Research Paper: Ireland Is an Island

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[. . .] Neither was real…For a sparsely populated island of 4.5 million people boasting few natural resources, Ireland has for generations enjoyed an unusually high global profile….Either way, Ireland got more attention than it might reasonably have deserved. (2010, pp 210-2).

Lynch's sober assessment is agreed upon by most other analysts.


The EPA in its 2007-9 report on Ireland found that "measures need to be implemented in order for the water quality in Ireland's rivers to meet European targets," noting that 30% of the nation's rivers are polluted. But overall the EPA found the Ireland has a "generally good environmental quality," most likely due to the late advent of industrialization on the island ("New Measures Needed to Improve Water Quality in Ireland," 2011).

Ireland ratified the Kyoto protocol in December of 1997 and Environment Minister Dick Roche in 2006 notes that Ireland's emissions had peaked in 2001 and were declining to meet Kyoto standards, with 2004 emissions per unit GDP standing at less than half of what they had been in 1990 ("Ireland's Pathway to Kyoto Compliance," 2006, p. 3-7).


The CIA gives Ireland's population as approximately 4.6 million persons at present, and records an extremely sluggish population growth of 1.003%. The decline in Irish population growth is a marvel, considering the effect that Catholicism and the outlawing of contraception historically had on high birth rates in the country. The current low growth rate appears due to the cultural shift away from Catholicism noted earlier. Most commentators on Ireland link the previously high birthrate, and the present decline, to a series of socially conservative but unpopular measures imposed by both church and state on the Irish population. Lynch notes that in the late 1940s the archbishop of Dublin "barred the sale of vaginal tampons, fearing their implication for Irish virgins" (2010, p19). A 1982 plebiscite to determine whether to lift the ban on divorce in Ireland was defeated when "63% of voters reaffirmed the divorce prohibition" (Lynch 2010 p25). Toibin notes the statistics that reflect these changing social mores:

IN 1970 there were seven marriages per 1000 people: in 1994 this had fallen to 4.4. In 1970 there were twenty-one births per thousand people; by 1993, it had gone down to 13.9….The Church has lost the war against contraception and dicorce, and won the battle, at least for the moment, against abortion. But it still works its authority when it can. (Toibin 2001 p 257)


Organized political resistance to the British presence in Ireland began in the 19th century and was pursued by parliamentary means by the Irish statesman Charles Stewart Parnell, although Parnell's campaign for Home Rule proved unsuccessful in 1890 and Parnell died in disgrace the following year. A new generation of Irish nationalists would eventually launch an open insurrection against the British with the "Easter Rebellion" of 1916: five years of guerilla warfare followed, leading to the establishment of the Irish Free State in late 1921. This did not end civil war in Ireland: the four northernmost counties of Ireland, known collectively as Ulster, remained part of the U.K. And are a source of contention to this day. Ireland remained neutral during World War II and withdrew from the British Commonwealth -- the loose political affiliation of former British colonies and territories -- in 1949. Terrorist and paramilitary activity continued in Ireland after this, related to the partition and the continued British presence in Northern Ireland: the Irish refer to this period of time as "The Troubles," and they included acts of violence including terrorist bombings that would continue into the 1980s and 1990s with major terrorist atrocities perpetrated at Brighton in England and Omagh in Northern Ireland among many others (McKittrick and McVea, 2002, pp223-4). By 1998, an American-brokered peace agreement between the U.K. And Ireland, known as the Good Friday Agreement, largely ended the violence (McKittrick and McVea, 2002, p. 322).


David J. Lynch's assessment of the Irish financial collapse in his 2010 study When the Luck of the Irish Ran Out sees Irish economic fortunes as fairly bleak. Yet he notes that a large part of the Irish crisis was due to political mismanagement, and that public outrage over this "crony capitalism" is likely to lead to reform (Lynch 2010, p 216). All sources seem to indicate that the relaxation of conservative religious attitudes in Ireland has been a boon, and has probably helped the peace process by de-emphasizing sectarian differences. Lynch notes by way of prediction that

What lies ahead is a more modest future as a modern European country. But first there will be hard times, political donnybrooks, and elevated levels of social discontent. For a quarter century, Ireland has enthusiastically embraced globalization without debating what that embrace actually entailed. As a tiny island on Europe's periphery, Ireland really has no choice but to remain an open economy. But the details fo that opening will need to be haggled over, publicly, uncomfortably and at some length. (Lynch 2010, p212).

But Ireland is also changing demographically as well. Membership in the EU has led to an influx of immigrants from elsewhere within the EU, including Poland (which shares a historical commitment to Roman Catholicism). Longstanding political and religious affiliations became muted during the economic boom, but seem unlikely to return now that the Catholic church is more unpopular than ever.


CIA, World Factbook: Ireland. Accessed 22 February 2011 at:

Thomas, Landon. "Europe Stands By To Steady Ireland." New York Times, 11 November 2010. Accessed 22 February 2011 at:

Ireland Minstry of the Environment, "Ireland's Pathway to Kyoto Compliance," 2006. Accessed 22 February 2011 at:,1289,en.pdf

Irish Tax and Customs Office, "Artists Exemption." Accessed 22 February 2011 at:

Heaney, Seamus. North. London: Faber and Faber, 1977. Print.

"Is Bono Among Record Number of Nobel Peace Prize Nominees?" USA Today, 24 February 2005. Accessed 22 February 2011 at:

Lynch, David J. When the Luck of the Irish Ran Out: The World's Most Resilient Country and its Struggle to Rise Again. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2010. Print.

McKittrick, David and McVea, David. Making Sense of the Troubles: The Story of the Conflict in Northern Ireland. New York: Ivan R. Dee, 2002.

"New Measures Needed to Improve Water Quality in Ireland." Environmental Technology, 25 February 2011. Accessed 22 February 2011 at:

Reville, William. "Ireland's Scientific Heritage." Accessed 22 February 2011 at:

Stapleton, Larry and Lehane, Michael. "Ireland's Envrionment: A Millennium Report." The Irish Scientist, 2000. Accessed 22 February 2011 at:

Toibin, Colm. Love in a Dark Time, and Other Explorations of Gay Lives and Literature.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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APA Format

Ireland Is an Island.  (2011, February 25).  Retrieved June 26, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Ireland Is an Island."  25 February 2011.  Web.  26 June 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Ireland Is an Island."  February 25, 2011.  Accessed June 26, 2019.