The island of Ireland hides many pleasurable secrets. It is rich in history, culture and has a lot to offer to the world. These days, it might not be very sound economically, but it still remains a place where life can be pretty charming. The island is divided into two parts, the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The republic has a population of over 4 million inhabitants while the north has a little less than 2 million inhabitants. Through a brief history tour, a look at the Irish social makeup, without forgetting the very rich Irish culture, I hope you will come to appreciate this island that is very close to my heart.
History
Ireland’s history has been marked by many tough times and some events still have repercussions to this day. History books indicate that Vikings settled in the island in the 9th century. By the 12th century, Normans had invaded the country and had settled there. However, four centuries later, they were the ones to be relegated by the British who began to rule the country. This rule brought real trouble in Ireland as the British wanted the Protestant faith to prevail in a country that had a majority of Catholics.
By the 19th Century, Ireland went through the Great Irish Famine that took the lives of an estimated one million people with another million people migrating from Ireland. Meanwhile, tension still remained high between Catholics and the Protestant rulers. In Easter 1916, Irish republicans, who wanted the country to become a republic and out of the hands of England, staged an uprising. This became known as the Easter Rising. However, this enterprise failed and the leaders of the uprising were hanged. This led to a lot of recrimination and when Sinn Fein, the pro-independence party ran for elections in 1918, it was very successful. Finally, in 1921, Ireland got its independence. In the agreement, six northeastern counties, predominantly inhabited by Protestants, were to be kept for the Crown and the rest became the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland had a parliament and ruled from within.
However, Ireland’s problems did not end there. In Northern Ireland, since Protestants held key posts, the Roman Catholics living there felt victimised and discriminated against. Moreover, the nationalists, mostly the Catholics wanted to bring all the counties of Ireland together as a republic while the unionists, made up mostly of Protestants, wanted to remain part of the UK. Years of protests and unrest culminated in a period that is known as The Troubles in the 1960s. During the Troubles, the home rule was suspended and Northern Ireland was ruled directly from England. 30 years of ongoing conflicts saw the death of over 3600 people and brought great tensions. However, in 1998 with the Good Friday Agreement signed on the 10th April of that year, a truce was called. Violence reduced considerably, Northern Ireland got its own assembly, a decommissioning of weapons among other articles had to be respected in order for peace to prevail. However, there are still isolated incidents in the North, but they are contained.
The Irish Society
Religion plays a very important role in the Irish society. For a long time, it had influenced major aspects of Irish life. For instance, it was not only until 1996 that divorce became legal since a ban on divorce was imposed in 1937. Furthermore the Catholic Church did not allow the use of any form of artificial contraception including the sale of condoms and this was only relaxed in 1979. Late 20th century also saw the state stepping away from religion in the passing of a law that recognised partnerships between homosexuals. Moreover, cohabitating couples were also granted similar rights as married couples since cohabitation is becoming more and more popular.
Family life still occupies an important place in Irish society where many young people still choose to live at home even while going to college. It is also not unusual to see even today people going for large families with more than three children. However, an alarming statistic just released reveals that divorce has risen by 150% since the recession.
Irish society is gradually becoming cosmopolitan with the country having a large number of immigrants who come to the country during the years of what is known as the Celtic Tiger (1995-2007), where Ireland knew an unprecedented economic growth. However, in 2008, the country experienced a reversal of fortune, prompting more than 5000 Irish people emigrating each month at the peak of the recession.
Culture
To say that the Irish culture is rich would be an understatement. Ireland has remained close to its Gaelic roots through language, sports and music. There is strong commitment on the part of the people to revive the Gaelic language through it being compulsory at school. There are even Gaelic schools where the national curriculum is taught in Gaelic. All roads, road signs, buildings have English as well as Gaelic appellations. Gaelic sports are still widely practiced and are heavily promoted by the Gaelic Athletic Association, the GAA. The most popular games remain Gaelic football and hurling. Irish music is also very central to the culture. There are many pubs around the country where Traditional Music is played. Traditional Irish music instruments include the fiddle, the tin whistle, the Celtic harp, symbol of Ireland.    Music has also gone beyond the traditional. Ireland can today be proud of international music stalwarts like U2. Other Pop bands like The Cranberries, Westlife, Boyzone, and The Corrs all come from Ireland and have made their mark on the international scene. The silver screen has also been graced by many Irish talents like Liam Neeson, Brendan Gleeson, Colin Farell, James Bond himself: Pierce Brosnan. The works of Irish people like W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, and Jonathan Swift have also considerably enriched the world of literature. Contemporary writers like Colm Toibin, Sebastian Barry and Edna O’Brien have also contributed to the ever-plentiful world of writing.
Since the past five years or so, closer links have been established between Ireland and Mauritius with many Mauritians looking for greener pastures migrated to Ireland. While it is hard to gauge the exact number of Mauritians here, they range in the thousands. This has prompted the opening of Mauritian food stalls, like the Coin De Mire, in Dublin, very popular for bringing a taste of home in Dublin with dholl puris, mine frire and the likes. Moreover, there are also shops that stock Mauritian foodstuff like Apollo noodles, ‘Sirop Dowlut’, poisson sale, among others.
Ireland is a nice place to live, though coming from Mauritius, it takes some time to get adjusted to the weather. The majority of Irish people are very friendly and welcoming. A trip to Ireland should include visits to the legendary Guinness storehouse in Dublin, a trip to Connemara, a stroll down the Cliffs of Moher, among so many other breath-taking sights that country has to offer. A visit to the Trinity Library is also a must to see the legendary Book of Kells. After living here for 9 years, Ireland has become very close to my heart, it is my home away from home.
Leprechauns, castles, good luck and laughter.
?Lullabies, dreams and love ever after.?
A thousand welcomes when anyone comes…?That’s the Irish for You!