Ireland was populated by the Celts in the sixth century B.C.E. Christianity was brought to the Island in the fifth century. Vikings invaded and plundered in the ninth and tenth centuries, before the Normans arrived in the 12th century. They quickly gained control as Irelad was brought under the English crown in 1603, something the native Irish were never really happy with. After the battle f Boyne in 1690, Protestantism was established as the dominant religion and Catholics were discriminated against. In the early 19th century, Catholics gained the right to sit in parliament. In the late 1840s, the so-called potatoe famine hit Ireland hard and more than a million people died of starvation while another million were forced to leave Ireland, many of them emigrating to America. This increased the tension with the British and the Great Famine had far-reaching political consequences, strengthening the Irish demand for Home rule. This was finally granted in 1914, and in 1916 a republic was declared in Dublin. This ed to the Easter Rising, and an ensuing civil war. In 1922 the south gained independence, but the northern province stayed with Britain. Ireland became a member of the UN in 1955 ad of the EU in 1973.

Ireland placed 8th on the Democracy Index in 2022, after the Nordic countries, New Zealand and Switzerland. describes Ireland as “a stable democracy in which political rights and civil liberties are respected and defended. There is some limited societal discrimination, especially against the traditionally nomadic Irish Travellers. Corruption scandals have plagued the police force, and domestic violence remains a problem.”

Ireland is a parliamentary democracy with a president as Head of State, a largely ceremonial role. The current president is Michael D. Higgins from the Labour Party. Leo Vadakar from the Christian Liberal Conservative party Fine Gael is the current prime minister. Ireland had a period of extraordinary growth from 1993 to 2007, but was hit hard by the global economic downturn in 2008 and is still in some ways recovering from this. Today the country is home to many immigrants and face a large housing crisis. Mary Robinson was president from 1990-1997 and went on to become UN High Commisioner of Human Rights . Robinson is widely regarded as having had a transformative effect on Ireland and was involved in the decriminalisation of homosexuality, the legalisation of contraception, the legalisation of divorce, enabling women to sit on juries, and securing the right to legal aid in civil legal cases in Ireland.

Ireland has had many famous writers, two of them winning the Nobel Prize for literature, Samuel Becket in 1969 and Seamus Heaney in 1995.

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Write a blog post either on your experences while in Ireland, or on Ireland’s history, politics or literature. Due April 12.