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  • Geography and Climate
    Situated on the western part of Europe, and next to the United Kingdom, Ireland is a small independent country 486 kilometres long and 275 kilometres wide. It boasts some of the most spectacular and unspoiled scenery in the world, ranging from rugged coastline, low rolling hills and lakes in the interior, to mountain ranges in the South.

    Dublin is the capital city of Ireland, and one third of the population live in the greater Dublin area. Dublin is a classic example of mixing the old with the new. This is displayed by the Georgian Squares and rows of 19th century buildings located within a completely modern city with a thriving economy and a high standard of living. The cities of Kilkenny and Waterford are located in the southeast of Ireland and to the west lie the cities of Cork and Killarney. Limerick is situated on the river Shannon and is the third city in Ireland.

    The city of Galway lies on the west coast and is a thriving city with numerous shops, pubs and restaurants. To the north is Connemara, an idyllic area with villages amid mountains, valleys and lakes. These form the main cities in Ireland.

    Ireland has a temperate climate. During the winter months, temperatures rarely drop below freezing and snow is rare. The coldest months are January and February, which have temperatures between 4C and 7C while July and August are the warmest months, with average temperatures between 14C and 16C. The climate is ideal for outdoor activities, and golf, horse riding and sailing are popular.

    The Government
    Ireland is a parliamentary democracy. The national parliament consists of the President and two Houses: a House of Representatives (in the Irish language is called Dail) and a Senate (called Seanad). The functions and powers of the president and two Houses derive from the Constitution of Ireland.

    The President is Head of State and does not have executive functions. The President normally acts on the advice and authority of the Government, led by the Prime Minister (Taoisheach), Mr Bertie Ahern TD.

    The Economy
    Ireland has been a member of the European Union since 1973 and in the past 20 years has transformed its economy from an agricultural base to a technical base and Ireland is now the largest exporter of software in the world. It is a totally modern economy with very well developed manufacturing and international service sectors and has, for many years, had the highest economic growth in the European Union - earning Ireland the title of "Celtic Tiger". While the economy is based on high-tech industry, Ireland is still one of the most unpolluted countries in Europe and attracts tourists from all over the world.

    Money and Banking
    The unit of currency is the Euro. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 10.00 am to 4.00 pm. In major cities they stay open all day. Ireland has a thoroughly modern financial system. International credit cards are widely used and banking is simple and convenient.

    Ireland is the only English speaking country in the eurozone. The eurozone comprises the 12 member states of the EU that have adopted a single currency - the euro - in place of their national currencies. The euro was launched on 1st January 1999 with a fixed exchange rate to the various national currencies. Euro notes and coins were put in circulation on 1st January 2002

    History and Culture
    The Irish are Celtic people, descended from the first inhabitants of Europe, and their history can be traced back over 5,000 years through relics, monuments and tombs built by their ancestors. It is a country rich in tradition and culture and is unique in Europe, famous worldwide for the friendliness and hospitality of its people. Ireland is English speaking and has a rich cultural heritage, which has retained its own distinctive language (Gaeilge), music, literature and sports. In recent years it continues to produce world-famous writers, artists and musicians. Renowned Irish writers include Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, William Yeats, George Bernard Shaw. Seamus Heaney is Ireland's recent Nobel Prize winner for literature and the music of U2, Enya, the Corrs and Boyzone is famous throughout the world.

    "Riverdance" and "Lord of the Dance", two spectacular musical shows celebrating Irish dancing and music, continue to draw large audiences in the EU, the US and Asia. There is still a strong religious tradition in Ireland. While the majority of the population is Roman Catholic, many other religious traditions are represented and respected

    Things to do and places to go
    The National Museum, The National Gallery, Trinity College, the Royal Irish Academy and the National Library hold many treasures of literature, art, scholarship and learning.
    Experience the riches of Ireland's past on display in the exhibitions of Bronze Age gold and Celtic masterpieces in the National Museum. The National Gallery and the Municipal Art Gallery in Dublin have extensive collections of great quality. The Chester Beatty Library, which recently moved to Dublin Castle was a gift to the State by an American scholar and has some of the rarest oriental manuscripts in existence. Russborough, Co. Wicklow, a beautiful mansion open to the public, has an excellent collection of paintings.

    The ancient songs and melodies of Ireland have been passed down from generation to generation and are a living art form. A visit to a traditional music festival, called a Fleadh, will demonstrate the vitality of this music. For the classical music lover, the National Concert Hall and the Royal Dublin Society offer a full range of recitals and concerts, featuring the best Irish and International talent. The Festival of Music in Great Irish Houses features international stars performing in the beautiful mansions of Ireland every June.

    Many towns and cities have lunchtime theatre, open-air concerts and band recitals in the summertime. The National Centre for Music, song and dance (Bru Boru) in Cashel, Co.Tipperary is also worth a visit.

    The English language owes a lot to Irish writers over the centuries, from Joyce to O'Casey and Swift to Shaw. Admission to theatres varies from IR£8 to IR£16 and reductions are often available to students.

    For the best of Irish theatre, choose between the Abbey, Gaiety, Olympia and Gate theatres, to name but a few. One of the theatrical highlights is the Dublin Theatre Festival in October. Cork has several good theatres including the Everyman and Galway has the highly acclaimed Irish Theatre Companies at the Taibhdhearc and Druid Theatres.

    Houses, Gardens and Parks
    Many of the great houses, castles and gardens of Ireland are open to visitors. Dublin contains many fine buildings. Malahide Castle to the North of Dublin and the Royal Hospital at Kilmainham are just two examples. Such castles and houses are all around the country and vary in size and splendour. Beautiful gardens or forest parks surround many of these properties. Ireland has five internationally recognised National Parks. Killarney National Park is perhaps the best known of these. Connemara National Park; Glenveagh in Churchill, Co Donegal; The Burren, Co. Clare and Wicklow Mountains National Park are the others, and are all worth a visit to experience the stunning scenery of the Irish countryside.

    Gaelic Games
    Gaelic Football and Hurling are the national sports. Gaelic Football is a field game with speed and thrills differing quite a lot from British Football. Hurling is a traditional field sport of good skill, considered the fastest field game in the world. The biggest sporting events in the country are the All Ireland Football and Hurling Finals, held in September, which generate a lot of excitement.

    A Golfer's Paradise
    The Irish love playing golf. There are approximately 400 links and parkland courses throughout Ireland. In Ireland a game of golf is to be enjoyed at your leisure, in spectacular scenery. Many courses are exceptional and have been favourably compared to the best in the world. Green fees are usually between €10 and €40 but can be as much as €100+ for the top championship courses. Tuition will cost about €15per hour.

    This word has a particular meaning in Ireland. It means an evening of music and song and the pub is usually the place where it starts. Someone produces a guitar, next, a bodhran (the traditional drum) appears and soon everyone in the room is singing along. The songs and the fun are determined by audience participation.

    The social hub of Irish life is the pub. The pub is where conversation is at its best. Here business deals are done, family matters discussed, romances conducted and visitors entertained with wit and song. The pub is a people watcher's paradise and it's not necessary to drink alcohol to enjoy the lively atmosphere. Pub lunches are an economical and pleasant way to enjoy a meal. Most pubs provide soup, sandwiches salads and often a complete lunch for about €6.00

    © 2002 Irish Business Forum of Hong Kong Ltd
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