Ireland is an isle in north-west Europe. It’s called the Emerald isle (because of ever green land). The Republic of Ireland (Eire) occupies 5/6s of the area. The rest of the island is occupied by Northern Ireland. In the north only 20 km of water separate Ireland from Scotland. The capital of Eire is Dublin and the capital of Northern Ireland is Belfast.

The republic of Ireland covers over 70 000 sqkm and consists of four provinces and 26 counties. Most of the island is a central plain, ringed by low mountains in the west and south and by lowlands in the east.

The Shannon river – the longest river forms many important lakes. The seacoast is wild and beautiful.

The weather is mild and wet. Most of the soil is rich and fertile, suitable for farming and cattle raising.

Among the first inhabitants of Ireland were Druids. In about 300 BC Ireland was conquered by the Celts (Gaels) and brought their language to the country. In 432 AD Patrick (later St. Patrick – patron Saint of Ireland) brought a Christianity and taught them to read and write. There were built schools and monasteries. The Gaelic literature and music started.

From the 5th to 8th century it was the golden era of Irish culture. This era ended, when the Vikings invaded Ireland. Freedom and prosperity were replaced by oppression, troubles and injustice. The Norman conquest followed under Henry II – the King of England in the 12th century.

Henry VIII, who took the title King of Ireland in the 16th century, imposed his Protestant religion on the country. During the reign King William of Orange (17th century) religious persecution increased. Catholics could not buy land, they had no right to trade, vote or to be educated.

After 1801 Daniel O’Connel fought and won Catholic emancipation, after the Act of Union joined the Irish Parliament to the Parliament of Great Britain, where no Catholics were allowed to sit. Another great leader was Charles Parnell. Thanks to him Ireland started to manage its internal affairs again.

In 1845 the Great Famine hit Ireland. The population was reduced from over 8 million to about 4,5 million.
In 1899 the Sinn Féin started (it meant we ourselves). At first Irish supported passive resistance to British rule. Later it organized an army of volunteers – the Irish Republican Army. In 1922 came to existence the Irish Free State with 26 Catholic counties and 6 Protestant counties in Northern Ireland. In 1949 the State was renamed and left the British Commonwealth of Nations.

Today the population of Ireland is 3,5 million inhabitants, but more than 20 million Irish origin live in other English-speaking countries.

The Republic of Ireland is an independent country with democratic political system. The president is elected for 7 years by the direct vote of people. The Government is responsible to the House of Representatives, which together with Senate, forms the National Parliament.
The Irish flag is a tricolor with vertical stripes of green, white and orange. The national anthem is called The Soldier’s Song.

Rivers are full of fish – fishing is very important for their economy, such as farming. There is a lot of peal , which is used like a fuel. Tourism has also become one of the fast growing industries.

Ireland is land of contrasts. From generation to generation goes music and dancing. There are schools for ridding horse. Irish are friendly and relaxed people. Their pubs are famous for dark beer – stout. Long tradition have Irish whisky and linen.

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