Study Abroad Ireland

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Facts about Ireland. Ireland history.


Irish flag

The Republic of Ireland is the official description of the sovereign state which covers approximately five-sixths of the island of Ireland, off the coast of north-west Europe. The state's constitutional name is Ireland (in the Irish language: ire) and this is how international organisations and residents usually refer to the country. It is a member of the European Union, has a developed economy and a population of slightly more than 4.2 million. The remaining sixth of the island of Ireland is known as Northern Ireland and is part of the United Kingdom.



The Irish peoples are mainly of indigenous Neolithic ancestry; although some of the population are also of English, Scottish, Anglo-Norman, Viking and Welsh ancestry, these groups have been assimilated and do not form distinct minority groups. Celtic culture and language forms an important part of national identity. The Irish Travellers are an ethnic minority group.

The official languages are Irish and English. Teaching of the Irish language is compulsory in primary and secondary level schools which receive money and recognition from the state. Some students may be exempt from the requirement to receive instruction in the language. English is by far the predominant language spoken throughout the country. Road signs are usually bilingual, except in the Gaeltacht, where they are in Irish only. The legal status of place names has recently been the subject of controversy, with an order made in 2005 under the Official Languages Act changing the official name of certain locations from English to Irish (e.g. Dingle is now officially named An Daingean). 

The CSO published preliminary findings based on the 2006 Census of Population on July 19, 2006. These indicate:
The total population of Ireland on Census Day, April 23, 2006, was 4,234,925, an increase of 317,722, or 8.1% since 2002. Allowing for the incidence of births (245,000) and deaths (114,000), the derived net immigration of people to Ireland between 2002 and 2006 was 186,000. It is estimated that the cohort of non-nationals resident in Ireland is of the order of 400,000 a number that will be clarified in April 2007. The average annual rate of increase, 2%, is the highest on record compared to 1.3% between 1996 and 2002 and 1.5% between 1971 and 1979. The 2006 population was last exceeded in the 1861 Census when the population then was 4.4 million The lowest population of Ireland was recorded in the 1961 Census 2.6 million. 


The local temperate climate is modified by the North Atlantic Current and is relatively mild. Summers are rarely very hot (temperatures only exceed 30C usually once every decade, though commonly reach 29C or 84F most summers), but it freezes only occasionally in winter (temperatures below -5C are very rare). Precipitation is very common, with up to 275 days with rain in some parts of the country. Chief cities are the capital Dublin on the east coast, Cork in the south, Limerick, Galway on the west coast, and Waterford on the south east coast.
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