I am one-third to one-half Irish and because of that I have always been curious about what it means to be Irish. I have never really been taught much about the Irish or Ireland, I’ve always just been told that I’m Irish and it was left at that. We of course celebrated St. Patrick’s Day but I never knew much about it. As I have been getting older I’ve been wanting to learn more about my heritage and since I am mainly Irish I’m really interested in it. I have seen many movies placed in Ireland and have learned little bits of information in high school geography classes but I wanted to know more. When I was given this assignment I knew this would be the perfect opportunity to learn more about the Irish and about Ireland itself. I hope after reading this you will find Ireland as interesting as I do and maybe it will make you want to visit it.
Ireland is now split up into two countries, The Republic of Ireland, mainly referred to as Ireland, and Northern Ireland. I had no idea about this until I was doing more research into my project but after realizing it, it became clear that The Republic of Ireland is much bigger than Northern Ireland. Around the year of 1100, England had much more power than Ireland, so in 1500, it moved its power to Ireland. Over the next 200 years, England tried to convert all of the Catholics to Protestants. England started a war by taking the lives and properties of those that refused to convert.
Some left to America but others fought back with politics, they wanted the Irish to govern Ireland. The Irish Protestants were scared to lose their connection with England so they weren’t opposed to fighting. When the First World War broke out, England wanted Ireland’s support, they got it except for a small group who claimed The Republic of Ireland free from England. In 1921 Ireland set up its own government, six counties choose to stay under the power of England which split the country into two (Chapman, 2017). I actually found this really interesting because I had absolutely no idea that Ireland was ever split into two countries.
One thing that I have always known about Ireland is that the geography and physical features is made up of a mixture of low and high lands and the world atlas reassures this, “Ireland’s central lowlands of flat rolling plains are dissected by bogs, loughs (lakes) and rivers, and surrounded by hills and low mountains,” (Europe, 2017). Ireland is an island so it has multiple sea cliffs, the most famous being the Cliff of Moher, reaching above 700 feet (Europe, 2017). It has 2,000 miles of coastline that is on the Atlantic Ocean which keeps it isolated and helped build its unique culture and tradition (Kay, 2019). There are many coastal islands, Achill, the countries largest.
The River Shannon is Ireland’s largest river at 240 miles long, and it pours into 4 loughs, Allen, Bafin, Derg, and Ree (Europe, 2017). The weather in Ireland is wet and warm. The range is pretty small with a low of 40 degrees farenheit and a high of 60 degrees farenheit (Brian). One thing that I remember from high school geography was how Ireland was known for how green and gorgeous the land is which is part of the reason I have always wanted to visit, but I never knew that it was due to the weather. “…impression of intense greenness, the result of the abundant grasses responding to the mild moist air… relative absence of trees, especially along the western seaboard where strong winds are the main limiting factor to growth,” (Brian) with the fact that Ireland is so green it surprised me that there are not a lot of trees but it makes sense when the limiting factors are considered.
The current population of ireland is 4,831,053 people (Ireland Population, 2019). About 12 percent of the population is ethnic and racial minorities. There has been a recent increase in immigration due to the labour market and the globalized nature of the contemporary Irish economy. Today Poles is the largest minority population in Ireland, and the smaller group of Travellers or Tinkers have been in Ireland for centuries (Fanning, 2019). I feel like with the migration percentage in America, there is not a lot of migration into Ireland.
The main two languages spoken/used in Ireland are Irish Gaelic and English, everything is printed in both but Irish is said to be the first language even though English is being used more often. During the 1900s there was a decrease in the usage of the modern Irish language, but in more recent years it has been being used more again. English is used all over the world so it makes sense as to why they would also speak it, and they are trying to use it more in the schools so that the students learn a language that is universally spoken. They don’t want to get away from their traditions but they want the students to learn something that could benefit them more (Fanning, 2019). I never really knew that there was a distinct Irish language so it is cool to hear that there is actually a language, and I think that I would actually like to learn Irish Gaelic.
Religion obviously plays a huge role in Ireland considering it was the main reason as to why the two countries split up. Growing up a Christian and having Irish in my blood I knew that Irish is a pretty religious place. The Celtic Religion was the main religion in Ireland until more recent years when Christianity took over. “Today more than four-fifths of the republic’s population is Roman Catholic, with small numbers of other religious groups (including Church of Ireland Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Muslims, and Jews)” as stated by Fanning. The freedom in religion is guaranteed in Ireland and there is no official Church. Since the 1900s and an increase in wealth/economy, there has been a decline in the amount of people going to church, but Roman Catholicism still plays a huge role in the daily life in Ireland (Fanning, 2019).
The capital of The Republic of Ireland, Dublin, is also the biggest metropolitan area there. There are actually only five official cities in The Republic of Ireland, the rest are not actually considered cities. Dublin is the biggest of those five cities, there are more than 1.8 million people living in Dublin. Dublin is the place to go for anything and everything, there are amazing sights to see, restaurants, pubs, and shops. The other cities are Cork, Limerick, Waterford City, and Galway City. They all have relatively high populations but with friendly occupants, manages to have the same feeling of a small town or village. They all have their uniquely beautiful sights, pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, museums, humor, and hometown pride (Kennedy, 2018). I have always heard of Dublin and after seeing the pictures I think it would be an amazing place to visit and get the best experience of exploring Ireland.
There are some unique cultural traditions in Ireland. One of their major traditions that is celebrated everywhere is St. Patrick’s Day. It was not always celebrated all over the world, until the Irish migrated to America and told the story of a kidnapped Britain named Patrick that taught Christianity to the Irish. On March 17, 461 Patrick passed away after preaching to his people and it became a tradition to celebrate the person who made a connection between the Holy Trinity and a Shamrock (Ten Irish Cultural, 2018). My family and I have always celebrated St. Patrick’s Day so after reading the story it was pretty interesting to find out a few new things. Pub Culture is a big part of Ireland, especially Guinness, which is known all over the world but is special in Ireland.
Pubs are the perfect place to meet and catch up with old friends while having a glass of Guinness. A few things that are unique to Ireland is the Irish music which uses bouzoukis, Uilleann pipes and the Celtic harp. There is also Irish dancing which includes the Irish jig and a few others like it that, unique dresses are worn and hard shoes that make tapping noises when a step is taken. There are many legends and myths but the most famous is that of a leprechaun which is a supernatural tribe of gods that possess wealth and give three wishes to any human that caught them (Ten Irish Cultural, 2018). I never heard that the leprechaun’s were a tribe of gods so I thought it was interesting that it was the story that was first told of leprechauns.
Although Ireland is a smaller country, it is the 7th most developed country in the world. “The country is ranked #7 for its press freedom, economic freedom, and political freedom it offers to the public,” stated in the Top 10 Highly Developed Countries. After the global recession of 2008, Ireland went through a negative GDP but with a few Europe leaders, they are working harder to further develop Ireland (Top 10 Highly Developed Countries, 2014). This does not at all surprise me, from all the pictures that I have ever seen of Ireland it always looks gorgeous and kept up to date.
My research for Ireland had many surprises to me, I did not know that there would be so much to learn about. Ireland is two different countries, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It is a flat green land with mountains on the outskirts. The population is around 4.5 million which is a lot smaller than I expected. The native language is Irish Gaelic but has changed to English. The main religion in the Republic of Ireland is Roman Catholicism, but I always thought it was mainly Christianity. The capital is Dublin with only 4 other official cities. The two things I knew about were the cultural traditions, including the dancing, music, and of course St. Patrick’s Day. Also Ireland is developed which is pretty reasonable considering the looks of it. I really hope to visit Ireland one day and see what it is like in person.