An estimated 70 million people world-wide can claim Irish heritage. This article attempts to provide some insight into Ireland’s long and complex history.
The island or Ireland, some 89,000 sq. km (32,000 sq. mi.) is comprised of the Republic of Ireland (Eire) which occupies almost 85% of the total land-mass, and Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom. Within the traditional four ecclesiastical provinces of Ulster (north-east), Leinster (south-eastern Ireland including the ancient kingdom of Meath), Munster (south-west), and Connaught (or Connacht, north-west) there are 32 counties, 26 of which are within the Republic. The partition of the island dates from 1920-22, before which the whole island was under British rule.
The first settlement of Ireland took place sometime around 6000 BC by hunters and fishers along the island’s eastern coast. The Gaels, a Celtic-speaking people from western Europe, found their way to the island sometime between about 600 and 150 BC and subdued the previous inhabitants.