The Republic of Ireland (Irish: Poblacht na hÉireann) 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 official name is Ireland (Irish: Éire),
and this is how international organisations and citizens refer to
the country. It is a member of the European Union, has a developed
economy and a population of slightly more than four million. The
remaining sixth of the island of Ireland is known as Northern Ireland
and is part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern
The constitution provides that the name of the state is "Éire,
or, in the English language, Ireland." However the state is
commonly referred to as the "Republic of Ireland" in order
to distinguish it from the island of Ireland as a whole. The name
Republic of Ireland came into use after the Republic of Ireland
Act defined it as the official "description" of the state
in 1949 (the purpose of the act being to declare that the state
was a republic rather than a form of constitutional monarchy), it
is also the accepted legal name in the United Kingdom of the state
as per the Ireland Act 1949. Today while Republic of Ireland is
an accepted term for the state, Ireland is used for official purposes
such as treaties, government and legal documents and membership
of international organisations.
The state is also referred to, in English, by many other names such as
Éire and the Twenty-six Counties. The use of Éire, in the
English language, in Ireland has become increasingly rare, not least due
to past condescending connotations. Historically the state has had more
than one official title. The revolutionary state established by nationalists
in 1919 was known as the "Irish Republic", while when the state
achieved de jure independence in 1922 it became known as the "Irish
Free State" (in the Irish language Saorstát Éireann),
a name that was retained until 1937.
The National Anthem of the Republic
of Ireland - Amhrán na bhFiann
Amhrán na bhFiann is the national anthem
of the Republic of Ireland. Although usually sung in the Irish language,
a translation of the original, it is also known by the English-language
title, A Soldier's Song, as well as The National Anthem of Ireland
(Amhrán Náisiúnta na hÉireann). The
lyrics of the song are by Peadar Kearney and the music by both Kearney
and Patrick Heeney. It was composed in 1907 and was first published
in Irish Freedom in 1912. The Irish language version of the original
was the work of Bulmer Hobson.
The song is regarded by many nationalists as the national anthem
of the whole of Ireland, and it is therefore sung, for example,
at Gaelic Athletic Association matches held anywhere on the island.
Unionists, however, reject this use of Amhrán na bhFiann,
and at international games played by the all-Ireland Irish Rugby
Football Union team the song Ireland's Call is sung instead of,
or (in the Republic of Ireland) as well as, Amhrán na bhFiann.
The Irish national anthem consists of the chorus only of Amhrán
na bhFiann, and is almost always sung in Irish. The first
two lines of the anthem and the last two, played together, form
the Irish Presidential Salute, which is played when the President
of Ireland attends official events. The chorus of Amhrán
na bhFiann, as used for the anthem, is given below.
Sinne Fianna Fáil
Atá fé gheall ag Éirinn,
Buíon dár slua
Thar toinn do ráinig chugainn,
Fé mhóid bheith saor.
Seantír ár sinsear feasta
Ní fhágfar fén tiorán ná fén
Anocht a théam sa bhearna bhaoil,
Le gean ar Ghaeil chun báis nó saoil
Le gunna scréach fé lámhach na bpiléar
Seo libh canaidh 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 bhearna bhaoil
In Erin's cause, come woe or weal;
'Mid cannons' roar and rifles' peal,
We'll chant a soldier's song.
The partition of Ireland came about because of complex constitutional
developments in the early twentieth century.
From 1 January 1801 until 6 December 1922, Ireland was part of
the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The erroneous egoistical
policy of large landowners has caused famine in 1845-1847 in which
1,5 million Irish died, followed by the enormous emigration. From
1874, but particularly from 1880 under Charles Stewart Parnell,
the Irish Parliamentary Party moved to prominence with its attempts
to achieve Home Rule, which would have given Ireland some autonomy
without requiring it to leave the United Kingdom. It finally seemed
possible in 1911 when the House of Lords lost their veto, and John
Redmond secured the Third Home Rule Act 1914. The unionist movement,
however, had been growing since 1886 among Irish Protestants, fearing
that they would face discrimination, and lose economic and social
privileges if Irish Catholics were to achieve real political power.
Though Irish unionism existed throughout the whole of Ireland, in
the late nineteenth and early twentieth century unionism was particularly
strong in parts of Ulster, where industrialisation was more common
in contrast to the more agrarian rest of the island. (Any tariff
barriers would, it was feared, most heavily hit that region.) In
addition, the Protestant population was more strongly located in
Ulster, with unionist majorities existing in about four counties.
Under the leadership of the Dublin-born Sir Edward Carson and the
northerner Sir James Craig they became more militant. In 1914, to
avoid rebellion in Ulster, the British Prime Minister Herbert Asquith,
with agreement of the leadership of the Irish Parliamentary Party
leadership, inserted a clause into the bill providing for home rule
for 26 of the 32 counties, with an as of yet undecided new set of
measures to be introduced for the area temporarily excluded. Though
it received the Royal Assent, the Third Home Rule Act 1914's implementation
was suspended until after the Great War. (The war at that stage
was expected to be ended by 1915, not the four years it did ultimately
last.) For the prior reasons Redmond and his Irish National Volunteers
supported the Allied cause, and tens of thousands joined the British
In January 1919, after the December 1918 general elections, 73
of Ireland's 106 MPs elected were Sinn Fein members who refused
to take their seats in the British House of Commons. Instead they
set up an extra-legal Irish parliament called Dáil Éireann.
This Dáil in January 1919 issued a Unilateral Declaration
of Independence and proclaimed an Irish Republic. This Declaration
of Independence was mainly a restatement of the 1916 Proclamation
with the additional provision that Ireland was no longer a part
of the United Kingdom. Despite this, the new Irish Republic remained
unrecognised internationally except by Lenin's Russian Republic.
Nevertheless the Republic's Áireacht (ministry) sent a delegation
under Ceann Comhairle Sean T. O'Kelly to the Paris Peace Conference,
1919. However it was not admitted. After the bitterly fought War
of Independence, representatives of the British government and the
Irish rebels negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty in 1921 under which
the British agreed to the establishment of an independent Irish
State whereby the Irish Free State (in the Irish language Saorstát
Éireann) with dominion status was created. The Dáil
narrowly ratified the treaty.
The Treaty however was not entirely satisfactory to either side.
It gave more concessions to the Irish than the British had intended
to give but did not go far enough to satisfy Republican concerns.
The new Irish Free State was in theory to cover the entire island,
subject to the proviso that Northern Ireland (which had been created
as a separate entity under the Government of Ireland Act 1920) could
opt out and choose to remain part of the United Kingdom, which it
duly did, to no-one's surprise. The remaining 26 counties of the
island became the Irish Free State, a constitutional monarchy over
which the British monarch reigned (from 1927 with the title King
of Ireland). It had a Governor-General, a bicameral parliament,
a cabinet called the "Executive Council" and a prime minister
called the President of the Executive Council.
The Irish Civil War was the direct consequence of the creation
the Irish Free State. Anti-Treaty forces, led by Eamon de Valera,
objected to the fact that acceptance of the Treaty abolished the
Irish Republic of 1919 to which they had sworn loyalty, arguing
in the face of public support for the settlement that the "people
have no right to do wrong". They objected most to the fact
that the state would remain part of the British Commonwealth and
that TDs would have to swear an oath of fidelity to King George
V and his successors. 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".
At the start of the war, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) split
into two opposing camps: a pro-treaty IRA and an anti-treaty IRA.
However, through the lack of an effective command structure in the
anti-treaty IRA, and the pro-treaty IRA's defensive tactics throughout
the war, Collins and his pro-treaty commanders were able to build
up an army capable of overwhelming the anti-treaty forces on the
battlefield. 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. The lack of public support for the anti-treaty
Irregulars, and the determination of the government to overcome
them, contributed significantly to their defeat.
The National Army suffered 800 fatalities and perhaps as many as
4000 people were killed altogether. As their forces retreated, the
Irregulars showed a major talent for destruction and the economy
of the Free State suffered a hard blow in the earliest days of its
existence as a result.
On the 29 December 1937 a new constitution, the Constitution of
Ireland, came into force. It replaced the Irish Free State by a
new state called simply "Ireland". Though this state's
constitutional structures provided for a President of Ireland instead
of a king, it was not technically a republic. The principal key
role possessed by a head of state, that of representing the state
symbolically internationally remained vested in statute law in the
King as an organ. On 1 April 1949 the Republic of Ireland Act declared
a republic, with the functions previously given to the King given
instead to the President of Ireland.
The Irish state had remained a member of the then British Commonwealth
after independence until the declaration of a republic in April
1949. Under Commonwealth rules declaration of a republic automatically
terminated membership of the association, consequently Ireland ceased
to be a member.
The Republic of Ireland joined the United Nations in 1955 and the
European Community (now the European Union) in 1973. Irish governments
have sought the peaceful reunification of Ireland and have usually
cooperated with the British government in the violent conflict with
the Provisional IRA in Northern Ireland known as the "Troubles".
A peace settlement for Northern Ireland, the Belfast Agreement,
was approved in 1998 in referenda north and south of the border,
and is currently being implemented, albeit more slowly than many
The island of Ireland extends over 84,421 km² of which five-sixths
belong to the Republic, with the remainder constituting Northern
Ireland. It is bound to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the northeast
by the North Channel. To the east is found the Irish Sea which reconnects
to the ocean via the southwest with St. George's Channel and the
Celtic Sea. The west-coast of Ireland mostly consists of cliffs,
hills and low mountains (the highest point being Carrauntoohil at
1,041 m). In from the perimeter of the country is mostly relatively
flat farmland, traversed by rivers such as the River Shannon and
several large lakes or loughs. The center of the country is part
of the River Shannon watershed, containing large areas of bogland,
used for peat production.
The local temperate climate is modified by the North Atlantic Current
and is relatively mild. Summers are rarely very hot, but it freezes
only occasionally in winter. 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, Galway
and Limerick on the west coast, and Waterford on the south east
coast (see Cities in Ireland).