Ireland: Location, History Size, Population, & Government

About the location, history, size, population, and government of the country Ireland



Location--An island to the west of Great Britain separated by the North Channel, St. George's Channel, and the Irish Sea.

How Created--Ireland is an island with natural boundaries, but it is divided into the Republic of Ireland (Eire) and Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland is bounded on the north by the Atlantic, on the east by the North Channel and Irish Sea, and on the south and west by Eire. The island is divided into the 26 counties of the Republic and 6 counties of Northern Ireland.

Irish Republic

Size--27,136 sq. mi. (68,893 sq. km.), slightly larger than Virginia.

Population--Over 3 million: Irish, 97.5%; English, 1.6%; other, 0.9%. 94.9% Roman Catholic, 3.7% Church of Ireland (Episcopalian), 0.7% Presbyterian, 0.2% Methodist, 0.1% Jewish, 0.4% other.

Who Rules--President elected for 7 years by direct vote of the entire electorate. He appoints the Prime Minister and other Cabinet members. The national Parliament has 2 houses--the Dail Cireann or House of Representatives, and the Seanad Eireann or Senate. The Dail is composed of 144 members elected by adult suffrage and the Seanad has 60 members of whom 11 are appointed by the Prime Minister, 6 are elected by the 2 universities, and 43 are elected by the Dail, the county and county borough councils. The Dail must stand for reelection within 5 years.

Who REALLY Rules--The President of the Republic is not a strong executive, but rather a figurehead like the Queen of England. He appoints the Prime Minister but only after nominations from the Dail. The Roman Catholic Church is extremely powerful in Eire. A reflection of this is that the constitution invokes "the Name of the Most Holy Trinity" and speaks of "all our obligations to our Divine Lord, Jesus Christ. . . ." The constitution recognizes freedom of religion but also recognizes the special position of the Catholic Church. The strong influence of the Church can be seen in the government ban on divorce and prohibition of remarriage of persons divorced elsewhere.

Northern Ireland

Size--5,452 sq. mi. (14,121 sq. km.).

Population--1,500,000: almost 100% Irish except for British troops and other English. 34.9% Roman Catholic, 29% Presbyterian, 24.2% Church of Ireland, 5% Methodist, 6.9% other.

Who Rules--By provision of the Ireland Act of 1920, Northern Ireland has its own Parliament which is composed of the governor, the Senate, and the House of Commons. The governor is appointed by the British Monarch for a 6-year term, and he represents the Crown. The Senate has 24 members elected by the House of Commons, and 2 members who are government officials. The House of Commons has 52 members elected by universal suffrage (over 18). Northern Ireland also has representatives in the House of Commons at Westminster in London.

Who REALLY Rules--Although Northern Ireland has a Parliament, a wide range of legislative and fiscal powers are reserved to the Parliament of the United Kingdom--those relating to foreign policy, trade, war, armed forces, and most matters of taxation. Most important, the British can suspend the Government of Northern Ireland, as they did in 1972.

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