THE “Emerald Isle” comprises two countries: the larger is the independent Republic of Ireland, and the smaller is Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom.
Ireland is called the Emerald Isle because its abundant rainfall results in a vivid-green countryside. Scenic lakes and rivers together with coastal highlands and rolling hills add to its natural beauty.
The Irish people have endured much hardship. For example, some estimate that from about 1845 to 1851, approximately one million people died of starvation and disease when blight ruined the potato crops. To escape crippling poverty, many emigrated to countries such as Australia, Britain, Canada, and the United States. Today, some 35 million Americans trace their ancestry to Ireland.
The Irish are known for being warmhearted and hospitable. Favorite pastimes include horseback riding and team sports, such as cricket, rugby, soccer (which they call football), and Gaelic football (which is similar to soccer). Women in particular enjoy a team sport called camogie, which is similar to field hockey.
The people of Ireland also take delight in conversation, and they love music. Irish step dance is famous worldwide. Dancers keep their upper body rigid while performing quick and precise movements with their feet.
Traditional Irish music uses instruments such as those shown above, from left to right: the Celtic harp, the Irish bagpipes, the fiddle, the accordion, the tin whistle, and the bodhran (drum)
DID YOU KNOW?
The Giant’s Causeway, on the northern coast of Northern Ireland, consists of thousands of basalt stone pillars that were formed when ancient lava flows cooled on meeting the sea.
Population: About 4.5 million in the Republic; about 1.8 million in Northern Ireland
Capitals: Dublin in the Republic; Belfast in Northern Ireland
Languages: Irish and English
Climate: Temperate with frequent rain showers
Main religions: Mostly Catholic in the Republic; Protestant and Catholic in Northern Ireland