Europe

Ireland country profile

Map of Ireland

Ireland emerged from the conflict that marked its birth as an independent state to become one of Europe's economic success stories in the final decade of the twentieth century.

After the country joined the European Community in 1973, it was transformed from a largely agricultural society into a modern, high-technology economy.

However, the economy collapsed following the 2008 global financial crisis. With the help of an international bailout, Ireland has been recovering once more.

Its strong literary and musical traditions, as well as its long history of emigration, have given Ireland an international cultural presence disproportionate to its size.

Six Protestant-dominated counties of Northern Ireland - afraid of a majority Catholic united Ireland - opted to stay in the United Kingdom in 1921.

Northern Ireland subsequently saw decades of violent conflict between those campaigning for a united Ireland, and those wishing to stay in the United Kingdom, until a communal power-sharing agreement came into force in 1999.

FACTS

Ireland

Capital: Dublin

  • Population 4.6 million

  • Area 70,182 sq km (27,097 sq miles)

  • Major languages English, Irish

  • Major religion Christianity

  • Life expectancy 78 years (men), 83 years (women)

  • Currency euro

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LEADERS

President: Michael D Higgins

Image copyright LEFTERIS PITARAKIS/AFP/Getty Images

Michael D Higgins, a veteran left-wing politician, poet and human rights activist was elected president in 2011.

He is a former Galway university lecturer and published poet who has dedicated his four-decade political career to championing Irish culture and left-wing causes worldwide. He is an Irish speaker.

The president wields little power beyond the ability to refer potentially unconstitutional legislation to the Supreme Court, but has an important symbolic role in representing Ireland at the national and international level.

Prime minister (Taoiseach): Leo Varadkar

Image copyright PAULO NUNES DOS SANTOS/AFP/Getty Imag/Getty Images

A doctor of part-Indian parentage, Leo Varadkar was elected leader of the centre-right Fine Gael party in June 2017, on the resignation of Enda Kenny. He succeeded Mr Kenny as head of a minority government later in the month.

Mr Varadkar, born in 1979, is Ireland's youngest prime minister, and is also the country's first openly gay party leader, not to mention the first of Indian heritage.

His main tasks will be to manage the implications for Ireland of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.

MEDIA

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The Irish are well connected, with 82% of the population online by 2015 and about 56% subscribed to Facebook.

Print and broadcast media operate freely within the confines of the law. Broadcasting - commercial and public - is regulated by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. The Competition Authority safeguards against unfair competition in the press sector.

TIMELINE

Some key dates in Ireland's history:

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ireland has seen much conflict, including the year-long civil war between 1922 and 1923

1801 - Kingdom of Ireland annexed to Great Britain under the Act of Union.

1840s - Great potato famine: Ireland's staple crop fails, starving a million people to death and forcing many more to flee abroad.

1916 - Nationalists stage Easter Rising, seizing the General Post Office in Dublin and proclaiming an independent Irish republic. The rising is crushed by the British who execute its leaders. Irish public is outraged.

1919 - Led by Eamonn De Valera, the nationalist movement Sinn Fein sets up a Dublin assembly, which again proclaims Irish independence. A guerrilla campaign by the Irish Republican Army, or IRA, against British forces begins with heavy casualties on both sides.

1921 - Anglo-Irish Treaty establishes the Free State, an independent dominion of the British crown with full internal self-government rights, partitioned from Northern Ireland. Dissatisfaction with the treaty prompts the year-long Irish Civil War.

1949 - Independence. Republic of Ireland and leaves British Commonwealth.

1973 - Ireland joins the European Economic Community.

Early 1980s - Ireland faces severe economic problems, with rising debt and unemployment.

Mid-1990s - mid-2000s - Rapid economic growth earns Ireland reputation of "the Celtic Tiger".

2008 - Global financial crisis hits Ireland hard. In 2010 it agrees a bailout with the EU and IMF.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The economy crashed in 2008 but Ireland won praise for recovering from the crisis

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