Page semi-protected

Republic of Ireland

Source: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Ireland[a]
Éire (Irish)
Anthem: 
Location of Ireland (dark green) – in Europe (green & dark grey) – in the European Union (green)
Location of Ireland (dark green)

– in Europe (green & dark grey)
– in the European Union (green)

Capital
and largest city
Dublin
53°20.65′N 6°16.05′W / 53.34417°N 6.26750°W / 53.34417; -6.26750Coordinates: 53°N 8°W / 53°N 8°W / 53; -8
Official languages
Ethnic groups
(2016[2])
Religion
(2016[3]
)
Demonym(s)Irish
GovernmentUnitary parliamentary republic
• President
Michael D. Higgins
• Taoiseach
Micheál Martin
• Tánaiste
Leo Varadkar
Donal O'Donnell
LegislatureOireachtas
Seanad
Dáil
Independence 
24 April 1916
21 January 1919
6 December 1921
6 December 1922
29 December 1937
18 April 1949
Area
• Total
70,273 km2 (27,133 sq mi) (118th)
• Water (%)
2.0%
Population
• 2022 estimate
Neutral increase 5,123,536[4] (122nd)
• 2016 census
4,761,865[5]
• Density
71.3/km2 (184.7/sq mi) (113th)
GDP (PPP)2022 estimate
• Total
Increase $633 billion[6] (40th)
• Per capita
Increase $124,596[6] (3rd)
GDP (nominal)2021 estimate
• Total
Increase $516 billion[6] (30th)
• Per capita
Increase $101,509[6] (2nd)
Gini (2021)Positive decrease 26.9[7]
low · 23rd
HDI (2021)Decrease 0.945[8]
very high · 8th
CurrencyEuro ()[c] (EUR)
Time zoneUTC (GMT)
• Summer (DST)
UTC+1 (IST)
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy
Driving sideleft
Calling code+353
ISO 3166 codeIE
Internet TLD.ie[d]
  1. Republic of Ireland Act 1948 declares that Republic of Ireland is "the description of the State".[9]
  2. ^ Also "the national language", as per the Section 2 of the Official Languages Act 2003.
  3. ^ Prior to 2002, Ireland used the Irish pound as its circulated currency. The euro was introduced as an accounting currency in 1999.
  4. ^ The .eu
domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.

Ireland (Irish: Éire [ˈeːɾʲə] (listen)), also known as the Republic of Ireland (Poblacht na hÉireann),[a] is a country in north-western Europe consisting of 26 of the 32 counties of the island of Ireland. The capital and largest city is Dublin, on the eastern side of the island. Around 2.1 million of the country's population of 5.13 million people resides in the Greater Dublin Area.[10] The sovereign state shares its only land border with Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. It is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the Celtic Sea to the south, St George's Channel to the south-east, and the Irish Sea to the east. It is a unitary, parliamentary republic.[11] The legislature, the Oireachtas, consists of a lower house, Dáil Éireann; an upper house, Seanad Éireann; and an elected President (Uachtarán) who serves as the largely ceremonial head of state, but with some important powers and duties. The head of government is the Taoiseach (Prime Minister, literally 'Chief', a title not used in English), who is elected by the Dáil and appointed by the President; the Taoiseach in turn appoints other government ministers.

The

Republic of Ireland Act 1948. Ireland became a member of the United Nations in December 1955. It joined the European Communities (EC), the predecessor of the European Union, in 1973. The state had no formal relations with Northern Ireland for most of the twentieth century, but during the 1980s and 1990s the British and Irish governments worked with the Northern Ireland parties towards a resolution to "the Troubles". Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the Irish government and Northern Ireland Executive have co-operated on a number of policy areas under the North/South Ministerial Council
created by the Agreement.

One of Europe's major financial hubs is centred on Dublin. Ireland ranks among the top ten wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita,[12] although this has been partially ascribed to distortions caused by the tax inversion practices of various multinationals operating in Ireland.[13][14][15][16] From 2017, a modified gross national income (GNI*) was enacted by the Central Bank of Ireland, as the standard deviation was considered too materially distorted to accurately measure or represent the Irish economy.[17][18] After joining the EC, the country's government enacted a series of liberal economic policies that resulted in economic growth between 1995 and 2007 now known as the Celtic Tiger period, before its subsequent reversal during the Great Recession.[19]

A

economic freedom and freedom of the press.[20][21] Ireland is a member of the European Union and is a founding member of the Council of Europe and the OECD. The Irish government has followed a policy of military neutrality through non-alignment since immediately prior to World War II and the country is consequently not a member of NATO,[22] although it is a member of Partnership for Peace and aspects of PESCO
.

Name

The Irish name for Ireland is

Republic of Ireland Act 1948 states, "It is hereby declared that the description of the State shall be the Republic of Ireland." The 1948 Act does not name the state "Republic of Ireland", because to have done so would have put it in conflict with the Constitution.[25]

The government of the United Kingdom used the name "Eire" (without the diacritic) and, from 1949, "Republic of Ireland", for the state.[26] It was not until the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, when the state dropped its claim to Northern Ireland, that it began calling the state "Ireland".[27][28]

As well as "Ireland", "Éire" or "the Republic of Ireland", the state is also informally called "the Republic", "Southern Ireland" or "the South";

Irish republicans reserve the name "Ireland" for the whole island,[28] and often refer to the state as "the Free State", "the 26 Counties",[28][30] or "the South of Ireland".[31] This is a "response to the partitionist view [...] that Ireland stops at the border".[32]

History

Home-rule movement

From the

Act of Union on 1 January 1801, until 6 December 1922, the island of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. During the Great Famine, from 1845 to 1849, the island's population of over 8 million fell by 30%. One million Irish died of starvation and/or disease and another 1.5 million emigrated, mostly to the United States.[33] This set the pattern of emigration for the century to come, resulting in constant population decline up to the 1960s.[34][35][36]

From 1874, and particularly under

.

Home Rule seemed certain when the

Irish Unionist Party and the Ulsterman Sir James Craig of the Ulster Unionist Party, unionists became strongly militant in order to oppose "the Coercion of Ulster".[38] After the Home Rule Bill passed parliament in May 1914, to avoid rebellion with Ulster, the British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith introduced an Amending Bill
reluctantly conceded to by the Irish Party leadership. This provided for the temporary exclusion of Ulster from the workings of the bill for a trial period of six years, with an as yet undecided new set of measures to be introduced for the area to be temporarily excluded.

Revolution and steps to independence

Though it received the

16th (Irish) divisions of the New British Army, while Unionists joined the 36th (Ulster) divisions.[39]

The remainder of the Irish Volunteers, who refused Redmond and opposed any support of the UK, launched an armed insurrection against British rule in the 1916 Easter Rising, together with the Irish Citizen Army. This commenced on 24 April 1916 with the declaration of independence. After a week of heavy fighting, primarily in Dublin, the surviving rebels were forced to surrender their positions. The majority were imprisoned but fifteen of the prisoners (including most of the leaders) were executed as traitors to the UK. This included Patrick Pearse, the spokesman for the rising and who provided the signal to the volunteers to start the rising, as well as James Connolly, socialist and founder of the Industrial Workers of the World union and both the Irish and Scottish Labour movements. These events, together with the Conscription Crisis of 1918, had a profound effect on changing public opinion in Ireland against the British Government.[40]

In January 1919, after the December

Paris Peace Conference
of 1919, but it was not admitted.

Oireachtas was established, of which Dáil Éireann became the lower house
.

After the

British government and the five Irish treaty delegates, led by Arthur Griffith, Robert Barton and Michael Collins, negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty in London from 11 October to 6 December 1921. The Irish delegates set up headquarters at Hans Place in Knightsbridge, and it was here in private discussions that the decision was taken on 5 December to recommend the treaty to Dáil Éireann. On 7 January 1922, the Second Dáil ratified the Treaty by 64 votes to 57.[41]

In accordance with the treaty, on 6 December 1922 the entire island of Ireland became a self-governing

Parliament of the Irish Free State and Executive Council of the Irish Free State did not extend to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland exercised its right under the treaty to leave the new Dominion and rejoined the United Kingdom on 8 December 1922. It did so by making an address to the King requesting, "that the powers of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State shall no longer extend to Northern Ireland."[42] The Irish Free State was a constitutional monarchy sharing a monarch with the United Kingdom and other Dominions of the British Commonwealth. The country had a governor-general (representing the monarch), a bicameral parliament, a cabinet called the "Executive Council", and a prime minister called the President of the Executive Council
.

Irish Civil War

The Irish Civil War (June 1922 – May 1923) was the consequence of the ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the creation of the Irish Free State.

Free State Parliament would have to swear what the Anti-treaty side saw as an oath of fidelity to the British King. Pro-treaty forces, led by Michael Collins, argued that the treaty gave "not the ultimate freedom that all nations aspire to and develop, but the freedom to achieve it".[45]

At the start of the war, the

Irish regiments
of the British Army, capable of overwhelming the anti-treatyists. British supplies of artillery, aircraft, machine-guns and ammunition boosted pro-treaty forces, and the threat of a return of Crown forces to the Free State removed any doubts about the necessity of enforcing the treaty. Lack of public support for the anti-treaty forces (often called the Irregulars) and the determination of the government to overcome the Irregulars contributed significantly to their defeat.

Constitution of Ireland 1937

Following a national plebiscite in July 1937, the new

King George VI
who was only an "organ", that was provided for by statute law.

Republic of Ireland Act 1948, which came into force on 18 April 1949 and declared that the state was a republic.[50][51] At the time, a declaration of a republic terminated Commonwealth membership. This rule was changed 10 days after Ireland declared itself a republic, with the London Declaration of 28 April 1949. Ireland did not reapply when the rules were altered to permit republics to join. Later, the Crown of Ireland Act 1542 was repealed in Ireland by the Statute Law Revision (Pre-Union Irish Statutes) Act 1962.[52]

Recent history

Lisbon Treaty
in 2007.

Ireland became a member of the United Nations in December 1955, after having been denied membership because of its neutral stance during the Second World War and not supporting the Allied cause.[53] At the time, joining the UN involved a commitment to using force to deter aggression by one state against another if the UN thought it was necessary.[54]

Interest towards membership of the

protectionist policy.[55] Many Irish economists and politicians realised that economic policy reform was necessary. The prospect of EC membership became doubtful in 1963 when French President General Charles de Gaulle stated that France opposed Britain's accession, which ceased negotiations with all other candidate countries. However, in 1969 his successor, Georges Pompidou, was not opposed to British and Irish membership. Negotiations began and in 1972 the Treaty of Accession was signed. A referendum was held later that year which confirmed Ireland's entry into the bloc, and it finally joined the EC as a member state on 1 January 1973.[56]

The economic crisis of the late 1970s was fuelled by the Fianna Fáil government's budget, the abolition of the car tax, excessive borrowing, and global economic instability including the 1979 oil crisis.[57] There were significant policy changes from 1989 onwards, with economic reform, tax cuts, welfare reform, an increase in competition, and a ban on borrowing to fund current spending. This policy began in 1989–1992 by the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat government, and continued by the subsequent Fianna Fáil/Labour government and Fine Gael/Labour/Democratic Left government. Ireland became one of the world's fastest growing economies by the late 1990s in what was known as the Celtic Tiger period, which lasted until the Great Recession. However, since 2014, Ireland has experienced increased economic activity.[58]

In the Northern Ireland question, the British and Irish governments started to seek a peaceful resolution to the violent conflict involving many paramilitaries and the British Army in Northern Ireland known as "The Troubles". A peace settlement for Northern Ireland, known as the Good Friday Agreement, was approved in 1998 in referendums north and south of the border. As part of the peace settlement, the territorial claim to Northern Ireland in Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland was removed by referendum. In its white paper on Brexit the United Kingdom government reiterated its commitment to the Good Friday Agreement. With regard to Northern Ireland's status, it said that the UK Government's "clearly-stated preference is to retain Northern Ireland’s current constitutional position: as part of the UK, but with strong links to Ireland".[59]

Geography

The state extends over an area of about five-sixths (70,273 km2 or 27,133 sq mi) of the island of Ireland (84,421 km2 or 32,595 sq mi), with Northern Ireland constituting the remainder. The island is bounded to the north and west by the Atlantic Ocean and to the northeast by the North Channel. To the east, the Irish Sea connects to the Atlantic Ocean via St George's Channel and the Celtic Sea to the southwest.

The western landscape mostly consists of rugged cliffs, hills and mountains. The central lowlands are extensively covered with glacial deposits of clay and sand, as well as significant areas of

bogland and several lakes. The highest point is Carrauntoohil (1,038.6 m or 3,407 ft), located in the MacGillycuddy's Reeks mountain range in the southwest. River Shannon, which traverses the central lowlands, is the longest river in Ireland at 386 kilometres or 240 miles in length. The west coast is more rugged than the east, with numerous islands, peninsulas, headlands and bays
.

Ireland is one of the least forested countries in Europe.

Hedgerows, which are traditionally used to define land boundaries, are an important substitute for woodland habitat, providing refuge for native wild flora and a wide range of insect, bird and mammal species.[67] It is home to two terrestrial ecoregions: Celtic broadleaf forests and North Atlantic moist mixed forests.[68]

fertiliser use, has placed pressure on biodiversity.[71]

Climate

The Atlantic Ocean and the warming influence of the Gulf Stream affect weather patterns in Ireland.[72] Temperatures differ regionally, with central and eastern areas tending to be more extreme. However, due to a temperate oceanic climate, temperatures are seldom lower than −5 °C (23 °F) in winter or higher than 26 °C (79 °F) in summer.[73] The highest temperature recorded in Ireland was 33.3 °C (91.9 °F) on 26 June 1887 at

wind energy generation.[75]

Ireland normally gets between 1100 and 1600 hours of sunshine each year, most areas averaging between 3.25 and 3.75 hours a day. The sunniest months are May and June, which average between 5 and 6.5 hours per day over most of the country. The extreme southeast gets most sunshine, averaging over 7 hours a day in early summer. December is the dullest month, with an average daily sunshine ranging from about 1 hour in the north to almost 2 hours in the extreme southeast. The sunniest summer in the 100 years from 1881 to 1980 was 1887, according to measurements made at the Phoenix Park in Dublin; 1980 was the dullest.[76]

Politics

Ireland is a constitutional republic with a

bicameral national parliament composed of the President of Ireland and the two Houses of the Oireachtas: Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives) and Seanad Éireann (Senate).[77] Áras an Uachtaráin is the official residence of the President of Ireland, while the houses of the Oireachtas meet at Leinster House in Dublin
.

The President serves as

figurehead, but is entrusted with certain constitutional powers with the advice of the Council of State. The office has absolute discretion in some areas, such as referring a bill to the Supreme Court for a judgment on its constitutionality.[78] Michael D. Higgins became the ninth President of Ireland on 11 November 2011.[79]

The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) serves as the head of government and is appointed by the President upon the nomination of the Dáil. Most Taoisigh have served as the leader of the political party that gains the most seats in national elections. It has become customary for coalitions to form a government, as there has not been a single-party government since 1989.[80] Micheál Martin succeeded Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach on 27 June 2020, after forming a historic coalition between his Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael of Leo Varadkar.[81]

The Dáil has 160 members (Teachtaí Dála) elected to represent multi-seat constituencies under the system of proportional representation and by means of the single transferable vote. The Seanad is composed of sixty members, with eleven nominated by the Taoiseach, six elected by two universities, and 43 elected by public representatives from panels of candidates established on a vocational basis.

The

Solidarity–People Before Profit, Social Democrats, Aontú, as well as a number of independents
.

Ireland has been a member state of the European Union since 1973. Citizens of the United Kingdom can freely enter the country without a passport due to the Common Travel Area, which is a passport-free zone comprising the islands of Ireland, Great Britain, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. However, some identification is required at airports and seaports.

Local government

Áras an Uachtaráin, official residence of the President of Ireland

The

town councils
was abolished in 2014.

Ireland Administrative Counties.svg
  1. Fingal
  2. Dublin City
  3. Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown
  4. South Dublin
  5. Wicklow
  6. Wexford
  7. Carlow
  8. Kildare
  9. Meath
  10. Louth
  11. Monaghan
  12. Cavan
  13. Longford
  14. Westmeath
  15. Offaly
  16. Laois
  1. Kilkenny
  2. Waterford
  3. Cork City
  4. Cork
  5. Kerry
  6. Limerick
  7. Tipperary
  8. Clare
  9. Galway
  10. Galway City
  11. Mayo
  12. Roscommon
  13. Sligo
  14. Leitrim
  15. Donegal

Local authorities are responsible for matters such as planning, local roads, sanitation, and libraries. The breaching of county boundaries should be avoided as far as practicable in drawing

regions
, each with a Regional Assembly composed of members delegated by the various county and city councils in the region. The regions do not have any direct administrative role as such, but they serve for planning, coordination and statistical purposes.

Law

Ireland has a

parliamentary democracy. The court system consists of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Circuit Court and the District Court, all of which apply the Irish law and hear both civil and criminal matters. Trials for serious offences must usually be held before a jury. The High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court have authority, by means of judicial review, to determine the compatibility of laws and activities of other institutions of the state with the constitution and the law. Except in exceptional circumstances, court hearings must occur in public.[84][85]

firearms. Standard policing is traditionally carried out by uniformed officers equipped only with a baton and pepper spray.[86]

The

prisoners of war and refugees.[87]

Ireland's citizenship laws relate to "the island of Ireland", including islands and seas, thereby extending them to Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Therefore, anyone born in Northern Ireland who meets the requirements for being an Irish citizen, such as birth on the island of Ireland to an Irish or British citizen parent or a parent who is entitled to live in Northern Ireland or the Republic without restriction on their residency,[88] may exercise an entitlement to Irish citizenship, such as an Irish passport.[89]

Foreign relations

Foreign relations are substantially influenced by membership of the European Union, although bilateral relations with the United Kingdom and United States are also important.[90] It held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on six occasions, most recently from January to June 2013.[91]

Irish Army soldiers as part of Kosovo Force
, 2010.

Ireland tends towards independence in foreign policy; thus the country is not a member of

Irish Defence Forces contributing to peace-keeping missions with the United Nations since 1960, including during the Congo Crisis and subsequently in Cyprus, Lebanon and Bosnia and Herzegovina.[92]

Despite

Since 1999, Ireland has been a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) program and NATO's Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), which is aimed at creating trust between NATO and other states in Europe and the former Soviet Union.[96][97]

Military

Ireland is a

Dáil and Government.[99] Accordingly, its military role is limited to national self-defence and participation in United Nations peacekeeping
.

Irish Guard of Honour 'Garda Onóra' during the state visit at Áras an Uachtaráin, Dublin

The Irish Defence Forces (Óglaigh na hÉireann) are made up of the

EEZ by the Irish Naval Service, and UN, EU and PfP peace-keeping missions. By 1996, over 40,000 Irish service personnel had served in international UN peacekeeping missions.[102]

The Irish Air Corps is the air component of the Defence Forces and operates sixteen fixed wing aircraft and eight helicopters. The Irish Naval Service is Ireland's navy, and operates six

patrol ships, and smaller numbers of inflatable boats and training vessels, and has armed boarding parties capable of seizing a ship and a special unit of frogmen. The military includes the Reserve Defence Forces (Army Reserve and Naval Service Reserve) for part-time reservists. Ireland's special forces include the Army Ranger Wing, which trains and operates with international special operations units. The President is the formal Supreme Commander of the Defence Forces, but in practice these Forces answer to the Government via the Minister for Defence.[103]

In 2017, Ireland signed the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.[104]

Economy

Ireland is an open economy (6th on the Index of Economic Freedom), and ranks first for "high-value" foreign direct investment (FDI) flows.[105] Using the metric global GDP per capita, Ireland ranks 5th of 187 (IMF) and 6th of 175 (World Bank). The alternative metric modified Gross National Income (GNI) is intended to give a more accurate view of "activity in the domestic economy".[106] This is particularly relevant in Ireland's small globalised economy, as GDP includes income from non-Irish owned companies, which flows out of Ireland.[107] Indeed, foreign multinationals are the driver of Ireland's economy, employing a quarter of the private sector workforce,[108] and paying 80% of Irish business taxes.[109][110][111] 14 of Ireland's top 20 firms (by 2017 turnover) are US-based multinationals[112] (80% of foreign multinationals in Ireland are from the US;[113][114] there are no non-US/non-UK foreign firms in Ireland's top 50 firms by turnover, and only one by employees, that being German retailer Lidl at No. 41[112]).

Ireland is part of the EU (dark blue & light blue) and Eurozone
(dark blue).

Ireland adopted the euro currency in 2002 along with eleven other

The country officially exited recession in 2010, assisted by a growth in exports from US multinationals in Ireland.

Census of Ireland 2011. One-third of the emigrants were aged between 15 and 24.[120]

Ireland exited its EU-IMF bailout programme on 15 December 2013.[121] Having implemented budget cuts, reforms and sold assets, Ireland was again able to access debt markets. Since then, Ireland has been able to sell long term bonds at record rates.[122] However, the stabilisation of the Irish credit bubble required a large transfer of debt from the private sector balance sheet (highest OECD leverage), to the public sector balance sheet (almost unleveraged, pre-crisis), via Irish bank bailouts and public deficit spending.[123][124] The transfer of this debt means that Ireland, in 2017, still has one of the highest levels of both public sector indebtedness, and private sector indebtedness, in the EU-28/OECD.[125][126][127][128][129][130]

Ireland continues to de-leverage its domestic private sector while growing its US multinational-driven economy. Ireland became the main destination for US

€13bn EU "illegal state aid" fine
for preferential tax treatment).

Taxation policy

Ireland's economy was transformed with the creation of a 10% low-tax "special economic zone", called the International Financial Services Centre (or "IFSC"), in 1987.[133] In 1999, the entire country was effectively "turned into an IFSC" with the reduction of Irish corporation tax from 32% to 12.5% (the birth of Ireland's "low-tax" model).[134][135] This accelerated Ireland's transition from a predominantly agricultural economy into a knowledge economy focused on attracting US multinationals from high-tech, life sciences, and financial services industries seeking to avail of Ireland's attractive corporate tax rates and unique corporate tax system.

The "multinational tax schemes" foreign firms use in Ireland materially distort Irish economic statistics. This reached a climax with the famous "leprechaun economics" GDP/GNP growth rates of 2015 (as Apple restructured its Irish subsidiaries in 2015). The Central Bank of Ireland introduced a new statistic, "modified GNI" (or GNI*), to remove these distortions. GNI* is 30% below GDP (or, GDP is 143% of GNI).[17][18] As such, Ireland's GDP and GNP should no longer be used.[136][137][138]

From the creation of the IFSC, the country experienced strong and sustained economic growth which fuelled a dramatic rise in Irish consumer borrowing and spending, and Irish construction and investment, which became known as the Celtic Tiger period.[139][140] By 2007, Ireland had the highest private sector debt in the OECD with a household debt-to-disposable income ratio of 190%. Global capital markets, who had financed Ireland's build-up of debt in the Celtic Tiger period by enabling Irish banks to borrow in excess of the domestic deposit base (to over 180% at peak[141]), withdrew support in the financial crisis of 2007–2008. Their withdrawal from the over-borrowed Irish credit system would precipitate a deep Irish property correction which then led to the Post-2008 Irish banking crisis.[142][139]

Ireland's successful "low-tax" economy opens it to accusations of being a "corporate

tax havens). A serious challenge is the passing of the US Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (whose FDII and GILTI regimes target Ireland's "multinational tax schemes").[148][149][150][151] The EU's 2018 Digital Sales Tax (DST)[152] (and desire for a CCCTB[153]) is also seen as an attempt to restrict Irish "multinational tax schemes" by US technology firms.[154][155][156]

Trade

Although

Tourism in Ireland
contributes about 4% of GDP and is a significant source of employment.

Other goods exports include agri-food, cattle, beef, dairy products, and aluminum. Ireland's major imports include data processing equipment, chemicals, petroleum and petroleum products, textiles, and clothing.

Irish Financial Services Centre also contribute to Irish exports. The difference between exports (€89.4 billion) and imports (€45.5 billion) resulted an annual trade surplus of €43.9 billion in 2010,[157]
which is the highest trade surplus relative to GDP achieved by any EU member state.

The EU is by far the country's largest trading partner, accounting for 57.9% of exports and 60.7% of imports. The United Kingdom is the most important trading partner within the EU, accounting for 15.4% of exports and 32.1% of imports. Outside the EU, the United States accounted for 23.2% of exports and 14.1% of imports in 2010.[157]

Energy

A wind farm in County Wexford

wind power, with 3,000 MegaWatts[160] of wind farms being constructed, some for the purpose of export.[161] The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland (SEAI) has estimated that 6.5% of Ireland's 2011 energy requirements were produced by renewable sources.[162] The SEAI has also reported an increase in energy efficiency in Ireland with a 28% reduction in carbon emissions per house from 2005 to 2013.[163]

Transport

The country's three main international airports at Dublin, Shannon and Cork serve many European and intercontinental routes with scheduled and chartered flights. The London to Dublin air route is the ninth busiest international air route in the world, and also the busiest international air route in Europe, with 14,500 flights between the two in 2017.[164][165] In 2015, 4.5 million people took the route, at that time, the world's second-busiest.[164] Aer Lingus is the flag carrier of Ireland, although Ryanair is the country's largest airline. Ryanair is Europe's largest low-cost carrier,[166] the second largest in terms of passenger numbers, and the world's largest in terms of international passenger numbers.[167]

Heuston station

Railway services are provided by

Northern Ireland Railways, connects Dublin and Belfast. The whole of Ireland's mainline network operates on track with a gauge of 5 ft 3 in (1,600 mm), which is unique in Europe and has resulted in distinct rolling stock designs. Dublin's public transport network includes the DART, Luas, Dublin Bus, and dublinbikes.[168]

local roads are managed by the local authorities in each of their respective areas. The road network is primarily focused on the capital, but motorways connect it to other major Irish cities including Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway.[169]

Dublin is served by major infrastructure such as the

River Lee in Cork, and the Limerick Tunnel, under the River Shannon, were two major projects outside Dublin.[170]

Demographics

Genetic research suggests that the earliest settlers migrated from

Celtic language and culture. Migrants from the two latter eras still represent the genetic heritage of most Irish people.[172][173] Gaelic tradition expanded and became the dominant form over time. Irish people are a combination of Gaelic, Norse, Anglo-Norman
, French, and British ancestry.

The population of Ireland stood at 4,761,865 in 2016, an increase of 12.3% since 2006.

median age of the Irish population was 37.1 years.[179]

At the time of the 2016 census, the number of non-Irish nationals was recorded at 535,475. This represents a 2% decrease from the 2011 census figure of 544,357. The five largest sources of non-Irish nationals were Poland (122,515), the UK (103,113), Lithuania (36,552), Romania (29,186) and Latvia (19,933) respectively. Compared with 2011, the number of UK, Polish, Lithuanian and Latvian nationals fell. There were four new additions to the top ten largest non-Irish nationalities in 2016: Brazilian (13,640), Spanish (12,112), Italian (11,732), and French (11,661).[180]

Largest
urban centres
by population (2016 census)


# Settlement Population # Settlement Population

1 Dublin 1,173,179[181] 11 Kilkenny 26,512
2 Cork 208,669[182] 12 Ennis 25,276
3 Limerick 94,192[183] 13 Carlow 24,272
4 Galway 79,934[184] 14 Tralee 23,691
5 Waterford 53,504[185] 15 Newbridge 22,742
6 Drogheda 40,956[186] 16 Portlaoise 22,050
7 Swords 39,248[187] 17 Balbriggan 21,722
8 Dundalk 39,004[188] 18 Naas 21,393
9 Bray 32,600[189] 19 Athlone 21,349
10 Navan 30,173[190] 20 Mullingar 20,928

Functional urban areas

The following is a list of functional urban areas in Ireland (as defined by the OECD) and their approximate populations as of 2015.[191]

Functional urban areas Approx. population
2015
Dublin 1,830,000
Cork 410,000
Galway 180,000
Limerick 160,000
Waterford 100,000

Languages

The Irish Constitution describes Irish as the "national language" and the "first official language", but English (the "second official language") is the dominant language. In the 2016 census, about 1.75 million people (40% of the population) said they were able to speak Irish but, of those, under 74,000 spoke it on a daily basis.

Irish Defence Forces
, all foot and arms drill commands are given in the Irish language.

As a result of immigration,

Scots is spoken by some Ulster Scots people in Donegal.[195] Most secondary school students choose to learn one or two foreign languages. Languages available for the Junior Certificate and the Leaving Certificate include French, German, Italian and Spanish; Leaving Certificate students can also study Arabic, Japanese and Russian. Some secondary schools also offer Ancient Greek, Hebrew and Latin. The study of Irish is generally compulsory for Leaving Certificate students, but some may qualify for an exemption in some circumstances, such as learning difficulties or entering the country after age 11.[196]

Healthcare

RCSI Disease and Research Centre at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin