Ireland

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Ireland

The Island of Ireland is in two parts. Politically, the land is and most likely will always be, divided. The larger southern area is known as Ireland.  It is not part of the UK and governed as a separate state by its own Irish Parliament. The head of the government is called “Taoiseach” which literally means “Chief”.

By comparison, the northeastern part of the country is known as Northern Ireland and is a member country of the UK.

The Irish Sea separates Ireland from Great Britain. The sea meets the Atlantic Ocean through St. George’s Channel and the Celtic Sea. The North Channel is the waterway between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

Geography and weather

The island’s geography comprises of low-lying mountains surrounding a central plain. Thick woodland used to cover most of the area.  After the Norman Invasion and during the Middle Ages there was a vast increase in population and therefore farming. Now, the island is mainly agricultural land although extremely rural in many parts. There are several good size navigable rivers which extend a long way inland.

Ireland is lush and green thanks to its weather. The warm Gulf Stream Drift affects the climate and keeps the country free from extreme cold. Southwesterly winds also play a part in keeping the weather temperate. Rain is a frequent visitor to the land even in summer.

History

There is early evidence of humans dating as far back as 10,500 BC.  Gaelic Christians started to emerge as the primary population, from about the 5th century. England claimed sovereignty from the Middle Ages, however  significant rebellions continued. Consequently,  England did not manage to rule peacefully until the 16th Century. The protestant Henry VIII proclaimed himself King and unsuccessfully tried to reform the country to convert to Protestant rule.

Politics and Religion

The Catholic majority in Ireland has always continued to fight against any form of Protestant rule. England’s crown continued to rule until the 18th Century but with many battles. Ireland joined with England after the “Acts of Rule” in 1800.  Catholics did not get full rights until 1829.

The two parts of the country separated in 1922, after the Irish War of Independence. The southern, more substantial part of Ireland, became independent. Great Britain was renamed “Great Britain and Northern Ireland”.  Accordingly, Northern Ireland moved towards self- government.   Still, the region saw much civil unrest culminating in “The Troubles” from the late 1960s until the 1990s. This dispute between Catholic and Protestant, Nationalists and Unionists thankfully subsided following “The Good Friday Agreement” in 1998.

Culture and Sport

Alongside Western culture, a robust Irish culture exists. Irish music and Gaelic games especially express the popular culture of this land. Likewise, there are also many similarities in the local culture with neighbouring Great Britain.  Although the country is originally Gaelic speaking, most people speak English.  Irish people are often very passionate about both watching participating in sports. Some of the most popular sporting activities are horse racing, golf, rugby, football and of course, sailing.

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