated by the Taoiseach, 6 elected by the national universities, and 43 elected from panels of candidates established on a vocational basis. The Dáil has 166 members, Teachtaí Dála or Deputies, elected to represent multi-seat constituencies under the system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote. Under the Irish constitution (Bunreacht na hÉireann), parliamentary elections must be held at least every 7 years, though a lower limit may be set by statute law. The current statutory maximum term is every 5 years.

The Government (Án Rialtas) is constitutionally limited to 15 members. No more than two members of the Government can be selected from the Senate, and the Taoiseach, Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) and Minister for Finance must be members of the Dáil. The current government is made up of a coalition of two parties; Fianna Fáil under Taoiseach Bertie Ahern and the Progressive Democrats under Tánaiste Mary Harney. The main opposition in the current Dáil is made up of Fine Gael and Labour. Smaller parties such as Sinn Féin and the Green Party also have representation in Dáil Éireann.

Counties

Main article: Counties of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland is traditionally described as having 26 counties, which continue to be in use in e.g. a cultural, historical and sporting context. As local governmental units some have been restructured, with County Dublin broken up into four new counties in the 1990s, while County Tipperary has in fact been two separate counties for generations, producing a total of 30 administrative counties:

Geography

Main article:
Geography of Ireland

The island of Ireland extends over 84,421 km² of which five-sixths belong to the Republic, with the remainder constituting Northern Ireland. It is bound to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the northeast by the North Channel. To the east is found the Irish Sea which reconnects to the ocean via the southwest with St. George's Channel and the Celtic Sea. The west-coast of Ireland mostly consists of cliffs, hills and low mountains (the highest point being Carrauntoohil at 1,041 m). The centre of the country is relatively flat farmland, traversed by rivers such as the Shannon and several large lakes or loughs.

The local temperate climate is modified by the North Atlantic Current and relatively mild. Summers are rarely very hot, but it freezes only occasionally in winter. Precipitation is very common, with up to 275 days with rain in some parts of the country. Chief cities are the capital Dublin on the east coast, Cork in the south, and Galway and Limerick on the west coast (see Towns and cities of the Republic of Ireland).

Economy

Main article: Economy of Ireland

The Republic of Ireland is a small, modern, trade-dependent economy with growth averaging a robust 9% in 1995-2001. Agriculture, once the most important sector, is now dwarfed by industry, which accounts for 38% of GDP, about 80% of exports, and employs 28% of the labour force. Although exports remain the primary engine for Ireland's robust growth, the economy is also benefiting from a rise in consumer spending and recovery in both construction and business investment.

Over the past decade, the Irish government has implemented a series of national economic programs designed to curb inflation, reduce government spending, increase labour force skills, and promote foreign investment. Ireland joined in launching the euro currency system in January 1999 along with 11 other EU nations. This period of high economic growth came to be called the Celtic Tiger. The economy felt the impact of the global economic slowdown in 2001, particularly in the high-tech export sector; the growth rate was cut by nearly half. Growth in 2002 is expected to fall in the 3%-5% range.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Ireland

Most Irish are either of Celtic or English ethnicity. The official languages are Irish (Gaelic), the native Celtic language, and English, which is constitutionally described as a secondary official language. Learning Irish is compulsory in education, but English is by far the predominant language. Public signs are usually bilingual and national media in Irish also exist. People living in predominantly Irish speaking communities (the Gaeltacht) are limited to the low tens of thousands in isolated pockets largely on the western seaboard.

The Republic of Ireland is officially 92% Roman Catholic. However there had been a massive decline in adherence to Roman Catholicism among Irish Catholics. Between 1996 and 2001, regular Mass attendance, already previously in decline, declined from 60% to 48% (it had been 90%+ in 1973), and all but two of its priest-training seminaries have either closed or are expected to close soon. The Church was also hit in the 1990s by a series of sexual scandals and cover-up charges against its hierarchy. In 1995, after an approx. 58-year ban, voters chose to re-legalize divorce in the Republic.

The second largest religion, the Church of Ireland (Anglican), having been in decline for most of the twentieth century, has now experienced an increase in membership, according to the 2002 census, as have other small Christian denominations and Islam. The very small Jewish Congregation in Ireland however has continued to decline in numbers.

Culture

Main article: Culture of Ireland

The island of Ireland has produced the Book of Kells, Guinness, Irish traditional music, and writers such as George Berkeley, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Séamus Heaney, and others. Shaw, Yeats, Beckett and Heaney are Nobel Literature laureates.

The most famous Irish exports in the late twentieth century included the rock group U2, Sinéad O'Connor, Bob Geldof, The Corrs and the dance show Riverdance. Its most prominent world figure was Mary Robinson, from 1997 to 2002, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Miscellaneous topics

Reference

External links


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