Ireland is the third-largest island in Europe. It lies in the Atlantic Ocean and it is composed of the Republic of Ireland (officially named Ireland), a state which covers five sixths of the island (south, east, west and north-west), and Northern Ireland; part of the United Kingdom, which covers the northeastern sixth of the island.
Ireland's capital and largest city is named Dublin. The country occupies about five-sixths of the island of Ireland. The remaining one-sixth of the island is occupied by Northern Ireland .
Ireland is called Eire in Irish or Gaelic, the ancient language of Ireland. Ireland also has long been known by the poetic name Erin. The country is also called the Emerald Isle because of its beautiful green countryside. Rolling farmlands, which are mainly pasture, cov
er much of the central part of the country, and mountains rise near the coasts.
Ireland is divided into 26 geographical counties, which include 29 administrative counties. County Dublin has 3 administrative counties, and County Tipperary has 2.
Ireland also has 5 county boroughs. Some counties are known for special features. For example, County Kerry is famous for its mountains and the scenic Lakes of Killarney. County Waterford is known for its delicate cut glass, and County Donegal is famous for its tweed cloth.
Ireland have a long history that includes many hardships and struggles. In the 1840's, a potato blight (disease) and the starvation and disease that followed caused the deaths of about 1 million people. Millions more left their homeland . After this famine, a shortage of jobs and other problems caused emigration to continue. As a result, the number of people living in Ireland declined to about half of what it had been before the famine. In the mid-1900's, when the population began increasing slowly. By the end of the 1900's, a growing economy encouraged people to stay, and many who had left returned.
The United Kingdom (previously known as Great Britain) ruled Ireland for hundreds of years before Ireland became a dominion (self-governing country) of the British Commonwealth in 1921.
Ireland withdrew from the Commonwealth in 1949. In April 1998, peace talks on the conflict in Northern Ireland concluded in an agreement, often called the Good Friday Agreement or the Belfast Agreement. In late 1999, the United Kingdom ended direct rule of Northern Ireland, transferring control of most local matters to the new Northern Ireland Assembly. The Republic of Ireland, in turn, amended its Constitution and gave up its claim to Northern Ireland.
The three most important international airports in the Republic are Dublin Airport, Cork International Airport and Shannon Airport. All provide extensive services to the UK, continental Europe and North America.
Ireland national airline Aer Lingus and low-cost operator Ryanair are based at Dublin. Shannon is an important stopover on trans-Atlantic route for refuelling operations. There are several smaller regional airports in the Republic (Galway Airport, Kerry Airport, Knock International Airport, Sligo Airport, Waterford Airport) that mostly limit their services to Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Ireland's rail network was developed by various private companies, some of which received British Government funding in the late 19th century. The network reached its greatest extent by 1920. The broad gauge of 5 foot 3 inches (1,600 mm) was eventually settled upon throughout the island, although there were narrow gauge (3 ft / 91.4 cm) railways also. Ireland also has one of the largest freight railways in Europe, operated by Bord na Mona. This company has a narrow gauge railway of 1,200 miles (1,930 km).