The Republic of Ireland is located in Far Western Europe; it occupies five-sixths of the island of Ireland, which was once entirely controlled by England. The northern portion of the island contains the six countries that make up Northern Ireland.

A Short History of Ireland

The history of Ireland dates back to prehistoric times, and Ireland's countryside is abundant with remnants of that age. Some of these include huge stone tombs, massive stone circles, and single standing stones, which may have been used as tombstones.

In about 700 BC the Celts began to invade Ireland. These were a group of Indo-European who had spread from central Europe into Italy and Spain. They then moved westward through France and Britain into Ireland. They were courteous people, and loved feasting, music, and storytelling. The influence of the Celts is clearly marked in Irish folklore, and myths.

In AD 432, Saint Patrick imported Christianity to Ireland. According to legend, Irish raiders captured him; during that time, he was a slave brought from his native country of France. After only six years he escaped, and returned to France. It is not sure why, but he went back to Ireland, and dedicated the rest of his life to challenging the druids, which were Celtic priests, and converting the kings of Ireland to Christianity. It is believed he spent forty days and nights in prayer, during this time it rained constantly. In his prayers, he banished all poisonous creatures, including snakes, from Ireland. Legend also has it that he picked a shamrock from a grassy plain, and holding it up, explained to the crowd how its three leaves symbolized the Trinity of Father, Son, and the Holy Ghost. Ever since then, the Shamrock has been the symbol of Ireland.

Centuries later, in 1171, the Anglo-Normans of England invaded Ireland under the order of King Henry II. This initiated 750 years of British domination. Under the rule of the Anglo-Normans, monasteries flourished, and many great churches and abbeys were built. One of the oldest of these chapels is Ballintubber Abbey, County Mayo, where mass has been celebrated continually fore more than seven centuries.

During Queen Elizabeth's rule, the English hoped to establish a colony in Ireland, this began the "planting" of Protestants in the Catholic country. Support in grew for the Protestants. Consequently, the Act of Union was passed by the British Parliament, and in 1801, Ireland was officially made part of Britain. Ireland itself was now a land of thoroughly divided people: a minority Protestant ruling class, and a politically powerless Catholic majority.

In 1845, a fungus wiped out the main food source, potatoes. This led to the great famine, which lasted until 1851. During the six-year period, at least one million people starved to death, and another million emigrated to Canada, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.

Several decades later, on Eastern Monday in 1916, the Irish Republican Army, or IRA, staged protest against the British drafting Irishmen for The Great War. The uprising of these rebels lasted merely five days before they were caught, and executed. The public in Ireland felt sympathy for these martyrs, and as a result, was anti-British.

In 1922, after several discussions, weary delegates agreed to a treaty providing an Irish Free State with a dominion status. This meant that the six Ulster counties of Northern Ireland would remain within the United Kingdom, which includes Britain, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.

In 1949, southern Ireland distanced itself from the Northern power, and became the Republic of Ireland. It refused to become part of the British Commonwealth. A President and a Prime Minister govern the Free Sate, named Eire.