Annie's Blog

Thinking of coming to Ireland?

Ireland is a unique country with a long deep history and spectacular scenery? For many, a trip to this green and attractive land is a must when considering any travel to Europe. Ireland will not disappoint. From historic sites, breathtaking scenery, castles, pristine villages, cosy welcoming pubs, fantastic food and welcoming people, a trip to Ireland is special.

But aside from the history, a little introduction to modern Ireland might be useful to prospective visitors. It as a country that has managed to blend its extensive history with modern living in 2024, and very successfully too!.

Ireland is the most  westerly country in Europe, 32000 square miles in size. The island is in fact divided into two countries. The Republic of Ireland, an independent country for over 100 years, comprises 26 of the 32 counties on the island. Northern Ireland, one of the four constituent countries of the United Kingdom comprises of the remaining 6 counties. There is therefore a land border, extending over 300 miles. It is one of Europe’s most sensitive borders, ironically you may cross it without realising you have passed through an international boundary. Your guide will explain this unusual and unmanned border, the history of which is quiet controversial.

The population of the Republic of Ireland is 5.1 million. Northern Ireland has a population of 1.9 million. It is likely the bulk of your visit will be to the Republic of Ireland which is a more prosperous country than its neighbour and is far more developed for tourism.

Rock of Cashel

The Republic of Ireland is a highly developed country with a quality of life ranked among the highest in the world. The Human Development Index lists the country as number 6 in the world and the country features highly in the area of education, health, disposable income and general standard of living.

The Republic of Ireland is a parliamentary democracy. The Head of State is an elected President who in reality has very limited powers. A centrally controlled country, power resides in the elected parliament (the Dail) which currently has 160 members directly elected from various constituencies in the country. From its elected members, the Dail elects a Prime Minister (Taoiseach) and Ministers. Therein lies the political power of the country. Local Government is quiet restricted with limited powers.

The Republic of Ireland has a very vibrant economy, with extensive growth in recent years. It was hit badly during the financial crisis but recovered rapidly. Currently the country has a budget surplus and declining debt. 

The main economic activity in the Republic (ROI) are pharmaceuticals, Information Technology, Chemicals and Financial Services. The ROI is a major exporter of pharmaceuticals, 7 th largest exporter in the world in 2021 to the value of $22.7BN. Fir comparison, the USA exported $30.5 BN worth of pharmaceuticals in 2021, 4th in the world.

Agriculture comprises of 6% of economic activity in the ROI. International Tourism is 4%. Domestic tourism would equal international tourism at 4%.

Slea Head Drive, Dingle Peninsula

Life expectancy in the ROI is 80.8 yrs for males and 84.4% for females, this is quiet high by international standards. Poverty rate is 13.1%, low by European standards in particular. The Health System is a two tier system, both publicly & privately funded. Lower income families get cost free access. Irish people constantly complain about their health service notwithstanding it has very high positive results by international standards.

Education is highly prized in the ROI. Irish people are the most highly educated in Europe & 5th highest in the world. Tertiary education levels are outlined below, with nearly half of Irish adults educated to degree standard. Education in Ireland is heavily subsidised by the government.

Like most first world countries ,the ROI shares issues familiar to many visitors. Housing is a major issue. The price of property is very high, primarily because of demand by people with good incomes. Immigration has become an issue for some, circa 20% of the population is foreign born which is an issue for some. To be honest, service industries in the ROI would collapse without this inflow of foreign born workers.

Northern Ireland would compare unfavourably in the areas of income, education, health etc compared to the ROI. NI would not have anything near the employment opportunities available south of the border. 

Visitors are encouraged to examine the structure of modern (ROI)  Ireland, one of the richest small countries in the world. Notwithstanding this positive development the country has managed to retain and develop its heritage with many excellent sites to visit.