Ireland

Introduction

The Ireland of Stone Age tombs, green hills, medieval castles and cliffs does still exist, but there is also another side to the country: Ireland is developing into one of Europe’s most prosperous countries, with vibrant cities that offer an incredible range of activities and sights for locals and visitors alike to enjoy. The Irish are typically immensly warm and friendly, despite their country's often troubled past.

Places to go in Ireland

History

The Catholic, nationalist Sinn Féin ("Ourselves", SF) party had huge support in the 1918 general election. The party's elected deputies constituted themselves as the first Irish parliament, which increased the tensions. After the British attempts to crush Sinn Fein the Anglo-Irish War of 1919-21 started.


The Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921 brought an end to the war; it established the Irish Free State of 26 counties within the Commonwealth. The country was also divided into Ireland and Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland remaining as part of the United Kingdom.


A civil war (1922-23) followed, Sinn Féin split, a new Irish constitution was enacted in 1937, declaring Ireland a republic. The country remained neutral during WWII.


Irish politics remain dominated by the two political parties that grew out of Ireland's civil war, Fianna Fáil ('Soldiers of Destiny'/Republican Party; formed by those who opposed the 1921 treaty that divided Ireland) and Fine Gael (Tribe of the Gaels'/United Ireland Party; pro-treaty).


These two parties alternate in government; with Fine Gael ususally forming a coalition with Páirtí Lucht Oibre (Labour Party).


Politics

Politically, Ireland consists of the state Ireland and the UK constituent country Northern Ireland. Coalition governments are common in Ireland. The two main political parties Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were both created after the great split in Irish politics in 1922/23. Fine Gael supported the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty and Fianna Fáil were against the Treaty. Although there are other political parties in Ireland, its political landscape is dominated by these two.


The country is a member of the European Union and has become one of its success stories. Having benefited enormously from the free trade which has come with EU membership, Ireland's economy has blossomed.

Geography

Ireland is an island in northwest Europe, situated in the North Atlantic Ocean. Its geography is characterized by low central plains surrounded by a ring of coastal mountains. Carrauntoohil (Irish: Corrán Tuathail), with its summit being 1,041m above sea level, is the country’s highest peak.


The island is divided by the River Shannon, which is the longest river in Ireland. Situated west of Great Britain, it is separated from Britain by the Irish Sea and from mainland Europe by the Celtic Sea. It covers a total area of 84,412 km²

Economy

Agriculture was once the most important sector in Ireland’s economy, but today this is dwarfed by the importance of it's industry. Exports remain the most important reason for Ireland's growth. Unemployment is relatively low but is rising. Next to Luxembourg, Ireland has the second highest per capita income of any EU country and it ranks fourth in the world in relation to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita.

Country Information

CurrencyEuro
LanguagesEnglish, Irish Gaelic
GovernmentParliamentary democratic republic
TimezoneGMT
Population3.9 million
ATM availabilityAvailable
CapitalDublin
Dialing code(00) 353
Emergency servicesAmbulance, police & fire: 112 or 999
WeatherIreland's climate is dominated by the influence of the Atlantic Ocean. Average annual temperature in Ireland is about 9 °C. In the middle as well as in the east of the country, temperatures generally are more extreme than in other parts of the country. Strong winds occur, but they’re more frequent in winter than in summer. The highest duration of sunshine can be found in the southeast of the country. Rainfall is most likely in the northwest, west and southwest of Ireland.
Tourist boardhttp://www.discoverireland.ie
Famous forSt Patrick, Guinness, Folk Music
Useful phrasesDia duit (hello); go raibh (thank you);
Accommodation forThere are plenty of hotels of all standards in Ireland. Good value Bed and Breakfast accommodation is also widely available and is usually run by friendly locals who make excellent hosts. There is an official youth hostel association - An Óige (Irish for The Youth), offering hostels that are often in beautifully remote places. Especially in bigger towns, you can also find independent hostels which are marketed as Independent holiday hostels of Ireland. There are official campsites accross the country although due to the climate, less than in many other countries. Wild camping is generally tolerated, although you should seek permission from the landowner to be on the safe side.
Business hoursMost shops open from 9am - 6pm Monday to Saturday. Thursday is late shopping day until 9pm. Local stores and many larger supermarkets will have longer opening hours than other shops and many open on Sundays. Banks open 10am - 4pm (5pm on Thursdays). Recent moves to liberalise the licensing laws have spelled longer opening hours for bars. They may now open from 10.30am - 11.30pm on weekdays and until 12.30 at weekends (with an additional 30 minutes 'drinking up time' every day).
VisasNationals from many countries will not need a visa to enter Ireland. Even for those who do need a visa there is a new on-line system introduced in 2008 which should help speed up many of these. Check http://www.dfa.ie for latest details.
TippingIn some restaurants, a service charge is included in the bill- if that is the case then additional tipping is not necessary, unless you feel you received an excellent service. If a service charge was not included, you usually leave a tip of 10% to 15%. If you are not sure if a service charge was included in your bill, simply ask.

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