Ireland covers an area of 70,286 square kilometers.
The country is divided into 26 administrative regions.
Apart from the northern part of Ireland that borders British Northern Ireland, Ireland or Eire is surrounded by sea.
The "Irish Sea" that divides Ireland from Britain is only 17.6 kilometers across at its narrowest point.
The population of Ireland numbers 3.8 million of whom 93% are Roman Catholic and approximately 3% are Anglican.
The annual population growth of 20,000 is the result of the net immigration (immigration to Ireland exceeds emigration).
Natural population growth is negligible and almost imperceptible from year to year.
English is the official language and the language of business. A small minority, of about 55,000 living in the West of Irelands speaks Gaelic.
Historically, it should be remembered that Ireland was conquered in the past by Viking invaders who sought to exploit its territory as a trade base with Central Europe.
Viking fortresses have served as the foundations for present-day towns such as Dublin and Limerick.
In 1170, Richard of Clare, Earl of Pembroke, answered a plea from the Irish, but instead of helping, captured most of the country for the English, with a small band of archers and knights.
Over the years, large tracts of land in Ireland were granted to immigrants from England and relations between the two communities became more and more embittered.
In 1801, under the Act of Union, Ireland became part of the United Kingdom together with England, Scotland and Wales.
Relations were exacerbated further when London turned its back on the plight of the thousands who died in the potato famine of 1845-6.
Ireland was granted Home Rule in 1920 after the Easter Uprising of 1916 and became a sovereign state within the British Commonwealth in 1937.
After WWII, during which Ireland remained neutral, the 26 Catholic regions became a separate republic.
The 6 northern regions in Northern Ireland, with the majority of the Protestants, remained part of the United Kingdom.
Until the present day, Catholicism has had a strong influence on everyday life.
Divorce has been possible only in recent years and abortion is still illegal.
Despite a comparatively small population, the country has made its mark on world culture.
Names such as Oscar Wilde, Yeats, Shaw, Becket and the group, U2, are merely an example, not to mention brand names such as Guinness and Baileys Irish Cream.
Note: The information in this site is for general guidance only. Users of this site are advised to take professional advice before taking practical tax decisions.
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