Republic of Ireland
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Ireland, Republic of,Gaelic, Eire, republic (2015 est. pop. 4,700,000), 27,136 sq mi (70,282 sq km). It occupies all but the northeastern corner of the island of Ireland in the British Isles. (For physical geography and history to 1922, see IrelandIreland,
Irish Eire [to it are related the poetic Erin and perhaps the Latin Hibernia], island, 32,598 sq mi (84,429 sq km), second largest of the British Isles.
..... Click the link for more information. .) From 1922 to 1937 the country was known as the Irish Free State, and from 1937 to 1949 as Eire. DublinDublin,
Irish Baile Átha Cliath, county borough (1991 pop. 915,516), Leinster, capital of the Republic of Ireland, on Dublin Bay at the mouth of the Liffey River. Its harbor, with shipyards, docks, and quays, dates from 1714.
..... Click the link for more information. is the capital of the republic and by far its largest city.
Political Geography and People
The republic's 26 counties are MonaghanMonaghan
, county (1991 pop. 51,293), 498 sq mi (1,290 sq km), N Republic of Ireland, bordered on the N by Northern Ireland. The county seat is Monaghan. The northwest portion of the county is a part of the fertile central plain of Ireland; to the south and east are hilly
..... Click the link for more information. , CavanCavan
, county (1991 pop. 52,796), 730 sq mi (1,891 sq km), N Republic of Ireland. The county seat is Cavan. The county is a hilly region of lakes (Lough Oughter chief among them) and bogs, and the climate is extremely damp and cool. Most of the soil is clay.
..... Click the link for more information. , and DonegalDonegal
, county (1991 pop. 128,117), 1,865 sq mi (4,830 sq km), N Republic of Ireland, on the Atlantic Ocean. The county seat is Lifford. The extremely irregular coastline extends from Lough Foyle on the north to Donegal Bay on the west and is deeply indented by Lough Swilly.
..... Click the link for more information. (constituting part of the historic province of Ulster); LouthLouth
, county (1991 pop. 90,724), 317 sq mi (821 sq km), NE Republic of Ireland. The county seat is Dundalk. The region borders the Irish Sea from the mouth of the Boyne River to Carlingford Lough. The terrain is an undulating plain, except for a hilly district in the north.
..... Click the link for more information. , MeathMeath
, county (1991 pop. 105,370), 903 sq mi (2,339 sq km), E Republic of Ireland. The county seat is Navan. The land is mostly level, being a part of the central plain of Ireland, with extensive fertile areas near the Boyne and the Blackwater, the principal rivers.
..... Click the link for more information. , DublinDublin,
county (1991 pop. 1,025,304, including the city of Dublin), 327 sq mi (847 sq km), E central Republic of Ireland, on the Irish Sea. The region is dominated by Dublin, which is the county seat and capital of the Republic.
..... Click the link for more information. , KildareKildare,
county (1991 pop. 122,656), 654 sq mi (1,694 sq km), E central Republic of Ireland. The county seat is Kildare. The region is a flat plain, containing the greater portion of the Bog of Allen, as well as many glacial deposits.
..... Click the link for more information. , WicklowWicklow
, county (1991 pop. 97,265), 782 sq mi (2,025 sq km), E Republic of Ireland. The county seat is Wicklow. The Wicklow Mts. and their foothills occupy almost the entire area of the county; Lugnaquilla (3,039 ft/926 m) is the highest peak.
..... Click the link for more information. , CarlowCarlow
, county (1991 pop. 40,942), 346 sq mi (896 sq km), SE Republic of Ireland. The chief towns are Carlow, the county seat; Bagenalstown, on the Barrow River, which forms much of the western boundary of the county; and Tullow, on the Slaney River which crosses the county
..... Click the link for more information. , WexfordWexford
, county (1991 pop. 102,069), 910 sq mi (2,357 sq km), SE Republic of Ireland. The county seat is the port city of Wexford. Most of the land is low and fertile, but on the western border Mt. Leinster in the Blackstairs Mts. rises to 2,610 ft (796 m).
..... Click the link for more information. , KilkennyKilkenny
, Gaelic Cill Chainnigh, county (1991 pop. 73,635), 796 sq mi (2,062 sq km), S Republic of Ireland. The county seat is Kilkenny. The region is mainly a rolling plain, part of the central plain of Ireland, with low hills to the south.
..... Click the link for more information. , LaoighisLaoighis,
, county (1991 pop. 52,325), 664 sq mi (1,720 sq km), central Republic of Ireland. The county seat is Port Laoise (Maryborough).
..... Click the link for more information. , OffalyOffaly
, county (1991 pop. 58,494), 771 sq mi (1,997 sq km), central Republic of Ireland. The county seat is Tullamore. A part of the central plain of Ireland, the county is mostly flat with some sections covered by the Bog of Allen. The Slieve Bloom Mts.
..... Click the link for more information. , WestmeathWestmeath
, county (1991 pop. 61,880), 681 sq mi (1,764 sq km), central Republic of Ireland. The county seat is Mullingar. A part of the central plain of Ireland, the region is mostly level and fertile, with many lakes and bogs.
..... Click the link for more information. , and LongfordLongford,
county (1991 pop. 30,296), 403 sq mi (1,044 sq km), N central Republic of Ireland. The county seat is Longford. A part of the central plain of Ireland, it has level land with numerous small lakes, bogs, and marshes.
..... Click the link for more information. (comprising Leinster); TipperaryTipperary
, county (1991 pop. 132,772), 1,643 sq mi (4,255 sq km), S central Republic of Ireland. The county seat is Tipperary. Administratively, the county is divided into North Riding (its administrative center at Nenagh) and South Riding (its administrative center at Clonmel).
..... Click the link for more information. , WaterfordWaterford
, county (1991 pop. 91,624), 710 sq mi (1,839 sq km), S Republic of Ireland. The county seat is the port town of Waterford. Although the terrain is largely hilly, there are lowlands in the east.
..... Click the link for more information. , CorkCork,
county (1991 pop. 410,369), 2,881 sq mi (7,462 sq km), SW Republic of Ireland. Cork is the county seat. Largest of the Irish counties, it has a rocky and much-indented coastline (Bantry, Dunmanus, Roaringwater, Courtmarsherry, Clonakilty, and Youghal bays, and Kinsale and
..... Click the link for more information. , KerryKerry,
county (1991 pop. 121,894), 1,815 sq mi (4,701 sq km), SW Republic of Ireland. The county town is Tralee. Kerry consists of a series of mountainous peninsulas that extend into the Atlantic. The shoreline is deeply indented by Dingle Bay, Tralee Bay, and the Kenmare River.
..... Click the link for more information. , LimerickLimerick
, county (1991 pop. 161,956), 1,037 sq mi (2,686 sq km), SW Republic of Ireland. Limerick is the county seat. The region is an agricultural plain lying S of the Shannon estuary.
..... Click the link for more information. , and ClareClare,
county (1991 pop. 90,918), 1,231 sq mi (3,188 sq km), W Republic of Ireland, between Galway Bay and the Shannon River. The county and Roman Catholic seat is Ennis. The terrain is broken and hilly, with many bogs and lakes; the coastline is especially rugged.
..... Click the link for more information. (comprising Munster); and LeitrimLeitrim
, county (1991 pop. 25,301), 589 sq mi (1,526 sq km), N Republic of Ireland. The county seat is Carrick-on-Shannon. Leitrim is divided into two parts by Lough Allen; the northern part is mountainous, the southern part level. Potatoes and oats are grown.
..... Click the link for more information. , RoscommonRoscommon
, county (1991 pop. 51,876), 951 sq mi (2,463 sq km), central Republic of Ireland. The county seat is Roscommon. A part of the central plain of Ireland, the region is low-lying and contains many lakes (Lough Allen and Lough Ree) and bogs.
..... Click the link for more information. , GalwayGalway
, county (1991 pop. 180,364), 2,293 sq mi (5,939 sq km), W Republic of Ireland. The county town is Galway. The county is divided into two sections by Lough Corrib.
..... Click the link for more information. , MayoMayo,
county (1991 pop. 110,696), 2,084 sq mi (5,398 sq km), W Republic of Ireland. The county seat is Castlebar. The western portion, including large Achill island, is mountainous; the eastern part is more level.
..... Click the link for more information. , and SligoSligo
, county (1991 pop. 54,756), 694 sq mi (1,797 sq km), N Republic of Ireland. The county seat is Sligo. The irregular coast line is deeply indented by Killala Bay and Sligo Bay. The interior is mountainous, with the Slieve Gamph, or Ox Mts.
..... Click the link for more information. (comprising Connacht). In addition to the capital, other urban areas are LimerickLimerick,
city (1991 pop. 56,083), seat of Co. Limerick, SW Republic of Ireland, at the head of the Shannon estuary. The city has a port with two docks. The primary imports are grain, timber, and coal; exports include produce and fish.
..... Click the link for more information. , CorkCork,
city (1991 pop. 174,000), county town of Co. Cork, S Republic of Ireland, on the Lee River near its mouth on Cork Harbour. The oldest part of the town rests on an island between the north and south branches of the Lee, which is crossed by numerous bridges.
..... Click the link for more information. , Dún LaoghaireDún Laoghaire
, city (1991 pop. 55,540), Co. Dublin, E central Republic of Ireland, on the Irish Sea. It is the main passenger and mail port for Dublin and a seaside resort with yachting and fishing.
..... Click the link for more information. , WaterfordWaterford,
town (1991 pop. 41,853), seat of Co. Waterford, S Republic of Ireland, on the Suir River near the head of Waterford Harbour. The port town is a center for the export of fruit, meat, and the famous Waterford crystal.
..... Click the link for more information. , GalwayGalway,
city (1991 pop. 50,853), seat of Co. Galway, W Republic of Ireland, on Galway Bay near the mouth of the Corrib River. Industries include tourism, food processing, flour milling, medical instruments, computers, motors, and the production of textiles and furniture.
..... Click the link for more information. , and DundalkDundalk
, town (1991 pop. 30,061), seat of Co. Louth, NE Republic of Ireland, near the mouth of the Castletown River at Dundalk Bay. It has a port that exports livestock, barley, and other crops.
..... Click the link for more information. .
The population is largely Celtic with a minority of English and more recent European and non-European immigrants drawn (since the 1990s) by the country's economic growth. The population is largely Roman Catholic (88%). Although there is no officially established church, the Roman Catholic church has historically played a dominant role in education in the Irish Republic and, until the 21st cent., was extremely influential societally. English and Gaelic are the official languages, with English the more widely used. Gaelic is most common in the west of the country.
Agriculture, once the most important sector of the economy, now engages only 8% of the workforce. The raising of dairy and beef cattle, sheep, pigs, and poultry is the chief agricultural enterprise. Among the leading crops are flax, oats, wheat, turnips, barley, potatoes, and sugar beets. The republic's industries account for more than 45% of its gross domestic product and 80% of its exports, and employ roughly 30% of its workforce. Products include steel, foodstuffs, beer and ale, textiles, clothing, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, machinery, transportation equipment, vehicles, ships, computer and telecommunications hardware, computer software, linen and laces (for which Ireland is famous), crystal, and handicrafts. The main ports are Dublin and Cork. Around the free port of Shannon are factories producing electronic equipment, chemicals, plastics, and textiles. Copper, lead, zinc, silver, barite, and gypsum are mined, and oil and natural gas are produced offshore. Tourism is also very important. Ireland's main exports are machinery, computers, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, live animals, and animal products. Imports include data processing and other equipment, chemicals, petroleum products, textiles, and clothing. The main trading partners are Great Britain, the United States, and Germany.
The republic is governed under the constitution of 1937. The president, who is the head of state, is popularly elected to a seven-year term and is eligible for a second term. The prime minister, who is the head of government, is appointed by the president, as is the cabinet. There is a bicameral Parliament, the Oireachtas. The House of Representatives or Dáil Éireann is the more powerful chamber. Its 166 members are elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation. Members of the 60-seat Senate or Śeanad Éireann are indirectly elected or appointed. All legislators serve five-year terms. Administratively, the country is divided into 26 counties.
After the establishment by treaty with Great Britain of the Irish Free State (Jan., 1922), civil war broke out between supporters of the treaty and opponents, who refused to accept the partition of Ireland and the retention of any ties with Britain. The antitreaty forces, embodied in the Irish Republican ArmyIrish Republican Army
(IRA), nationalist organization devoted to the integration of Ireland as a complete and independent unit. Organized by Michael Collins from remnants of rebel units dispersed after the Easter Rebellion in 1916 (see Ireland), it was composed of the more
..... Click the link for more information. (IRA) and led by Eamon De ValeraDe Valera, Eamon
, 1882–1975, Irish statesman, b. New York City. He was taken as a child to Ireland. As a young man he joined the movement advocating physical force to achieve Irish independence and took part in the Easter Rebellion of 1916.
..... Click the link for more information. , were defeated, although the IRA continued as a secret terrorist organization. William CosgraveCosgrave, William Thomas
, 1880–1965, Irish statesman; father of Liam Cosgrave. A member of Sinn Féin, he fought in the Easter Rebellion (1916) and was sentenced to life imprisonment.
..... Click the link for more information. became the first prime minister. De Valera and his followers, the Fianna Fáil party, agreed to take the oath of allegiance to the British crown and entered the Dáil in 1927.
In 1932, De Valera became prime minister, and under his administration a new constitution was promulgated (1937), establishing the sovereign nation of Ireland, or Eire, within the Commonwealth of Nations. De Valera's policies aimed at the political and economic independence and union of all of Ireland. The loyalty oath to the crown was abolished, and certain economic provisions of the 1921 treaty with England were repudiated, leading to an "economic war" (1932–38) with Britain.
During World War II, Eire remained neutral and vigorously protested Allied military activity in Northern Ireland. The British were denied the use of Irish ports, and German and Japanese agents were allowed to operate in the country. Some 60,000 Irish citizens, however, volunteered to serve with the British armed forces, including some 7,000 who deserted from the Irish army. The people of Eire suffered relatively little hardship during the war and even profited from increased food exports. The postwar period brought a sharp rise in the cost of living and a decline in population, due in great part to steady emigration to Northern Ireland, Great Britain, and other countries. In 1948, Prime Minister J. A. CostelloCostello, John Aloysius,
1891–1976, Irish political leader. A barrister, he joined the attorney general's office of the newly founded Irish Free State in 1922. In 1926 he became attorney general under William Cosgrave.
..... Click the link for more information. demanded total independence from Great Britain and reunification with the six counties of Northern Ireland.
The Republic of Ireland was proclaimed on Apr. 18, 1949. The country withdrew from the Commonwealth and formally claimed jurisdiction over the Ulster counties. It was admitted to the United Nations in 1955. Nothing came of the claim to Ulster, and during the 1950s and 60s the republic and Northern Ireland improved their economic relations. The later decade also saw an all-time low in Irish population, 2.82 million in 1961. In the late 1960s the problem of Northern Ireland flared up again in bitter fighting between the Protestant majority and Catholic minority there, aggravated by the actions of the IRA, which was headquartered in the republic.
In 1973, Erskine H. Childers succeeded De Valera as president of Ireland, and Liam CosgraveCosgrave, Liam
, 1920–2017, Irish statesman; son of William Cosgrave. After studying law, he entered the Dáil Éireann as a Fine Gael member in 1943 and served as minister of commerce and industry (1948–54), minister for external affairs (1954–57),
..... Click the link for more information. , at the head of a Fine Gael–Labor coalition, replaced Jack LynchLynch, Jack
(John Mary Lynch), 1917–99, Irish statesman. Before he embarked on his political career, he gained nationwide fame as an athlete, captaining several winning hurling teams in the 1930s and 40s.
..... Click the link for more information. , of Fianna Fáil, as prime minister. In the same year the republic joined the European Community (now the European UnionEuropean Union
(EU), name given since the ratification (Nov., 1993) of the Treaty of European Union, or Maastricht Treaty, to the European Community (EC), an economic and political confederation of European nations, and other organizations (with the same member nations)
..... Click the link for more information. ). Childers died in 1974 and was succeeded by Cearbhal O. Dalaigh. Lynch led Fianna Fáil back into office in 1977; in 1979 fellow party member Charles HaugheyHaughey, Charles James
, 1925–2006, Irish politician. A successful accountant and real estate investor, he entered Parliament as a Fianna Fáil member in 1957.
..... Click the link for more information. replaced Lynch as prime minister. In 1981 a Fine Gael–Labor coalition headed by Garret FitzGeraldFitzGerald, Garrett,
1926–2011, Irish political leader. After studying economics and law, he lectured (1959–73) in political economy at his alma mater, University College.
..... Click the link for more information. defeated Fianna Fáil on an economic platform. Although ousted in 1982, the coalition was governing again six months later. Beginning in the late 1970s the republic's political situation was more fluid than it had been; there were several general elections and a variety of party schisms. In 1987, Haughey again became prime minister. As unemployment soared, especially among young people, outmigration increased, reaching a peak of 44,000 in 1989.
During the 1990s, the economy grew significantly, buoyed by EU subsidies and new foreign investment. By the end of the decade, unemployment was below the EU average, although pockets of poverty persisted. In late 1994, after the IRA and Protestant militias agreed to a cease-fire, efforts were begun to negotiate a settlement of the the Northern Ireland issue. Despite some setbacks, agreements were reached in Apr., 1998, and approved by voters in both the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland in May. Women's issues, such as the government's strong antiabortion stance and the constitutional ban on divorce, also became a focus in the 1990s; a referendum legalizing divorce passed by a narrow margin in 1995. In 1991, Ireland elected its first female president, Mary Robinson, and in 1997 Mary McAleese became its first president from Northern Ireland.
In 1992, Albert ReynoldsReynolds, Albert,
1935–2014, Irish political leader. A successful business executive, Reynolds won (1977) a seat in the Irish parliament as a member of the Fianna Fáil party.
..... Click the link for more information. , of Fianna Fáil, replaced Charles Haughey as prime minister, and when the governing coalition collapsed, Reynolds successfully formed another. The Reynolds government fell in 1994, and Fine Gael leader John BrutonBruton, John
, 1947–, Irish politician, b. Dublin. A lawyer and farm owner, he is a member of the centrist Fine Gael party. Bruton was first elected to the Irish parliament in 1969 and during the 1970s served as a junior minister.
..... Click the link for more information. succeeded him, heading a Fine Gael–Labor coalition. Bertie AhernAhern, Bertie
(Bartholomew Patrick Ahern) , 1951–, Irish politician, prime minister of the Republic of Ireland (1997–2008). Born into a working-class family, he studied accounting at University College, Dublin.
..... Click the link for more information. became prime minister in 1997, heading a Fianna Fáil–Progressive Democrat coalition; his coalition was returned to office in 2002. Revelations in 2006 that Ahern had received loans from business acquaintances in 1993–94 while he was finance minister and had not yet repaid them sparked controversy. Ahern said his attempts to repay them had been refused; he did repay the loans soon after they were became public.
In 2007 Ahern led his party to another victory at the polls, but Progressive Democrat losses led to the addition of the Green party to the governing coalition. Investigation into Ahern's finances revealed he had received additional secret cash payments in the early 1990s, and in May, 2008, he resigned because the investigation was undermining his government. Deputy Prime Minister Brian CowenCowen, Brian,
1960– Irish political leader, prime minister of the Repubic of Ireland (2008–11). A lawyer from a family long involved in Fianna Fáil politics, he was first elected to the Irish parliament in 1984, winning his late father's seat.
..... Click the link for more information. succeeded Ahern as Fianna Fáil leader and prime minister.
In June, 2008, Irish voters rejected the European Union's Lisbon Treaty amid concerns over the loss of Irish sovereignty. The Irish, who voted in a referendum because of conflicts between the treaty and the Irish constitution, were the only national electorate given a chance to vote on the treaty. A second vote on the Lisbon Treaty in Sept., 2009, following EU guarantees designed to allay Irish concerns, resulted in the treaty's approval.
Ireland officially entered what became a prolonged recession in Sept., 2008, ending more than a decade of growth that had earned its economy the nickname "Celtic Tiger." By the end of 2008, the collapse of Ireland's booming property market threatened the Irish banking system, especially the Anglo Irish Bank, which was nationalized in early 2009 (its reprivatization did not begin until 2017). In Sept., 2010, the total cost of Ireland's bailout of its banking system was estimated to be ultimately €40 billion, with roughly three fourths of that incurred due to the Anglo Irish Bank.
In November the markets had forced Ireland to agree to an €85 billion international rescue package, and the country was forced to adopt additional austerity measures and radically overhaul its banks. The Green party remained in the governing coalition but called for an early election, and Cowen, who resigned as party leader (Jan., 2011), was forced to call for an early election when the Greens quit the government. In the February contest, Fine Gael and Labor placed first and second, with the former almost winning a majority. The two parties formed a coalition government in March, with Fine Gael leader Enda KennyKenny, Enda
, 1951–, Irish politician. After teaching primary school, he was elected to the Irish parliament in 1975, winning his late father's seat and becoming the body's youngest member.
..... Click the link for more information. as prime minister. A government proposal to abolish the Senate was rejected in a referendum in Oct., 2013. The country has experienced slow growth since 2011, but unemployment, which went above 10% for the first time in a decade in 2009, peaked at 15% in 2012. Unemployment has since declined to below 9%, and the country emerged from financial rescue program and its restrictions at the end of 2013. In May, 2015, in marked break with the country's conservative Roman Catholic past, 60% of the voters in a referendum approved same-sex marriage.
In the Feb., 2016, elections, Fine Gael and Labor suffered significant seat losses, but Fine Gael narrowly secured a plurality; Fianna Fáil placed second. After inconclusive negotiations to form a new government, Kenny and Fine Gael formed (May) a minority government with some independent support and the acquiescence of Fianna Fáil; in June, 2017, Kenny stepped down and was replaced by his successor as Fine Gael leader, Leo VaradkarVaradkar, Leo Eric,
1979–, Irish politician, b. Dublin, grad. Trinity College Dublin (2003). The son of an Irish nurse and an Indian doctor, he practiced as a junior doctor before qualifying as a general practitioner (2010).
..... Click the link for more information. , who became Ireland's youngest prime minister (and the first to be gay and partially of Indian descent). Fianna Fáil threatened Varadkar's government with a confidence vote in November over the deputy prime minister's handling of a police whistleblower scandal, and she was forced to resign.
The British government's decision in 2017 to proceed with withdrawing from the European Union made determining how to treat the border with Northern Ireland and the effect of any change on the Irish economy and the Northern Irish sectarian situation a major issue for the Irish Republic. The uncertain situation ultimately led to an extension of the Fine Gael–Fianna Fáil understanding through 2019. Ultimately the North remained aligned with the EU's Single Market, and freedom of travel continued across the border with the Irish Republic. In May, 2018, voters approved, by nearly two thirds, repealing the constitutional ban on abortion that had been adopted in 1983. By a similar margin, a constitutional ban on blasphemy was removed by voters in October, and more than 80% approved liberalizing the constitutional rules concerning divorce in May, 2019.
In the Feb., 2020, elections, Sinn Féin won a plurality of the vote but Fianna Fáil won one more seat; Fine Gael was a close third in number of seats. In June, Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green party formed a coalition. Micheál MartinMartin, Micheál,
1960–, Irish political leader. He briefly taught history before being elected (1985) to the Cork local government, and served (1992–93) as lord mayor of the city.
..... Click the link for more information. , Fianna Fáil's leader, became prime minister and Varadkar as deputy prime minister, with the two to switch offices halfway through the government's term.
For bibliography, see under IrelandIreland,
Irish Eire [to it are related the poetic Erin and perhaps the Latin Hibernia], island, 32,598 sq mi (84,429 sq km), second largest of the British Isles.
..... Click the link for more information. .