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Republic of Ireland

Ireland ( /ˈaɪrlənd/ or /ˈɑrlənd/; Irish: Éire, pronounced [ˈeːɾʲə] ( listen)), described as the Republic of Ireland (Irish: Poblacht na hÉireann), is a state in Northern Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of Ireland, which was partitioned in 1921.It shares its only land border with Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom on the north-east of the island. The state is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the Celtic Sea to the south, St George's Channel to the south east, the Irish Sea to the east.
In 1801, the kingdoms of Ireland and Great Britain merged to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The majority of the island seceded the United Kingdom in 1922 following a guerrilla war. The Anglo-Irish Treaty concluded this war and established the Irish Free State as a self-governing dominion within the British Commonwealth. Northern Ireland chose to remain as part of the United Kingdom. The independent state increased in sovereignty through the 1931 Statute of Westminster and the abdication crisis of 1936. A new constitution introduced in 1937 declared it a sovereign state named Ireland (Éire).The Republic of Ireland Act proclaimed Ireland a republic in 1949 by removing the remaining duties of the monarch. Ireland consequently withdrew from the British Commonwealth.
Ireland was one of the most impoverished countries in Europe while it was a part of the United Kingdom and for decades following independence. Economic protectionism was dismantled in the late 1950s and Ireland joined the European Economic Community in 1973. Economic liberalism from the late 1980s onwards resulted in rapid economic expansion, particularly from 1995 to 2007, which became known as the Celtic Tiger period. An unprecedented financial crisis beginning in 2008 ended this era of rapid economic growth.
Today, Ireland is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy with an elected president serving as head of state. It is a highly developed country with the fifth highest Human Development Index and the highest quality of life in the world. The country is highly ranked for press freedom, economic freedom and democracy and political freedom. Ireland is a member of the European Union, the Council of Europe, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Trade Organisation and the United Nations.
1 Name
2 History
2.1 Home-rule movement
2.2 Revolution
2.3 Irish Civil War
2.4 1937 Constitution
2.5 Recent history
3 Geography
3.1 Climate
4 Politics
4.1 Local government
4.2 Law
4.3 Foreign relations
4.4 Military
5 Economy
5.1 Development
5.2 Trade and Energy
5.3 Transport
6 Demographics
6.1 Language
6.2 Healthcare
6.3 Education
6.4 Religion
7 Culture
7.1 Literature
7.2 Music and dance
7.3 Cuisine
7.4 Architecture
7.5 Media
7.6 Sports
7.7 Society
8 See also
9 References
10 External links
Main article: Names of the Irish state
The official name of the state is Ireland in the English language and Éire in the Irish language. This is in accordance with Article 4 of the Constitution of Ireland which states that, "The name of the State is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland." Under Irish statute law, the term Republic of Ireland is "the description of the State" but it not its official name. The description was defined in the Republic of Ireland Act 1948, which transferred the remaining duties of monarch to an elected president. However, no actual change of name occurred under that act. A change to the name of the state would require a constitutional referendum. In the UK however, the Ireland Act 1949 provided that "Republic of Ireland" is the official name of the state under UK law
The use of the name Ireland by the state has been a source of contention between the United Kingdom and Ireland since part of the island of Ireland is in the United Kingdom. These differences led the Irish Supreme Court to reject an extradition warrant from the United Kingdom in 1989 that used the name Republic of Ireland ruling that, "if the courts of other countries seeking the assistance of this country are unwilling to give this State its constitutionally correct and internationally recognised name, then in my view, the warrants should be returned to such countries until they have been rectified." These tensions fell away subsequent to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which resolved issues relating to political rights in Northern Ireland and the dropping of Ireland's claim to jurisdiction over the entire island.
In 1996, a parliamentary body charged with reviewing the constitution, the Constitution Review Group, stated that the wording of the article was "unnecessarily complicated and that it should be simplified". An amendment was recommended to state that, "The name of the state is Ireland", with an equivalent change in the Irish text. The Constitution Review Group also considered whether it should be amended to also give the name as Republic of Ireland. The review group deemed the legislative provision declaring the state's description in the Republic of Ireland Act sufficient. Republic of Ireland is frequently used to distinguish the state from the island. Irish Republic, the name of the unilaterally declared republic at the time of independence, is also often used by the international, particularly British, press.
Main articles: History of the Republic of Ireland and History of Ireland
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.

The Irish Parliamentary Party was formed in 1882 by Charles Stewart Parnell (1846–1891).
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.
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 Great 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 the Allied cause, and 175,000 joined Irish regiments of the 10th (Irish), 16th (Irish), while Unionists joined the 36th (Ulster) divisions of the New British Army.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.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 opt out of 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."However, 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

Éamon de Valera (1882–1975)
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 Commonwealth 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 WWI 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.
In the Northern Ireland question, Irish governments started to seek a peaceful reunification of Ireland and have usually cooperated with the British government in the violent conflict involving many paramilitaries and the British Army in Northern Ireland known as "The Troubles". A peace settlement for Northern Ireland, the Belfast Agreement, was approved in 1998 in referendums north and south of the border. As part of the peace settlement, Ireland dropped its territorial claim to Northern Ireland.
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.Although the Constitution established the office of President of Ireland, some say[who?] that between 1937 and 1949 Ireland was not technically a republic,because the principal key role possessed by a head of state, that of symbolically representing Ireland internationally remained vested under statutory law, in the British king as an organ of the Irish government. Others say[who?] that Ireland was a republic, because the Presidency was constitutionally established, and the President exercised the important internal functions of a Head of State, for instance the President gave assent to new laws with his own authority, that is without reference to George VI. George VI, however, was only an "organ", that was provided for by statute law. The King's title in the Irish Free State was exactly the same as it was elsewhere in the British Empire:
1922–1927 – By the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland and of the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India.
1927–1937 – By the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India.
Ireland remained neutral during World War II, a period it described as The Emergency. The position of King ceased with the passage of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948, which came into force on 18 April 1949 when the office of President of Ireland replaced that of the King. The Act declared that the state could be described as 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 immediately ceased membership and 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. 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, George 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 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 2007–2010.
Man article: Geography of Ireland
The Cliffs of Moher on the Atlantic coast.
The Republic of Ireland extends over an area of approximately five-sixths (70,273 km2/27,133 sq mi) of the island of Ireland (84,421 km2/32,595 sq mi), with Northern Ireland constituting the remainder. It 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/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 km 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 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.

Glendalough valley in County Wicklow.
Agriculture accounts for approximately 64% of the total land area. This has resulted in limited land to preserve natural habitats, in particular for larger wild mammals with greater territorial requirement The long history of agricultural production coupled with modern agricultural methods, such as pesticide and fertiliser use, has placed pressure on biodiversity.
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 −3 °C (27 °F) in winter or higher than 22 °C (72 °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. Western 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.
Main article: Politics of the Republic of Ireland
President Mary McAleese
Ireland is a constitutional republic with a parliamentary system of government and is a member state of the European Union. The Oireachtas is a bicameral parliament composed of the President of Ireland, Seanad Éireann as the upper house and Dáil Éireann as the lower house. Áras an Uachtaráin is the official residence of the President of Ireland, while both houses of the Oireachtas meet at Leinster House in Dublin
Leinster House

Government Buildings
The President serves as head of state, and is elected for a seven-year term and may be re-elected once. The President is primarily a figurehead, but is entrusted with certain constitutional powers with the advice of the Council of State. The President has absolute discretion in some areas, such as referring a bill to the Supreme Court for a judgement on its constitutionality Once the Dáil elects the head of government, the President appoints that person as the Taoiseach (prime minister). Most Taoisigh have served as the leader of the political party that gains the most seats in national elections. It has become customary for coalitions to form a government, as there has not been a single-party government since 1989.
The Seanad is composed of sixty members, with eleven nominated by the Taoiseach, six elected by two universities, and 43 elected by public representatives from panels of candidates established on a vocational basis. The Dáil has 166 members (Teachtaí Dála) elected to represent multi-seat constituencies under the system of proportional representation and by means of the single transferable vote.
The Government is constitutionally limited to fifteen members. No more than two members can be selected from the Seanad, and the Taoiseach, Tánaiste (deputy prime minister) and Minister for Finance must be members of the Dáil. The current government is a coalition administration led by Fine Gael with Enda Kenny as Taoiseach, supported by the Labour Party with Eamon Gilmore as Tánaiste. Opposition parties in the current Dáil are Fianna Fáil led by Micheál Martin and Sinn Féin led by Gerry Adams. The Dáil must be dissolved within five years after its first meeting following the previous election, and a general election for members of the Dáil must take place not later than thirty days after the dissolution. Under the Constitution of Ireland, parliamentary elections must be held at least every seven years, though a lower limit may be set by statute law. The current statutory maximum term is five years.
Ireland has been a member of the European Union since 1973, but has chosen to remain outside the Schengen Area. Citizens of the United Kingdom can freely enter the country without a passport due to the Common Travel Area, which is a passport-free zone comprising the islands of Ireland, Great Britain, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. However, some identification is required at airports and seaports.
Local government
Main article: Local government in the Republic of Ireland
The Local Government Act 1898 is the founding document of the present system of local government, while the Twentieth Amendment of 1999 provided for its constitutional recognition. The twenty-six traditional counties of Ireland are not always coterminous with administrative divisions. County Tipperary was divided into North Tipperary and South Tipperary in 1898, while County Dublin was divided into Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, and South Dublin in 1994. The Local Government Act 2001 established a two-tier structure, with the top tier consisting of twenty-nine county councils and five city councils. The five cities of Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Galway, and Waterford are administered separately with their own city councils.

Dublin City
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown
South Dublin
Waterford City
Cork City
Limerick City
South Tipperary
North Tipperary
Galway City
The second tier consists of five borough councils and seventy-five town councils. The five boroughs of Kilkenny, Sligo, Drogheda, Clonmel, and Wexford have a certain level of autonomy within their counties, but have no additional responsibilities.While Kilkenny is a borough, it has retained the legal right to be referred to as a city. Local authorities are responsible for matters such as planning, local roads, sanitation, and libraries. Dáil constituencies are required to follow county boundaries as much as possible. Counties with greater populations have multiple constituencies, some of more than one county, but generally do not cross county boundaries. The counties are grouped into eight regions for statistical purposes.
Main articles: Law of Ireland, Courts of Ireland, and Law enforcement in Ireland

The Four Courts, completed in 1802, is the location of the Supreme Court, the High Court and the Dublin Circuit Court.
Ireland has a common law legal system with a written constitution that provides for a parliamentary democracy. The court system consist of the Supreme Court, the Court of Criminal Appeal, the High Court, the Circuit Court and the District Court, all of which apply the law of Ireland. Trials for serious offences must usually be held before a jury. The High Court and the Supreme Court have authority, by means of judicial review, to determine the compatibility of laws and activities of other institutions of the state with the constitution and the law. Except in exceptional circumstances, court hearings must occur in public. The Criminal Court of Justice is the principal building for the criminal courts. It includes the District Court Court of Criminal Appeal, Dublin Circuit Criminal Court and Central Criminal Court.
The Criminal Court of Justice is the principal building for criminal courts.
Garda Síochána na hÉireann (Guardians of the Peace of Ireland), more commonly referred to as the Gardaí, is the state's civilian police force. The force is responsible for all aspects of civil policing, both in terms of territory and infrastructure. It is headed by the Garda Commissioner, who is appointed by the Government. Most uniformed members do not routinely carry firearms. Standard policing is traditionally carried out by uniformed officers equipped only with a baton.
The Póilíní Airm (Military Police) is the corps of the Irish Army responsible for the provision of policing service personnel and providing a military police presence to forces while on exercise and deployment. In wartime, additional tasks include the provision of a traffic control organisation to allow rapid movement of military formations to their mission areas. Other wartime roles include control of prisoners of war and refugees.
Ireland's citizenship laws relate to "the island of Ireland", including islands and seas, thereby extending them to Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Therefore, anyone born in Northern Ireland who meets the requirements for being an Irish citizen, such as birth on the island of Ireland to an Irish or British citizen parent or a parent who is entitled to live in Northern Ireland or the Republic without restriction on their residency,may exercise an entitlement to Irish citizenship, such as an Irish passport.
Foreign relations
Main article: Foreign relations of Ireland
Foreign relations are substantially influenced by membership of the European Union, although bilateral relations with the United States and United Kingdom are also important.Ireland is the most pro-European EU member state according to a Eurobarometer poll, with 66% of the population approving membership. In 2004, Ireland was one of only three countries to open its borders to workers from 10 new member states. It held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on six occasions and is due to hold the position again in 2013.
Ireland has been a member state of the European Union since 1973.
Ireland tends towards independence in foreign policy, thus the country is not a member of NATO and has a longstanding policy of military neutrality. This policy has helped the Irish Defence Forces to be successful in their contributions to peace-keeping missions with the United Nations since 1960, during the Congo Crisis and subsequently in Cyprus, Lebanon and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Ireland's air facilities were used by the United States military for the delivery of military personnel involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq through Shannon Airport. The airport had previously been used for the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, as well as the First Gulf War. This is part of a longer history of use of Shannon for controversial military transport, under Irish military policy which, while ostensibly neutral, was biased towards NATO during the Cold War. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Seán Lemass authorised the search of Cuban and Czechoslovak aircraft passing through Shannon and passed the information to the CIA.
During the Second World War, although officially neutral, Ireland supplied similar, though more extensive, support for the Allied Forces (see Irish neutrality during World War II). Since 1999, Ireland has been a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace program, which is aimed at creating trust between NATO and other states in Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Main article: Defence Forces (Ireland)
Irish Army Mowag Piranha AFV at 2006 Easter Military Parade in Dublin.
The Irish Defence Forces (Óglaigh na hÉireann) involves the Army, Naval Service, Air Corps and Reserve Defence Force. It is small but well equipped, with almost 10,000 full-time military personnel.This is mainly due to Ireland's policy of neutrality, and its "triple-lock" rules governing the participation of Irish troops in conflict zones, whereby approval must be given by the UN, the Dáil and Government. Daily deployments of the Defence Forces cover aid to civil power operations, protection and patrol of Irish territorial waters and EEZ by the Irish Naval Service, and UN, EU and PfP peace-keeping missions. Over 40,000 Irish servicemen have served in international UN peacekeeping missions.
The Irish Air Corps is the air component of the Defence Forces and operates sixteen fixed wing aircraft and eight helicopters. The Irish Naval Service is Ireland's Navy, and operates eight patrol ships, and smaller numbers of inflatable boats and training vessels, and has highly trained armed boarding parties capable of seizing a ship and a special unit of frogmen. Although the Naval Service has no heavy warships, all Irish vessels have significant firepower. The military includes the Reserve Defence Forces (Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve) for non-active reservists. Ireland's special forces are the elite Army Ranger Wing, which trains and operates with international special operations units. The President is the formal Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces, but in practice it answers to the Government via the Minister for Defence.
Main article: Economy of the Republic of Ireland
International Financial Services Centre
The Irish economy has transformed since the 1980s from being predominantly agricultural to a modern knowledge economy focused on high technology industries and services. Ireland adopted the euro currency in 2002 along with eleven other EU member states.The country is heavily reliant on Foreign Direct Investment and has attracted several multinational corporations due to a highly educated workforce and a low corporation tax rate. Companies such as Intel invested in Ireland during the late 1980s, later followed by Microsoft and Google. Ireland is ranked as the world’s seventh most economically free economy in the world according to the Index of Economic Freedom. In terms of GDP per capita, Ireland is one of the wealthiest countries in the OECD and EU. However, the country ranks below the OECD average in terms of GNP per capita. GDP is significantly greater than GNP due to the large amount of multinational corporations based in Ireland.
Beginning in the early 1990s, the country experienced unprecedented economic growth fuelled by a dramatic rise in consumer spending, construction and investment, which became known as the Celtic Tiger period. The pace of growth slowed during 2007 and led to the burst of a major property bubble which had developed over time. The dramatic fall in property prices has highlighted the over-exposure of the economy to construction, and has contributed to the ongoing Irish banking crisis. Ireland officially entered a recession in 2008 following consecutive months of economic contraction The economy contracted by −1.7% in 2008, −7.1% in 2009 and −1% in 2010. The country officially exited recession in 2010, which was helped by a strong growth in exports of 6.9% during the first quarter. However, due to a significant rise in the cost of borrowing and bank recapitalisation, Ireland accepted an €85 billion programme of assistance from the EU, IMF and bilateral loans from the United Kingdom, Sweden and Denmark. Some forecasts predict Ireland to grow by 0.9% in 2011 and 2.2% in 2012. However, economic forecasting has proven highly unreliable in the country during this turbulent period and it is not uncommon for figures to be revised on an almost monthly basis.
Trade and Energy
A wind farm in County Wexford.
Although multinational corporations dominate Ireland’s export sector, exports contribute significantly to the national income. The country is one of the largest exporters of pharmaceutical and software-related goods and services in the world, the seventh largest producer of zinc concentrates, and the twelfth largest producer of lead concentrates. The country also has significant deposits of gypsum, limestone, and smaller quantities of copper, silver, gold, barite, and dolomite. Other exports include agri-food, cattle, beef, dairy products, and aluminum. Ireland’s major imports include data processing equipment, chemicals, petroleum and petroleum products, textiles, and clothing. The difference between exports (€89.4 billion) and imports (€45.5 billion) resulted an annual trade surplus of €43.9 billion in 2010, which is the highest trade surplus relative to GDP achieved by any EU member state. The EU is by far the country's largest trading partner, accounting for 57.9% of exports and 60.7% of imports. The United Kingdom is the most important trading partner within the EU, accounting for 15.4% of exports and 32.1% of imports. Outside the EU, the United States accounted for 23.2% of exports and 14.1% of imports in 2010.
ESB, Bord Gáis and Airtricity are the three main electricity and gas suppliers in Ireland. Natural gas extraction occurs at the Kinsale Head and Corrib gas fields in the southern and western counties, where there is 19.82 billion cubic metres of proven reserves. There have been significant efforts to increase the use of renewable and sustainable forms of energy in Ireland, particularly in wind power, with a large number wind farms being constructed along coastal areas.
Main articles: Transport in Ireland, Rail transport in Ireland, and Roads in Irelan
Terminal 2 at Dublin Airport.
Ireland's three main international airports at Dublin, Shannon and Cork serve many European and intercontinental routes with scheduled and chartered flights. The London and Dublin route is the busiest international air route in Europe, with 4.5 million people flying between the two cities in 2006. Aer Lingus is the flag carrier of Ireland, although Ryanair is the largest. Ryanair is Europe's largest low-cost carrier, the 2nd-largest in terms of passenger numbers, and the world's largest in terms of international passenger numbers.

InterCity train at Heuston station.
Railway services are provided by Iarnród Éireann, which operates all internal intercity, commuter and freight railway services in the country. Dublin is the centre of the network with two main stations, Heuston station and Connolly station, linking to the country's cities and main towns. The Enterprise service, which runs jointly with Northern Ireland Railways, connects Dublin and Belfast. Dublin has a steadily improving public transport network including the DART, Luas, Dublin Bus, and dublinbikes.
Motorways, national primary roads and national secondary roads are managed by the National Roads Authority, while regional roads and local roads are managed by the local authorities in each of their respective areas. The road network is primarily focused on the capital, but motorways are currently being extended to other cities as part of the Transport 21 capital investment programme, which aims to significantly expand and improve Ireland's transport network over the period 2006–2015. Dublin has been the focus of major projects such as the East-Link and West-Link toll-bridges, as well as the Dublin Port Tunnel. The Jack Lynch Tunnel, under the River Lee in Cork, and the Limerick Tunnel, under the River Shannon, were two major projects outside Dublin. Several by-pass projects are underway at other urban areas.
Main article: Demographics of the Republic of Ireland
See also: Irish Population Analysis
Genetic research suggests that the first settlers of Ireland migrated from Iberia following the most recent ice age.After the Mesolithic, the Neolithic and Bronze Age, migrants introduced Celtic language and culture. Migrants from the Neolithic to Bronze Age still represent the genetic heritage of most Irish people. Gaelic tradition expanded throughout the island and became the dominant form. Irish people are mainly of Gaelic ancestry, and some of Norse, Anglo-Norman, English, Scottish, French, and Welsh ancestry. Irish Travellers are classified as a "social group" in Ireland, but are an "ethnic minority group" in the United Kingdom, politically linked with Roma and Gypsy groups.
Population of Ireland from 1936 to 2006.
Ireland had one of the fastest growing populations in Europe from 2004–2006, with annual growth rates exceeding 2%. This can be attributed to low death rates, high birth rates and immigration.The birth rate is currently over double the death rate, which is highly unusual among western European countries.The estimated population of Ireland currently stands at 4,470,700 as of April 2010.
In the 2006 census, the total population was 4,239,848, an increase of 322,645 since 2002. The country had 419,733 foreign nationals, not including 1,318 people with 'no nationality' and 44,279 with no stated nationality. 89% of the population was Irish, followed by British (112,548), Polish (63,276), and Lithuanian (24,628). 94.8% was recorded as having a 'White' ethnic or cultural background. 1.1% had a 'Black or Black Irish' background, 1.3% had an 'Asian or Asian Irish' background, and 1.7% of the population's background was 'not stated'.
The average annual growth rate of 2% was the highest on record. The population of Leinster and Munster grew by 8.9% and 6.5% respectively, while the population decline of the Connacht region and Donegal, Cavan, Monaghan counties halted. The most populous urban areas in Ireland are Dublin (1,045,769), Cork (190,384), Limerick (90,757), Galway (72,729), and Waterford (49,213).
Main articles: Languages of Ireland, Irish language, Hiberno-English, and Mid Ulster English
Irish is the "national language" according to the Constitution, but English is the dominant language. In the 2006 census, 39% of the population regarded themselves as competent in Irish. Fluent Irish-speakers are limited to low tens of thousands in isolated western areas and Gaeltacht regions. Apart from in Gaeltacht regions, road signs are usually bilingual.The legal status of place names has been controversial, with an order made in 2005 under the Official Languages Act changing the official name of certain locations from English back to Irish. Dingle had its name changed to An Daingean, despite local opposition and a local plebiscite requesting that the name be changed to a bilingual version: Dingle Daingean Uí Chúis. Most public notices and print media are in English only. Most Government publications are available in both languages, and citizens have the right to deal with the state in Irish. Media in Irish exist on TV (TG4), radio (e.g. RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta) and print (e.g. Foinse). In the Irish Defence Forces, all foot and arms drill commands are given in the Irish language.
As a result of immigration, Polish is one of the most widely spoken languages in Ireland after English and Irish. Several other Central and Eastern European languages are also spoken on a day-to-day basis. Other languages spoken in Ireland include Shelta, spoken by Irish Travellers, and a dialect of Scots is spoken by some descendants of Scottish settlers in Ulster. Most secondary school students choose to learn one or two foreign languages. Languages available for the Junior Certificate and the Leaving Certificate include French, German, Italian and Spanish; Leaving Certificate students can also study Arabic, Japanese and Russian. Some secondary schools also offer Ancient Greek, Hebrew and Latin. The study of Irish is compulsory for Leaving Certificate students, but some may qualify for an exemption in some circumstance, such as learning difficulties or entering the country after age 11.
Main article: Healthcare in the Republic of Ireland
RCSI Disease and Research Centre at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin city.
The Minister for Health has responsibility for setting overall health service policy. Every individual resident in Ireland is entitled to receive health care through the public health care system, which is managed by the Health Service Executive and funded by general taxation. A person may be required to pay a subsidised fee for certain health care received; this depends on income, age, illness or disability. All maternity services are provided free of charge and children up to the age of 6 months. Emergency care is provided free of charge to any person admitted through the casualty department. However, visitors to Accident and Emergency departments in non-emergency situations who are not referred by their GP may incur a fee of €100, payable only once per year. In some circumstances this fee is not payable or may be waived.
Anyone holding a European Health Insurance Card is entitled to free maintenance and treatment in public beds in Health Service Executive and voluntary hospitals. Outpatient services are also provided for free. However, the majority of patients on median incomes or above are required to pay subsidised hospital charges. Private health insurance is available to the population for those who want to avail of it.
The average life expectancy in Ireland is 79.2 years, with 76.8 years for men and 81.6 years for women.It has the highest birth rate in the EU (16.8 births per 1,000 inhabitants, compared to an EU average of 10.7)and a very low infant mortality rate (3.5 per 1,000 live births).
Main article: Education in the Republic of Ireland
Ireland has three levels of education: primary, secondary and higher education. The education systems are largely under the direction of the Government via the Minister for Education and Skills. Recognised primary and secondary schools must adhere to the curriculum established by the relevant authorities. Education is compulsory between the ages of six and fifteen years, and all children up to the age of eighteen must complete the first three years of secondary, including one sitting of the Junior Certificate examination.
University College Cork was founded in 1845 and is a constituent university of the National University of Ireland.
The Leaving Certificate, which is taken after two years of study, is the final examination in the secondary school system. Those intending to pursue higher education normally take this examination, with access to third-level courses generally depending on results obtained from the best six subjects taken, on a competitive basis. Third-level education awards are conferred by more than 38 Higher Education Institutions including University College Dublin, University of Dublin, Dublin City University, Dublin Institute of Technology, Higher Education and Training Awards Council, National University of Ireland, Cork Institute of Technology, Waterford Institute of Technology, and University of Limerick. These are the degree-awarding authorities approved by the Government and can grant awards at all academic levels.
The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks Ireland's education as the 20th best among participating countries in science, being statistically significantly higher than the OECD average.[93] In 2006, Irish students aged 15 years had the second highest levels of reading literacy in the EU.[94] Ireland also has 0.747 of the World's top 500 Universities per capita, which ranks the country in 8th place in the world. Primary, secondary and higher (University/College) level education are all free in Ireland for all EU citizens.There are charges to cover student services and examinations.
Main article: Religion in the Republic of Ireland
Religious freedom is constitutionally provided for in Ireland. Christianity is the predominant religion, with the Roman Catholic Church as the largest church. In 2006, 86.8% of the population identified themselves as Roman Catholic, 4.8% as Protestant or another Christian religion, 2% as non-Christian, and 1.6% did not state their religion.According to the 2011 census, the non-religious group has now become the second largest group after Roman Catholic with 18% regarding themselves as non-religious.According to a Georgetown University study, the country has one of the highest rates of regular Mass attendance in the Western World. While daily attendance was 13% in 2006, there was a reduction in weekly attendance from 81% in 1990 to 48% in 2006, although the decline was reported as stabalising. In 2011, it was reported that weekly Mass attendance in Dublin was just 18%, with it being even lower among younger generations
Saint Finbarre's Cathedral is a cathedral of the Church of Ireland in Cork city.
The Church of Ireland is the second largest Christian denomination. Membership declined throughout the twentieth century, but has recently experienced an increase, as have other small Christian denominations. Significant Protestant denominations are the Presbyterian Church and Methodist Church. Immigration has contributed to a growth in Hindu and Muslim populations, as well as the small Jewish community. In percentage terms, Orthodox Christianity and Islam were the fastest growing religions, with increases of 100% and 70% respectively.
Ireland's patron saints are Saint Patrick, Saint Bridget and Saint Columba. Saint Patrick is the only one commonly recognised as the patron saint. Saint Patrick's Day is celebrated on 17 March in Ireland and abroad as the Irish national day, with parades and other celebrations.
As with other predominantly Catholic European states, Ireland underwent a period of legal secularisation in the late twentieth century. In 1972, the article of the Constitution naming specific religious groups was deleted by the Fifth Amendment in a referendum. Article 44 still remains in the Constitution: The State acknowledges that the homage of public worship is due to Almighty God. It shall hold His Name in reverence, and shall respect and honour religion. The article also establishes freedom of religion, prohibits endowment of any religion, prohibits the state from religious discrimination, and requires the state to treat religious and non-religious schools in a non-prejudicial manner.
Religious studies was introduced as an optional Junior Certificate subject in 2001. Despite many schools being run by religious organisations, a secularist trend is occurring among younger generations.Religious schools cannot discriminate against pupils concerning religion. A sanctioned system of preference does exist, where students of a particular religion may be accepted before those who do not share the ethos of the school, in a case where a school's quota has already been reached.
Main article: Culture of Ireland
Main article: Irish literature
Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)
Ireland has made a significant contribution to world literature in both the English and Irish languages. Modern Irish fiction began with the publishing of the 1726 novel Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift. Other writers of importance during the 18th century and their most notable works include Laurence Sterne with the publication of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman and Oliver Goldsmith's The Vicar of Wakefield. Numerous Irish novelists emerged during the 19th century, including Maria Edgeworth, John Banim, Gerald Griffin, Charles Kickham, William Carleton, George Moore, and Somerville and Ross. Bram Stoker is best known as the author of the 1897 novel Dracula.
James Joyce (1882–1941) published his most famous work Ulysses in 1922, which is an interpretation of the Odyssey set in Dublin. Edith Somerville continued writing after the death of her partner Martin Ross in 1915. Dublin's Annie M. P. Smithson was one of several authors catering for fans of romantic fiction in the 1920s and 1930s. After the Second World War, popular novels were published by, among others, Brian O'Nolan, who published as Flann O'Brien, Elizabeth Bowen, and Kate O'Brien. During the final decades of the 20th century, Edna O'Brien, John McGahern, Maeve Binchy, Joseph O'Connor, Roddy Doyle, Colm Tóibín, and John Banville came to the fore as novelists.

W. B. Yeats (1865–1939)
Patricia Lynch (1898–1972) was a prolific children's author, while Eoin Colfer has been particularly successful in this genre in recent years. In the genre of the short story, which is a form favoured by many Irish writers, the most prominent figures include Seán Ó Faoláin, Frank O'Connor and William Trevor. Well known Irish poets include Patrick Kavanagh, Thomas McCarthy, Dermot Bolger, and Nobel Prize in Literature laureates William Butler Yeats and Seamus Heaney (born in Northern Ireland but resides in Dublin). Prominent writers in the Irish language are Pádraic Ó Conaire, Máirtín Ó Cadhain, Séamus Ó Grianna, and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill.
The history of Irish theatre begins with the expansion of the English administration in Dublin during the early 17th century, and since then, Ireland has significantly contributed to English drama. In its early history, theatrical productions in Ireland tended to serve political purposes, but as more theatres opened and the popular audience grew, a more diverse range of entertainments were staged. Many Dublin-based theatres developed links with their London equivalents, and British productions frequently found their way to the Irish stage. However, most Irish playwrights went abroad to establish themselves. In the 18th century, Oliver Goldsmith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan were two of the most successful playwrights on the London stage at that time. At the beginning of the 20th century, theatre companies dedicated to the staging of Irish plays and the development of writers, directors and performers began to emerge, which allowed many Irish playwrights to learn their trade and establish their reputations in Ireland rather than in Britain or the United States. Following in the tradition of Nobel Prize in Literature laureates George Bernard Shaw, Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett, playwrights such as Seán O'Casey, Brian Friel, Sebastian Barry, Brendan Behan, Conor McPherson, and Billy Roche have gained popular success.Other Irish playwrights of the 20th century include Denis Johnston, Thomas Kilroy, Tom Murphy, Hugh Leonard, Frank McGuinness, and John B. Keane.
Music and dance
Main articles: Irish music and Irish dance
Irish traditional music has remained vibrant, despite globalising cultural forces, and retains many traditional aspects. It has influenced various music genres, such as American country and roots music, and to some extent modern rock. It has occasionally been blended with styles such as rock and roll and punk rock. Well known artists include Altan, Clannad, The Chieftains, The Dubliners, The Saw Doctors, Christy Moore, Mary Black, ensembles such as Anúna and Celtic Woman, and cross-over artists such as Enya and Sinéad O'Connor.

The Frames
Ireland has also produced many internationally known artists in other genres, such as rock, pop, jazz, and blues, including The Corrs, The Cranberries, The Pogues, Thin Lizzy, Boyzone, Westlife, U2, Chris de Burgh, Laura Izibor, Damien Rice, guitarist Rory Gallagher, and Academy Award winner Glen Hansard of The Frames. Contemporary artists include Bell X1, Fight Like Apes, Jape, Lisa Hannigan, Mick Flannery, My Bloody Valentine, Republic of Loose, The Blizzards, The Coronas, The Script, Two Door Cinema Club, Cathy Davey, Villagers, and Imelda May.
There are a number of classical music ensembles around the country, such as the RTÉ Performing Groups.Ireland also has three opera organisations. Opera Ireland produces large-scale operas in Dublin, the Opera Theatre Company tours its chamber-style operas throughout the country, and the annual Wexford Opera Festival, which promotes lesser-known operas, takes place during October and November.
Irish dance can broadly be divided into social dance and performance dance. Irish social dance can be divided into céilí and set dancing. Irish set dances are quadrilles, danced by 4 couples arranged in a square, while céilí dances are danced by varied formations of couples of 2 to 16 people. There are also many stylistic differences between these two forms. Irish social dance is a living tradition, and variations in particular dances are found across the country. In some places dances are deliberately modified and new dances are choreographed. Performance dance is traditionally referred to as stepdance. Irish stepdance, popularised by the show Riverdance, is notable for its rapid leg movements, with the body and arms being kept largely stationary. The solo stepdance is generally characterised by a controlled but not rigid upper body, straight arms, and quick, precise movements of the feet. The solo dances can either be in "soft shoe" or "hard shoe".
Main article: Irish cuisine
A pint of stout and brown bread.
Irish cuisine was traditionally based on meat and dairy, supplemented with vegetables and seafood. The potato eventually formed the basis of many traditional Irish dishes after its introduction in the 16th century.Examples of popular Irish cuisine include boxty, colcannon, coddle, stew, and bacon and cabbage. Ireland is famous for the full Irish breakfast, which involves a fried or grilled meal generally consisting of bacon, egg, sausage, pudding, and fried tomato. Apart from the significant influence by European and international dishes, there has been a recent emergence of a new Irish cuisine based on traditional ingredients handled in new ways. This cuisine is based on fresh vegetables, fish, oysters, mussels and other shellfish, and the wide range of hand-made cheeses that are now being produced across the country. Shellfish have increased in popularity, especially due to the high quality shellfish available from the country's coastline. The most popular fish include salmon and cod. Traditional breads include soda bread and wheaten bread. Barmbrack is a yeasted bread with added sultanas and raisins.
Popular everyday beverages among the Irish include tea and coffee. Alcoholic drinks associated with Ireland include Poitín and the world famous Guinness, which is a dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness at St. James's Gate in Dublin. Irish whiskey is also popular throughout the country, and comes in various forms, including single malt, single grain and blended whiskey.
Main article: Architecture of Ireland
Poulnabrone dolmen in County Clare was built during the neolithic period.
Some architectural features in Ireland date back to the prehistoric period, such as Brú na Bóinne, Poulnabrone dolmen, Castlestrange stone, Turoe stone, and Drombeg stone circle.As the Romans never conquered the island, architecture of Greco-Roman origin is extremely rare. Ireland instead had an extended period of Iron Age architecture.The Irish round tower originated during the Early Medieval period.
Ashford Castle is a medieval castle in County Mayo. It was built in 1228.
Christianity introduced simple monastic houses, such as Clonmacnoise, Skellig Michael and Scattery Island. A stylistic similarity has been remarked between these double monasteries and those of the Copts of Egypt.Gaelic kings and aristocrats lived in ringforts or crannógs.12th century Church reforms via the Cistercians stimulated continental influence with the Romanesque style Mellifont, Boyle and Tintern abbeys.Gaelic settlement had been limited to the Monastic proto-towns, such as Kells, where the current street pattern preserves the original circular settlement outline to some extent.Significant urban settlements only developed after the period of Viking invasions. The major Hiberno-Norse Longphorts were located on the coast, but with minor inland fluvial settlements, such as the eponymous Longford.
Castles were built by the Normans during the late 12th century, such as Dublin Castle and Kilkenny Castle and the concept of the planned walled trading town was introduced, which gained legal status and several rights by grant of a Charter under the Feudal System. These charters specifically governed the design of these towns.Two significant waves of planned town formation followed, the first being the 16th and 17th century plantation towns (as a mechanism for the Tudor English Kings to suppress local insurgency), followed by 18th century landlord towns.Surviving Norman founded planned towns include Drogheda and Youghal; plantation towns include Portlaoise and Portarlington; well-preserved 18th century planned towns include Westport and Ballinasloe. These episodes of planned settlement account for the majority of present day towns

Dublin Custom House is a neoclassical building from the late 18th century.
Gothic cathedrals, such as St Patrick's, were also introduced by the Normans. Franciscans were dominant in directing the abbeys by the Late Middle Ages, while elegant tower houses, such as Bunratty Castle, were built by the Gaelic and Norman aristocracy. Several religious buildings were ruined with the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Following the Restoration, palladianism and rococo, particularly country houses, swept through Ireland under the initiative of Edward Lovett Pearce, with the Houses of Parliament being the most significant.
With the erection of buildings such as The Custom House, Four Courts, General Post Office and King's Inns, the neoclassical and Georgian styles flourished, especially in Dublin.[120] Georgian townhouses produced streets of singular distinction, particularly in Dublin, Limerick and Cork. Following Catholic Emancipation, cathedrals and churches, such as St Colman's and St Finbarre's, influenced by the French Gothic Revival emerged. Ireland has long been associated with thatched roof cottages, though these are nowadays considered quaint.
Since the 20th century, starting with the American designed art deco church at Turner's Cross in 1927,various modernist forms have been created, including Busáras and the Spire of Dublin.Modern developments include the regeneration of Ballymun and an urban extension of Dublin at Adamstown, facilitated by its designation as a Strategic Development Zone. The Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland regulates the practice of architecture in the state.
Main article: Media of Ireland
Ireland's four national terrestrial channels are RTÉ One, RTÉ Two, TV3 (and sister channel 3e), and TG4. RTÉ is the country's public service broadcaster, with RTÉ News being the most popular news source among the public.RTÉ News Now is a free-to-air 24-hour television news service also available online and on mobile phones. RTÉ One has various political and current affairs programmes, such as Prime Time and The Frontline, as well as chat shows, such as The Late Late Show and The Saturday Night Show. RTÉ Two focuses on sport and imported programmes, along with its youth strands RTÉjr, TRTÉ and Two Tube. Subscription to multichannel networks, such as Sky, allows for hundreds of available channels. Reception of the British terrestrial television channels BBC One, BBC Two, Channel 4 and the Northern Irish ITV affiliate UTV is widespread across Ireland.
The Irish film industry, state-supported by the Bord Scannán na hÉireann, helped launch the careers of directors Neil Jordan and Jim Sheridan, and supported Irish films such as Intermission and Breakfast on Pluto. International films such as Braveheart and Saving Private Ryan have also been attracted to Ireland. Maureen O'Sullivan is considered by many to be Ireland's first film star.Famous Irish actors include Maureen O'Hara, Barry Fitzgerald, Richard Harris, Peter O'Toole, Liam Neeson, Pierce Brosnan, Gabriel Byrne, Daniel Day-Lewis, Brendan Gleeson, Colm Meaney, Colin Farrell, Brenda Fricker, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Saoirse Ronan, Stuart Townsend, Michael Gambon, and Cillian Murphy.
RTÉ Radio broadcasts four nationwide radio stations: RTÉ Radio 1, RTÉ 2fm, RTÉ lyric fm, and RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta. The independent national radio stations are Today FM and Newstalk. There are four independent regional stations which aim for a younger audience: Beat 102-103, Spin South West, i102-104FM, and i105-107FM. There are 25 local radio stations. Some counties are covered by only one station, but Dublin and Cork have several. There are also many licensed community radio stations operating on a non-commercial basis.
There are several daily newspapers in Ireland, including the Irish Independent, The Irish Examiner, The Irish Times, Irish Daily Star, and the Evening Herald. Sunday newspaper include the Sunday Independent, The Sunday Tribune, The Sunday Business Post, Ireland on Sunday, and the Sunday World. There are also numerous town and county based newspapers.
Main article: Sport in Ireland
Croke Park is the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association.
Gaelic football and hurling are the national sports of Ireland, administered by the Gaelic Athletic Association and organised on an all-Ireland basis.They are the most popular sports to watch, with 34% of total attendances at sports events being to Gaelic football and 24% to hurling. Notable former Gaelic games players include DJ Carey and Seamus Moynihan, as well as former Taoiseach Jack Lynch who was also a noted hurler. Current players include Henry Shefflin, Sean Cavanagh and Colm Cooper. Soccer is the most widely played adult team sport in Ireland.The League of Ireland is the sport's national league. It is often ignored by the majority of the sporting public in favour of the English Premier League. The Republic of Ireland national football team plays at international level. Prominent former and current international footballers include Roy Keane, John Giles, Liam Brady, Paul McGrath, Shay Given, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane.
Ireland has seen numerous successes in the Olympic Games since debuting at the 1924 Summer Olympic games. As of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Irish athletes have won a total of 8 gold, 7 silver and 8 bronze medals in the fields of Athletics, Boxing, Swimming and Sailing.
In rugby union, the IRFU team has produced players like Brian O'Driscoll, Ronan O'Gara, Paul O'Connell, and Keith Wood. Recent achievements include winning the RBS Six Nations and Grand Slam 2009. In athletics, Sonia O'Sullivan, Eamonn Coghlan, Catherina McKiernan, Ronnie Delaney, John Treacy, David Gillick, and Derval O'Rourke have won medals at international events. The Ireland cricket team represents all-Ireland, and is an associate member of the International Cricket Council with One Day International status. It participated in the 2007 and 2011 world cups, and created shocks in both editions by beating Pakistan and England respectively. However, it failed to reach the knockout stages in both tournaments.
John L. Sullivan, born in 1858 in the United States to Irish parents, was the first modern world heavyweight champion. Barry McGuigan and Steve Collins were also world champion boxers, while Bernard Dunne was a European super bantamweight champion and WBA Super Bantamweight champion. Michael Carruth won a gold medal at welterweight at the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992. Current prospects in the middleweight division are John Duddy and Andy Lee. At the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, the Irish team won 3 medals, with Kenneth Egan winning silver and Darren Sutherland and Paddy Barnes earning bronzes. Ken Doherty is a former World Champion (1997) snooker player.
In motor sport, during the 1990s Jordan Grand Prix became the only independent team to win multiple Formula One races. In 2007, the Rally of Ireland became a qualifying round of the FIA World Rally Championship. In cycling, Ireland produced Sean Kelly and Stephen Roche, who was the only Irishman to win the Tour de France in 1987. In clay pigeon shooting, Derek Burnett, David Malone and Philip Murphy are notable for their silver and gold medals in ISSF World Cup competitions. Malone and Burnett are also notable for their appearances at the Summer Olympics, with Malone competing in Sydney in 2000, and Burnett competing in Sydney, Athens and Beijing, from 2000 to 2008. In golf, the 2008 USPGA champion was Pádraig Harrington, which was his third major win. In 2002, Dermott Lennon became the first Irish rider to win a Show Jumping World Championship gold medal.
See also: Abortion in the Republic of Ireland and LGBT rights in the Republic of Ireland
The receding influence of the Catholic Church and the effects of immigration have led to Ireland becoming an increasingly secularised society. Contraception was controlled in Ireland until 1979.In 1983, the Eighth Amendment recognised "the right to life of the unborn", subject to qualifications concerning the "equal right to life" of the mother. The case of Attorney General v. X subsequently prompted passage of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, guaranteeing the right to have an abortion performed abroad, and the right to learn about "services" that are illegal in Ireland but legal abroad. The prohibition on divorce in the 1937 Constitution was repealed in 1995 under the Fifteenth Amendment.
Discrimination based on age, gender, sexual orientation, maritial or familial status, religion, race or membership of the travelling community is illegal in Ireland. The legislation which outlawed homosexual acts was repealed in 1993.The Dáil and the Seanad passed the Civil Partnership and Certain Rights and Obligations of Cohabitants Act in 2010, which recognised civil partnerships between same-sex couples. It permits same-sex couples to register their relationship before a registrar.An Sunday Times poll carried out in March 2011 showed that 73% of people believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry, while 60% believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to adopt children.
Ireland became the first country in the world to introduce an environmental levy for plastic shopping bags in 2002 and a public smoking ban in 2004. It was also the first European country to ban incandescent lightbulbs in 2008 and in-store tobacco advertising and product display in 2009.[142][143] Capital punishment is constitutionally banned, and Ireland was one of the main nations involved in the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, formally endorsed in Dublin. Ireland ranks sixth in the world in terms of gender equality.[144]

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