Ireland lies in the Atlantic Ocean to the west of Great Britain. The Republic of Ireland occupies about five-sixth of the total area of Ireland. The rest of the land is occupied by Northern Ireland, the part of British Kingdom.
Ireland is divided into four provinces – Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connaught, and 26 counties. The Irish flag is tricolour with vertical stripes of green, white and orange. The green colour symbolises the Emerald Isle and the majority of Catholics. White is the need for peace and understanding between Catholics and Protestants represented by the orange stripes. There are two official languages – English and Irish Gaelic. This language is very different from English and very difficult.
Most of the island is a central plain with low mountains in the west and south and lowlands in the east. The Shannon River is the longest river and goes thought the country and forms many important lakes which are called lochs in Ireland. The seacoast is wild and beautiful.
The climate is mild and wet, with mild winters and cool summers. Heavy rainfall all the year encourages green vegetation and that is why it was called The Emerald Isle.
Most of the soil is suitable for farming. Farming is the most important part of Ireland’s economy. Ireland has always been primarily agricultural producing mainly beef and dairy products. The key industries are connected with agriculture – brewing and food processing important are products like butter and milk. Irish linen and Irish whisky have a long tradition, but the economy recently growths in light engineering and electronics. Tourism is also one of the fast growing industries.
Ireland isn’t so rich in natural resources, but it has big reserves of peat. It is the greatest source of energy.
Among the first inhabitants of Ireland were wise Druids, something like priests. In about 300 B. C. Ireland was conquered by the Celts from France who called themselves Gaels and brought their language into the country. In the fifth century came Patrick, a priest, and converted the people to Christianity and taught them to read and write. This Patrick, later to be known as St Patrick, is Patron Saint of Ireland St Patrick’s Day, 17th March is celebrated like a day of the “wearing of the green”.
From the 5th to the 8th century it was the golden era of Irish culture – schools and monasteries were built and monks developed the written Irish language and travelled as a missionaries.
Then Vikings invaded to Ireland and began to colonise Irish coast. They also established the first town – like Dublin, Cork or Limerick.
The next invaders were Normans in the 12 th century. In 1171 Henry II – king of England – took control over Ireland, Ireland became the first English colony and it was the begging of Anglo-Irish conflict.
In 17th century religious persecution increased – Catholics didn’t have political, civil and religious rights – they could not buy the land.
In 1801 the Act of Union joined the Irish Parliament to the Parliament of GB and no Catholics were allowed to sit there. One of the people, who fought and won Catholic emancipation, was Daniel O’Connell – the “uncrowned king of Ireland”.
In 1905 the Sinn Féin movement started in England. It means “We Ourselves” and at first it supported the passive resistance to British ruler. Later it organised an army of volunteers known as the Irish Republican Army (IRA), which made a rebellion in 1916 in Dublin. The Irish Republic was proclaimed that day, but the rebels were executed.
In 1921 an independent Irish state was set up - now the Republic of Ireland. Six counties on the North were controlled by Protestants and they refused to join the new state. They stayed part of the UK and are called Northern Ireland. Nowadays the fights between Catholics and Protestants still continue and nobody knows when it will end although the peace talks and negotiations.
The Republic of Ireland is an independent country with a political system set up on a democratic principle like in USA.
The head of the state is the President elected for 7 years by the direct vote of the people. He appoints members of the Government headed by the Prime Minister. The Government is responsible to the House of Representatives. Together with the Senate forms the National Parliament.
Among the political parties the greatest attention is attracted by Sinn Féin, supporting the IRA. In 1970 the IRA split into two wings – the first wants an united democratic Ireland but the second uses terrorist methods in its fight for the reunification of Ireland. Fights between Catholics and Protestants are now very topical and Ireland could be a threat for the Great Britain.
The capital is Dublin. The River Liffey divides it into two parts the North and the South Sides. On the North Side is O´Connell Street where you can find the General Post Office. This is a symbol of Irish resistance to British rule. During the Easter Rising in 1916 against the British, this building was the headquarters of the Irish forces. On the South Side there is Grafon Street which is the main shopping street in this part of Dublin. The Trinity College is over 400 years old. It was traditionally a Protestant university but today over 70 per cent of the students are Catholic.
You can visit here Bewley´s coffee house which was opened in 1840, it’s the main meeting place in Dublin.
Dublin is famous for its pubs – where you can taste national drink – Guinness.
Cork is the second largest city of Ireland and one of Irish ports. It’s also a cultural centre international jazz or film festivals take place here.
Ireland is a land, where many famous cultural personalities were born. Writers – G. B. Shaw (Pygmalion), Oscar Wilde (Picture of Dorian Gray), Samuel Beckett (absurd drama - Waiting for Godot) atd.