Island of Ireland

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Native name:
Irish: Éire; English: Ireland;
Ulster-Scots: Airlann

the Emerald Isle,
the Island of Saints and Scholars

Satellite photograph of Ireland. The Atlantic Ocean is to the west, the Celtic Sea is to the south and the Irish Sea is to the east.
Ireland (island) in Europe.png
Location Northern Europe or Western Europe[1]
Area 84,421 km2 (32,595.1 sq mi)[2]
Area rank 20th
Coastline 2,797 km (1,738 mi)
Highest elevation 1,041 m (3,415 ft)
Highest point Carrauntoohil
Largest city Dublin
Constituent Country Northern Ireland
Largest city Belfast
Population 6,380,661
Density 73.4 /km2 (190.1 /sq mi)
Ethnic groups Irish, Ulster Scots, Irish Travellers Irish Travellers are an officially recognised ethnic group in Northern Ireland under the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order, 1997. In the Republic of Ireland they are classed as a "social group". Census forms in both jurisdictions contain tick-boxes for respondents to describes themselves as being an Irish Traveller. For more information see:

Ireland is an island lying to the west of Great Britain. It is politically divided into the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the latter politically being part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. The main languages spoken are English and Irish Gaelic.



A long cold climatic spell prevailed until about 9,000 years ago, and most of Ireland was covered with ice. This era was known as the Ice Age. Sea-levels were lower then, and Ireland, as with its neighbour Britain, instead of being islands, were part of a greater continental Europe. Mesolithic stone age inhabitants arrived some time after 8000 BC. Agriculture arrived with the Neolithic circa 4000 to 4500 BC where sheep, goats, cattle and cereals were imported from southwest continental Europe. At the Céide Fields in County Mayo, an extensive Neolithic field system - arguably the oldest in the world - has been preserved beneath a blanket of peat. Consisting of small fields separated from one another by dry-stone walls, the Céide Fields were farmed for several centuries between 3500 and 3000 BC. Wheat and barley were the principal crops cultivated.

The Bronze Age, which began around 2500 BC, saw the production of elaborate gold as well as bronze ornaments, weapons and tools. The Iron Age in Ireland was supposedly associated with people known as Celts. They are traditionally thought to have colonised Ireland in a series of waves between the 8th and 1st centuries BC, with the Gaels, the last wave of Celts, conquering the island and dividing it into five or more kingdoms. Many scientists and academic scholars now favour a view that emphasises cultural diffusion from overseas over significant colonisation such as what Clonycavan Man was reported to be.[3][4][5] The Romans referred to Ireland as "Hibernia"[6] and/or Scotia[7]. Ptolemy in AD100 records Ireland's geography and tribes.[8] Native accounts are confined to Irish poetry, myth, and archaeology. The exact relationship between Rome and the tribes of Hibernia is unclear; the only references are a few Roman writings.

In medieval times, a monarch (also known as the "High King") presided over the (then five) provinces of Ireland. These provinces too had their own kings, who were at least nominally subject to the monarch, who resided at Tara. The written judicial system was the Brehon Law, and it was administered by professional learned jurists who were known as the Brehons.

According to early medieval chronicles, in 431, Bishop Palladius arrived in Ireland on a mission from Pope Celestine to minister to the Irish "already believing in Christ." The same chronicles record that Saint Patrick, Ireland's patron saint, arrived in 432. There is continued debate over the missions of Palladius and Patrick, but the general consensus is that they both existed and that 7th century annalists may have mis-attributed some of their activities to each other. Palladius most likely went to Leinster, while Patrick is believed to have gone to Ulster, where he probably spent time in captivity as a young man.

The druid tradition collapsed in the face of the spread of the new religion. Irish Christian scholars excelled in the study of Latin and Greek learning and Christian theology in the monasteries that flourished, preserving Latin and Greek learning during the Early Middle Ages. The arts of manuscript illumination, metalworking, and sculpture flourished and produced such treasures as the Book of Kells, ornate jewellery, and the many carved stone crosses that dot the island. From the 9th century, waves of Viking raiders plundered monasteries and towns, adding to a pattern of endemic raiding and warfare. Eventually Vikings settled in Ireland, and established many towns, including the modern day cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford.

From 1169, Ireland was entered by Cambro-Norman warlords, led by Strongbow, on an invitation from the then King of Leinster. In 1171, King Henry II of England came to Ireland, using the 1155 Bull Laudabiliter issued to him by then Pope Adrian IV, an Englishman, to claim sovereignty over the island, and forced the Cambro-Norman warlords and some of the Gaelic Irish kings to accept him as their overlord. From the 13th century, English law began to be introduced. By the late thirteenth century the Norman-Irish had established the feudal system throughout most of lowland Ireland. Their settlement was characterised by the establishment of baronies, manors, towns and large land-owning monastic communities, and the county system. The towns of Dublin, Cork, Wexford, Waterford, Limerick, Galway, New Ross, Kilkenny, Carlingford, Drogheda, Sligo, Athenry, Arklow, Buttevant, Carlow, Carrick-on-Suir, Cashel, Clonmel, Dundalk, Enniscorthy, Kildare, Kinsale, Mullingar, Naas, Navan, Nenagh, Thurles, Wicklow, Trim and Youghal were all under Norman-Irish control.

In the 14th century the English settlement went into a period of decline and large areas, for example Sligo, were re-occupied by Gaelic septs. The medieval English presence in Ireland was deeply shaken by Black Death, which arrived in Ireland in 1348. From the late 15th century English rule was once again expanded, first through the efforts of the Earls of Kildare and Ormond then through the activities of the Tudor State under Henry VIII and Mary and Elizabeth. This resulted in the complete conquest of Ireland by 1603 and the final collapse of the Gaelic social and political superstructure at the end of the 17th century, as a result of English and Scottish Protestant colonisation in the Plantations of Ireland, and the disastrous Wars of the Three Kingdoms and the Williamite War in Ireland. Approximately 600,000 people, nearly half the Irish population, died during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.[9]

After the Irish Rebellion of 1641, Irish Catholics were barred from voting or attending the Irish Parliament. The new English Protestant ruling class was known as the Protestant Ascendancy. Towards the end of the 18th century the entirely Protestant Irish Parliament attained a greater degree of independence from the British Parliament than it had previously held. Under the Penal Laws no Irish Catholic could sit in the Parliament of Ireland, even though some 90% of Ireland's population was native Irish Catholic when the first of these bans was introduced in 1691. This ban was followed by others in 1703 and 1709 as part of a comprehensive system disadvantaging the Catholic community, and to a lesser extent Protestant dissenters.[10] In 1798, many members of this dissenter tradition made common cause with Catholics in a rebellion inspired and led by the Society of United Irishmen. It was staged with the aim of creating a fully independent Ireland as a state with a republican constitution. Despite assistance from France the Irish Rebellion of 1798 was put down by British forces.

In 1800, the British and subsequently the unrepresentative Irish Parliament passed the Act of Union which, in 1801, merged the Kingdom of Ireland and the Kingdom of Great Britain to create the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The passage of the Act in the Irish Parliament was achieved with substantial majorities, in part (according to contemporary documents) through bribery, namely the awarding of peerages and honours to critics to get their votes.[11] Thus, Ireland became part of an extended United Kingdom, ruled directly by the UK Parliament in London. The 19th century saw the Great Famine of the 1840s, during which one million Irish people died and over a million emigrated. By the 1840s as a result of the famine fully half of all immigrants to the United States originated from Ireland. A total of 35 million Americans (12% of total population) reported Irish ancestry in the 2005 American Community Survey.[12] Mass emigration became entrenched as a result of the famine and the population continued to decline until late in the 20th century. The pre-famine peak was over 8 million recorded in the 1841 census. The population has never returned to this level [13].

The 19th and early 20th century saw the rise of Irish Nationalism especially among the Catholic population. Daniel O'Connell led a successful unarmed campaign for Catholic Emancipation. A subsequent campaign for Repeal of the Act of Union failed. Later in the century Charles Stewart Parnell and others campaigned for self government within the Union or "Home Rule". An armed rebellion took place with the Easter Rising of 1916, and the subsequent Irish War of Independence. In 1921, a treaty was concluded between the British Government and the leaders of the Irish Republic. The Treaty recognised the two-state solution created in the Government of Ireland Act 1920. Northern Ireland was presumed to form a home rule state within the new Irish Free State unless it opted out. Northern Ireland had a majority Protestant population and opted out as expected, its in-built majority choosing to remain part of the United Kingdom, incorporating within its border a significant Catholic/Nationalist minority. A Boundary Commission was set up to decide on the boundaries between the two Irish states, though it was subsequently abandoned after it recommended only minor adjustments to the border. Disagreements over some provisions of the treaty led to a split in the Nationalist movement and subsequently to the Civil War. The civil war ended in 1923 with the defeat of the Anti-treaty forces.

Irish Independence: The Irish Free State, Éire, Ireland

The Anglo-Irish Treaty was ratified by the Dáil in December 1921 by a vote of 64 - 57. The minority refused to accept the result and this eventually resulted in the beginning of the Irish Civil War, which lasted until 1923. In 1922, in the middle of this civil war, the Irish Free State came into being. During its early years the new state was governed by the victors of the Civil War. However, in the 1930s Fianna Fáil, the party of the opponents of the treaty, were elected into government. The party proposed and the electorate accepted in a referendum in 1937 a new constitution which renamed the state "Éire or in the English language, Ireland" (article 4 of the Constitution).

The state was neutral during World War II, which was known internally as "The Emergency". It offered some assistance to the Allies, especially in Northern Ireland. It is estimated[14] that around 50,000 volunteers from Éire/Ireland joined the British armed forces during the second World War. In 1949, Ireland declared itself to be a republic and that henceforth it should be described additionally as the Republic of Ireland.

The Republic experienced large-scale emigration in the 1950s and again in the 1980s.

From 1987 the economy recovered and the 1990s saw the beginning of unprecedented economic success, in a phenomenon known as the "Celtic Tiger". By the early 2000s it had become one of the richest countries (in terms of GDP per capita) in the European Union, moving from being a net recipient of the budget to becoming a net contributor during the next Budget round (2007-13), and from a country of net emigration to one of net immigration. In October 2006, there were talks between Ireland and the U.S. to negotiate a new immigration policy between the two countries, in response to the growth of the Irish economy and desire of many U.S. citizens who sought to move to Ireland for work.[15]

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland was created as an administrative division of the United Kingdom by the Government of Ireland Act 1920. From 1921 until 1972, Northern Ireland was granted limited self-government within the United Kingdom, with its own parliament and prime minister.

In the first half of the 20th century, Northern Ireland was largely spared the strife of the Civil War in the south, but there were sporadic episodes of inter-communal violence between Catholics and Protestants during the decades that followed partition. Although the Irish Free State was neutral during World War II, Northern Ireland as part of the United Kingdom was not, and became deeply involved in the British war effort (albeit without military conscription as it was introduced in Great Britain). Belfast suffered a bombing raid from the German Luftwaffe in 1941.

In elections to the 1921-1972 regional government, the Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland each voted almost entirely along sectarian lines, meaning that the government of Northern Ireland (elected by "first past the post" from 1929) was always controlled by the Ulster Unionist Party. Over time, the minority Catholic community felt increasingly alienated by the regional government in Northern Ireland, with further disaffection fuelled by incidents such as gerrymandering of the local council in Derry in 1967, and the discrimination of Catholics in housing and employment.[16]

In the 1960s Nationalist grievances at Unionist discrimination within the state eventually led to large protests, which the government suppressed heavy-handedly, most notably on "Bloody Sunday". It was during this period of civil unrest that the paramilitary Provisional IRA, who favoured the creation of a united Ireland, began its campaign against what it called the "British occupation of the six counties". Other groups, on both the unionist side and the nationalist side, began to participate in the violence and the period known as the "Troubles" began, resulting in approximately 3600 deaths over the subsequent three decades. Owing to the civil unrest as "The Troubles" erupted, the British government suspended home rule in 1972 and imposed direct rule from Westminster.

Attempts were made to end "The Troubles", such as the Sunningdale Agreement of 1974 and Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, but ultimately were failures. More recently in 1998, following a Provisional IRA cease fire and multi-party talks, the Belfast Agreement was concluded and ratified by referendum in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This agreement attempts to restore self-government to Northern Ireland on the basis of power sharing between the two communities. Violence has greatly decreased since the signing of the accord. The power-sharing assembly was suspended several times but was restored on 8 May, 2007.

In 2001 the police force in Northern Ireland, the Royal Ulster Constabulary, was replaced by the Police Service of Northern Ireland.

On 28 July, 2005, the Provisional IRA announced the end of its armed campaign and on 25 September, 2005 international weapons inspectors]] supervised what they currently regard as the full decommissioning of the Provisional IRA's weapons.[17]

On midnight, the 2nd of August 2007, Britain officially ended its military support of the police in Northern Ireland, and began withdrawing military troops. In 1972, British troops numbered more than 25,000 in Northern Ireland. After the withdrawal, a peacetime garrison of approximately 5,000 is all that will remain.


Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.


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