1. The beginnings of Eire.

Ireland means "land of Eire" (ร‰riu in Old Irish), the Earth Goddess of Celtic culture. Ireland's history has always been troubled. From wars and past famines to recent economic crises. And if this were not enough, its territory has been since ancient times a place of conquest of external populations, perhaps due to the value of its natural resources, especially timber, which unfortunately are already scarce today although its landscape of green meadows and mountains is so photographed and so visited today, no longer by conquerors but by travelers.

The earliest settlers in Ireland, known as Emerald Isle for the green color of its landscapes, were the Celtic peoples. There were several waves of Celtic invaders coming from various parts of central and southern Europe. Some Irish historians affirm that one of those first waves came from the North of the Iberian Peninsula, specifically from Galicia (Celtic Galaicos), a region with which it keeps traits of Celtic culture and linguistic origins. At the same time, the Celts of Ireland colonized the lands of Great Britain and later took refuge in the mountainous areas of Scotland and Wales after the arrival of the Romans. In all these territories a language called Gaelic is spoken, with three different varieties.

During the rule of the Roman Empire, the island was called Hibernia, but unlike in other countries, in Ireland the Roman name did not end up being adopted, not even Latin. Perhaps because the Romans did not have such tight control as in other territories and because Hibernia is a remote and inhospitable land with a climate adverse to the Mediterranean characteristics of Roman society. Later, the Irish also welcomed Norman visitors, who ended up settling in over half the country.

But in Ireland the presence of Saint Patrick had a great relevance, who expanded Christianity on the island, creating the foundations of a strongly Catholic society. Thus, when Ireland became part of England, with a Protestant majority, there was a continuous confrontation over religious differences and with the Protestant part of Northern Ireland, where English colonists had arrived. Finally, after the War of Independence between 1919 and 1921, Ireland was formed as a State, while the north of the island, the so-called Ulster, continued to be part of the United Kingdom.

Cliffs of Moher - Ireland
Cliffs of Moher

2. A complicated emancipation.

Ireland gained independence in 1922. Years earlier, during the 1840s, the country suffered a severe famine caused by the potato crisis, which left many people without food. This crisis caused in Ireland a before and after in society because the country was depopulated and its emigration was so great that it reached the United States of America or Australia. A strong Irish nationalist sentiment then emerged, within and outside its borders, contrary to union with Britain, increased in the turbulent times of World War I and led to the Irish War of Independence, one year after the end of the previous.

But the situation in Ireland after its independence was very difficult. It was a small state whose resources had been depleted, deforested and depopulated, poor, rural and with little industry. It was also a difficult time after the war, with which he had to resort to economic protectionism for several years. Already in the second half of the 20th century with the gradual arrival of globalization after the Second World War (in which Ireland did not participate), and its entry into the European Union in 1973, the country's economy began to open up and increased presence of multinationals and foreign companies, mostly American.

This new context improved the Irish economy, although the old local businesses took time to adapt and many were forced to close due to not being able to compete, and the emigration of qualified professionals in the 80s was still common. Furthermore, the situation was still very present in Ulster for political conflicts between Protestants and Catholics, with terrorist attacks and arrests in the 1970s and a hunger strike in 1981.

Important groups of "rebellious folk music" emerged at that time in Dublin, and other more commercial ones like U2 or The Cramberries that also had songs where they spoke of social situations, also based on traditional Irish music that was so successful abroad.

Already in the 90s, it was decided to curb public spending, favor companies with less taxes and attract entrepreneurship to educated Irish people. Thus, companies emerged in the pharmaceutical, chemical and technological sectors. They were the years of the birth of the Celtic Tiger, which was already beginning to have an important brand in the world.

On the other hand, the tension in Northern Ireland was decreasing, with periods of peace, although it is something that is still present today. In addition, it will be necessary to see how the situation evolves after the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union and how the border between the two Ireland is managed.

Kylemore Abbey

3. The international presence of the Celtic Tiger.

Ireland, starting in the 2000s, carried out an exemplary territorial marketing strategy, which put the country on the map. It took advantage of the best of its geographical and cultural characteristics to attract tourists and thus make this small European country known throughout the world for its landscape and for its Celtic culture, mainly for its music. Today there are many music groups made up of young people and a lot of group culture in the bars and on the streets of Dublin. 

Ireland today is known around the world for St. Patrick's Day ... and its beer. And it is a party that is celebrated around the world.

But in 2009, the country went into crisis again and needed an economic rescue from the European Union. It was thought that years would pass again until a new economic recovery, but its fiscal policies were successful and employment was not destroyed, unlike in other parts of the south of the continent. Since then, Ireland presents enviable economic figures and is one of the richest countries in Europe.

An economic advantage for Ireland is English, which keeps it economically connected to the United States. Many companies in that country, especially linked to the new technology sector, have their European headquarters in Ireland, also thanks to their tax benefits. Furthermore, Ireland has linked its tourism potential with learning English. While many Irish people migrated to other countries in the 1980s and 90s to earn a living by teaching English, now in addition to this, the courses offered in Ireland for foreigners make this country a destination for students from all over Europe.

The downside to this is the neglect of Ireland's own language, Irish Gaelic. This language was spoken in almost all of Ireland in the early 19th century. In the 20th century it was only spoken in the most rural areas of the west coast of the island, and today it is hardly spoken in some mountain areas. Curiously after the independence of Ireland and as it opened up to globalization, English took center stage and Gaelic is today an endangered language that needs financial aid so that it is not permanently lost. Currently there are only a few small regions where Irish Gaelic is majority and has a language policy, these are the so-called Gaeltacht areas.

                                                                     Gaeltacht areas

But not all are advantages in Ireland. Despite the fact that the population's salaries are high, healthcare, house prices and rents are expensive and social spending by the government is low. Ireland is one of the countries that dedicates the least percentage of its GDP to the welfare state.

The example of all this is Dublin, an apparently simple city where there are no great works, not even a modern city is seen like other Europeans, neither in its buildings nor in its means of transport. It looks like a city anchored in the 90s. And outside of Dublin, the feeling is the same. The country is sparsely populated, there are hardly any middle towns, and the Irish landscape is based primarily on grassland and sheep farming.

In addition to the enhancement of its landscape, it is also necessary to enhance the cultural heritage of Ireland such as its castles or hillforts. But Ireland has a great challenge for the future, to modernize its agricultural sector as, for example, it has been done in the Netherlands. In fact, land is available here.

4. A joyous life in the sad Dublin weather.

Almost the entire population of Ireland is concentrated in Dublin, and it is not too dense a city. This makes it quiet and cozy but also dynamic thanks to tourism and English learners from all over the world who spend times in their hostels.

The climate influences the customs of Dubliners. One can arrive in spring and find the typical cloudy day with showers, even with some cold that invites you to spend time in its bars. In spite of everything, the love for Irish music does not prevent us from strolling through its streets when we suddenly meet a young girl singing like angels and playing an acoustic guitar. But without hardly having an audience, since the weather does not help and singing and playing in the middle of the street even if it rains is so common that it does not draw too much attention to people, who do not stop too much to listen to it. Only curious tourists. And it is that many young groups start on the street and then are hired to play in the multiple bars of the Temple Bar area, the most famous and extraordinary in Dublin.

Although the weather is bad, the Irish have a good time in the pubs, full from 8 pm when it is already night, and with many foreign tourists and students in the Temple Bar area. No matter the day of the week and of the year that is. The musical culture is very alive, the Irish carry folk in their blood ... a guitar, a violin, an accordion ... duets in every pub on any given day of the week create an amazing atmosphere. It is the only point of heat in a cold city.

Walking through its streets and observing its civil and religious buildings, one imagines the great crises that the country had, the famines and the waves of emigrants. The fabulous Emigration Museum, located in a modern building on the banks of the Lifley (the river that runs through the city from west to east), is well worth a visit.

Temple_Bar Dublin Ireland
The Temple Bar (Dublin) 

Knowing the history of Ireland is exciting, just like knowing the recent and current economic processes, and also its physical and human geography. It is a country that undoubtedly surprises us and leaves its mark on us. It is small, independent, isolated but with a universal language. Without big cities and with humble appearance but with economic wealth. A beautiful but inhospitable landscape. With a festive but at the same time melancholic atmosphere. A prosperous and developed country but with sensations of difficult times past.

5. Recommended filmography. 

The wind that shakes the barley. It tells the story of two brothers who are fighting in the Irish guerrilla against British troops.

Bloody Sunday. It portrays the fateful episode known as "Bloody Sunday", in which British troops opened fire on Irish protesters.

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