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Ireland - Overview
Population: 4,015,676 (July 2005 est.)
Languages:English (official) is the language generally used, Irish (official) (Gaelic or Gaeilge) spoken mainly in areas located along the western seaboard
Religions: Roman Catholic 88.4%, Church of Ireland 3%, other Christian 1.6%, other 1.5%, unspecified 2%, none 3.5% (2002 census)
Currency: euro (EUR)
The Republic of Ireland, or Eire, occupies the major part of the island of Ireland in the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Great Britain. Ireland has been an independent republic since the early 1920s.
Still largely rural in its geography, Ireland consists of a central plain with flat farmland and raised bogs, surrounded by low mountains. The scenery is very picturesque, and rural areas and the coast are within easy reach of Ireland's main towns.
About a third of Ireland's population lives in Dublin, the capital city and main port, which is located on the east coast between the mountains and the Irish Sea. Dublin is a thriving city, with a rich cultural heritage and a lively modern social scene. The city has an attractive mix of Georgian, Medieval and modern buildings, is rich in history and culture with many theatres, concert halls and museums, and has a wide range of traditional and modern pubs, clubs and bars.
Ireland's other main cities include Limerick to the west of the island, Cork city to the South, and Sligo near the border with Northern Ireland.
Historically, Ireland was a poor, agricultural economy with high unemployment. Having benefited from EU development grants and government policies of offering incentives to foreign investors, it has been transformed into an affluent, modern country with economic growth rates of around 7% annually since the mid 1990s. Its economy is largely based on high-tech industries and the service sector, with banking and finance, IT and telecommunications being particularly important growth industries.
More recently, the unemployment rate in Ireland has started to increase again, and the high cost of living is a potential deterrent to some expatriates. Others are attracted by the benefits of a high standard of living, tax benefits, the beautiful environment and the relaxed and friendly way of life.
Read more about this country
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