Ireland emerged from the conflict that marked its birth as an independent state to become one of Europe's economic success stories in the final decade of the twentieth century.

After the country joined the European Community in 1973, it was transformed from a largely agricultural society into a modern, high-technology economy.

However, the economy collapsed following the 2008 global financial crisis. With the help of a bailout Ireland has been recovering once more.

Its strong literary and musical traditions, as well as its long history of emigration, have given Ireland an international cultural presence disproportionate to its size.

Six Protestant-dominated counties of Northern Ireland - afraid of a majority Catholic united Ireland - in 1921 opted to stay in the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland subsequently saw decades of violent conflict between those campaigning for a united Ireland, and those wishing to stay in the United Kingdom.

The Irish are well connected, with 82% of the population online by 2015 and about 56% subscribed to Facebook. Print and broadcast media operate freely within the confines of the law. Broadcasting - commercial and public - is regulated by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland. The Competition Authority safeguards against unfair competition in the press sector.
Michael D Higgins (pictured left), a veteran left-wing politician, poet and human rights activist was elected president in 2011. He is a former Galway university lecturer and published poet who has dedicated his four-decade political career to championing Irish culture and left-wing causes worldwide. He is an Irish speaker. The president wields little power beyond the ability to refer potentially unconstitutional legislation to the Supreme Court, but has an important symbolic role in representing Ireland at the national and international level.

Prime Minister (Taoiseach): Enda Kenny

Enda Kenny (pictured right) came to power after winning early elections held in 2011, in the middle of Ireland's worst economic crisis in recent memory.




Created with images by seanegriffin - "sunset ireland ocean" • Giorgio Galeotti - "Rock of Cashel - Tipperary, Ireland - August 16, 2008"

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