- This article is about the island of Ireland. For other uses, see Ireland (disambiguation)
The island of Ireland, also called Éire when speaking in the Irish language, is about 302 miles (486.0 km) long and about 179 mi (288.1 km) wide. About 6.5 million people live on the island. Around four and a half million live in the Republic and the remaining two million in the North.
The River Shannon, which runs from north to south, is the longest river on the island. Ireland has many lakes (or loughs). Lough Neagh, in Northern Ireland, is the largest lake in Ireland. Ireland is known for its beautiful landscapes, music, history, and mythology.
Today, the island of Ireland is split between two European countries:
- Ireland, also called the Republic of Ireland, takes five sixths (83%) of the island. Its capital city is Dublin. The official languages are Irish and English. Most people in the country can speak a little Irish, but only a small number of the population are fluent or native speakers. Almost everyone learns Irish at school, but most people outside the Gaeltacht speak English in their day-to-day lives.
- Northern Ireland takes the remaining one sixth (17%) of the island and is part of the United Kingdom. The capital of Northern Ireland is Belfast.
More than one million people live in Dublin. 1/6 of Ireland's population lives there. Many people live in the eastern coast of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland as well, because of better agricultural land and trade links with Great Britain and the rest of Europe.
The city of Belfast is the capital of Northern Ireland. It has 483,000 in the Belfast urban area, and 267,000 in the Belfast city itself. Shipbuilding has long been a major industry here.
All of Ireland was ruled by Britain, starting in the 1600's. Because the British ruled the island, the English language became known throughout the island. In 1921, the south and west of Ireland became semi-independent of the United Kingdom and was called the Irish Free State, but Northern Ireland remained part of Britain. In 1937, the Irish people changed the name of their country from the Irish Free State to just 'Ireland'. In 1948, Ireland decided that it would become a republic, and not a part of the United Kingdom (of Great Britain and Northern Ireland).
Many Irish people have left Ireland and moved to the United States, Canada, Australia, and South America. The famine in the 1840's was an early reason to leave. Most people depended on potatoes for food because cattle and sheep were sent to England to pay rents. When a fungus disease killed most of the potato crop, British Corn Laws meant that cheap cereals could not be imported to replace it. It is estimated almost a million people died of starvation.
Today 6 million people live in Ireland and almost 80 million people around the world are descended from Irish immigrants.
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