The Country Of Ireland Essay, Research Paper
The Country of Ireland
Ireland has been inhabited since Stone Age times. For more than five thousand years peoples moving westwards across the European continent have settled in the country and each new group of immigrants, Celts, Vikings, Normans, English, has contributed to its present population. In 1841, shortly before the Great Famine, the area comprising the present Irish State had a population of over 6.5 million. The next census (1851) showed a massive decline to 5.1 million for the same area, due to deaths from starvation and disease and large-scale emigration.
The outflow thus begun became a dominant feature of the population pattern over the succeeding years. By 1961 the population of the State stood at 2.8 million, the lowest census figure on record. From 1961 onwards the pattern changed. A combination of natural increase and the commencement of inward net migration resulting from increased prosperity produced an average annual rise in population of 0.6% in the period 1981 to 1986. Between 1986 and 1991, largely as a result of the resumption of emigration, an average annual fall in population of 0.1% was recorded. At the 1991 census the total population of the State was 3,525,719. In 1994 the population was estimated at 3.571 million.
The major centers of population are Dublin (915,000), Cork (174,000), Limerick (75,000), Galway (51,000), Waterford (42,000), and Dundalk (30,000). 59% of the populations live in cities and towns of 1,000 people or more. Overall population density is 51 persons per square kilometer with large variations between the east and south, where densities are highest, and the less populous west of the country.
A high proportion of the population is concentrated in the younger age groups. Approximately 43% of the population is under 25 and approximately 27% is under 15. In 1993 for the first time on record the birth rate fell below the minimum population replacement rate of 2.1 births per woman during child-rearing age, to 1.93 births per woman. Total births in 1993 were 49,456 and, if present trends continue, the annual number of births could fall below 40,000 by the year 2007. This compares with a peak of 74,064 births recorded in 1980.
Freedom of conscience and the free profession and practice of religion are, subject to public order and morality, Constitutionally guaranteed. The State guarantees not to endow any religion. The majority of the people belong to Christian denominations. At the 1991 census, approximately 92% of the population of the Republic of Ireland was classified as Roman Catholic, approximately 3% as Protestant (including Church of Ireland: 2.35%; Presbyterian: 0.37%; Methodist: 0.14%). There is a small but long-established Jewish Community (0.04%). The remainder of the population belonged to other religious groups, many of them newly-established in Ireland (Islamic: 0.11%, Jehovah?s Witnesses: 0.10%, etc.) or claimed no specific religious beliefs.
The main religious denominations are organized on an all-Ireland basis. They are as follows:
The Church of Ireland
The Church of Ireland is a Protestant Episcopal Church, an autonomous church within the worldwide Anglican Communion. The Church is organized into twelve dioceses. The Archbishop of Armagh is the Primate of All Ireland and the only other Archbishopric is Dublin. Chief legislative power lies with the General Synod, consisting of the archbishops, bishops, 216 representatives of the clergy and 432 representatives of the laity. The clerical and lay representatives are elected every three years. The Church of Ireland is actively involved in education and social services. The total membership of the Church of Ireland is around 380,000, 75% of whom live in Northern Ireland.
The Presbyterian Church
The Presbyterian Church is a Protestant Church of the Reformed tradition with a strong emphasis on the authority of the Scriptures in the life of the Christian. The Church has 558 congregations or parishes grouped into 21 districts called Presbyteries, and five regional Synods. These are all represented at the highest court of the Church, known as the General Assembly of ministers and elders. Elders are men and women elected by the congregation and are responsible for the spiritual welfare of Church members. The Assembly makes rules and decides the policies of the Church. It meets annually and is presided over by the Moderator who is elected to represent the Presbyterian Church for a one-year period. The Presbyterian Church in Ireland has ordained women to the ministry since the 1950?s. There are approximately 312,000 Presbyterians in Ireland, more than 95% of who live in Northern Ireland.
The Methodist Church
The Methodist Church in Ireland owes its origins to the missions of John Wesley, the evangelic preacher who visited the country on several occasions in the 18th century. Although closely linked to British Methodism, the Irish Methodist Church is an autonomous body with its own President and Secretary. There are 240 local churches grouped into 77 Circuits, which are in turn grouped into eight Districts. The Methodist Church has approximately 130 ministers engaged in active parish duties. The total membership of the Church in Ireland is around 60,000 people, about 90% of who live in Northern Ireland.
Irish Methodism has developed a wide range of social work activities, mainly through its missions in the larger cities. These provide facilities for the elderly and the needy. The Church is also involved in education.
History of the Irish Language
Irish is a Celtic language and, as such, is a member of the Indo-European family of languages. Within the Celtic group, it belongs to the Goidelic branch of insular Celtic. Irish has evolved from a form of Celtic, which was introduced into Ireland at some period during the great Celtic migrations of antiquity between the end of the second millennium and the fourth century BC. Old Irish, Ireland?s vernacular when the historical period begins in the sixth century of our era is the earliest variant of the Celtic languages, and indeed the earliest of European vernaculars north of the Alps, in which extensive writings are extant.
The Norse settlements (AD 800 onwards) and the Anglo-Norman colonization (AD 1169 onwards) introduced periods of new language diversity into Ireland, but Irish remained dominant and other speech communities were gradually assimilated. In the early sixteenth century, almost all of the population was Irish-speaking. The main towns, however, prescribed English for the formal conduct of administrative and legal business.
The events of the later sixteenth century and of the seventeenth century for the first time undermined the status of Irish as a major language. The Tudor and Stuart conquests and plantations (1534-1610), the Cromwellian settlement (1654), and the Willamette war (1689-91) followed by the enactment of the Penal Laws (1695), had the cumulative effect of eliminating the Irish-speaking ruling classes and of destroying their cultural institutions. A new ruling class, or Ascendancy, whose language was English, replaced them and thereafter English was the sole language of government and public institutions. Irish continued as the language of the greater part of the rural population and, for a time, of the servant classes in towns.
From the middle of the eighteenth century, as the Penal Laws were relaxed and a greater social and economic mobility became possible for the native Irish, the more prosperous of the Irish- speaking community began to conform to the prevailing middle-class ethos by adopting English. Irish thus began to be associated with poverty and economic deprivation. This tendency increased after the Act of Union in 1800.
Yet because of the rapid growth of the rural population, the actual number of Irish speakers increased substantially during the first decades of the nineteenth century. In 1835 their number was estimated at four million. This number consisted almost entirely of an impoverished rural population, which was decimated by the Great Famine and by resultant mass emigration. By 1891, the number of Irish speakers had been reduced to 680,000 and, according to that year?s census of population; Irish speakers under the age of ten represented no more than 3.5% of their age- group.
When the position began to stabilize early in the twentieth century, Irish remained as a community language only in small discontinuous regions, mainly around the western seaboard. These regions are collectively called the Gaeltachta. In the 1991 census, the population of the officially defined Gaeltachta aged three years and over was 79,563, of whom 56,469 or 71% were returned as Irish-speaking. The number of Irish speakers is a decreasing proportion of the total because, for a variety of complex reasons, some of the indigenous population of the Gaeltachta continues to shift to English, and because new English-speaking households are settling there.
On the other hand, there are many Irish-speaking individuals and families throughout the rest of the country, particularly in Dublin. In 1991 just fewer than 1.1 million people or 32.5% of the total population aged three years or over, were returned, as Irish-speaking, but this figure does not distinguish differing degrees of competence and use.
Towards the end of the eighteenth century the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy had begun to develop an academic interest in the Irish language and its literature. Academic interest later merged with a concern for the survival of spoken Irish as its decline became increasingly evident. Language- related activity grew throughout the nineteenth century and, following the establishment in 1893 of the Gaelic League, or in Irish Conradh na Gaeilge, the objective of maintaining and extending the use of Irish as a vernacular fused with the renewed separatist movement which culminated in the establishment of the Irish Free State in 1922.
The State has made various provisions for the maintenance and promotion of the language. Irish is an obligatory subject at primary and second level schools. The Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltachta have responsibility for promoting the cultural, social, and economic welfare of the Gaeltachta, and more generally for encouraging the use of Irish as a vernacular. The Department has two statutory boards under its aegis: ?dar?s na Gaeltachta ?Gaeltachta Authority?, some of whose members are elected by the people of the Gaeltachta, is a development authority for Gaeltachta areas; Board na Galilee ?Irish-language board? has responsibility for the promotion of Irish as a vernacular throughout the country.
The Irish Government with a view to creating a significant international financial services industry in Ireland has established the International Financial Services Center (IFSC), situated in the Custom House Docks Area in Dublin. Generous tax advantages are available as an incentive to set up in the center. A wide range of international/financial activities is eligible for the benefits offered. These must be carried out on behalf of nonresidents and where relevant in non-Irish currencies. Activities, which qualify, include the following: fund management, insurance, foreign exchange dealing and brokerage operations, treasury management, financial advice and financing activities. The main clearing banks are Allied Irish Banks, Bank of Ireland, National Irish Bank Limited and Ulster Bank Limited. The Irish Stock Exchange, based in Dublin, separated from its UK counterpart at the end of l 995 and is an independent entity.
The origins of Irish art are obscure, dating back to perhaps as early as 3,000 BC in tombs and sanctuaries along the Boyne Valley. This art was abstract and three-dimensional, expressing itself through spirals, loops and geometric forms on curbstones and granite slabs, following the contours of stone pillars at passage graves and burial tombs in New grange and Knot. In the pre-Christian era, the dominant form belongs to the La T?ne period of Celtic art, which relates to a broader culture spanning the continent of Europe.
Uninterrupted by the Roman incursions which fragmented Celtic culture in Britain, Irish society remained based on small tribal units whose structure was not affected in a radical way by the coming of Christianity in AD 432. Artists and craft workers continued to enjoy a privileged position in society, producing bronze and enamel work, as well as some manuscript illumination. By the 8th and 9th centuries, technical advances and the scholarship encouraged by the many monastic settlements throughout the island brought Celtic art to its greatest heights. Illuminated manuscripts such as the Book of Durrow, a copy of the Gospels, combined abstract panels of interlocking forms and spirals with a limited palette of red, green and yellow, turning at times into highly stylized animal shapes. These forms were developed in such works as the Book of Dimma and culminated in the late 8th century in the Book of Kells (see page 20), where thee previously central abstract motifs were organized around the figure of Man, whether as Christ, as Devil or as Angel. The artist?s palette now included several shades of blue, brown, yellow, green, red and mauve.
The prosperity of the 18th century and the influence of the Enlightenment throughout the fields of philosophy and aesthetics produced an atmosphere in which great public buildings were commissioned. Examples include the Parliament House, now the Bank of Ireland, by Edward Lovett Pearce, and the Custom House and Four Courts by James Gandon. At the same time, men and women of ideas were debating one of the century?s most influential works on aesthetics, Edmund Burke?s A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of The Sublime and Beautiful, published in 1756 but probably written earlier. Two major painters of the period, George Barret (1732-84) and James Barry (1741-1806) were proteg?s of Burke and embody in their work many of his aesthetic ideas. With such ideas as the excitement of pain or danger (the sublime) or love (the beautiful), the subject matter of painting broadened to include historical and some landscape work, often with classical or mythological allusions. Topography, too, was a central concern and was best expressed by James Malton, a former draughtsman in Gandon?s practice, who drew his Views of Dublin between 1790 and 1791.
Funding and Development
Since the introduction of bursaries and studio grants in the 1970s and the development of galleries and arts centers, a structure has been provided within which the visual arts can flourish. Businesses are developing collections and sponsoring exhibitions and events and municipal authorities are allocating budgets for the arts. The ?Aosd?na? scheme, which is administered by the Arts Council, provides for a collegiate of 200 creative artists and for five-year annuities to those wishing to work full-time at their art.
During the past decade, the Arts Council has paid particular attention to developing access to the arts in those parts of the country outside of the major cities. Central to this process was the creation of arts centers where the public could have access to theatre, music and the visual arts. The Council supports centers in Wexford, Waterford, Cork, Tralee, Listowel, Mullingar, Limerick, Galway, Castlebar, Sligo, Monaghan, Drogheda and Dublin (three). Twenty of the country?s 33 major local authorities employ specialist Arts Officers who organize and promote theatre, music and the visual arts. The Arts Council and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland co-operate closely on joint projects such as touring. To accommodate the growth in sculpture, there are two art foundries in Dublin and the National Sculpture Factory (1989) in Cork.
Reflecting the upsurge of interest in the contemporary visual arts, the Government established a new Museum of Modern Art at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham. With the addition of the completed RHA Gallagher Gallery in Dublin the capital is now well provided with large, well-equipped public exhibition places. The standing of the arts and culture was enhanced with the establishment in 1993 of a new Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltachta. Major development of the national cultural institutions is underway, including the conversion of Collins Barracks, near the center of Dublin, for use by the National Museum. The National Library is to be extended and its services improved, and development is continuing at the National Gallery. Proposals are being developed to relocate the Chester Beatty Library, with its prestigious collection of Islamic, Oriental and Christian manuscripts, paintings and other works of art, to the Clock Tower at Dublin Castle.
Cultural relations abroad are assisted through the Advisory Committee on Cultural Relations (?the Cultural Relations Committee?), which advises the Minister for Foreign Affairs on expenditure on projects involving Irish artists outside Ireland.
The executive power of the people is exercised by the Government or on its authority. Under the Constitution the Government must consist of not less than seven and not more than fifteen members, each of who normally heads one or more Departments of State. It acts as a collective authority responsible to the D?il.
There may be up to seventeen Ministers of State, who are not members of the Government but who assist specific Ministers in their work.
The practice is that, following a general election; the prospective Taoiseach first secures the support of a majority in the new D?il and then is formally appointed by the President. The Taoiseach must resign when the Government ceases to retain majority support in the D?il. The office of Taoiseach (styled ‘President of the Executive Council’, 1922-37) has been held by the following: William T Cosgrave (1922-32), Eamon de Valera (1932-48, 1951-54, 1957-59), John A Costello (1948-51, 1954-57), Sean F Lemass (1959-66), Liam Cosgrave (1973-77), Jack M Lynch (1966-73, 1977-79), Charles J Haughey (1979-81, March 1982-November 1982, 1987-92), Garret FitzGerald (1981-February 1982, December 1982-1987), Albert Reynolds (February 1992-1994), John Bruton (1994- July 1997) and Bertie Ahern (1997 – present).
The lifetime of a D?il is not more than five years from the date of its first meeting. In practice, however, the Taoiseach normally exercises his power to recommend dissolution before the end of that period. A general election must take place within thirty days of dissolution of the D?il, and the newly elected D?il must meet within thirty days of the polling date.
Ireland: A Concise History from the Twelfth Century To the Present Day. Paul Johnson, Nadia May. Audio Cassette (May 1995)
Fodor’s: Ireland 2000. Fodor’s. Paperback, December 1999
The Irish Language in Northern Ireland: The Politics of Culture and Identity.
Camille O’Reilly. Hardcover. September 1999.