Ireland country profile


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.

In 1921 the British government split the island into the mainly Protestant North and the mainly Catholic South, planning to keep both regions in the United Kingdom. However, the South seceded in 1922, while Northern Ireland opted to remain.

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.



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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President: Michael D Higgins

Image source, 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): Micheál Martin

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The Fianna Fáil leader took over as head of a coalition government with traditional rival Fine Gael and the Green Party in June 2020, after closely-fought elections in February had put the resurgent left-wing Sinn Féin party in second place.

A long ministerial career since the 1990s has supplied him with ample experience of economic and foreign affairs, and Mr Martin's initial priority has been to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the economic impact of the departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union is likely preoccupy the first years of his administration.

Fine Gael leader Leo Varadkar become deputy prime minister, and the two party leaders are due to swap places in December 2022. This is the first time the two main parties have served together in government.


Image source, Getty Images

Public Raidio Teilifis Eireann (RTE) provides TV, radio and online services in English and Irish and is the main player in the broadcasting sector.

Media outlets operate freely, although Reporters Without Borders has raised concerns about the impact of highly-concentrated media ownership.


Some key dates in Ireland's history:

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

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