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Useful Notes / Ireland

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"Céad mí­le fáilte"Translation

"In Ireland the inevitable never happens and the unexpected constantly occurs."
Sir John Pentland Mahaffy

It's just like Scotland, BUT IT'S OWN ISLAND!

Ireland (Irish: Éire) is a medium-sized, windy, rain-swept island on the northwestern fringe of Europe, which looks a bit like a teddy bear or koala (imagine it in the profile, looking away from Britain). It is also the name of the Northern European country that covers four-fifths of that island, the rest being covered by Northern Ireland (part of the United Kingdom). For Hollywood clichés about Ireland, see Scotireland and Oireland. For more about Northern Ireland, see Northern Ireland and The Troubles.

A note on the name. The official name of the country is simply Ireland in English, but "Republic of Ireland" (Poblacht na hÉireann) is the official description (The Republic of Ireland Act, 1948). Both are acceptable, though using the latter in casual speech will probably get you odd looks in Dublin (not hostile, just odd). Éire (air-uh) is technically legitimate but for various complicated reasons involving Northern Ireland is not used casually, and mostly not used at all, since the majority of Irish people don't actually speak the Irish language fluently, and even fewer are native speakers. English is the primary language of Ireland, though the government of Ireland works very hard to keep the Irish language alive.

The Republic of Ireland is the second most Catholic country in Europe after Poland (not counting the Vatican, obviously), though the influence of the Church has waned in recent years, especially in the wake of a sex abuse scandal and coverup, it is still enough that Ireland got a special agreement in the Lisbon Treaty that its ban on abortion would not be touched, though the constitutional amendment that covered this was repealed by a landslide in 2018. When the Taoiseach ("Tea shock" — Prime Minister note ) Enda Kenny very publicly chewed out the Church over the sex abuse scandal, it was seen as rather earth-shattering. He served as Taoiseach from 2011 until 2017.

It was also up until recently one of the poorest countries in Europe, but this has been completely reversed over the past decade and now the country is one of the richest states in the world. Irish economic success lead to the country being dubbed The Celtic Tiger (like the Tiger economies of the Baltics, Slovakia and Asia) and is mostly derived from a lot of financial investment through Ireland's EU membership (and its low corporate tax). Ireland's reliance on foreign investment and large debts came back to haunt it during the international economic crisis, with Ireland being the first country in Europe to officially declare itself in recession, as well as being one of the PIGS economies (along with Portugal, Greece and Spain).

Speaking of recessions, Ireland was very heavily hit by the recession. The backlash brought down the long-running Fianna Fáil/Green coalition government, and installed a Fine Gael/Labour coalition with its biggest election win ever. After much talk about how everything would be different now, they proceeded to do everything the same way as before. Every year budget cuts have been made to children (especially those with special needs), the elderly, and the increasing number below the poverty line... fortunately, as of 2016, Irish bonds are no longer considered "junk", which should in theory make things a bit easier.

Ireland is also known for its agriculture, having more sheep than humans in its territory. The Irish Potato Famine of the late 1840s led to about a million deaths, a further million emigrating and a population crash so great it didn't grow again until the 1960s. Although the population has recovered (more or less) and more of the population is urban today, agriculture is still important to the Irish economy, particularly producing for export: Ireland is one of the larger exporters of dairy products (mostly butter and cheese) and meat (especially beef) in Europe, with its primary market being (for obvious reasons) the United Kingdom.

Since then, Ireland has had a history of emigration, resulting in the massive Irish diaspora across the globe. Most of them are concentrated in English-speaking countries, but just about everywhere has an Irish community. The emigration situation ironically reversed in the 1990s, when net migration was inward thanks to the Celtic Tiger. With the ten new countries in the EU in 2004, immigration increased further and coupled with high fertility rates, it makes Ireland's population one of the fastest growing in Europe. We should note that on account of the massive emigration in the 19th century, Ireland's current population is a lot lower than it used to be—in the 18th and early 19th centuries, Dublin was the second-largest city of the British Empire and one of the ten largest cities in Europe. The emigration had a lasting effect, keeping Ireland's base population low and its agricultural emphasis strong as it entered the 20th century.

Ireland is also famous for its dead writers (most of whom left Ireland as fast as possible), its lack of snakesnote , its dancers, its poetry and love of drink. Plus the world's second highest percentage of redheads (10%), behind Scotland (13%). As such, this has become a stereotype outside of Ireland (especially in the States) — thus any Irish character is very likely to be sporting red hair, despite the reality that most Irish are brunet(te)s and also more likely to be blonde too.

Politically, Ireland is best described as non-aligned but Western leaning. It's a member of The European Union, but not of NATO. It does allow Shannon airport to be used for refuelling by US military flights (which caused controversy in the lead-up to the Iraq War, and due to the open secret of CIA extraordinary rendition flights) and Soviet aircraft refuelled there during the Cuban Missile Crisis. During World War II, it was officially neutral (but implicitly aligned to the Allies politically and through majority public opinion). Thousands of Irish men, both emigrés and volunteers, fought in the British and American armies. Perhaps the best example, though, is the folk history, largely based in truth, that while crashed Luftwaffe pilots were universally interned for duration, Allied pilots were frequently (and technically illegally) pointed in the direction of the Border so they could reach Belfast. The country also suffered rationing due to the German blockade, that lasted until 1947. Dublin was bombed once on 31 May 1941 by a German aircraft, killing 34 people, for reasons that aren't clear to this day, with various arguments for navigation error, reprisal for Dublin sending rescue personnel to Belfast, a warning not to enter the war or a result of the British radio beam "bending". The Germans apologized and offered compensation. There were two other attacks by the Luftwaffe during the war.

Its military is relatively small, unlike many other neutral states, though it is still larger than a few similarly sized-states such as New Zealand (and in per-capita terms Ireland has a higher percentage of soldiers than Canada or Australia). Since 1958, its main active function has been involvement in UN peacekeeping operations. A small but significant number of Irish citizens looking for more, er, "interesting" military service serve in the British Armed Forces, with the Irish authorities generally turning a blind eye to the United Kingdom's recruitment activities in the Republic.

Ireland is a part of the Common Travel Area with the United Kingdom, which nets citizens of either country the right to enter, work, study, vote, and receive health and social benefits in the other country. A side effect of this is that, despite being a member of the EU, Ireland is not a part of the Schengen Area, as being so will mean that the U.K. also has to enter (which it will adamantly never do), but the U.K. not entering will mean the invalidation of the Common Travel Area. Since the EU maintains freedom of movement by principle, the Irish are free to enter the Schengen Area without a visa for as long as they like and vice versa; the bit about Ireland not being a part of the Schengen Area has more to do about the fact that Ireland still maintains border controls with the rest of the Schengen Area,note  plus a separate visa policy.note 

The current Irish president is Michael D. Higgins.note  He has been President since 2011. The President of Ireland is able to serve for two seven year terms.

The current Irish "Taoiseach" (think 'Prime Minister', but don't actually say it) as of 2024 is Simon Harris of the Fine Gael. His Tánaiste (tawn-ish-tuh; Deputy Prime Minister) is Micheál Martin, a career politician and member of the formerly bitter rival political party Fianna Fáil (fee-nuh foyl note ) but currently coalition partners.

One of his predecessors was Brian 'Biffo' Cowen. 'Biffo' is a mildly pejorative but mostly affectionate nickname that stands for Big Ignorant Fecker From Offaly (the somewhat polite version). Prior to the 2011 election he announced his retirement from politics, and was the first Taoiseach in the history of the state not to stand for re-election.

Prior to him, it was Bertie Ahern. He stood down on 6 May 2008 for reasons involving alleged corruption (let's just say he was very good at guessing who won at the races, but the money was just resting in his account). His daughter, Cecilia, wrote the original novel for PS I Love You, which has been made into a feature film. She's also the co-creator of Samantha Who?. He was also the longest serving Taoiseach in modern history, winning three consecutive elections and serving for nearly eleven years from 1997 until 2008.

The current Irish Chief Justice is Donal O'Donnell.

There are a large number of accents audible in modern Ireland. For example:

  • Dublin
    • Local Dublin: The broad-working class dialect.
    • Mainstream Dublin: The typical accent spoken by middle-class or suburban speakers.
    • New Dublin or D4 accent: An accent among younger people — born after around 1970. Named after the D4 postcode, where this accent is stereotypically found.
  • Midlands
  • Traveller
  • Cork
  • Kerry
  • Connacht

And these are just the main ones. Researchers have found that there's a different accent for roughly every five miles you travel. That's basically a new accent for every single town on the island.

Fiction set in Ireland (unless it involves The Troubles) will either take place in Dublin or in a tiny village in some undefined part of the countryside. Virtually nothing takes place in other cities or towns. Bernard Manning once identified a category of fiction called "Oirish", which involved several basic elements — old vs new, modernity vs superstition, evil British people, history, and adulterous affairs, all set in tiny villages in County Mayo. Private Eye characterized a stock Irish fictional sentence as: "Wee Bridie was walking to Holy Communion in her shiny new shoes the day the Guardsnote  came for Mulgarvey." Exceptions are few enough to list:

Famous Irish people:


  • French Children's Literature author and illustrator Tomi Ungerer loved the country (his wife was of Irish descent). He bought an estate in Cork in 1976 and frequently lived there from 1976 to his death in 2019. The animated film adapted from his book Moon Man is an Irish co-production.

Useful Notes:

The Irish flag
Green symbolizes the Catholic Gaelic majority, orange the Protestant minority, and white the peace with which both groups work.

Coat of arms of Ireland
The coat of arms was adopted in 1280 and was registered in 1945 as the Arms of Ireland.

The Irish national anthem
Sinne Fianna Fáil,
atá faoi gheall ag Éirinn,
Buíon dár slua
thar toinn do ráinig chugainn,
Faoi mhóid bheith saor
Seantír ár sinsear feasta,
Ní fhágfar faoin tíorán ná faoin tráill.
Anocht a théam sa bhearna bhaoil,
Le gean ar Ghaeil, chun báis nó saoil,
Le gunna-scréach faoi lámhach na bpiléar,
Seo libh canaig' amhrán na bhFiann.
Soldiers are we,
whose lives are pledged to Ireland,
Some have come
from a land beyond the wave,
Sworn to be free,
no more our ancient sireland,
Shall shelter the despot or the slave.
Tonight we man the "bearna bhaoil",
In Erin's cause, come woe or weal,
'Mid cannons' roar and rifles' peal,
We'll chant a soldier's song.

  • Unitary parliamentary republic
    • President: Michael D. Higgins
    • Taoiseach: Simon Harris
    • Tánaiste: Micheál Martin
    • Chief Justice: Donal O'Donnell

  • Capital and largest city: Dublin
  • Population: 4,977,400
  • Area: 70,273 sq km (27,133 sq mi) (118th)
  • Currency: Euro (€) (EUR)
  • ISO-3166-1 Code: IE
  • Country calling code: 353
  • Highest point: Carrauntoohil (1038 m/3,406 ft) (156th)
  • Lowest point: North Slob (−3 m/−10 ft) (34th)

Alternative Title(s): Republic Of Ireland