Thanks to its beautiful scenery and business opportunities, Ireland attracts many tourists and expats alike. If you’re headed to the Emerald Isle to try your luck, it’s helpful to have an overview of the social, economic and political climate.
Located in the Northern Atlantic Ocean, Ireland is one of the larger British Isles split into two countries: Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, and Ireland, sometimes referred to as the Republic of Ireland, which is an independent nation. Spanning roughly 70,273 km2, the independent country is divided into 26 counties and much larger than its northern counterpart.
Dublin is the capital, and largest, city known for architecture, universities, shopping, and history. Thanks to these features it continues to be one of the most visited cities in Europe. Cork is the second largest city in Ireland, famous for its festivals and culture. Limerick, Killarney, and Galway are other popular smaller cities.
Ireland’s 2017 population is just over 4.7 million people. As of 2015, roughly one-eighth of Ireland’s inhabitants were foreign born, having expatriated and adopted Ireland as their homeland. Polish, British, Lithuanian, Latvian, and Nigerian are the most common foreign nationalities found in Ireland, but, of course, many others are also present.
Irish Gaelic is Ireland’s first official language, however it is only spoken by approximately 30% of the population and only regularly used by 5%. The more commonly used language in the country is its other official language, English. Due to the number of foreign nationals, many other languages can be heard throughout the country, especially in the larger cities.
At the beginning of the century, Ireland’s economy was so strong it was referred to as the ‘Celtic Tiger,’ and while it slowed down a bit following the 2008 world recession, it is back to roaring in 2017. Its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for 2016 was $294 billion USD, and it is set to grow by 4% in 2017. This makes Ireland the fastest growing Euro Zone economy for the fourth year in a row.
Many international companies have now based their European headquarters in Dublin and Cork, and Ireland has become a bit of a tech hub in recent years. Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, and many others all have major operations in Ireland, and in Dublin these offices are nicknamed the ‘Silicon Docks.’ Other notable industries in Ireland are construction, pharmaceuticals, and manufacturing.
Ireland is considered a parliamentary democracy. It is governed by the National Parliament, which is made up of a President (Taoiseach), House of Representatives (Dail Eirann), and Senate (Seanad Eirann), and headed up by a Prime Minister. Irish citizens/eligible residents elect the President for a term of seven years, and the current president as of the last election in 2011 is Michael D. Higgins. The President’s powers are limited, and typically he acts on the advice of the houses, though he can have the final say on certain matters, such as sending Bills to the Supreme Court for review.
The President also appoints the Prime Minister to office after nominated by the Dail Eirann, although this is just a formality as the President does not have the power to decline the Dail Eirann’s nomination. The current Prime Minister is Leo Varadkar, and he will remain so as long as he retains the majority vote in the Dail. Ireland is also a member of the European Union, so participates in the European Parliament and its activities.
As an island, Ireland enjoys a mild climate influenced by the warm North Atlantic Drift ocean current. The coastal mountains and hills help protect the rest of the country from too much wind.
Temperatures in summer rarely exceed 25°C and average between 12 °C and 19 °C. In winter, temperatures are rather cool with frequent rainfall, however, these rarely drop below 0 °C. Ireland’s coldest months are January and February, with average temperatures of around 3°C. The weather is always a big topic of conversation in Ireland as it is very changeable.