LIVING IN IRELANDRepublic of IrelandYear of EU entry: 1973Political system: RepublicCapital city: DublinTotal area: 70 000 km²Population: 4.5 millionCurrency: euroOfficial EU languages: English, IrishIRELANDThe Island of Ireland is renowned as one of the most beautiful and fertile Islands on earth. It is the third largest Island in Europe and is situated in the Atlantic Ocean at the North Western edge of Continental Europe. It is surrounded by hundreds of smaller Islands and Islets, some of which are inhabited such as the Aran Islands off the West coast. Ireland is also known as the Emerald Isle because of its lush vegetation and green grass. It’s geographical position to the Gulf Stream which brings in warm waters from the South Atlantic gives Ireland a mild but changeable oceanic climate thus avoiding extremes in temperature and weather.Up until the 17th Century Ireland was covered by Thick woodlands which have all but vanished today leaving Ireland as the most deforested Country in Europe. The Midlands of Ireland are mostly Agricultural lowlands which are broken in places by low hills and considerable areas of bogs and lakes. Out to the West the coastal mountains rise to not more than a 1000 m giving Ireland an impressive landscape.The Republic of Ireland or Éire as it is officially known joined the European Union in 1973. Since then, Ireland has transformed itself from an agricultural society into a modern, technologically advanced member of the European Union. Although Ireland’s economy experienced a period of unprecedented growth during the Celtic Tiger period becoming one of the richest countries in the world in relation to GDP, it has subsequently fallen into hard times due to mismanagement of funds and assets by unscrupulous bankers, property developers and the Political Elite. Ireland has experienced the fabled Boom and Bust economy.Nearly a third of the population of Ireland live in the Capital City of Dublin. This is also where Parliament sits. The Government of Ireland known as The Dáil is composed of 166 members while the Seanad (Senate), or upper house, has 60 members. Parliamentary elections are held every five years. Being a Republic, Ireland has a President who performs the role as Head of State and head of the Defense Forces. The President who is known as Uachtarán na hÉireann is elected for a seven-year period. The Role and duties of the President are mainly ceremonial.Ireland has four Provinces; Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connaght with a total of 36 Counties. The Island of Ireland is partitioned by an International border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is a part of the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland is comprised of six out of nine counties of the Province of Ulster.LANGUAGEThe official Language of Ireland is Irish and English but the main language predominantly spoken would be English although in some parts of the country known as the Gaeltacht, Irish or Gaelic as it is known is still in use. It enjoys constitutional status as the national and first official language of the Republic of Ireland, and it is an official language of the European Union. Within this Gaeltacht area approximately 75% of the population speak Irish. In recent years though, due to immigration, there has been an increase in the amount of ethnic languages being spoken throughout the Island of Ireland. The Polish language is one of the most widely spoken languages in Ireland after English and Irish. Other languages spoken in Ireland include Shelta or Cant which is spoken by the Irish Traveler population and a dialect of Scots spoken by the descendants of Scottish settlers in Ulster.FOODSimple meat dishes and boiled vegetables such as the potato, carrot, turnip and parsnip form the principal ingredients of traditional Irish cooking. The staple diet of the Irish is traditionally potatoes, vegetables, grains and dairy products. Irish stew is recognized as the national dish with its main ingredient being Potatoes. A typical Irish dinner consists of potatoes, cabbage, and meat, normally Corned Beef. Potatoes still appear in most Irish meals and a very common meal made from frying Potatoes would be chips usually served accompanied by salt and vinegar. Soups, seafood’s and various meats are also very important in Irish Cuisine. The most common meats are beef, lamb, pork and poultry but game and foul are also very popular traditionally.A very hearty first meal of the day is known as The Full Irish Breakfast which differs dramatically from the Continental breakfast of Europe. Since Ireland is surrounded by the sea, the Irish enjoy many types of seafood, including salmon, scallops, lobster, mussels, and oysters. Bread is an important part of Irish culture. Fresh soda bread is also a national dish of Ireland. The most common beverage in Ireland is by far tea but in modern times coffee is also nationally popular. Ireland is also world-famous for its alcoholic beverages which include whiskey, beer, and ale, in fact Ireland invented Whiskey at the world-famous Bushmills Distillery. Well known throughout the world are brands such as Guinness, Jameson, Hennessy and Bailey’s Coffee mixed with whiskey and cream is known throughout the world as an “Irish coffee.” And also Guinness and Oysters are considered a delicacy.HOUSINGOne main characteristic between housing in Ireland and housing in most other countries is the high level of private ownership. Culturally the Irish like to own their own property and occupy their own house. In general people in Ireland live in houses compared to living in apartments like most other European countries but in recent years this is rapidly changing with the price of properties increasing dramatically. There is also the provision of social housing which is the responsibility of local authorities and the Government and much of the population avail of social housing.AVERAGE EARNINGSThe average earning of the people of Ireland has dropped in the last few years due to the current economic downturn. According to the New CSO (Central Statistics Office) survey on Earnings Hours and Employment Costs (EHECS) covering all sectors of the economy other than Agriculture, forestry and fishing introduced from the first quarter 2008 to the third quarter 2010, the number of workers in Ireland has dropped from 1, 767,300 to 1,544,900. This has also resulted in a drop in the average salary during the same period from 704.28 to 685.10 a week. These figures are based on the average hourly rate of pay of 21.47 per hour over a 32 hour weekly period.UNEMPLOYMENT ENTITLEMENTSJob-seeker’s Benefit is a weekly payment from the Department of Social Protection (DSP) to people who are out of work and covered by pay related social insurance (PRSI). As of 2013 the Job-seeker’s Benefit for the unemployed stands at a personal payment of 188 Euro a week. This is the basic rate of Unemployment Benefit for a single person living in Ireland. If a person is receiving job-seeker’s benefit in Ireland they may also qualify for other benefits which include, Mortgage Interest Supplement or Rent Supplement. Smokeless Fuel Allowance. Back to School clothing and Footwear and a School Book Scheme and a Medical Card.FILMWhen it comes to Film making and acting, Ireland has punched way above it’s weight in the world of movies. Ireland has produced some of the worlds A-list Celebrities of stage and screen. Some notable actors and their movies have been, Peter O’Toole (Lawrence of Arabia), Stephen Boyd (Masala in Ben Hur), Richard Harris (Camelot, Gladiator), Maureen O’Hara (The Quiet Man), Gabriel Byrne (The Usual Suspects), Pierce Brosnan (James Bond), Liam Neesan (Starwars, Michael Collins), Colm Meany (Star trek), Collin Farrell (Alexander, Phone Booth) and many, many more. Some Notable Irish Directors are Neil Jordan (Michael Collins, The Crying Game) and Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In the Name of the Father)MUSICWhen it comes to music Ireland is possibly the greatest exporter of Music Tradition in the world. From Traditional to Celtic to Folk, Rock and Pop music, Ireland has been at the forefront of musical talent on a Global scale. The people of Ireland have always been associated with a love of music and dance and Ireland is home to internationally known rock bands, traditional groups and singers such as U2, Thin Lizzy, The Boomtown Rats, Clannad, Enya, The Chieftains, The Cranberries, The Corrs, The Pogues, Aslan, Rory Gallagher, Van Morrison and Sinéad O’Connor When it comes to the Eurovision Song Contest the country with the highest number of wins is Ireland, with seven winning songs. The only person to win a Eurovision Title more than once as a performer is Ireland’s Johnny Logan. (“What’s Another Year” in 1980 and “Hold Me Now” in 1987.) Logan is also one of only five songwriters to have written more than one winning entry. This unique distinction makes Irish man Johnny Logan the only person to notch up three Eurovision victories as either a singer, songwriter or both. In more recent times Ireland has produced a lot of popular music groups such as Westlife, Boyzone, The Script, Snow Patrol, The Coronas, Bel X1, Glen Hansard to name just a few. With the success of Riverdance Irish music and dance has been exported and accepted all over the world making Irish Music world-famous.LITERATUREIreland has had a long history in the use of the written word. The Irish language itself is the oldest written language in Europe after Latin and Greek and in modern times Ireland has proven to be most prolific when it comes to writing. For Ireland’s size it has made a disproportionately large contribution to World Literature.Often referred to as the land of saints and scholars, the country is the birthplace of many famous English-language writers, such as Johnathan Swift, Bram Stoker, William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and Sheamus Heany. Dublin is also the only City in the world to have four Nobel Literary Prize Winners with Yeats, Shaw, Becket and Heany receiving these Honours.