Brief History -The Irish State
The Irish Constitution provides that the name of the State is Éire or in the English language, Ireland.
The geographical island of Ireland consists of the sovereign independent state of Ireland comprising 26 counties, and the six counties of Northern Ireland to the north-east of the island, which are governed by a power-sharing Executive and Assembly as established under the Good Friday Agreement.
Article 8 of the Irish Constitution makes the following affirmation:
1. The Irish language, as the national language, is the first official language.
2. The English language is recognised as a second official language.
The national flag is a tricolour of green, white and orange.
The harp has been regarded as the official symbol or coat of arms of Ireland since medieval times. The heraldic harp is used by the Government, its agencies and its representatives at home and abroad. It is engraved on the seal matrix of the Office of the President as well as on the Irish euro coins.
Saint Patrick’s Day, 17 March, is the National Day. Tradition holds that the use of the shamrock by Saint Patrick when preaching in Ireland led to its adoption as an Irish symbol.
Online: St Patrick’s Day Festival (www.stpatricksday.ie)
Ireland is a parliamentary democracy. Its law is based on Common Law and legislation enacted by the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) under the Constitution. In addition, regulations and directives enacted by the European Union have the force of law in Ireland.
The Constitution of Ireland sets out the form of government and defines the powers and functions of the President, both Houses of the Oireachtas and the Government. It also defines the structures and the powers of the Courts and outlines the fundamental rights of citizens. The definition of rights covers five broad headings: Personal Rights, The Family, Education, Private Property and Religion.
The President is the Head of State, and is elected by direct vote.
There are sixteen Government Departments, each headed by a Minister. The Ministers collectively form the Government. Executive power is exercised by or on the authority of the Government, which is responsible to the Dáil (House of Representatives). The Head of the Government is the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) while the Tánaiste is the Deputy Prime Minister.
There are two Houses of Parliament, known as Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives) and Seanad Éireann (Senate). The Dáil has 166 members known as Teachtaí Dála (TD). They are elected on a system of proportional representation by universal suffrage. Elections take place at least once every five years. After the 2011 general election, the main political parties represented in the Dáil were Fine Gael, the Labour Party, Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin
The Seanad has 60 members, eleven of whom are nominated by the Taoiseach while the rest are elected from a number of vocational panels and by graduates of universities. The Seanad may initiate or revise legislation (except Finance Bills), but the Dáil has the power to reject any such amendments or proposed legislation.
Government of Ireland (www.irlgov.ie)
President of Ireland (www.president.ie)
Fine Gael (www.finegael.ie)
Fianna Fáil (www.fiannafail.ie)
Sinn Féin (www.sinnfein.ie)
Irish Government News Service (www.merrionstreet.ie)
The local government system is administered by 31 local authorities and is undergoing a process of renewal and reform, with a view to significantly reducing the number of local authorities.
The services provided by the local authorities include: housing and building, road transport and safety, water supply and sewerage, development incentives and controls, environmental protection and waste management, recreation and amenity, education, health, welfare and miscellaneous services.
Local government is funded partly by central government and partly by local sources of revenue.
Online: Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government (www.environ.ie)
Irish law is based on Common Law as modified by subsequent legislation and by the Constitution of 1937. In accordance with the Constitution, justice is administered in public by courts established by law. The President appoints judges on the advice of the Government.
Department of Justice and Equality (www.justice.ie)
The Courts Service of Ireland (www.courts.ie)
Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (www.dppireland.ie)
Office of the Attorney General (www.attorneygeneral.ie)
The national police force (An Garda Síochána) was established in 1922. The general direction, management and control of the service is, subject to regulations made by the Minister for Justice and Equality, vested in a Commissioner appointed by the Government.
An Garda Síochána is unarmed with the exception of some specialized units. Since 1989, An Garda Síochána has served in numerous United Nations (UN) missions around the world. They have also served under the EU flag, most recently in Kosovo and Afghanistan, and have provided monitors for the South African and Palestinian elections.
The Permanent Defence Forces, which include the regular Army, Naval Service and Air Corps, operate under the auspices of the Department of Defence. The Department is also responsible for the general planning, organisation and coordination of civil defence measures. Recruitment is voluntary. The Defence Forces have extensive peacekeeping experience and have served under UN mandate in UN, EU and NATO led peace support operations all over the world since 1958. Most recently, the Defence Forces have served with distinction in Liberia (where they took on the task of providing the Quick Reaction Force for UNMIL), Chad (where the overall command of the Mission rested with the Irish Lieutenant General Pat Nash) and Lebanon (where over 350 Irish are currently serving with UNIFIL).
Department of Justice and Equality (www.justice.ie)
Garda Síochána ( Irish Police) (www.garda.ie)
Garda Ombudsman (www.gardaombudsman.ie)
Department of Defence (www.defence.ie)
Irish Defence Forces (www.military.ie)
The latest census in Ireland was carried out in April 2011 and the total population is just over 4.5 million, the highest on record since 1861. The population has increased rapidly in recent years, with an increase of 1 million people in just 20 years. Ireland now has the highest fertility rate in the European Union, with an average of 2.05 children per woman. Immigration has also been an important feature of Ireland’s demographic profile in recent years, with 17% of the population born outside Ireland. The largest immigrant communities in Ireland are from Poland, the UK, Lithuania, Latvia and Nigeria. In recent years there have been higher levels of emigration from Ireland – 87,000 people emigrated between April 2011 and April 2012 – after more than a decade of net immigration.