"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all."
- Oscar Wilde (1854 - 1900)
Ireland is divided between the Republic of Ireland, which covers five-sixths of the island, and Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, that covers the remaining area and is located in the northeast of the island.
Ireland is known for its wide areas of green fields. Its nickname is the Emerald Isle. But there are also large areas of rugged, rocky landscape. About 15,000 years ago, Ireland was completely covered by thick glaciers. The movement of these giant sheets of ice stripped the soil, leaving gigantic tracts of flat, limestone pavement. Ireland's highlands in the southwest, often end in steep cliffs that plunge thousands of feet into the Atlantic Ocean.
CULTURE and PEOPLE
Ireland is a nation of storytellers. The tradition dates back to Celtic singers, also called bards, who would record and retell the country's history. Many famous writers come from Ireland, for example Oscar Wilde. The Irish are also famous for music and sports. Hockey, rugby and riverdance are wellknown activities.
The Irish have a great love for nature and rural life, just like Norwegians. Did you know that there are no wild snakes in Ireland? Irish wildlife is protected by government conservation programs. There are established six national parks and hundreds of national heritage areas throughout the country. For example Newgrange. It is an ancient passage tomb located in County Meath. It is said that Newgrange had some religious meaning as it is built in a straight line with the rising sun on the winter solstice, which floods the tomb with light. It is amazing to think that this structure is older than the pyramids in Egypt. Otherwise, the climate in Ireland is often quite damp and wet. That is why the fields are green all over Ireland.
Archaeologists believe the first people to settle in Ireland arrived around 6000 B.C. Around 700 B.C., the Celts began to settle on the island. They controlled the area for nearly 2,000 years. Viking invaders began raids into Ireland in the ninth century A.D . They established settlements that later became some of the country's main cities, including Dublin, the capital. The Vikings and Celts fought often for 200 years until a battle in 1014 united the country. Peace did not last for long, and Ireland was divided into many kingdoms.
In 1170, Norman Vikings who had taken control of England invaded Ireland and made it an English territory. In the early 1600s, England's official religion became Protestant while most Irish remained Roman Catholic. This created tensions that would eventually lead to revolution and Ireland's independence. In 1922, after some violent uprisings, the Irish Free State was created within the British Empire.
In 1948, most of Ireland became an independent country, while six mainly Protestant counties in the northeast remained a British territory.