One of the things I always like to do before traveling is to find out a bit about the place I'm going! It puts my travels in context. The C.I.A. Factbook provides great, basic information about the world, so that's where I checked first!
A little geography: The island of Ireland is about the size of the U.S. state of West Virginia, although Ireland's population is much larger at 4,722,028. The Republic of Ireland makes up about 5/6 of the country, with Northern Ireland making up the remaining 1/6. When one thinks of Ireland, green is the color that comes to mind and with good reason. This satellite photo from Wikipedia shows why!
Ireland became independent from the U.K. in 1921 by treaty.
The chief of state of the Republic is President Michael D. Higgins and the head of government is Enda Kenny. I knew that Ireland was a republic or parliamentary democracy with a bicameral Parliament(Oireachtas), but I didn't realize how the Senate(Senad Erieann) was chosen and I found it very interesting. Ther are 60 seats in the Senate with graduates of the University of Dublin and the National University of Ireland having 3 seats each. Eleven members are nominated by the prime minister and the remainder of the candidates are from five vocational panels. The lower house (Dail Eireann) is elected by popular vote and there are 166 seats. I want to find out a bit more about how the compilation of the Senate came about. I am also interested to see how the U.S. presidential election will be covered in the Irish newspapers, since the election will be held soon after our visit!
In terms of religion, over 90% of the population of the Republic is Catholic. Of course, religion has played a huge role in the history of this country and island and we'll be blogging more about that.
Ireland also has two languages: Irish or Irish Gaelic and English. Most of the speakers of Irish are located along the west coast, although Irish is taught in school.
One of the statistics, which I found most interesting, is that obesity rate in Ireland is 13% compared to 35.7% in the U.S.!
The capital of Ireland is Dublin and we will be spending most of our time in this beautiful city. I have been to Dublin before for a short visit and look forward to getting to explore it more fully. Some concise histories of Dublin can be found at: http://www.dublinuncovered.net/history.html and http://www.inyourpocket.com/ireland/dublin/Dublin-A-Short-History_70271f