Celtic tribes settled on the island from 600-150 B.C. Invasions by Norsemen that began in the late 8th century were finally ended when King Brian BORU defeated the Danes in 1014. English invasions began in the 12th century and set off more than seven centuries of Anglo-Irish struggle marked by fierce rebellions and harsh repressions.
A failed 1916 Easter Monday Rebellion touched off several years of guerrilla warfare that in 1921 resulted in independence from the UK for 26 southern counties; six northern (Ulster) counties remained part of the United Kingdom. In 1948 Ireland withdrew from the British Commonwealth; it joined the European Community in 1973. Irish governments have sought the peaceful unification of Ireland and have cooperated with Britain against terrorist groups.
A peace settlement for Northern Ireland, known as the Good Friday Agreement and approved in 1998, is being implemented with some difficulties.
Population: 4,0 million (July 2004 est.).
Population growth rate: 1.16 % (2004 est.).
Life expectancy at birth: 77.4 years.
Religions: Roman Catholic 91.6%, Church of Ireland 2.5%, other 5.9% (1998).
Ethnic groups: Celtic, English.
Language: English is the language generally used, Irish (Gaelic) spoken mainly in areas located along the western seaboard.
Total area: 70,280 km˛.
Coastline: 1,448 km.
Government type: Parliamentary democracy.
Highest point: Carrauntoohil 1,041 m.
Climate: Temperate maritime; modified by North Atlantic Current; mild winters, cool summers; consistently humid; overcast about half the time.
Administrative divisions: 26 counties; Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Donegal, Dublin, Galway, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Limerick, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo, Tipperary, Waterford, Westmeath, Wexford, Wicklow. Note: Cavan, Donegal, and Monaghan are part of Ulster Province.
Terrain: Mostly level to rolling interior plain surrounded by rugged hills and low mountains; sea cliffs on west coast.
Ireland is a small, modern, trade-dependent economy with growth averaging a robust 8% in 1995-2002. The global slowdown, especially in the information technology sector, pressed growth down to 2.1% in 2003. Agriculture, once the most important sector, is now dwarfed by industry and services. Industry accounts for 46% of GDP and about 80% of exports and employs 28% of the labor force. Although exports remain the primary engine for Ireland's growth, the economy has also benefited from a rise in consumer spending, construction, and business investment. Per capita GDP is 10% above that of the four big European economies. Over the past decade, the Irish Government has implemented a series of national economic programs designed to curb inflation, reduce government spending, increase labor force skills, and promote foreign investment. Ireland joined in launching the euro currency system in January 1999 along with 10 other EU nations.
GDP (purchasing power parity): US$ 117 billion (2003 est.).
GDP per capita (purchasing power parity): US$ 29,800 (2003 est.).
Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, in Ireland. They plunge 700 feet to the sea for five miles.
Grafton Street, in Dublin, Ireland.
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