Situated on the farthest western edge of Europe, Ireland is an island of green pastures, warm rains, and a rich and diverse history. Ireland's cities are small but very much a part of 21st-century Europe, while its rural areas still remember a traditional and ancient way of life. Ireland is also a land of contradictions: Northern Ireland has been one of the world's most volatile trouble spots, while the Republic of Ireland is one of the safest, most peaceful places to live in the world.
The Easter Rising of 1916, a planned national uprising that in the event was confined largely to the centre of Dublin, pitted Irish insurgents against British soldiers, many of whom were themselves Irish. Over four hundred rebels, soldiers and bystanders died during a week's fighting. The Rising's immediate impact was twofold: it struck down Home Rule, for the rebels had proclaimed a republic and - an unintended consequence - it confirmed the partition of Ireland, with only the details remaining to be ironed out.
The direct cause of the famine and its attendant demographic repercussions was the persistent failure of the potato crop in the years 1845 and 1846, and in the partial failure of the crop in each of the succeeding five years. By tradition, Sir Walter Raleigh is credited with the introduction of the potato to Ireland from America in 1586. Within two centuries it had become the principle vegetable food of the peasantry.
The group that would become the Irish Republican Army (IRA) began to emerge in 1916 to advocate Irish sovereignty, or freedom from British rule. The British had occupied Ireland for more than 800 years, often treating the native Irish Catholics with extreme brutality and harsh discrimination.
Despite repeated assurances by the Provisional IRA that it would never surrender, would never quit, would never give up one bullet or ounce of explosives, would never be defeated, and that the armed struggle would continue so long as the goal of a united independent Ireland remained unrealised, it finally capitulated. On 28 July 2005, IRA spokesperson Seanna Walsh (once a cellmate of Bobby Sands in Long Kesh) read a statement announcing the end of the IRA's armed struggle and instructing all units to dump arms.
In 1921 a treaty between southern Ireland and Britain established the Irish Free State, a self-governing dominion within the British Commonwealth of Nations. This allowed the Northern Ireland Parliament to take the six northern counties out of the dominion. A subsequent civil war broke out between pro-treaty and anti-treaty factions but ultimately the treaty stood.
In Londonderry, Northern Ireland, 13 unarmed civil rights demonstrators are shot dead by British Army paratroopers in an event that becomes known as "Bloody Sunday." The protesters, all Northern Catholics, were marching in protest of the British policy of internment of suspected Irish nationalists. British authorities had ordered the march banned, and sent troops to confront the demonstrators when it went ahead. The soldiers fired indiscriminately into the crowd of protesters, killing 13 and wounding 17.
Until 2008, Ireland boasted one of the most vibrant, open economies in the world. The "Celtic Tiger" period of the mid- to late 1990s saw several years of double-digit GDP growth, driven by a progressive industrial policy that boosted large-scale foreign direct investment and exports...In 2010, the Irish economy experienced double-digit unemployment, deflation, a virtual standstill in credit availability, and a widening government budget deficit.
The latter half of the 19th century was a period of tragedy in Irish history...Over two million people emigrated to countries including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia, and from 1848-1950 over six million Irish fled the land. Now the Irish diaspora is thought to contain over 80 million people scattered all over the globe.
Though often in the middle and used as a pawn by mighty nations (and sometimes seen as the prize), Ireland never let go of her identity. This is the true miracle of Ireland and its people. Ireland declared itself a Republic in the 20th century, went through periods of mass emigration, but then raised its head to be the Ireland of today: The Celtic Dragon. The only country with a musical instrument as her identity—the harp—Ireland’s stories, beliefs, families, courage and humor have held her together, and through the ages poetry and music has been the tie that binds.