The Republic of Ireland was formally created in 1949, but the state had effectively become independent from the UK in 1922. It joined the EU in 1973.
Ireland’s population is 4.6 million.
During the ‘Great Famine’ of the late 1840s, one million Irish died and 1.5 million emigrated, setting a pattern of emigration and population decline that would last for over a century.
For a decade until the 2008 global financial crisis, Ireland was known as the ‘Celtic Tiger’ for its rapid economic growth, but it was one of three countries to require a bailout from the EU/IMF in wake of the recession.
The presence of many multinational companies makes it a leading global exporter of pharmaceuticals, medical devices and software.
Irish cuisine is traditionally based on meat, potatoes and dairy products, with shellfish becoming increasingly popular as a result of the high quality produce available round its coast. Guinness, a stout beer, is drunk around the world.