IerseVlagIn the summer of 1995, the Wandelgek hiked by train, bus, on foot and bycicle through Ireland. He was spotted on the west coast of Ireland and at the Irish east coast. With Aer Lingus he flew from Amsterdam to Dublin and continued by train to Galway from where he immediately started hiking through the west of Ireland.

 

In the West, he visited the town of Galway, the karst region of the Burren, south of Galway and the famous Cliffs of Moher also south of Galway. Then the island Inishmore, part of the Aran Islands, which belong to the western part of Ireland and further north of Galway the pastoral Connemara region.

IerlandThen The Wandelgek hiked to Dublin, from where he also visited the southern coastal town of Bray.

The journey through the Burren to the Cliffs of Moher was done by a tour bus. The trip to the Aran Islands and went by boat. On the island the Wandelgek rented a bike to get around. The trip to Clifden in the Connemara was done by a local bus and in Clifden The Wandelgek rented a bicycle to explore the area for several days. He also made a number of nice walks.

The trip to Bray was done by a local bus.

 

Ireland (country)

Ireland (/ˈaɪərlənd/ or /ˈɑrlənd/; Irish: Éire, pronounced [ˈeː.ɾʲə] ), also commonly referred to as the Republic of Ireland (Irish: Poblacht na hÉireann), is a sovereign state in Europe occupying about five-sixths of the island of Ireland. The capital and largest city is Dublin, located in the eastern part of the island, whose metropolitan area is home to around a quarter of the country’s 4.6 million inhabitants. The state shares its only land border with Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom. It is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the Celtic Sea to the south, Saint George’s Channel to the south east, and the Irish Sea to the east. It is a unitary, parliamentary republic with an elected president serving as head of state. The head of government, the Taoiseach, is nominated by the lower house of parliament, Dáil Éireann.

Following the Irish War of Independence and the subsequent Anglo-Irish Treaty, Ireland gained effective independence from the United Kingdom as the Irish Free State in 1922. Northern Ireland exercised an option called the Ulster Month to remain in the United Kingdom. Initially a dominion within the British Empire (later the Commonwealth of Nations), the Free State received official British recognition of full legislative independence in the Statute of Westminster of 1931. A new constitution was adopted in 1937, by which the name of the state became Ireland. In 1949 the remaining duties of the king — defined by the Executive Authority (External Relations) Act 1936 — were removed and Ireland was declared a republic under the Republic of Ireland Act 1948. The state had no formal relations with Northern Ireland for most of the twentieth century, but since 1999 the two have co-operated on a number of policy areas under the North-South Ministerial Council created by the Good Friday Agreement.

Ireland ranks among the wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita. After joining the European Union (then called the European Economic Community) in 1973, Ireland enacted a series of liberal economic policies that resulted in rapid economic growth. The country achieved considerable prosperity from 1995 to 2007, during which it became known as the Celtic Tiger. This was halted by an unprecedented financial crisis that began in 2008, in conjunction with the concurrent global economic crash.

Although still recovering from its economic crash, Ireland remains one of the world’s most prosperous nations. In 2011 and 2013, it was ranked as the seventh-most developed country in the world by the United Nations Human Development Index. Ireland also performs well in several metrics of national performance, including freedom of the press, economic freedom and civil liberties. Ireland is a member of the European Union and is a founding member of the Council of Europe and the OECD. It pursues a policy of neutrality through non-alignment and is consequently not a member of NATO, although it does participate in Partnership for Peace.

Name

The Constitution of Ireland provides that “[t]he name of the State is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland“. Under Irish statute law, Republic of Ireland (or Poblacht na hÉireann) is “the description of the State” but not its official name. This official description was provided for in the Republic of Ireland Act 1948, which transferred the remaining duties of the monarch to an elected president. However, the name of the state in English remained Ireland. A change to the name of the state would require a constitutional amendment. In the United Kingdom however, the Ireland Act 1949 provided that Republic of Ireland may be used as a name for the Irish state (although it did not make use of that term mandatory).

Although initially accepted by the British government, the name Ireland became a source of contention between the British and Irish governments. These concerns arose because part of the island of Ireland is in the United Kingdom and so its government regarded the name as inappropriate. In a 1989 case, a majority of the Irish Supreme Court expressed the view that Irish authorities should not enforce extradition warrants where they referred to the state by a name other than Ireland (in this case the warrants had used the name Éire). As part of the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which resolved issues relating to Northern Ireland, the state dropped its claim to jurisdiction over the whole island of Ireland. Since that agreement, the United Kingdom has accepted and uses the name Ireland.

The terms Republic of Ireland, the Republic or the South are often used when there is a need to distinguish the state from the island or when discussing Northern Ireland (the North). Many Irish republicans, and other opponents of partition, avoid calling the state Ireland. They see it as reinforcing partition and fuelling the perception that ‘Ireland’ and ‘Irishness’ are restricted to the Republic (see partitionism). Instead, they often refer to the state as the 26 Counties (with Northern Ireland as the Six Counties or 6 Counties) and sometimes as the Free State (a reference to the pre-1937 state).

History

Home-rule movement

From the Act of Union on 1 January 1801 until 6 December 1922, the island of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. During the Great Famine, from 1845 to 1849, the island’s population of over 8 million fell by 30%. One million Irish died of starvation and/or disease and another 1.5 million emigrated, particularly to the United States. This set the pattern of emigration for the century to come, resulting in a constant population decline up to the 1960s.

From 1874, particularly under Charles Stewart Parnell from 1880, the Irish Parliamentary Party moved to prominence through widespread agrarian agitation, via the Irish Land League, that won improved tenant land reforms in the form of the Irish Land Acts, and with its attempts to achieve Home Rule, via two unsuccessful Bills which would have granted Ireland limited national autonomy. These led to the “grass-roots” control of national affairs under the Local Government Act 1898 previously in the hands of landlord-dominated grand juries of the Protestant Ascendancy.

Home Rule seemed certain when the Parliament Act 1911 abolished the veto of the House of Lords, and John Redmond secured the Third Home Rule Act 1914. However, the Unionist movement had been growing since 1886 among Irish Protestants after the introduction of the first home rule bill, fearing discrimination and loss of economic and social privileges if Irish Catholics achieved real political power. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century unionism was particularly strong in parts of Ulster, where industrialisation was more common in contrast to the more agrarian rest of the island. It was feared that any tariff barriers would heavily affect that region. In addition, the Protestant population was more prominent in Ulster, with a majority in four counties. Under the leadership of the Dublin-born Sir Edward Carson of the Irish Unionist Party and the northerner Sir James Craig of the Ulster Unionist Party, unionists became strongly militant in order to oppose the Coercion of Ulster. After the Home Rule Bill passed parliament in May 1914, to avoid rebellion with Ulster, the British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith introduced an Amending Bill reluctantly conceded to by the Irish Party leadership. This provided for the temporary exclusion of Ulster from the workings of the bill for a trial period of six years, with an as yet undecided new set of measures to be introduced for the area to be temporarily excluded.

Revolution and steps to independence

Though it received the Royal Assent and was placed on the statute books in 1914, the implementation of the Third Home Rule Act was suspended until after the First World War. For the prior reasons of ensuring the implementation of the Act at the end of the war, Redmond and his Irish National Volunteers supported Britain, with 175,000 joining Irish regiments of the 10th (Irish), 16th (Irish), while Unionists joined the 36th (Ulster) divisions of the New British Army.

The core of the Irish Volunteers, who opposed any support of Britain, together with the Irish Citizen Army launched an armed insurrection against British Rule in the 1916 Easter Rising. This commenced on 24 April 1916 with the declaration of independence. After a week of heavy fighting, primarily in Dublin, the surviving rebels were forced to surrender their positions. The majority were imprisoned but fifteen of the prisoners (including most of the leaders) were executed as traitors to Britain. This included Patrick Pearse, the man recognised as Ireland’s first President and founding father of the modern Irish nation, as well as James Connolly, socialist and founder of the Industrial Workers of the World union, and both the Irish and Scottish Labour movements, who was General during the rising and wounded. This event had a profound effect on public opinion in Ireland.

In January 1919, after the December 1918 general election, 73 of Ireland’s 106 MPs elected were Sinn Féin members who refused to take their seats in the British House of Commons. Instead, they set up an Irish parliament called Dáil Éireann. This Dáil in January 1919 issued a Declaration of Independence and proclaimed an Irish Republic. The Declaration was mainly a restatement of the 1916 Proclamation with the additional provision that Ireland was no longer a part of the United Kingdom. The new Irish Republic was recognised internationally only by the Russian Soviet Republic.[23] The Republic’s Aireacht (ministry) sent a delegation under Ceann Comhairle Seán T. O’Kelly to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, but it was not admitted.
In 1922 a new parliament called the Oireachtas was established, of which Dáil Éireann became the lower house.

After the War of Independence and truce called in July 1921, representatives of the British government and the Irish treaty delegates, led by Arthur Griffith, Robert Barton and Michael Collins, negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty in London from 11 October to 6 December 1921. The Irish delegates set up headquarters at Hans Place in Knightsbridge and it was here in private discussions that the decision was taken on 5 December to recommend the Treaty to Dáil Éireann. The Second Dáil Éireann narrowly ratified the Treaty.

In accordance with the Treaty, on 6 December 1922 the entire island of Ireland became a self-governing British dominion called the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann). Under the Constitution of the Irish Free State, the Parliament of Northern Ireland had the option to leave the Irish Free State exactly one month later and return to the United Kingdom. During the intervening period, the powers of the Parliament of the Irish Free State and Executive Council of the Irish Free State did not extend to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland exercised its right under the Treaty to leave the new dominion and rejoined the United Kingdom on 8 December 1922. It did so by making an Address to the King requesting, “that the powers of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State shall no longer extend to Northern Ireland.”

The Irish Free State was a constitutional monarchy over which the British monarch reigned. 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.

Irish Civil War

The Irish Civil War was the consequence of the creation of the Irish Free State. Anti-Treaty forces, led by Éamon de Valera, objected to the fact that acceptance of the Treaty abolished the Irish Republic of 1919 to which they had sworn loyalty, arguing in the face of public support for the settlement that the “people have no right to do wrong”. They objected most to the fact that the state would remain part of the British Empire and that members of the Free State Parliament would have to swear, what the Anti-Treaty side saw as, an oath of fidelity to the British King. Pro-Treaty forces, led by Michael Collins, argued that the Treaty gave “not the ultimate freedom that all nations aspire to and develop, but the freedom to achieve it”.

At the start of the war, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) split into two opposing camps: a pro-treaty IRA and an anti-treaty IRA. The pro-Treaty IRA disbanded and joined the new Irish Army. However, through the lack of an effective command structure in the anti-Treaty IRA, and their defensive tactics throughout the war, Michael Collins and his pro-treaty forces were able to build up an army with many tens of thousands of World War I veterans from the 1922 disbanded Irish regiments of the British Army, capable of overwhelming the anti-Treatyists. British supplies of artillery, aircraft, machine-guns and ammunition boosted pro-treaty forces, and the threat of a return of Crown forces to the Free State removed any doubts about the necessity of enforcing the treaty. The lack of public support for the anti-treaty forces (often called the Irregulars) and the determination of the government to overcome the Irregulars contributed significantly to their defeat.
1937 Constitution

On 29 December 1937, the new Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann) came into force, which replaced the Constitution of the Irish Free State and called the state Ireland, or Éire in Irish. The former Irish Free State government had taken steps to formally abolish the Office of Governor-General some months before the new Constitution came into force.[26] Although the Constitution established the office of President of Ireland, the question over whether Ireland was a republic remained open. Diplomats were accredited to the King, but the President exercised the internal functions of a Head of State. For instance, the President gave assent to new laws with his own authority, without reference to King George VI. George VI was only an “organ”, that was provided for by statute law.

Ireland remained neutral during World War II, a period it described as the Emergency. The link with the monarchy ceased with the passage of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948, which came into force on 18 April 1949 and declared that the state was a republic. Later, the Crown of Ireland Act was formally repealed in Ireland by the Statute Law Revision (Pre-Union Irish Statutes) Act, 1962. Ireland was technically a member of the British Commonwealth after independence until the declaration of a republic on 18 April 1949. At the time, a declaration of a republic terminated Commonwealth membership. This rule was changed 10 days after Ireland declared itself a republic, with the London Declaration of 28 April 1949. Ireland did not reapply when the rules were altered to permit republics to join.

Recent history

In 1973 Ireland joined the EEC along with the United Kingdom and Denmark. The country signed the Lisbon Treaty in 2007.

Ireland became a member of the United Nations in December 1955, after previously being denied membership due to its neutral stance during the Second World War and not supporting the Allied cause. At the time, joining the UN involved a commitment to using force to deter aggression by one state against another if the UN thought it was necessary.

Interest towards membership of the European Economic Community developed in Ireland during the 1950s, with consideration also given to membership of the European Free Trade Area. As the United Kingdom intended on EEC membership, Ireland formally applied for membership in July 1961 due to the substantial economic linkages with the United Kingdom. However, the founding EEC members remained skeptical regarding Ireland’s economic capacity, neutrality, and unattractive protectionist policy.[30] Many Irish economists and politicians realised that economic policy reform was necessary. The prospect of EEC membership became doubtful in 1963 when French President General Charles de Gaulle stated that France opposed Britain’s accession, which ceased negotiations with all other candidate countries. However, in 1969 his successor, Georges Pompidou, was not opposed to British and Irish membership. Negotiations began and in 1972 the Treaty of Accession was signed. A referendum held in 1972 confirmed Ireland’s entry, and it finally succeeded in joining the EEC in 1973.

The economic crisis of the late 1970s was fueled by Fianna Fáil’s budget, the abolition of the car tax, excessive borrowing, and global economic instability. There were significant policy changes from 1989 onwards, with economic reform, tax cuts, welfare reform, an increase in competition, and a ban on borrowing to fund current spending. This policy began in 1989–1992 by the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat government, and continued by the subsequent Fianna Fáil/Labour government and Fine Gael/Labour/Democratic Left government. Ireland became one of the world’s fastest growing economies by the late 1990s in what was known as the Celtic Tiger period, which lasted until the global Financial crisis of 2007–08.

In the Northern Ireland question, the British and Irish governments started to seek a peaceful resolution to the violent conflict involving many paramilitaries and the British Army in Northern Ireland known as “The Troubles”. A peace settlement for Northern Ireland, known as the Good Friday Agreement, was approved in 1998 in referendums north and south of the border. As part of the peace settlement, the territorial claim to Northern Ireland in Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland was removed by referendum.

Geography

Ireland extends over an area of approximately five-sixths (70,273 km2 or 27,133 sq mi) of the island of Ireland (84,421 km2 or 32,595 sq mi), with Northern Ireland constituting the remainder. The island is bounded to the north and west by the Atlantic Ocean and to the northeast by the North Channel. To the east, the Irish Sea connects to the Atlantic Ocean via St George’s Channel and the Celtic Sea to the southwest.

The western landscape mostly consists of rugged cliffs, hills and mountains. The central lowlands are extensively covered with glacial deposits of clay and sand, as well as significant areas of bogland and several lakes. The highest point is Carrauntoohil (1,038 m or 3,406 ft), located in the Macgillycuddy’s Reeks mountain range in the southwest. The River Shannon, which traverses the central lowlands, is the longest river in Ireland at 386 kilometres or 240 miles in length. The west coast is more rugged than the east, with numerous islands, peninsulas, headlands and bays.
Deciduous woodland in County Kerry with the ground covered in ramsons (wild garlic)

Preceding the arrival of the first settlers in Ireland approximately 9,000 years ago, the landscape was extensively covered by forests of oak, ash, elm, hazel, yew, and other native trees. The growth of blanket bog and the extensive clearing of woodland to facilitate farming are believed to be the main causes of deforestation during the subsequent centuries. Today, approximately 12% of Ireland is forested, of which a significant majority is composed of mainly non-native coniferous plantations for commercial use. Ideal soil conditions, high rainfall and a mild climate give Ireland the highest growth rates for forests in Europe. Hedgerows, which are traditionally used to define land boundaries, are an important substitute for woodland habitat, providing refuge for native wild flora and a wide range of insect, bird and mammal species.

Agriculture accounts for approximately 64% of the total land area.[35] This has resulted in limited land to preserve natural habitats, in particular for larger wild mammals with greater territorial requirements. The long history of agricultural production coupled with modern agricultural methods, such as pesticide and fertiliser use, has placed pressure on biodiversity.

Climate

The Atlantic Ocean and the warming influence of the Gulf Stream affect weather patterns in Ireland. Temperatures differ regionally, with central and eastern areas tending to be more extreme. However, due to a temperate oceanic climate, temperatures are seldom lower than −5 °C (23 °F) in winter or higher than 26 °C (79 °F) in summer. The highest temperature recorded in Ireland was 33.3 °C (91.9 °F) on 26 June 1987 at Kilkenny Castle in Kilkenny, while the lowest temperature recorded was −19.1 °C (−2.4 °F) at Markree Castle in Sligo. Rainfall is more prevalent during winter months and less so during the early months of summer. Southwestern areas experience the most rainfall as a result of south westerly winds, while Dublin receives the least. Sunshine duration is highest in the southeast of the country. The far north and west are two of the windiest regions in Europe, with great potential for wind energy generation.

Demographics

Genetic research suggests that the earliest settlers migrated from Iberia following the most recent ice age. After the Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age, migrants introduced Celtic language and culture. Migrants from the two latter eras still represent the genetic heritage of most Irish people. Gaelic tradition expanded and became the dominant form over time. Irish people are a combination of Gaelic, Norse, Anglo-Norman, English, Scottish, French, and Welsh ancestry.

The population of Ireland stood at 4,588,252 in 2011, an increase of 8.2% since 2006. As of 2011, Ireland had the highest birth rate in the European Union (16 births per 1,000 of population). In 2012, 35.1% of births were to unmarried women. Annual population growth rates exceeded 2% during the 2002-2006 intercensal period, which was attributed to high rates of natural increase and immigration. This rate declined somewhat during the subsequent 2006-2011 intercensal period, with an average annual percentage change of 1.6%.

At the time of 2011 census, the number of non-Irish nationals was recorded at 544,357, comprising 12% of the total population. This is up nearly 2.5 times the number of non-Irish nationals recorded in the 2002 (224,261), when the question of nationality was asked for the first time. The five largest non-national cohorts were Polish (122,585), UK (112,259), Lithuanian (36,683), Latvian (20,593) and Nigerian (17,642) respectively.

An ESRI report from 2006 found that 35% of migrants surveyed reported having experienced harassment on the street, on public transport or in public places. However, discrimination was not experienced equally among immigrants. North Africans and Asians generally experienced much lower levels of discrimination than black south/central Africans, as did Central Europeans from the more recent newcomers to the European Union (mainly Poles after Poland joined the EU as a full member in 2004), who comprise the majority of Irish immigrants. In the same survey, immigrants reported being most likely to socialise with people from their own country of origin in Ireland, followed by Irish people. Although this varied too between regional groups with Asians, for example, reporting the least difficulty in socialising with Irish people and North Africans reporting the most difficulty.

Largest urban centres by population
# Settlement Population # Settlement Population
1 Dublin 1,110,627 11 Ennis 25,360
2 Cork 198,582 12 Kilkenny 24,423
3 Limerick 91,454 13 Tralee 23,693
4 Galway 76,778 14 Carlow 23,030
5 Waterford 51,519 15 Newbridge 21,561
6 Drogheda 38,578 16 Naas 20,713
7 Dundalk 37,816 17 Athlone 20,153
8 Swords 36,924 18 Portlaoise 20,145
9 Bray 31,872 19 Mullingar 20,103
10 Navan 28,559 20 Wexford 20,072

Ireland (island)

Ireland (locally: /ˈɑːrlənd/; RP: /ˈələnd/; GA: /ˈaɪərlənd/; Irish: Éire [ˈeːɾʲə]; Ulster-Scots: Airlann or Airlan [ˈɑːrlən]) is an island in the North Atlantic to the west of Great Britain, from which it is separated by the North Channel, the Irish Sea and St Georges Channel, and after which it is the largest island of the British Isles archipelago. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth.

Politically, Ireland is divided between the Republic of Ireland, which covers five-sixths of the island, and Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, which covers the remaining area and is located in the north-east of the island. The population of Ireland is about 6.4 million. Just under 4.6 million live in the Republic of Ireland and just over 1.8 million live in Northern Ireland.

The island’s geography comprises relatively low-lying mountains surrounding a central plain, with several navigable rivers extending inland. The island has lush vegetation, a product of its mild but changeable oceanic climate, which avoids extremes in temperature. Thick woodlands covered the island until the Middle Ages. As of 2013, the amount of land that is wooded in Ireland is about 11% of the total, compared with a European average of 35%. There are twenty-six extant mammal species native to Ireland.

Prehistoric Ireland saw the arrival of humans after 8000 BC. Gaelic Ireland had emerged by the 1st century and lasted until the early 17th century. The island was converted to Christianity from the 5th century onward. Following the Norman invasion in the 12th century, England claimed sovereignty over Ireland. However, English rule did not extend over the whole island until the 16th–17th century Tudor conquest. This led to colonisation of Ireland by settlers from Britain. In the 1690s, a system of Protestant English rule was designed to materially disadvantage the Catholic majority and Protestant dissenters, and was extended during the 18th century. In 1801, Ireland became a part of the United Kingdom. A war of independence in the early 20th century was followed by the partition of the island, creating the Irish Free State, which became increasingly sovereign over the following decades, and Northern Ireland which remained a part of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland saw much civil unrest from the late 1960s until the 1990s. This subsided following a political agreement in 1998. In 1973, both parts of Ireland joined the European Economic Community.

Irish culture has had a significant influence on other cultures, especially in the fields of literature and, to a lesser degree, science and education. Alongside mainstream Western culture, a strong indigenous culture exists, as expressed for example through Gaelic games, Irish music, and the Irish language. The culture of the island has also many features shared with Great Britain, including the English language, and sports such as association football, rugby, horse racing and golf.

Geography

The island of Ireland is located in the north-west of Europe, between latitudes 51° and 56° N, and longitudes 11° and 5° W. It is separated from the neighbouring island of Great Britain by the Irish Sea and the North Channel, which has a width of 23 kilometres (14 mi) at its narrowest point. To the west is the northern Atlantic Ocean and to the south is the Celtic Sea, which lies between Ireland and Brittany, in France. Ireland has a total area of 84,421 km2 (32,595 sq mi) Ireland and Great Britain, together with many nearby smaller islands, are known collectively as the British Isles. As the term British Isles is controversial in relation to Ireland, the alternate term Britain and Ireland is often used as a neutral term for the islands.

A ring of coastal mountains surround low plains at the centre of the island. The highest of these is Carrauntoohil (Irish: Corrán Tuathail) in County Kerry, which rises to 1,038 m (3,406 ft) above sea level. The most arable land lies in the province of Leinster. Western areas can be mountainous and rocky with green panoramic vistas. The River Shannon, the island’s longest river at 386 km (240 mi) long, rises in County Cavan in the north west and flows 113 kilometres (70 mi) to Limerick city in the mid west.

The island’s lush vegetation, a product of its mild climate and frequent rainfall, earns it the sobriquet the Emerald Isle. Overall, Ireland has a mild but changeable oceanic climate with few extremes. The climate is typically insular and is temperate avoiding the extremes in temperature of many other areas in the world at similar latitudes. This is a result of the moderating moist winds which ordinarily prevail from the South-Western Atlantic.

Precipitation falls throughout the year but is light overall, particularly in the east. The west tends to be wetter on average and prone to Atlantic storms, especially in the late autumn and winter months. These occasionally bring destructive winds and higher total rainfall to these areas, as well as sometimes snow and hail. The regions of north County Galway and east County Mayo have the highest incidents of recorded lightning annually for the island, with lightning occurring approximately five to ten days per year in these areas. Munster, in the south, records the least snow whereas Ulster, in the north, records the most.

Inland areas are warmer in summer and colder in winter. Usually around 40 days of the year are below freezing 0 °C (32 °F) at inland weather stations, compared to 10 days at coastal stations. Ireland is sometimes affected by heat waves, most recently in 1995, 2003, 2006 and 2013. In common with the rest of Europe, Ireland experienced unusually cold weather during the winter of 2009/10. Temperatures fell as low as −17.2 °C (1 °F) in County Mayo on 20 December and up to a metre (3 ft) of snow in mountainous areas.

The island consists of varied geological provinces. In the far west, around County Galway and County Donegal, is a medium to high grade metamorphic and igneous complex of Caledonide affinity, similar to the Scottish Highlands. Across southeast Ulster and extending southwest to Longford and south to Navan is a province of Ordovician and Silurian rocks, with similarities to the Southern Uplands province of Scotland. Further south, along the County Wexford coastline, is an area of granite intrusives into more Ordovician and Silurian rocks, like that found in Wales.

In the southwest, around Bantry Bay and the mountains of Macgillicuddy’s Reeks, is an area of substantially deformed, but only lightly metamorphosed, Devonian-aged rocks. This partial ring of “hard rock” geology is covered by a blanket of Carboniferous limestone over the centre of the country, giving rise to a comparatively fertile and lush landscape. The west-coast district of the Burren around Lisdoonvarna has well-developed karst features. Significant stratiform lead-zinc mineralisation is found in the limestones around Silvermines and Tynagh.

Hydrocarbon exploration is ongoing following the first major find at the Kinsale Head gas field off Cork in the mid-1970s. In 1999, economically significant finds of natural gas were made in the Corrib Gas Field off the County Mayo coast. This has increased activity off the west coast in parallel with the “West of Shetland” step-out development from the North Sea hydrocarbon province. The Helvick oil field, estimated to contain over 28 million barrels (4,500,000 m3) of oil, is another recent discovery.

History

Prehistoric Ireland

During the last glacial period, and up until about 9000 years ago, most of Ireland was covered with ice, most of the time. Sea levels were lower and Ireland, like Great Britain, formed part of continental Europe. By 12,000 BC, rising sea levels due to ice melting caused Ireland to become separated from Great Britain. Later, around 5600 BC, Great Britain itself became separated from continental Europe. There is no evidence of any humans being in Ireland before Mesolithic people arrived by boat from Britain between 8000 BC and 7000 BC.

From about 4500 BC Neolithic settlers arrived introducing cereal cultivars, a housing culture (similar to those of the same period in Scotland) and stone monuments. A more advanced agriculture was to develop. At the Céide Fields, preserved beneath a blanket of peat in present-day County Mayo, is an extensive field system, arguably the oldest in the world, dating from not long after this period. Consisting of small divisions separated by dry-stone walls, the fields were farmed for several centuries between 3500 BC and 3000 BC. Wheat and barley were the principal crops imported from the Iberian Peninsula.

The Bronze Age – defined by the use of metal – began around 2500 BC, with technology changing people’s everyday lives during this period through innovations such as the wheel, harnessing oxen, weaving textiles, brewing alcohol, and skilful metalworking, which produced new weapons and tools, along with fine gold decoration and jewellery, such as brooches and torcs. According to John T. Koch and others, Ireland in the Late Bronze Age was part of a maritime trading-networked culture called the Atlantic Bronze Age that also included Britain, western France and Iberia, and that this is where Celtic languages developed. This contrasts with the traditional view that their origin lies in mainland Europe with the Hallstatt culture.

Emergence of Celtic Ireland

During the Iron Age, a Celtic language and culture emerged in Ireland. How and when the island of Ireland became Map_of_Celtic_Nations-flag_shades.svgCeltic has been debated for close to a century, with the migrations of the Celts being one of the more enduring themes of archaeological and linguistic studies. Today there is more than one school of thought on how this occurred in Ireland.

The long standing traditional view, once widely accepted, is that Celtic language, Ogham script and culture were brought to Ireland by waves of invading or migrating Celts from mainland Europe. This theory draws on the Lebor Gabála Érenn, a medieval Christian pseudo-history of Ireland along with the presence of Celtic culture, language and artefacts found in Ireland such as Celtic bronze spears, shields, torcs and other finely crafted Celtic associated possessions. The theory holds that there were four separate Celtic invasions of Ireland. The Priteni were said to be the first, followed by the Belgae from northern Gaul and Britain. Later, Laighin tribes from Armorica (present-day Brittany) were said to have invaded Ireland and Britain more or less simultaneously. Lastly, the Milesians (Gaels) were said to have reached Ireland from either northern Iberia or southern Gaul. It was claimed that a second wave named the Euerni, belonging to the Belgae people of northern Gaul, began arriving about the sixth century BC. They were said to have given their name to the island.

On the map to the right we see all celtic origin states: Green=Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, Blue=Scotland, Orange=Isle of Man, Red=Wales, Yellow=Cornwall, Black=Brittany…

Another more recent theory put forth that has gained archaeological historian credence is that of cultural diffusion of the Celtic culture and language into Ireland. It is proposed that Celticisation of Ireland may have been the culmination of a long process of social and economic interaction between Ireland and Britain and adjacent parts of Continental Europe.

The theory was put forth partly due to a current lack of archeological evidence for the large-scale Celtic immigration element in this period although it is accepted that these type of movements are notoriously difficult to identify. However many archeological proponents of this alternate theory hold that migration of smaller groups of Celts to Ireland was most likely and that the degree of traffic may have been sufficiently regular to constitute a “migration stream” but that invasion is not at the heart of the proposed social process of Insular Celticisation. Historical linguists are sceptical that this method alone could account for the absorption of the Celtic language and a number state that an assumed processional view of Celtic linguistic formation is ‘an especially hazardous exercise’. Genetic linage investigation into the area of Celtic migration to Ireland has led to findings that showed no large significant differences in mitochondrial DNA between Ireland and large areas of continental Europe in contrast to parts of the Y-chromosome pattern. When taking both into account a recent study drew the conclusion that modern Celtic speakers in Ireland could be thought of as European “Atlantic Celts” showing a shared ancestry throughout the Atlantic zone from northern Iberia to western Scandinavia rather than substantially central European.

Late antiquity and early medieval times

The earliest written records of Ireland come from classical Greco-Roman geographers. Ptolemy in his Almagest refers to Ireland as Mikra Brettania (Little Britain), in contrast to the larger island, which he called Megale Brettania (Great Britain). In his later work, Geography, Ptolemy refers to Ireland as Iouernia and to Great Britain as Albion. These “new” names were likely to have been the local names for the islands at the time. The earlier names, in contrast, were likely to have been coined before direct contact with local peoples was made.

The Romans would later refer to Ireland by this name too in its Latinised form, Hibernia, or Scotia. Ptolemy records sixteen nations inhabiting every part of Ireland in 100 AD. The relationship between the Roman Empire and the kingdoms of ancient Ireland is unclear. However, a number of finds of Roman coins have been made, for example at the Iron Age settlement of Freestone Hill near Gowran and Newgrange.

Ireland continued as a patchwork of rival kingdoms but, beginning in the 7th century AD, a concept of national kingship gradually became articulated through the concept of a High King of Ireland. Medieval Irish literature portrays an almost unbroken sequence of High Kings stretching back thousands of years but modern historians believe the scheme was constructed in the 8th century to justify the status of powerful political groupings by projecting the origins of their rule into the remote past.

The High King was said to preside over the provincial kingdoms that together formed Ireland. All of these kingdoms had their own kings but were at least nominally subject to the High King. The High King was drawn from the ranks of the provincial kings and ruled also the royal kingdom of Meath, with a ceremonial capital at the Hill of Tara. The concept only became a political reality in the Viking Age and even then was not a consistent one. Ireland did have a culturally unifying rule of law: the early written judicial system, the Brehon Laws, administered by a professional class of jurists known as the brehons. However, a united kingdom of Gaelic Ireland was never achieved.

The Chronicle of Ireland records that in 431 AD Bishop Palladius arrived in Ireland on a mission from Pope Celestine I to minister to the Irish “already believing in Christ.” The same chronicle records that Saint Patrick, Ireland’s best known patron saint, arrived the following year. There is continued debate over the missions of Palladius and Patrick but the consensus is that they both took place and that the older druid tradition collapsed in the face of the new religion. Irish Christian scholars excelled in the study of Latin and Greek learning and Christian theology. In the monastic culture that followed the Christianisation of Ireland, Latin and Greek learning was preserved in Ireland during the Early Middle Ages in contrast to elsewhere in Europe, where the Dark Ages followed the decline of the Roman Empire.

The arts of manuscript illumination, metalworking and sculpture flourished and produced treasures such as the Book of Kells, ornate jewellery and the many carved stone crosses that still dot the island today. A mission founded in 563 on Iona by the Irish monk Saint Columba began a tradition of Irish missionary work that spread Christianity and learning to Scotland, England and the Frankish Empire on Continental Europe after the fall of Rome. These missions continued until the late Middle Ages, establishing monasteries and centres of learning, producing scholars such as Sedulius Scottus and Johannes Eriugena and exerting much influence in Europe.

From the 9th century, waves of Viking raiders plundered Irish monasteries and towns. These raids added to a pattern of raiding and endemic warfare that was already deep-seated in Ireland. The Vikings also were involved in establishing most of the major coastal settlements in Ireland: Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Wexford, Waterford, and also Carlingford, Strangford, Annagassan, Arklow, Youghal, Lough Foyle and Lough Ree.

Norman and English invasions

On 1 May 1169, an expedition of Cambro-Norman knights with an army of about six hundred landed at Bannow Strand in present-day County Wexford. It was led by Richard de Clare, called Strongbow due to his prowess as an archer. The invasion, which coincided with a period of renewed Norman expansion, was at the invitation of Dermot Mac Murrough, the king of Leinster.

In 1166, Mac Murrough had fled to Anjou, France, following a war involving Tighearnán Ua Ruairc, of Breifne, and sought the assistance of the Angevin king, Henry II, in recapturing his kingdom. In 1171, Henry arrived in Ireland in order to review the general progress of the expedition. He wanted to re-exert royal authority over the invasion which was expanding beyond his control. Henry successfully re-imposed his authority over Strongbow and the Cambro-Norman warlords and persuaded many of the Irish kings to accept him as their overlord, an arrangement confirmed in the 1175 Treaty of Windsor.

The invasion was legitimised by the provisions of the Papal Bull Laudabiliter, issued by Adrian IV in 1155. The bull encouraged Henry to take control in Ireland in order to oversee the financial and administrative reorganisation of the Irish Church and its integration into the Roman Church system. Some restructuring had already begun at the ecclesiastical level following the Synod of Kells in 1152. There has been significant controversy regarding authenticity of Laudabiliter, and there is no general agreement as to whether the bull was genuine or a forgery.

In 1172, the new pope, Alexander III, further encouraged Henry to advance the integration of the Irish Church with Rome. Henry was authorised to impose a tithe of one penny per hearth as an annual contribution. This church levy, called Peter’s Pence, is still extant in Ireland as a voluntary donation. In turn, Henry accepted the title of Lord of Ireland which Henry conferred on his younger son, John Lackland, in 1185. This defined the Irish state as the Lordship of Ireland. When Henry’s successor died unexpectedly in 1199, John inherited the crown of England and retained the Lordship of Ireland.

Over the century that followed, Norman feudal law gradually replaced the Gaelic Brehon Law so that by the late 13th century the Norman-Irish had established a feudal system throughout much of Ireland. Norman settlements were characterised by the establishment of baronies, manors, towns and the seeds of the modern county system. A version of the Magna Carta (the Great Charter of Ireland), substituting Dublin for London and Irish Church for Church of England, was published in 1216 and the Parliament of Ireland was founded in 1297.

From the mid-14th century, after the Black Death, Norman settlements in Ireland went into a period of decline. The Norman rulers and the Gaelic Irish elites intermarried and the areas under Norman rule became Gaelicised. In some parts, a hybrid Hiberno-Norman culture emerged. In response, the Irish parliament passed the Statutes of Kilkenny in 1367. These were a set of laws designed to prevent the assimilation of the Normans into Irish society by requiring English subjects in Ireland to speak English, follow English customs and abide by English law.

By the end of the 15th century central English authority in Ireland had all but disappeared and a renewed Irish culture and language, albeit with Norman influences, was dominant again. English Crown control remained relatively unshaken in an amorphous foothold around Dublin known as The Pale and under the provisions of Poynings’ Law of 1494, the Irish Parliamentary legislation was subject to the approval of the English Parliament.Pack, Mark (2001). “Charles James Fox, the Repeal of Poynings Law, and the Act of Union: 1782–1801”. Journal of Liberal History 33: 6. Retrieved 7 June 2014.

The Kingdom of Ireland

The title of King of Ireland was re-created in 1542 by Henry VIII, then King of England, of the Tudor dynasty. English rule of law was reinforced and expanded in Ireland during the latter part of the 16th century, leading to the Tudor conquest of Ireland. A near complete conquest was achieved by the turn of the 17th century, following the Nine Years’ War and the Flight of the Earls.

This control was further consolidated during the wars and conflicts of the 17th century, which witnessed English and Scottish colonisation in the Plantations of Ireland, the Wars of the Three Kingdoms and the Williamite War. Irish losses during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms (which, in Ireland, included the Irish Confederacy and the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland) are estimated to include 20,000 battlefield casualties. 200,000 civilians are estimated to have died as a result of a combination of war-related famine, displacement, guerrilla activity and pestilence over the duration of the war. A further 50,000 were sent to slavery in the West Indies. Some historians estimate that as much as half of the pre-war population of Ireland may have died as a result of the conflict.

The religious struggles of the 17th century left a deep sectarian division in Ireland. Religious allegiance now determined the perception in law of loyalty to the Irish King and Parliament. After the passing of the Test Act 1672, and with the victory of the forces of the dual monarchy of William and Mary over the Jacobites, Roman Catholics and nonconforming Protestant Dissenters were barred from sitting as members in the Irish Parliament. Under the emerging penal laws Irish Roman Catholics and Dissenters were increasingly deprived of various and sundry civil rights even to the ownership of hereditary property. Additional regressive punitive legislation followed 1703, 1709 and 1728. This completed a comprehensive systemic effort to materially disadvantage Roman Catholics and Protestant Dissenters, while enriching a new ruling class of Anglican conformists. The new Anglo-Irish ruling class became known as the Protestant Ascendancy.

An extraordinary climatic shock known as the “Great Frost” struck Ireland and the rest of Europe between December 1739 and September 1741, after a decade of relatively mild winters. The winters destroyed stored crops of potatoes and other staples and the poor summers severely damaged harvests. This resulted in the famine of 1740. An estimated 250,000 people (about one in eight of the population) died from the ensuing pestilence and disease. The Irish government halted export of corn and kept the army in quarters but did little more. Local gentry and charitable organisations provided relief but could do little to prevent the ensuing mortality.

In the aftermath of the famine, an increase in industrial production and a surge in trade brought a succession of construction booms. The population soared in the latter part of this century and the architectural legacy of Georgian Ireland was built. In 1782, Poynings’ Law was repealed, giving Ireland legislative independence from Great Britain for the first time since 1495. The British government, however, still retained the right to nominate the government of Ireland without the consent of the Irish parliament.

In 1798, members of the Protestant Dissenter tradition (mainly Presbyterian) made common cause with Roman Catholics in a republican rebellion inspired and led by the Society of United Irishmen, with the aim of creating an independent Ireland. Despite assistance from France the rebellion was put down by British and Irish government and yeomanry forces. In 1800, the British and Irish parliaments both passed Acts of Union that, with effect from 1 January 1801, merged the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain to create a United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

Union with Great Britain

The passage of the Act in the Irish Parliament was ultimately achieved with substantial majorities, having failed on the first attempt in 1799. According to contemporary documents and historical analysis, this was achieved through a considerable degree of bribery, with funding provided by the British Secret Service Office, and the awarding of peerages, places and honours to secure votes. Thus, Ireland became part of an extended United Kingdom, ruled directly by a united parliament at Westminster in London, though resistance remained, as evidenced by Robert Emmet’s failed Irish Rebellion of 1803.

Aside from the development of the linen industry, Ireland was largely passed over by the industrial revolution, partly because it lacked coal and iron resources and partly because of the impact of the sudden union with the structurally superior economy of England, which saw Ireland as a source of agricultural produce and capital.

The Great Famine of the 1840s caused the deaths of one million Irish people and over a million more emigrated to escape it.By the end of the decade, half of all immigration to the United States was from Ireland. The period of civil unrest that followed until the end of the 19th century is referred to as the Land War. Mass emigration became deeply entrenched and the population continued to decline until the mid-20th century. Immediately prior to the famine the population was recorded as 8.2 million by the 1841 census. The population has never returned to this level since. The population continued to fall until 1961 and it was not until the 2006 census that the last county of Ireland (County Leitrim) to record a rise in population since 1841 did so.

The 19th and early 20th centuries saw the rise of modern Irish nationalism, primarily among the Roman Catholic population. The pre-eminent Irish political figure after the Union was Daniel O’Connell. He was elected as Member of Parliament for Ennis in a surprise result and despite being unable to take his seat as a Roman Catholic. O’Connell spearheaded a vigorous campaign that was taken up by the Prime Minister, the Irish-born soldier and statesman, the Duke of Wellington. Steering the Catholic Relief Bill through Parliament, aided by future prime minister Robert Peel, Wellington prevailed upon a reluctant George IV to sign the Bill and proclaim it into law. George’s father had opposed the plan of the earlier Prime Minister, Pitt the Younger, to introduce such a bill following the Union of 1801, fearing Catholic Emancipation to be in conflict with the Act of Settlement 1701.

Daniel O’Connell led a subsequent campaign, for the repeal of the Act of Union, which failed. Later in the century, Charles Stewart Parnell and others campaigned for autonomy within the Union, or “Home Rule”. Unionists, especially those located in Ulster, were strongly opposed to Home Rule, which they thought would be dominated by Catholic interests. After several attempts to pass a Home Rule bill through parliament, it looked certain that one would finally pass in 1914. To prevent this from happening, the Ulster Volunteers were formed in 1913 under the leadership of Edward Carson.

Their formation was followed in 1914 by the establishment of the Irish Volunteers, whose aim was to ensure that the Home Rule Bill was passed. The Act was passed but with the “temporary” exclusion of the six counties of Ulster that would become Northern Ireland. Before it could be implemented, however, the Act was suspended for the duration of the First World War. The Irish Volunteers split into two groups. The majority, approximately 175,000 in number, under John Redmond, took the name National Volunteers and supported Irish involvement in the war. A minority, approximately 13,000, retained the Irish Volunteers’ name, and opposed Ireland’s involvement in the war.

The failed Easter Rising of 1916 was carried out by the latter group in alliance with a smaller socialist militia, the Irish Citizen Army. The British response, executing fifteen leaders of the Rising over a period of ten days and imprisoning or interning more than a thousand people, turned the mood of the country in favour of the rebels. Support for Irish republicanism increased further due to the ongoing war in Europe, as well as the Conscription Crisis of 1918.

The pro-independence republican party, Sinn Féin, received overwhelming endorsement in the general election of 1918, and in 1919 proclaimed an Irish Republic, setting up its own parliament (Dáil Éireann) and government. Simultaneously the Volunteers, which became known as the Irish Republican Army (IRA), launched a three-year guerrilla war, which ended in a truce in July 1921 (although violence continued until June 1922, mostly in Northern Ireland).

In December 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty was concluded between the British Government and representatives of the Second Dáil. It gave Ireland complete independence in its home affairs and practical independence for foreign policy, but an opt-out clause allowed Northern Ireland to remain within the United Kingdom, which it immediately exercised as expected. Additionally, an oath of allegiance to the King was to be taken. Disagreements over these provisions led to a split in the nationalist movement and a subsequent Irish Civil War between the new government of the Irish Free State and those opposed to the treaty, led by Éamon de Valera. The civil war officially ended in May 1923 when de Valera issued a cease-fire order.

Partition

Independent Ireland

During its first decade the newly formed Irish Free State was governed by the victors of the civil war. When de Valera achieved power, he took advantage of the Statute of Westminster and political circumstances to build upon inroads to greater sovereignty made by the previous government. The oath was abolished and in 1937 a new constitution was adopted. This completed a process of gradual separation from the British Empire that governments had pursued since independence. However, it was not until 1949 that the state was declared, officially, to be the Republic of Ireland.

The state was neutral during World War II, but offered clandestine assistance to the Allies, particularly in the potential defence of Northern Ireland. Despite being neutral, approximately 50,000 volunteers from independent Ireland joined the British forces during the war, four being awarded Victoria Crosses.

German Intelligence was also active in Ireland. German intelligence operations effectively ended in September 1941 when police made arrests on the basis of surveillance carried out on the key diplomatic legations in Ireland, including that of the United States. To the authorities counterintelligence was a fundamental line of defence. With a regular army of only slightly over seven thousand men at the start of the war, and with limited supplies of modern weapons, the state would have had great difficulty in defending itself from invasion from either side of the conflict.

Large-scale emigration marked the 1950s and 1980s, but beginning in 1987 the economy improved, and the 1990s saw the beginning of substantial economic growth. This period of growth became known as the Celtic Tiger. The Republic’s real GDP grew by an average of 9.6% per annum between 1995 and 1999, in which year the Republic joined the euro. In 2000 Ireland was the sixth-richest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita.

Social changes followed quickly on the heels of economic prosperity, ranging from the ‘modernisation’ of the annual parade in Dublin to mark the principal national holiday of Saint Patrick’s Day (17 March), to the decline in authority of the Catholic Church. The financial crisis that began in 2008, dramatically ended this period of boom. GDP fell by 3% in 2008 and by 7.1% in 2009, the worst year since records began (although earnings by foreign-owned businesses continued to grow). The state has since experienced deep recession, with unemployment, which doubled during 2009, remaining above 14% in 2012.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland was created as a division of the United Kingdom by the Government of Ireland Act 1920 and until 1972 it was a self-governing jurisdiction within the United Kingdom with its own parliament and prime minister. Northern Ireland, as part of the United Kingdom, was not neutral during the Second World War and Belfast suffered four bombing raids in 1941. Conscription was not extended to Northern Ireland and roughly an equal number volunteered from Northern Ireland as volunteered from the south. One, James Joseph Magennis, received the Victoria Cross for valour.

Although Northern Ireland was largely spared the strife of the civil war, in decades that followed partition there were sporadic episodes of inter-communal violence. Nationalists, mainly Roman Catholic, wanted to unite Ireland as an independent republic, whereas unionists, mainly Protestant, wanted Northern Ireland to remain in the United Kingdom. The Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland voted largely along sectarian lines, meaning that the Government of Northern Ireland (elected by “first-past-the-post” from 1929) was controlled by the Ulster Unionist Party. Over time, the minority Catholic community felt increasingly alienated with further disaffection fuelled by practices such as gerrymandering and discrimination in housing and employment.

In the late 1960s, nationalist grievances were aired publicly in mass civil rights protests, which were often confronted by loyalist counter-protests. The government’s reaction to confrontations was seen to be one-sided and heavy-handed in favour of unionists. Law and order broke down as unrest and inter-communal violence increased. The Northern Ireland government requested the British Army to aid the police, who were exhausted after several nights of serious rioting. In 1969, the paramilitary Provisional IRA, which favoured the creation of a united Ireland, emerged from a split in the Irish Republican Army and began a campaign against what it called the “British occupation of the six counties”.

Other groups, on both the unionist side and the nationalist side, participated in violence and a period known as the Troubles began. Over 3,600 deaths resulted over the subsequent three decades of conflict. Owing to the civil unrest during the Troubles, the British government suspended home rule in 1972 and imposed direct rule. There were several unsuccessful attempts to end the Troubles politically, such as the Sunningdale Agreement of 1973. In 1998, following a ceasefire by the Provisional IRA and multi-party talks, the Good Friday Agreement was concluded as a treaty between the British and Irish governments, annexing the text agreed in the multi-party talks.

The substance of the Agreement (formally referred to as the Belfast Agreement) was later endorsed by referendums in both parts of Ireland. The Agreement restored self-government to Northern Ireland on the basis of power-sharing in a regional Executive drawn from the major parties in a new Northern Ireland Assembly, with entrenched protections for the two main communities. The Executive is jointly headed by a First Minister and deputy First Minister drawn from the unionist and nationalist parties. Violence had decreased greatly after the Provisional IRA and loyalist ceasefires in 1994 and in 2005 the Provisional IRA announced the end of its armed campaign and an independent commission supervised its disarmament and that of other nationalist and unionist paramilitary organisations.

The Assembly and power-sharing Executive were suspended several times but were restored again in 2007. In that year the British government officially ended its military support of the police in Northern Ireland (Operation Banner) and began withdrawing troops. On 27 June 2012, Northern Ireland’s deputy first minister and former IRA commander, Martin McGuinness, shook hands with Queen Elizabeth II in Belfast, symbolising reconciliation between the two sides.

Places of interest

There are three World Heritage Sites on the island: the Brú na Boinne, Skellig Michael and the Giant’s Causeway. A number of other places are on the tentative list, for example the Burren, the Ceide Fields and Mount Stewart.

Some of the most visited sites in Ireland include Bunratty Castle, the Rock of Cashel, the Cliffs of Moher, Holy Cross Abbey and Blarney Castle. Historically important monastic sites include Glendalough and Clonmacnoise, which are maintained as national monuments in the Republic of Ireland.

Dublin is the most heavily touristed region and home to several of the most popular attractions such as the Guinness Storehouse and Book of Kells. The west and south west, which includes the Lakes of Killarney and the Dingle peninsula in County Kerry and Connemara and the Aran Islands in County Galway, are also popular tourist destinations.

Achill Island lies off the coast of County Mayo and is Ireland’s largest island. It is a popular tourist destination for surfing and contains 5 Blue Flag beaches and Croaghaun one of the worlds highest sea cliffs. Stately homes, built during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries in Palladian, Neoclassical and neo-Gothic styles, such as, Castle Ward, Castletown House, Bantry House, Glenveagh Castle are also of interest to tourists. Some have been converted into hotels, such as Ashford Castle, Castle Leslie and Dromoland Castle.

 

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