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Ireland seems almost like an appendix to the great European landmass. Precariously positioned in the Atlantic Ocean, nothing but 3,000 miles of sea stands between Ireland and the land that its emigrants have so influenced, the USA.
Ireland's size and island status mean that you are never far from the sea. Ireland's distinctive indented coastline, together with a myriad of lakes and the longest river in the British Isles, the Shannon, means that water is a recurring theme.
In terms of industry, agriculture has for centuries been the economic mainstay of the country. Apart from a small area around Belfast, the island was free from heavy industry. Recent developments have seen tourism become Ireland's largest single industry; we had the pleasure of welcoming 5.4 million visitors to our island in 1998. The country is also gaining a reputation as a communications and IT centre, acting as a gateway between the US and Europe.
Population density remains low, only Dublin can claim true city status on a worldwide scale, and its population of 1.2 million is far from overwhelming. The total population of the island is around 5 million. Life in the country often seems untouched by time, the pace of life is noticeably slower. This coupled with the natural friendliness of the people means Ireland is a place where one can truly relax.
Facts about Ireland
Ireland is an island of 84,288 sq. km (32,544 miles). At its longest it measures 485km (302miles), and at its widest it measures 304km (189 miles). The highest mountain is Carrantuohill coming in at 1,040 metres( 3,414feet). The longest river is the Shannon stretching for some 370 kms (230 miles) to the Atlantic. The largest lake is Lough Neagh in Northern Ireland. The island is divided into four provinces Ulster (9 counties) is in the north, Munster (6 counties) is in the south, Leinster (12 counties) is in the east and Connacht (5 counties) is in the west.
Time in Ireland is as GMT.
Ireland has a temperate climate, winters are not very cold and summers not very warm. The influence of the sea, and Ireland's island nature mean that visits are possible at any time of the year. Average temperatures in the coldest months of January and February are 4oC rising to between 17oC and 20oC in the summer months of July and August, it is during this time that tourism is at its peak. The brightest months are May and June. Rain can be expected at any time of year, the driest part of the island is the greater Dublin area on the east coast.
Politically Ireland is divided between the sovereign state of the Republic
of Ireland, approved by referendum in 1937, and
Northern Ireland part of the United Kingdom. In the Republic a President
is elected to the position of An tUachtaran, a position currently held
Dr Mary McAleese. The government
in power is a coalition of parties with Mr Bertie Ahern acting as Prime
Minister, An Taoiseach.
Both parts of the island became part of the European community in 1973, the Republic has embraced Europe more strongly and on Jan 1st 1999 became part of the first wave of 11 European countries to join the EMU. As of this date the Euro (European Currency) can be used for cashless transactions, e.g. cheques, direct debits and credit transfers).
Ireland has two official languages, Gaelic and English. English is the everyday language used by the vast majority of the population. Small communities do exist where Irish is the spoken language; these are mostly restricted to the western side of the country.
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