Ireland (Irish: Éire, Ulster Scots: Airlann) is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island in the world. It lies to the north-west of continental Europe and is surrounded by hundreds of islands and islets. The Republic of Ireland covers five-sixths of the island. Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, covers the remainder and is located in the northeast of the island. The population of Ireland is estimated to be 6.2 million. Slightly less than 4.5 million are estimated to live in the Republic of Ireland and slightly less than 1.8 million live in Northern Ireland.
Relatively low-lying mountains surrounding a central plain to epitomise the Ireland's geography with several navigable rivers extending inland. The island has a lush vegetation, a product of its mild but changeable oceanic climate, which avoids extremes in temperature. Thick woodlands covered the island until the 1600s. Today, it is the most deforested area in Europe. Twenty-six mammal species are native to Ireland, with some, such as the red fox, hedgehog and badger, being very common. Others, like the Irish hare, red deer and pine marten are less so.
Irish culture has had a significant influence on culture world-wide, particularly in the fields of literature and, to a lesser degree, science and learning. A strong indigenous culture, expressed for example through native sports and the Irish language, exists alongside a regional culture, such as Rugby football and golf. Read more ...
Brú na Bóinne (English: Palace of the Boyne) is an internationally important complex of Neolithic chamber tombs, standing stones, henges and other prehistoric enclosures located in a wide meander of the River Boyne in Ireland. Later, it was used for Iron Age burials. The Normans settled the area in the Middle Ages and in 1690 it was the site of the famous Battle of the Boyne. The site is often referred to as the "Bend of the Boyne", and this is often (incorrectly) taken to be a translation of Brú na Bóinne. It is a World Heritage Site, containing what have been described as the national monuments of Ireland.
The site covers 780ha and contains around 40 passage tombs as well as other prehistoric sites and later features. The majority of the monuments are concentrated on the north side of the river. The most well-known sites within Brú na Bóinne are the impressive passage graves of Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth all famous for their significant collections of megalithic art. Each stands on a ridge within the river bend and two of the tombs, Knowth and Newgrange appear to contain stones re-used from an earlier monument at the site. There is no in situ evidence for earlier activity at the site however save for the spotfinds of flint tools left by Mesolithic hunters. Read more...
Cillian Murphy (born 25 May 1976) is an Irish film and theatre actor. He is often noted by critics for his chameleonic performances in diverse roles and distinctive blue eyes.
A native of Cork, Murphy began his performing career as a rock musician. After turning down a record deal, he made his professional acting debut in the play Disco Pigs in 1996. He went on to star in Irish and UK film and stage productions throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, first coming to international attention in 2003 as the hero in the post-apocalyptic film 28 Days Later. Murphy's best-known roles are as villains in two 2005 blockbusters: the Scarecrow in the superhero film Batman Begins, and Jackson Rippner in the thriller Red Eye. Next came two contrasting, widely acclaimed starring roles: his Golden Globe Award-nominated performance as transgender outcast "Kitten" in 2005's Breakfast on Pluto and a turn as a 1920s Irish revolutionary in 2006 Palme d'Or winner The Wind That Shakes the Barley. In 2008, Murphy will star in a pair of UK biopics, The Edge of Love and Hippie Hippie Shake, and has a cameo as Scarecrow in the Batman sequel, The Dark Knight.
A resident of London since 2001, Murphy often works in or near London and has no desire to move to Hollywood. Uncomfortable on the celebrity circuit, he customarily gives interviews about his work, but does not appear on television talk shows or discuss details of his private life with the press. Read more...
Did you know...
- ...that County Wicklow was the last of the traditional counties of Ireland to be created in 1606—07?
- ...that 34 Irish Colleges have been established on the European continent since the 16th century?
- ...that pitch and putt, a game similar to golf was invented in Ireland where it is still mainly played?
- ...that Ireland's Thomas Gisborne Gordon is the only one-handed person ever to play international rugby of either code?
- ...that the O'Conors, medieval kings of Connacht, are one of the oldest royal families in Europe, tracing their dynasty to 76 AD?
- ...that as well as Saint Patrick, Ireland has two other patron saints: Brigid of Kildare and Colmcille?
- ...that the first soviet in Ireland or Britain was established at Monaghan Lunatic Asylum in February 1919?
- ...that the Air Corps originate in the Anglo-Irish Treaty talks, when a biplane was purchased to allow Irish negotiators to escape should talks failed?
- ...that Ireland consumes more baked beans per head of population than any other country in the world?
- ...that the Irish Houses of Parliament building, now the Bank of Ireland at College Green, Dublin, was the first purpose-built parliament in the world?
- ...that Greek geographer Ptolemy used the term Μικρὰ Βρεττανία (Mikra Brettania, or Little Britain) to refer to Ireland, although in his later work uses Ιουερνία (Iwernia), which is thought to be truer to the name used by the inhabitants of the island?
- ...that Early Irish law permitted a husband to hit his wife to "correct" her, but that if the blow left a mark she was entitled to the equivalent of her bride price in compensation and could divorce him if she wished?
- ...that mountaineer Ger McDonnell, the first Irish person to summit K2, brought a hurley to the summit of Mount Everest in 2003?
- ...that the headland of Drumanagh in Co. Dublin may once have hosted a fort acting as bridgehead for Roman military invasion?
- …that some 2006 New York productions of DruidSynge, a production of the complete plays of John Millington Synge by the Druid Theatre Company, were performed in day-long cycles?
- ...that when County Clare was created in 1565 it was moved from Munster to Connacht only to be returned to Munster again in 1602?
- …that the MV Kerlogue, an Irish merchant ship, was attacked by both the Allied and Axis sides during World War II and rescued both sides. They rescued the Wild Rose of Liverpool and they rescued 168 Germans, 164 of who spent the rest of The Emergency interned in the Curragh internment camp?
- ...that the College Historical Society of Trinity College, Dublin is the oldest undergraduate student society in the world?
- ...that to the Romans, Scotia was another name for Hibernia, both meaning Ireland?
- ...that Gregg shorthand was invented by Co. Monaghan-born, John Robert Gregg?
- ...that Waterford is Ireland's oldest city, being first settled in 853?
- ...that according to traditional Irish genealogy, all Irish people are descended from King Milesius?
- ...that until 1953 both the IFA and FAI fielded international teams under the name of Ireland?
- ...that seventh-century Irish saint, Saint Fiacre, is the patron saint of taxi drivers?
- ...that Cashel, Co. Tipperary was made a city by charter of Charles II in 1667, but lost city status when its city corporation was abolished by the Municipal Corporations (Ireland) Act 1840?
- ...that Newry had greatest rise in house prices in the United Kingdom over the last decade, with prices increasing by 371% since 1996?
- …that in 1903, George Moore, from a Catholic family and then aged 51, announced himself to be a Protestant in a letter to the Irish Times newspaper?
- …that David Feldman, an Irish philatelist now based in Geneva, auctioned the world's most expensive postage stamp, the Swedish Treskilling Yellow for 2.5 million Swiss francs in 1996?
- ...that Jonathan Swift called his predecessor "that rascal Dean Jones" because he made such bad property leases whilst Dean of St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin?
- ...that the Mount Sandel Mesolithic site in Coleraine, County Londonderry is the oldest archaeological site in Ireland?
- ...that Wellington Testimonial in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, is the largest obelisk in Europe?
- ...that shamrock is an internationally registered trademark of the Government of Ireland?
- ...that Ireland consumes more tea per head of population than any other country in the world?
- ...that Letterkenny has the longest main street in Ireland?
- ...that the remains of Saint Nicholas are said to be buried close to Jerpoint Abbey, Co. Kilkenny, having been brought back from the Crusades by a 12th century knight?
- ...that cycle polo, a variant of polo played on bicycles instead of horses, originated in Ireland in 1891?
- ...that the River Foyle is the fastest flowing river in Europe and is crossed by Europe's only double-decker bridge?
- ...that Paul McGrath, growing up in orphanages, was known as Paul Nwobilo until eventually tracked down by his mother, Betty McGrath?
- ...that Cork Harbour is one of several harbours that lay claim to the title of "second largest natural harbour in the world by navigational area".
- ...that Robert the Bruce, the 14th century king of Scotland, popularised a "pan-Gaelic Greater Scotia" and his brother Edward Bruce was the last High King of Ireland?
- ...that City Hall in Cork was paid for by the British government as a gesture of reconciliation during the 1930s to replace the one burnt down by British forces during the War of Independence?
- ...that the English phrase "By Hook or by Crook" is said to be derived from attempts to take Waterford in 1649 by Hook, meaning Hook Head on the east side of Waterford Harbour, or by Crook, a village on the west side of the harbour?
- ...that Private James Daly, who led the Connaught Rangers mutiny in India during the War of Independence, was the last member of the British armed forces to be executed for mutiny?
- ...that Dublin University Football Club, Trinity's rugby union club, established in 1854, has a strong claim to be the world's oldest football club?
- ...that Newfoundland, in eastern Canada, has a unique dialect of Irish, closely resembling the Irish spoken during the 16th to 17th centuries and called Newfoundland Irish?
- ...that in 1631 the entire population of the village of Baltimore, County Cork was kidnapped by Algerian pirates in what became known as the Sack of Baltimore?
- ...that the modern game of croquet was invented in Ireland in the 1830s?
- ...that the Guinness company once produced a Marmite-like yeast extract spread called Guinness Yeast Extract?
- ...the Choctaw tribe in America donated $170 towards famine relief in Ireland in 1847?
- ...that Sir Francis Beaufort, creator of the famed Beaufort scale, was born in Navan in County Meath? Or that his restored Georgian home in Navan was controversially demolished in the 1990s to build a road?
- ...that Newgrange is a 5000 year old passage tomb pre-dating the pyramids and Stonehenge? The builders had astronomical knowledge to precisely illumininate the internal passages of the tomb during the winter solstice?
- ...that the Ó Siochfhradha brothers were Irish Language teachers and writers from Dingle?
- ...that Fran Dempsey, who acted as Fortycoats in the 1980s RTÉ children's program, is Ian Dempsey's father?
- ...that the 4m people living in the Republic represent only half citizens of the State?
- ...that Xtravision, Ireland's largest chain of video rental stores, was valued at IR£27m (€34m) when it went spectacularly bankrupt in 1991?
- ...that Griffith College Dublin is a private university located on South Circular Road in Dublin?
- ...that the RTE puppet Dustin the Turkey has mockingly run for President of Ireland several times?
- ...that people from Westport, County Mayo, are traditionally known as Coveys, and used to speak a dialect unintelligible to outsiders?
- ...that Dubliners have humorous nicknames for the city's monuments, including The Stiletto in the Ghetto and the Floozie in the Jacuzzi?
- ...that the various incarnations of the IRA were/are run by a chief of staff and that over 30 people have held this position since 1917?
- ...that, with a top rate of 12.5%, Ireland has the third lowest corporate tax rate in the world?
- ...that, with 10,000 dead, the 1316 Battle of Athenry was one of the bloodiest battles ever fought in Ireland?
- ...that the Treaty Ports of Cobh, Lough Swilly and Berehaven were UK sovereign bases from 1921 until 1938?
- ...that the Bogside Artists are a trio of mural painters in Derry?
- ...that Limerick city was besieged three times in the 17th century?
- ...Irish Times journalist Arthur Quinlan has interviewed every US president since Harry Truman?
- ...that gas bubbles travel downwards in a pint glass of Guinness ale?
- ...The Wanderings of Oisin, published in 1889, was Yeats' first publication outside of magazines, immediately winning his reputation as a significant poet?
- ...that Irish songwriter Christy Moore wrote a comic song about the building of the Knock Airport, which transports hundreds of pilgrims to and from the Roman Catholic shrine at Knock, declaring, "I've never seen a miracle like the airport up in Knock"?
- ...that, unlike oft-violent hurling, its female variant, camogie, forbids any unnecessary physical contact?
Cathedral of Saints Patrick and Felim, Cavan
Selected series: Irish cities