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Thursday, October 30, 1997 Published at 22:30 GMT

World: Europe

It's all peat bogs and Guinness isn't it ?


Area: 70,282 sq km

Population: (1996) 3.62 million, with 41% under the age of 25.

Inflation: (1996) 1.6%.

Gross Domestic Product: (1996) IR£42 billion ($61.74 billion) GDP Per Capita: (1996) IR£11,628 ($17,093)

Exports: (1996) IR£30 billion ($44.1 billion).

Imports: (1996) IR£22.4 billion ($32.9 billion).

Capital: Dublin (1,024,429)

Language: Irish (Gaelic), English

Religion: (none official) 95% Roman Catholic, 5% other


Ireland is mainly an agricultural country but the industrial sector is developing - the most important sectors being food, drink and tobacco, textiles, engineering and tourism.

In the last decade, Ireland has succeeded in attracting significant foreign investment, especially from America, the Far East and Europe, which helped to bring down the unemployment rate and has also dramatically reduced the number of young Irish people emigrating.

In the last three years the Irish economy has grown at an average of more than seven per cent a year and The Economist magazine described it as running at "East Asian pace".

Today's Ireland is a bustling, high-tech, business-friendly country.

Real GDP growth of the `Celtic Tiger' economy has remained well above average EU growth rate through the 1990s and is expected to continue to do so for the medium term.

The Irish economy has transformed itself in30 years from an agricultural society, where only 22% of exports were manufactured goods, to a technologically based economy with manufactured goods now accounting for 71% of exports.

[ image: University College Dublin]
University College Dublin
Ireland is, for example, the second largest exporter of computer software in the world, after the United States.

Its biggest companies include brewers Beamish & Crawford and James Murphy & Co (both Cork-based) and Guinness (soon to be part of the giant GMG Brands conglomerate), paper and packaging giants Jefferson Smurfit, the Allied Irish Bank and building merchants CRH (owners of the Keyline chain in Britain).

Ireland benefits from good links with other countries - business people can get to London by plane in just over an hour, to Berlin in three hours and New York in around five hours.


The last 10 years have seen Ireland becoming one of the `hippest' places to live in and dozens of Hollywood film stars - including Kevin Costner, Tom Cruise and John Hurt - have bought homes there with West Cork becoming one of the most popular areas.

Many have Irish ancestors but others have come to the Emerald Isle to see the beautiful scenery, soak up the history and sample the famous Irish hospitality.

Ireland's cultural roots go deep - back to the medieval Book of Kells and beyond to the oral legends of Prince Cuchulain - and the country has spawned some of the biggest names in literary history, John Butler Yeats, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, George Bernard Shaw.

In modern times Ireland has made film-makers welcome both socially and financially, with special government tax breaks.

Legendary film director John Huston kicked off this celluloid decade when he made James Joyce's The Dead in 1987.

[ image: Guinness...great Irish export]
Guinness...great Irish export
American and British directors have flocked to Ireland but it can also boast a tremendous, indigenous wellspring of talent with directors like Jim Sheridan and Neil Jordan winning Oscars for films such as My Left Foot and The Crying Game.

Since the 1960s, traditional Irish music has grown in popularity, both in Ireland and abroad, through groups as diverse as The Dubliners, Clannad and The Chieftains who have put traditional music into a modern context.

Another example of this phenomenon in Irish culture is the international hit show 'Riverdance', which brings together the best of Irish song, dance and music.

Ireland also has an international reputation for other musical styles, with artists like Van Morrisson, U2, Sinéad O' Connor and The Cranberries.

New acts such as Therapy, Ash and The Corrs are now hitting the world stage.


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