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 1949, 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 is gradually being implemented despite some difficulties. In 2006, the Irish and British governments developed and began to implement the St. Andrews Agreement, building on the Good Friday Agreement approved in 1998.
president elected by popular vote for a seven-year term (eligible for a second term); election last held on 29 October 2011 (next scheduled for October 2018); prime minister (taoiseach) nominated by the House of Representatives (Dail Eireann) and appointed by the president
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%
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 lower house of Parliament or Dail Eireann (166 seats; members elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve five-year terms)
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)
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 45.8%, Labor Party 22.3%, Fianna Fail 12.0%, Sinn Fein 8.4%, United Left Alliance 3.0%, New Vision 0.6%, independents 7.8%; seats by party - Fine Gael 76, Labor Party 37, Fianna Fail 20, Sinn Fein 14, United Left Alliance 5, New Vision 1, independents 13; note - after November 2009 disbandment of the Progressive Democrats, the two members of the Senate continued as independent DPs
note:on 8 November 2008, delegates voted to disband the Progressive Democrats, and in November 2009 it officially stopped operating as a political party
Fianna Fail [Michael MARTIN]; Fine Gael [Enda KENNY]; Green Party [John GORMLEY]; Labor Party [Eamon GILMORE]; New Vision; Progressive Democrats or PD [Noel GREALISH] (formerly dissolved on 20 November 2009); Sinn Fein [Gerry ADAMS]; Socialist Party [Joe HIGGINS]; The Workers' Party [Michael FINNEGAN]; United Left Alliance
Families Acting for Innocent Relatives or FAIR [Brian MCCONNELL] (seek compensation for victims of violence); Families Against Intimidation and Terror or FAIT (oppose terrorism); Gaeltacht Civil Rights Campaign (Coiste Cearta Sibhialta na Gaeilge) or CCSG (encourages the use of the Irish language and campaigns for greater civil rights in Irish speaking areas); Iona Institute [David QUINN] (a conservative Catholic think tank); Irish Anti-War Movement [Richard Boyd BARRETT] (campaigns against wars around the world); Irish Republican Army or IRA (terrorist group); 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 a fully sovereign Ireland); Ulster Defence Association or UDA (terrorist group)
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
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, with GDP falling by over 3% in 2008, nearly 8% in 2009, and 1% in 2010. Ireland entered into a recession in 2008 for the first time in more than a decade, with the subsequent collapse of its domestic property and construction markets. 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 50%. 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 a key component of Ireland's economy. Agriculture, once the most important sector, is now dwarfed by industry and services. In 2008 the 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. 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 banking sector. In late 2010, the COWEN Government agreed to a $112 billion loan package from the EU and IMF to help Dublin further increase the capitalization of its banking sector and avoid defaulting on its sovereign debt. The government also initiated a four-year austerity plan to cut an additional $20 billion from its budget. A return to modest growth is expected in 2011.
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
publicly-owned broadcaster Radio Telefis Eireann (RTE) operates 2 TV stations; commercial television stations are available; about 75% of households utilize multi-channel satellite and TV services that provide access to a wide range of stations; RTE operates 4 national radio stations and has launched digital audio broadcasts on several stations; a number of commercial broadcast stations operate at the national, regional, and local levels (2007)
17-25 years of age for male and female voluntary military service (17-27 years of age for the Naval Service); enlistees 16 years of age can be recruited for apprentice specialist positions; 17-35 years of age for the Reserve Defense Forces (RDF); maximum obligation 12 years (5 years IDF, 7 years RDF); EU citizenship or 5-year residence in Ireland required (2010)
transshipment point for and consumer of hashish from North Africa to the UK and Netherlands and of European-produced synthetic drugs; increasing consumption of South American cocaine; 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