Ireland is an island situated off the western coast of Europe. It was originally on two tectonic plates, but the boundary is no longer active. The boundary can be seen on a map, as the line from the River Shannon, running roughly North West.
Winters are mild, as the island is surrounded by the Gulf Stream current, though recent winters have been a lot colder. Summer is cool because high pressure weather systems from continental Europe rarely extend so far west. Spring and autumn come early, too.
The island of Ireland is divided politically into two; the six counties of Northern Irel
and are a separate state that is joined, politically with Great Britain, the remaining 26 counties constitute the Republic of Ireland, sometimes called Eire.
The island is sparsely populated, with only a three cities: Dublin, Cork and Limerick (Republic of Ireland), Belfast and Derry (Northern Ireland).
Isolated from Europe by Britain and the Irish Sea, Ireland has more in common with Scandinavia, than it has with mainland Europe.
The Romans did not reach the country, but the Vikings did, as did the Celts from highland Scotland and Wales. The gene pool of Irish people is very different from that of the English, as Viking and Celtic invaders settled down and intermarried with the native Irish. It is the Viking genes that cause such striking red hair to be common amongst Irish men and women.
The gene pool in Northern Ireland is very different, because of the Scottish settlers from the lowlands of the Scottish borders who were brought in to help anglicise the country by James I of England from 1609 onwards.
For centuries Ireland was dominated by its more powerful neighbour, Great Britain. Britain treated Ireland as a colony, milking it of agricultural produce and preventing the development of an industrial economy.
The British were responsible for the many famines that have repeatedly decimated the Irish population. Even at the height of the Great Famine from 1845-1852 Britain was still taking barley out of the country to make beer in England; barley that could have been used to make bread and prevent the deaths of millions.
Ireland gained Independence from Britain in 1922, though there was a Civil War for a year after that, between those who had agreed to a compromise with Britain and those who though there should have been no compromise.
Since 1922, Ireland has developed very slowly, much more slowly than the rest of Europe. There was no industrial revolution. Even today there is very little industry, though there is a highly developed high technology sector there is no heavy industry.
Modern History and Geography
Ireland joined the European Common Market, the forerunner of the EU, in 1967 and gained massively from the inward European investment that membership brought.
The Peace Process
In recent years, especially since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, there has been some reconciliation between the warring factions in Northern Ireland and increased cooperation between that jurisdiction and the Republic. There are now many cross-border agencies including the Tourist Board. Sport plays a major part in helping the different communities to integrate and understand each other.
The Irish economy continued to grow, with the usual economic cycles until 2008. The years from 1995 to 2007 are sometimes referred to as the years of the Celtic Tiger because growth was so rapid. That growth came to a screaming halt in 2008 as the financial collapse of banks in USA caused chaos on financial markets worldwide.
Ireland suffered a worse depression than most because the government had mismanaged the economy through the Celtic Tiger years, encouraging an over dependence on the house building and construction sectors.
Tourism and Agriculture
There is a thriving agricultural sector and a tourist industry in Ireland that has always been strong.
Irish agricultureis largely dairy based, though barley, oats and sheep represent significant parts of the farming landscape.
Tourism has two bases, the return of the Irish Diaspora, and Ireland's stunning landscape.
The Irish Diaspora, the forced emigration of millions of Irish people for tw
o hundred years, spread Irish culture around the globe. Many people with Irish antecedents have an understandable desire to visit their roots in Ireland.
The second group of tourists are attracted by the parts of Ireland that are still wild and relatively untouched by civilisation, mainly in the West, in County Clare, County Kerry and County Galway.
Everywhere you go in Ireland there is a tremendous sense of History. In every village and town there are the remains of ancient one-roomed cottages that were abandoned during the Famines. There are still many places, where you can stand and hear only the wind, no planes, no cars, no birds, not even any cows.
The British even destroyed the ancient oak forests that stabilised the soil, to make ships and for leather tanning. There are now large tracts of countryside
that do not have a tree standing, and where the soil has become so acidic that only sphagnum moss will grow. These are the famous Irish bogs.
Irish people are very aware of their History and especially the role that Britain played in it, but there is no resentment by the overwhelming majority. People accept that it was hundreds of years ago, and that it was British politicians, in an age where modern democracy did not exist, who caused the Famines.
Ireland makes visitors from every country very welcome, especially in the villages, towns and cities outside Dublin.
Every Irish village has Bed & Breakfast accommodation, where hosts often become friends with their guests. Every village has at least one pub, where visitors will be included in the conversation.
Ireland calls itself The Land of 'céad míle fáilte' which means, The Land of a hundred thousand welcomes.
This still holds true today. People still wave to each other as they pass in their cars, they still stop to chat at crossroads and if you ever ask for directions the person you ask will probably want to know your life story.