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.
Long under English or British rule, Ireland lost half its population in the decades following the Great Famine of the 1840s to death and emigration.
After World War I, independence from the United Kingdom was only achieved at the price of civil war and partition. Northern Ireland remains part of Britain.
After the country joined the European Community in 1973, it was transformed from a largely agricultural society into a modern, high-technology economy.
For centuries British dominion in Ireland gave rise to unrest which finally erupted into violence with the Easter Rising of 1916, when independence was proclaimed. The rising was crushed and many of its leaders executed, but the campaign for independence carried on through a bloody Anglo-Irish War of 1919-1921.
At a glance
- Politics: Prime Minister Enda Kenny from Fine Gael leads a coalition that ousted Fianna Fail, traditionally the main force in parliament, in 2011
- Economy: Ireland was confined to a financial straitjacket by international lenders from 2010 to 2013 after debt and deficit problems brought the economy close to collapse
- International: Ireland is active in international peacekeeping. It pursues military neutrality and is not a member of Nato. Ireland is an EU member and eurozone country
Country profiles compiled by BBC Monitoring
It was in 1922 that 26 counties of Ireland gained independence from London following negotiations which led to the other six counties, part of the province of Ulster, remaining in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Partition was followed by a year of civil war.
Relations between Dublin and London remained strained for many years afterwards. Northern Ireland saw decades of violent conflict between those campaigning for a united Ireland and those wishing to stay in the United Kingdom.
In an unprecedented and concerted effort to resolve the situation, the Irish and UK governments worked closely together in negotiations which led to the Good Friday Agreement on the future of Northern Ireland in 1998.Boom to bust
Ireland's economy began to grow rapidly in the 1990s, fuelled by foreign investment. This attracted a wave of incomers to a country where, traditionally, mass emigration had been the norm.
The boom that earned Ireland the nickname of "Celtic Tiger" faltered when the country fell into recession in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2008.
The property boom had been fuelled by massive lending from the banks, and when this collapsed - and lenders were unable to repay - the Irish banking system was plunged into crisis.
The Irish economy underwent one of the deepest recessions in the eurozone, with its economy shrinking by 10% in 2009.
In November 2010, the EU/IMF agreed to bail out Ireland to the tune of 85bn euros, on condition that strict austerity measures were imposed and that the government agreed to implement structural reforms and to accept three-monthly reviews of the country's progress.
The national humiliation that this entailed led to the fall of the Fianna Fail government that agreed to the 2010 rescue package and the coming to power of a Fine Gael/Labour coalition in 2011.
The new government led by Enda Kenny endorsed Ireland's commitment to the EU-backed austerity programme, and in December 2013 Ireland became the first bailed-out eurozone nation to fulfil the conditions required for it to exit the strict bailout regime.
The Irish economy has pulled out of the deep recession into which it plunged during the financial crisis, but the experience has left permanent scars on the national psyche.
A survey published in 2013 found that 60% of families were struggling to make ends meet - double the number from four years previously. Homelessness increased by 20% between 2010 and 2013, and 200,000 people are estimated to have left the country between 2008 and 2013.
For a country that prided itself on halting decades of mass emigration during the "Celtic Tiger" boom years, the return of the phenomenon has been a severe blow.