Ireland is the westernmost of the British Isles. The Irish call their country The Emerald Island which refers to the fertility and greenness of the nature.
The Republic of Ireland is the Southern part of the island. It consists of 26 counties. The remaining 6 counties build Northern Ireland, known for its long-lasting conflict between Catholics and Protestants.
Ireland has about 3.6 million inhabitants. More than a third of the population live in the capital Dublin.
The Irish flag dates from the 1800's. The colours have symbolic meanings. Green represents the Roman Catholics of Ireland, Orange the Protestants of Ulster and White peace.
Saint Patrick is most famous for bringing Christianity to Ireland. He was kidnapped as a child and sold as a slave in Ireland. He escaped to France where he studied to be a priest and later a bishop. He returned to Ireland to convert the Irish to Christianity. He travelled a lot and a great number of places all over the British Isles are named after him or has a street or church bearing his name. The legend says that he used a shamrock to explain the Holy Trinity (The father, the Son and the Holy Ghost) to the people.
St. Patrick is also supposed to have driven the snakes from England. Tales tell about him standing upon a hill, using a wooden staff to drive the snakes into the sea. The snake is often a symbol of something evil and this legend is perhaps one way to show how St. Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland.
However; there are still no snakes in Ireland...
Dublin is the capital of Ireland and Ireland's biggest city. In Gaelic it is called Baile Átha Cliath. More than a quarter of Ireland's population lives in Dublin. The city has an interesting history and was founded by Vikings for more than a thousand years ago.
The city is situated on the east coast of Ireland, and has many connections to Great Britain and the European continent.
· In 1170 England invaded Ireland and during the following centuries, the English established themselves as masters on the island.
· When england turned protestant, the catholick people of Ireland were oppressed with extreme cruelty. The Irish farmers were driven away from Nothern Ireland and their land was given to English and Scottish landowners.
· In the middle of 19th century, the potato crop failed and during the Great Famine that followed, over two million people emigrated to North America.
· Inpatient nationalists started a rebillion on Easter Monday 1916, but it was put down by British forces and the leaders were executed.
· The island was divided into two parts in 1921 and a civil war broke out.
· On April 18th 1949, the southern part was proclaimed an independent republic, Eire, while the part of the Ulser in the northwest was made a self-governing part of Great Britanian under the name of Nothern Ireland.
· The republic of Ireland has a population of about 3.4 million, 95 per cent of which are Catholics.
· Dublin is the capital. Other big cities are Cork and Limerick. The official language is Irish (or Gaelic), but English is the most spoken language.
· The main exports are meat, live animals dairy products and textiles. Other important exports are whisky and beer.
· Eire is a very popular tourist country, especially with Americans.
Ireland's mark on the world of sport has been disproportionate to the size of the country. Irish soccer teams have won European Championships at youth level and Irish players play for clubs all over Europe. Ireland has produced some of the best golfers, snooker players, cyclists, boxers and jockeys in the world and their athletes have triumphed at championship and Olympic level.