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Celtic tribes arrived on the island between 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 UK. 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.


Western Europe, occupying five-sixths of the island of Ireland in the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Great Britain

Geographic coordinates:

53 00 N, 8 00 W


total: 70,280 sq km
land: 68,890 sq km
water: 1,390 sq km

Land boundaries:

total: 360 km
border countries: UK 360 km


1,448 km

Maritime claims:

territorial sea: 12 nm
exclusive fishing zone: 200 nm


temperate maritime; modified by North Atlantic Current; mild winters, cool summers; consistently humid; overcast about half the time


mostly level to rolling interior plain surrounded by rugged hills and low mountains; sea cliffs on west coast

Elevation extremes:

lowest point: Atlantic Ocean 0 m
highest point: Carrauntoohil 1,041 m

Natural resources:

natural gas, peat, copper, lead, zinc, silver, barite, gypsum, limestone, dolomite

Land use:

arable land: 16.82%
permanent crops: 0.03%
other: 83.15% (2005)

Environment - current issues:

water pollution, especially of lakes, from agricultural runoff

Geography - note:

strategic location on major air and sea routes between North America and northern Europe; over 40% of the population resides within 100 km of Dublin


4,062,235 (July 2006 est.)

Age structure:

0-14 years: 20.9% (male 437,903/female 409,774)
15-64 years: 67.6% (male 1,373,771/female 1,370,452)
65 years and over: 11.6% (male 207,859/female 262,476) (2006 est.)

Median age:

total: 34 years
male: 33.2 years
female: 34.8 years (2006 est.)

Population growth rate:

1.15% (2006 est.)

Birth rate:

14.45 births/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Death rate:

7.82 deaths/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Net migration rate:

4.87 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2006 est.)

Sex ratio:

at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.07 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.79 male(s)/female
total population: 0.99 male(s)/female (2006 est.)

Infant mortality rate:

total: 5.31 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 5.82 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.76 deaths/1,000 live births (2006 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:

total population: 77.73 years
male: 75.11 years
female: 80.52 years (2006 est.)

Total fertility rate:

1.86 children born/woman (2006 est.)

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:

0.1% (2001 est.)

people living with HIV/AIDS:

2,800 (2001 est.)

HIV/AIDS - deaths:

less than 100 (2003 est.)


noun: Irishman(men), Irishwoman(women), Irish (collective plural)
adjective: Irish

Ethnic groups:

Celtic, English


Roman Catholic 88.4%, Church of Ireland 3%, other Christian 1.6%, other 1.5%, unspecified 2%, none 3.5% (2002 census)


English (official) is the language generally used, Irish (official) (Gaelic or Gaeilge) spoken mainly in areas located along the western seaboard


definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 99%
male: 99%
female: 99% (2003 est.)

Country name:

conventional long form: none
conventional short form: Ireland
local long form: none
local short form: Eire

Government type:

parliamentary democracy



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


6 December 1921 (from UK by treaty)

National holiday:

Saint Patrick's Day, 17 March


adopted 1 July 1937 by plebiscite; effective 29 December 1937

Legal system:

based on English common law, substantially modified by indigenous concepts; judicial review of legislative acts in Supreme Court; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction


18 years of age; universal

Legislative branch:

bicameral Parliament or Oireachtas consists of the Senate or Seanad Eireann (60 seats - 49 elected by the universities and from candidates put forward by five vocational panels, 11 are nominated by the prime minister; members serve five-year terms) and the House of Representatives or Dail Eireann (166 seats; members are elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve five-year terms)
elections: Senate - last held 16 and 17 July 2002 (next to be held by July 2007); House of Representatives - last held 17 May 2002 (next to be held by May 2007)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by party - NA; seats by party - Fianna Fail 30, Fine Gael 15, Labor Party 5, Progressive Democrats 4, independents and other 6; House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - Fianna Fail 41.5%, Fine Gael 22.5%, Labor Party 10.8%, Sinn Fein 6.5%, Progressive Democrats 4.0%, Green Party 3.8%, other 10.9%; seats by party - Fianna Fail 81, Fine Gael 31, Labor Party 21, Sinn Fein 5, Progressive Democrats 8, Green Party 6, other 14

Judicial branch:

Supreme Court (judges appointed by the president on the advice of the prime minister and cabinet)

Economy - overview:

Ireland is a small, modern, trade-dependent economy with growth averaging a robust 7% in 1995-2004. Agriculture, once the most important sector, is now dwarfed by industry and services. Industry accounts for 46% of GDP, about 80% of exports, and 29% 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 and the second highest in the EU behind Luxembourg. Over the past decade, the Irish Government has implemented a series of national economic programs designed to curb price and wage inflation, reduce government spending, increase labor force skills, and promote foreign investment. Ireland joined in circulating the euro on 1 January 2002 along with 11 other EU nations.

GDP (purchasing power parity):

$136.9 billion (2005 est.)

GDP (official exchange rate):

$189.1 billion (2005 est.)

GDP - real growth rate:

4.7% (2005 est.)

GDP - per capita (PPP):

$34,100 (2005 est.)

GDP - composition by sector:

agriculture: 5%
industry: 46%
services: 49% (2002 est.)

Labor force:

2.03 million (2005 est.)

Labor force - by occupation:

agriculture: 8%
industry: 29%
services: 63% (2002 est.)

Unemployment rate:

4.2% (2005 est.)

Population below poverty line:

10% (1997 est.)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:

lowest 10%: 2%
highest 10%: 27.3% (1997)

Distribution of family income - Gini index:

35.9 (1996)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

2.7% (2005 est.)

Investment (gross fixed):

25.6% of GDP (2005 est.)


revenues: $70.46 billion
expenditures: $69.4 billion; including capital expenditures of $5.5 billion (2005 est.)

Public debt:

27.5% of GDP (2005 est.)

Agriculture - products:

turnips, barley, potatoes, sugar beets, wheat; beef, dairy products


steel, lead, zinc, silver, aluminium, barite, and gypsum mining processing; food products, brewing, textiles, clothing; chemicals, pharmaceuticals; machinery, rail transportation equipment, passenger and commercial vehicles, ship construction and refurbishment; glass and crystal; software, tourism

Industrial production growth rate:

3% (2005 est.)

Electricity - production:

23.41 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - consumption:

22.97 billion kWh (2003)

Electricity - imports:

1.2 billion kWh (2003)

Oil - production:

0 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - consumption:

175,600 bbl/day (2003 est.)

Oil - exports:

27,450 bbl/day (2001)

Oil - imports:

178,600 bbl/day (2001)

Natural gas - production:

673 million cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - consumption:

4.298 billion cu m (2003 est.)

Natural gas - imports:

3.384 billion cu m (2001 est.)

Natural gas - proved reserves:

19.82 billion cu m (1 January 2002)

Current account balance:

-$5.19 billion (2005 est.)


$102 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Exports - commodities:

machinery and equipment, computers, chemicals, pharmaceuticals; live animals, animal products

Exports - partners:

US 19.6%, UK 17.8%, Belgium 14.6%, Germany 7.7%, France 6%, Netherlands 4.6%, Italy 4.5% (2004)


$65.47 billion f.o.b. (2005 est.)

Imports - commodities:

data processing equipment, other machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum and petroleum products, textiles, clothing

Imports - partners:

UK 35.9%, US 13.7%, Germany 8.9%, Netherlands 4.3%, France 4.3% (2004)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:

$2.908 billion (2004 est.)

Debt - external:

$1.049 trillion (30 June 2005)

Economic aid - donor:

ODA, $607 million (2004)

Currency (code):

euro (EUR)
note: on 1 January 1999, the European Monetary Union introduced the euro as a common currency to be used by financial institutions of member countries; on 1 January 2002, the euro became the sole currency for everyday transactions within the member countries

Fiscal year:

calendar year

Telephones - main lines in use:

2,019,100 (2004)

Telephones - mobile cellular:

3.78 million (2004)

Telephone system:

general assessment: modern digital system using cable and microwave radio relay
domestic: microwave radio relay
international: country code - 353; satellite earth station - 1 Intelsat (Atlantic Ocean)

Radio broadcast stations:

AM 9, FM 106, shortwave 0 (1998)

Television broadcast stations:

4 (many low-power repeaters) (2001)

Internet country code:


Internet hosts:

238,706 (2005)

Internet users:

2.06 million (2005)


36 (2005)

Airports - with paved runways:

total: 15
over 3,047 m: 1
2,438 to 3,047 m: 1
1,524 to 2,437 m: 4
914 to 1,523 m: 3
under 914 m: 6 (2005)

Airports - with unpaved runways:

total: 21
914 to 1,523 m: 4
under 914 m: 17 (2005)


gas 1,795 km (2004)


total: 3,312 km
broad gauge: 1,947 km 1.600-m gauge (46 km electrified)
narrow gauge: 1,365 km 0.914-m gauge (operated by the Irish Peat Board to transport peat to power stations and briquetting plants) (2004)


total: 95,736 km
paved: 95,736 km (including 125 km of expressways) (2002)


753 km (pleasure craft only) (2005)

Merchant marine:

total: 33
by type: bulk carrier 3, cargo 22, chemical tanker 2, container 1, passenger/cargo 3, roll on/roll off 2
foreign-owned: 10 (Germany 3, Italy 2, Norway 1, Spain 1, Switzerland 1, UK 1, US 1)
registered in other countries: 21 (The Bahamas 2, Bermuda 1, Gibraltar 1, Netherlands 13, Panama 2, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 1, UK 1) (2005)

Ports and terminals:

Cork, Dublin, New Ross, Shannon Foynes, Waterford

Military branches:

Irish Defence Forces (Oglaigh na h-Eireann): Army (includes Naval Service and Air Corps) (2006)

Disputes - international:

Ireland, Iceland, and the UK dispute Denmark's claim that the Faroe Islands' continental shelf extends beyond 200 nm

Illicit drugs:

transshipment point for and consumer of hashish from North Africa to the UK and Netherlands and of European-produced synthetic drugs; minor transshipment point for heroin and cocaine destined for Western Europe; despite recent legislation, narcotics-related money laundering - using bureaux de change, trusts, and shell companies involving the offshore financial community - remains a concern