The magnificent scenery of Ireland’s Atlantic coastline faces a 2,000-mile- (3,200-km-) wide expanse of ocean, and its geographic isolation has helped it to develop a rich heritage of culture and tradition that was linked initially to the Gaelic language. Washed by abundant rain, the country’s pervasive grasslands create a green-hued landscape that is responsible for the popular title of the Emerald Isle.
The Cliffs Of Moher
The emergence of Ireland as an independent country is fairly history. Until the 17th century, political power was widely shared among a rather loosely constructed network of small earldoms in often-shifting alliances. Following the so-called “Flight of the Earls” after an unsuccessful uprising in the early 17th century, Ireland effectively became an English colony. It was formally incorporated into the United Kingdom in 1801. A 1914 Home Rule Act was passed but never implemented due to pro-union militancy in the north, the onset of World War I, and the subsequent Irish War of Independence.
In 1920 the island was effectively partitioned with the creation of Northern Ireland, a six-county area with devolved powers within the United Kingdom, whereas under the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 6, 1921, the other 26 counties became the Irish Free State, a self-governing dominion within the British Commonwealth and Empire. In 1937 the southern state passed a new constitution that offered a more robust expression of sovereignty, and in 1949 it formally left the Commonwealth as the Republic of Ireland.
Ireland’s capital is Dublin, a populous and affluent city whose metropolitan area is home to more than a quarter of the country’s total population. The city’s old dockside neighbourhoods have given way to new residential and commercial development. Cork, Ireland’s second largest city, is a handsome cathedral city and port in the southwest. Other principal centres include Waterford, Wexford, and Drogheda on the east coast, Sligo in the northwest, and Limerick and Galway in the west.
The republic of Ireland occupies the greater part of an island lying to the west of Great Britain, from which it is separated—at distances ranging from 11 to 120 miles (18 to 193 km)—by the North Channel, the Irish Sea, and St. George’s Channel.