Ireland Country Profile
Ireland emerged from the conflict that marked its birth as an independent state to become one of Europe’s economic success stories in the final decade of the twentieth century.
After the country joined the European Community in 1973, it was transformed from a largely agricultural society into a modern, high-technology economy.
However, the economy collapsed following the 2008 global financial crisis. With the help of an international bailout, Ireland has been recovering once more.
Its strong literary and musical traditions, as well as its long history of emigration, have given Ireland an international cultural presence disproportionate to its size.
In 1921 the British government split the island into the mainly Protestant North and the mainly Catholic South, planning to keep both regions in the United Kingdom. However, the South seceded in 1922, while Northern Ireland opted to remain.
Northern Ireland subsequently saw decades of violent conflict between those campaigning for a united Ireland, and those wishing to stay in the United Kingdom, until a communal power-sharing agreement came into force in 1999.
- Capital: Dublin
- Population 4.6 million
- Area 70,182 sq km (27,097 sq miles)
- Major languages English, Irish
- Major religion Christianity
- Life expectancy 78 years (men), 83 years (women)
- Currency euro
Ireland President: Michael D Higgins
Michael D Higgins, a veteran left-wing politician, poet and human rights activist was elected president in 2011.
He is a former Galway university lecturer and published poet who has dedicated his four-decade political career to championing Irish culture and left-wing causes worldwide. He is an Irish speaker.
The president wields little power beyond the ability to refer potentially unconstitutional legislation to the Supreme Court, but has an important symbolic role in representing Ireland at the national and international level.
Ireland Prime minister (Taoiseach): Leo Varadkar
A doctor of part-Indian parentage, Leo Varadkar was elected leader of the centre-right Fine Gael party in June 2017, on the resignation of Enda Kenny. He succeeded Mr Kenny as head of a minority government later in the month.
Mr Varadkar, born in 1979, is Ireland’s youngest prime minister, and is also the country’s first openly gay party leader, not to mention the first of Indian heritage.
His main tasks will be to manage the implications for Ireland of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union.
The Irish are well connected, with 82% of the population online by 2015 and about 56% subscribed to Facebook.
Print and broadcast media operate freely within the confines of the law. Broadcasting – commercial and public – is regulated by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. The Competition Authority safeguards against unfair competition in the press sector.