Celtic tribes arrived on the island between 600 and 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. Norman invasions began in the 12th century and set off more than seven centuries of Anglo-Irish struggle marked by fierce rebellions and harsh repressions. The Irish famine of the mid-19th century saw the population of the island drop by one third through starvation and emigration. For more than a century after that the population of the island continued to fall only to begin growing again in the 1960s.

Over the last 50 years, Ireland’s high birthrate has made it demographically one of the youngest populations in the EU. The modern Irish state traces its origins to the failed 1916 Easter Monday Uprising which touched off several years of guerrilla warfare resulting in independence from the UK in 1921 for 26 southern counties; six northern counties remained part of the UK. Unresolved issues in Northern Ireland erupted into years of violence known as the “Troubles” that began in the 1960s. The Government of Ireland was part of a process along with the UK and US Governments that helped broker what is known as The Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland in 1998. This initiated a new phase of cooperation between Irish and British governments. Ireland was neutral in World War II and continues its policy of military neutrality.

Ireland joined the European Community in 1973 and the Eurozone currency union in 1999. The economic boom years of the Celtic Tiger (1995-2007) saw rapid economic growth, which came to an abrupt end in 2008 with the meltdown of the Irish banking system. Today the economy is recovering, fueled by large and growing foreign direct investment, especially from US multi-nationals.

Irish Flag

Irish Flag


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

Map references:

total: 70,273 sq km
country comparison to the world: 120
land: 68,883 sq km
water: 1,390 sq km

Area – comparative:
slightly larger than West Virginia

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: 15.11%
permanent crops: 0.01%
other: 84.87% (2011)

Irrigated land:
11 sq km (2003)

Total renewable water resources:
52 cu km (2011)

Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural):
total: 0.79 cu km/yr (94%/6%/0%)
per capita: 226.9 cu m/yr (2007)

Natural hazards:

Environment – current issues:
water pollution, especially of lakes, from agricultural runoff

Environment – international agreements:
party to: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling
signed, but not ratified: Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Marine Life Conservation

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

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People & Society

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

Ethnic groups:
Irish 84.5%, other white 9.8%, Asian 1.9%, black 1.4%, mixed and other 0.9%, unspecified 1.6% (2011 est.)

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

Roman Catholic 84.7%, Church of Ireland 2.7%, other Christian 2.7%, Muslim 1.1%, other 1.7%, unspecified 1.5%, none 5.7% (2011 est.)

4,832,765 (July 2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 123

Age structure:
0-14 years: 21.4% (male 529,140/female 506,857)
15-24 years: 11.9% (male 292,962/female 283,127)
25-54 years: 44.1% (male 1,070,875/female 1,061,396)
55-64 years: 12.4% (male 245,913/female 244,345)
65 years and over: 12.1% (male 275,114/female 323,036) (2014 est.)

Dependency ratios:
total dependency ratio: 51.4 %
youth dependency ratio: 32.7 %
elderly dependency ratio: 18.7 %
potential support ratio: 5.4 (2014 est.)

Median age:
total: 35.7 years
male: 35.4 years
female: 36.1 years (2014 est.)

Population growth rate:
1.2% (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 99

Birth rate:
15.18 births/1,000 population (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 132

Death rate:
6.45 deaths/1,000 population (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 154

Net migration rate:
3.31 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 34

urban population: 62.2% of total population (2011)
rate of urbanization: 1.63% annual rate of change (2010-15 est.)

Major urban areas – population:
DUBLIN (capital) 1.121 million (2011)

Sex ratio:
at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
0-14 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
15-24 years: 1.04 male(s)/female
25-54 years: 1.01 male(s)/female
55-64 years: 1 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.84 male(s)/female
total population: 1 male(s)/female (2014 est.)

Mother’s mean age at first birth:
note: data are based on events and not on fertility rates (2011 est.)

Maternal mortality rate:
6 deaths/100,000 live births (2010)
country comparison to the world: 169

Infant mortality rate:
total: 3.74 deaths/1,000 live births
country comparison to the world: 202
male: 4.11 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 3.35 deaths/1,000 live births (2014 est.)

Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 80.56 years
country comparison to the world: 27
male: 78.28 years
female: 82.97 years (2014 est.)

Total fertility rate:
2 children born/woman (2014 est.)
country comparison to the world: 125

Contraceptive prevalence rate:
note: percent of women aged 18-49 (2004/05)

Health expenditures:
9.4% of GDP (2011)
country comparison to the world: 35

Physicians density:
3.19 physicians/1,000 population (2008)

Hospital bed density:
3.2 beds/1,000 population (2010)

Drinking water source:
urban: 100% of population
rural: 99.7% of population
total: 99.9% of population
urban: 0% of population
rural: 0.3% of population
total: 0.1% of population (2011 est.)

Sanitation facility access:
urban: 99.6% of population
rural: 97.9% of population
total: 99% of population
urban: 0.4% of population
rural: 2.1% of population
total: 1% of population (2011 est.)

HIV/AIDS – adult prevalence rate:
0.2% (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 116

HIV/AIDS – people living with HIV/AIDS:
6,900 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 118

HIV/AIDS – deaths:
fewer than 100 (2009 est.)
country comparison to the world: 119

Obesity – adult prevalence rate:
25.2% (2008)
country comparison to the world: 57

Education expenditures:
6.4% of GDP (2010)
country comparison to the world: 31

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

School life expectancy (primary to tertiary education):
total: 19 years
male: 19 years
female: 19 years (2011)

Unemployment, youth ages 15-24:
total: 24%
country comparison to the world: 42
male: 36.4%
female: 24% (2012)

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

Government type:
republic, parliamentary democracy

name: Dublin
geographic coordinates: 53 19 N, 6 14 W
time difference: UTC 0 (5 hours ahead of Washington, DC, during Standard Time)
daylight saving time: +1hr, begins last Sunday in March; ends last Sunday in October

Administrative divisions:
29 counties and 5 cities*; Carlow, Cavan, Clare, Cork, Cork*, Donegal, Dublin*, Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, Fingal, Galway, Galway*, Kerry, Kildare, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Limerick, Limerick*, Longford, Louth, Mayo, Meath, Monaghan, North Tipperary, Offaly, Roscommon, Sligo, South Dublin, South Tipperary, Waterford, Waterford*, Westmeath, Wexford, Wicklow

6 December 1921 (from the UK by treaty)

National holiday:
Saint Patrick’s Day, 17 March

previous 1922; latest drafted 14 June 1937, adopted by plebiscite 1 July 1937, effective 29 December 1937; amended many times, last in 2013 (2013)

Legal system:
common law system based on the English model but substantially modified by customary law; judicial review of legislative acts in Supreme Court

International law organization participation:
has not submitted an ICJ jurisdiction declaration; accepts ICCt jurisdiction

18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Michael D. HIGGINS (since 29 October 2011)
head of government: Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda KENNY (since 9 March 2011)
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president with previous nomination by the prime minister and approval of the lower house of Parliament
(For more information visit the World Leaders website Opens in New Window)
elections: president elected by popular vote for a seven-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 29 October 2011 (next to be held in October 2018); taoiseach (prime minister) nominated by the House of Representatives (Dail Eireann) and appointed by the president
election results: Michael D. HIGGINS elected president; percent of vote – Michael D. HIGGINS 39.6%, Sean GALLAGHER 28.5%, Martin MCGUINNESS 13.7%, Gay MITCHELL 6.4%, David NORRIS 6.2%, other 5.6%

Legislative branch:
bicameral Parliament or Oireachtas consists of the Senate or Seanad Eireann (60 seats; 49 members 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 elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve five-year terms)
elections: Senate – last held in 27 April 2011 (next to be held 2016); House of Representatives – last held on 25 February 2011 (next to be held probably in 2016)
election results: Senate – percent of vote by party – NA; seats by party – Fine Gael 19, Fianna Fail 14, Labor Party 12, Sinn Fein 3, independents 12; House of Representatives – percent of vote by party – Fine Gael 36.1%, Labor Party 19.5%, Fianna Fail 17.5%, Sinn Fein 9.9%, United Left Alliance 2.6%, independents and others 14.4%; seats by party – Fine Gael 76, Labor Party 37, Fianna Fail 20, Sinn Fein 14, United Left Alliance 5, independents 14

Judicial branch:
highest court(s): Supreme Court or Court of Final Appeal (consists of the chief justice and 7 judges)
judge selection and term of office: judges nominated by the prime minister and Cabinet and appointed by the president; judges serve till age 70
subordinate courts: High Court, Court of Criminal Appeal; circuit and district courts

Political parties and leaders:
Fianna Fail [Micheal MARTIN]
Fine Gael [Enda KENNY]
Green Party [Eamon RYAN]
Labor Party [Eamon GILMORE]
New Vision
Sinn Fein [Gerry ADAMS]
Socialist Party [Collective Leadership]
The Workers’ Party [Michael FINNEGAN]
United Left Alliance

Political pressure groups and leaders:
Families Acting for Innocent Relatives or FAIR [Brian MCCONNELL] (seek compensation for victims of violence);
Iona Institute [David QUINN] (a conservative Catholic think tank);
Irish Anti-War Movement [Richard BOYD BARRETT] (campaigns against wars around the world);
Oglaigh na hEireann (terrorist group);
Continuity IRA (terrorist group);
New Irish Republican Army (terrorist group combining elements of the former Real IRA and Republican Action Against Drugs);
Keep Ireland Open (environmental group);
Midland Railway Action Group or MRAG [Willie ALLEN] (transportation promoters);
Peace and Neutrality Alliance [Roger COLE] (campaigns to protect Irish neutrality);
Rail Users Ireland (formerly the Platform 11 – transportation promoters);
32 Country Sovereignty Movement or 32CSM (supports unifying Northern Ireland with the rest of the island under Irish government sovereignty);

International organization participation:

Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Anne Colette ANDERSON (since 28 August 2013)
chancery: 2234 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008
telephone: [1] (202) 462-3939
FAX: [1] (202) 232-5993
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco; note – Ireland will open a consulate general in Austin by the end of 2014

Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant); Charge d’Affaires Stuart DWYER (since 5 September 2013)
embassy: 42 Elgin Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4
mailing address: use embassy street address
telephone: [353] (1) 668-8777
FAX: [353] (1) 668-9946

Flag description:
three equal vertical bands of green (hoist side), white, and orange; officially the flag colors have no meaning, but a common interpretation is that the green represents the Irish nationalist (Gaelic) tradition of Ireland; orange represents the Orange tradition (minority supporters of William of Orange); white symbolizes peace (or a lasting truce) between the green and the orange
note: similar to the flag of Cote d’Ivoire, which is shorter and has the colors reversed – orange (hoist side), white, and green; also similar to the flag of Italy, which is shorter and has colors of green (hoist side), white, and red

National symbol(s):

harp, shamrock (trefoil)

National anthem:
name: “Amhran na bhFiann” (The Soldier’s Song)

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Economy – overview:
Ireland is a small, modern, trade-dependent economy. Ireland was among the initial group of 12 EU nations that began circulating the euro on 1 January 2002. GDP growth averaged 6% in 1995-2007, but economic activity has dropped sharply since the onset of the world financial crisis. Ireland entered into a recession in 2008 for the first time in more than a decade, with the subsequent collapse of its domestic property market and construction industry. Property prices rose more rapidly in Ireland in the decade up to 2007 than in any other developed economy. Since their 2007 peak, average house prices have fallen 47%. In the wake of the collapse of the construction sector and the downturn in consumer spending and business investment, the export sector, dominated by foreign multinationals, has become an even more important component of Ireland’s economy.

Agriculture, once the most important sector, is now dwarfed by industry and services. In 2008 the former COWEN government moved to guarantee all bank deposits, recapitalize the banking system, and establish partly-public venture capital funds in response to the country’s economic downturn. In 2009, in continued efforts to stabilize the banking sector, the Irish Government established the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) to acquire problem commercial property and development loans from Irish banks. Faced with sharply reduced revenues and a burgeoning budget deficit, the Irish Government introduced the first in a series of draconian budgets in 2009. In addition to across-the-board cuts in spending, the 2009 budget included wage reductions for all public servants. These measures were not sufficient to stabilize Ireland’s public finances. In 2010, the budget deficit reached 32.4% of GDP – the world’s largest deficit, as a percentage of GDP – because of additional government support for the country’s deeply troubled banking sector. In late 2010, the former COWEN government agreed to a $92 billion loan package from the EU and IMF to help Dublin recapitalize Ireland’s fragile banking sector and avoid defaulting on its sovereign debt.

Since entering office in March 2011, the new KENNY government has intensified austerity measures to try to meet the deficit targets under Ireland’s EU-IMF program. Ireland has grown slowly since 2011, but managed to reduce the budget deficit to 7.2% of GDP in 2013. In late 2013, Ireland formally exited its EU-IMF bailout program, benefiting from its strict adherence to deficit-reduction targets and success in refinancing a large amount of banking-related debt.

GDP (purchasing power parity):
$190.4 billion (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 59
$189.3 billion (2012 est.)
$189 billion (2011 est.)
note: data are in 2013 US dollars

GDP (official exchange rate):
$220.9 billion (2013 est.)

GDP – real growth rate:

0.6% (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 183
0.2% (2012 est.)
2.2% (2011 est.)

GDP – per capita (PPP):
$41,300 (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 25
$41,300 (2012 est.)
$41,300 (2011 est.)
note: data are in 2013 US dollars

Gross national saving:
13.4% of GDP (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 116
15.3% of GDP (2012 est.)
12.5% of GDP (2011 est.)

GDP – composition, by end use:
household consumption: 50.2%
government consumption: 14.8%
investment in fixed capital: 10%
investment in inventories: 0%
exports of goods and services: 106.8%
imports of goods and services: -81.9%
(2013 est.)

GDP – composition, by sector of origin:
agriculture: 1.6%
industry: 28%
services: 70.4% (2013 est.)

Agriculture – products:
barley, potatoes, wheat; beef, dairy products

pharmaceuticals, chemicals, computer hardware and software, food products, beverages and brewing; medical devices

Industrial production growth rate:
0.2% (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 162

Labor force:
2.161 million (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 120

Labor force – by occupation:
agriculture: 5%
industry: 19%
services: 76% (2011 est.)

Unemployment rate:

13.5% (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 132
14.7% (2012 est.)

Population below poverty line:
5.5% (2009)

Household income or consumption by percentage share:
lowest 10%: 2.9%
highest 10%: 27.2% (2000)

Distribution of family income – Gini index:
33.9 (2010)
country comparison to the world: 97
35.9 (1987)

revenues: $75.32 billion
expenditures: $91.3 billion (2013 est.)

Taxes and other revenues:
34.1% of GDP (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 70

Budget surplus (+) or deficit (-):
-7.2% of GDP (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 187

Public debt:
124.2% of GDP (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 7
117.6% of GDP (2012 est.)
note: data cover general government debt, and includes debt instruments issued (or owned) by government entities other than the treasury; the data include treasury debt held by foreign entities; the data include debt issued by subnational entities, as well as intra-governmental debt; intra-governmental debt consists of treasury borrowings from surpluses in the social funds, such as for retirement, medical care, and unemployment; debt instruments for the social funds are not sold at public auctions

Fiscal year:
calendar year

Inflation rate (consumer prices):
0.6% (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 15
1.7% (2012 est.)

Central bank discount rate:
0.75% (31 December 2013)
country comparison to the world: 124
1.5% (31 December 2010)
note: this is the European Central Bank’s rate on the marginal lending facility, which offers overnight credit to banks in the euro area

Commercial bank prime lending rate:
3.2% (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 164
3.55% (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of narrow money:

$121.3 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 31
$122.3 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
note: see entry for the European Union for money supply in the euro area; the European
Central Bank (ECB) controls monetary policy for the 17 members of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU); individual members of the EMU do not control the quantity of money circulating within their own borders

Stock of broad money:
$238 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 35
$238.7 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of domestic credit:
$425.4 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 29
$433.1 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Market value of publicly traded shares:
$109 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
country comparison to the world: 38
$108.1 billion (31 December 2011)
$60.45 billion (31 December 2010 est.)

Current account balance:
$7.3 billion (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 26
$9.245 billion (2012 est.)

$113.6 billion (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 35
$119.3 billion (2012 est.)

Exports – commodities:
machinery and equipment, computers, chemicals, medical devices, pharmaceuticals; food products, animal products

Exports – partners:
US 17.9%, UK 17.3%, Belgium 15.6%, Germany 8.4%, Switzerland 5.8%, France 5% (2012)

$61.51 billion (2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 48
$63.63 billion (2012 est.)

Imports – commodities:
data processing equipment, other machinery and equipment, chemicals, petroleum and petroleum products, textiles, clothing

Imports – partners:
UK 39.8%, US 13.2%, Germany 7.6%, Netherlands 5.7% (2012)

Reserves of foreign exchange and gold:
$1.707 billion (31 December 2012 est.)
country comparison to the world: 126
$1.703 billion (31 December 2011 est.)

Debt – external:
$2.164 trillion (31 December 2012 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
$2.213 trillion (31 December 2011)

Stock of direct foreign investment – at home:
$777.3 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
$725.8 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Stock of direct foreign investment – abroad:
$792.6 billion (31 December 2013 est.)
country comparison to the world: 11
$766 billion (31 December 2012 est.)

Exchange rates:
euros (EUR) per US dollar –
0.7634 (2013 est.)
0.7752 (2012 est.)
0.755 (2010 est.)
0.7198 (2009 est.)
0.6827 (2008 est.)

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