City status in Ireland is decided by legislative or royal charter. Dublin , with over 1 million residents in the Greater Dublin Area , is the largest city on the island. Belfast, with , residents, is the largest city in Northern Ireland. City status does not directly equate with population size. For example, Armagh , with 14, is the seat of the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic Primate of All Ireland and was re-granted city status by Queen Elizabeth II in having lost that status in local government reforms of In the Republic of Ireland, Kilkenny , seat of the Butler dynasty , while no longer a city for administrative purposes since the Local Government Act , is entitled by law to continue to use the description.
The population of Ireland collapsed dramatically during the second half of the 19th century. A population of over 8 million in was reduced to slightly more than 4 million by In part, the fall in population was due to death from the Great Famine of to , which took about 1 million lives. However, by far the greater cause of population decline was the dire economic state of the country which led to an entrenched culture of emigration lasting until the 21st century.
Emigration from Ireland in the 19th century contributed to the populations of England, the United States, Canada and Australia, where a large Irish diaspora lives. As of [update] , 4. The Protestants' ancestors arrived primarily in the colonial era, while Catholics are primarily descended from immigrants of the 19th century.
Irish leaders have been prominent in the Catholic Church in the United States for over years. The Irish have been leaders in the Presbyterian and Methodist traditions, as well. With growing prosperity since the last decade of the 20th century, Ireland became a destination for immigrants. Since the European Union expanded to include Poland in , Polish people have made up the largest number of immigrants over ,  from Central Europe.
There has also been significant immigration from Lithuania , the Czech Republic and Latvia. Up to 50, eastern and central European migrant workers left Ireland in response to the Irish financial crisis. The two official languages of the Republic of Ireland are Irish and English. Each language has produced a noteworthy literature. Irish, though now only the language of a minority, was the vernacular of the Irish people for over two thousand years and was possibly introduced during the Iron Age.
It began to be written down after Christianisation in the 5th century and spread to Scotland and the Isle of Man where it evolved into the Scottish Gaelic and Manx languages respectively.
The Irish language has a vast treasury of written texts from many centuries, and is divided by linguists into Old Irish from the 6th to 10th century, Middle Irish from the 10th to 13th century, Early Modern Irish until the 17th century, and the Modern Irish spoken today. It remained the dominant language of Ireland for most of those periods, having influences from Latin , Old Norse , French and English.
It declined under British rule but remained the majority tongue until the early 19th century, and since then has been a minority language. The Gaelic Revival of the early twentieth century has had a long-term influence. They represent an expanding demographic, with their own schools called Gaelscoileanna and their own social media.
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It has been argued that they tend to be more highly educated than monolingual English speakers, with better employment prospects and higher social status. Traditional rural Irish-speaking areas, known collectively as the Gaeltacht , are in linguistic decline. The main Gaeltacht areas are in the west, south-west and north-west. English in Ireland was first introduced during the Norman invasion. It was spoken by a few peasants and merchants brought over from England, and was largely replaced by Irish before the Tudor conquest of Ireland.
It was introduced as the official language with the Tudor and Cromwellian conquests.
The Ulster plantations gave it a permanent foothold in Ulster, and it remained the official and upper-class language elsewhere, the Irish-speaking chieftains and nobility having been deposed. Language shift during the 19th century replaced Irish with English as the first language for a vast majority of the population.
Shelta , the language of the nomadic Irish Travellers is native to Ireland. Ireland's culture comprises elements of the culture of ancient peoples, later immigrant and broadcast cultural influences chiefly Gaelic culture , Anglicisation , Americanisation and aspects of broader European culture. This combination of cultural influences is visible in the intricate designs termed Irish interlace or Celtic knotwork. These can be seen in the ornamentation of medieval religious and secular works. The style is still popular today in jewellery and graphic art,  as is the distinctive style of traditional Irish music and dance, and has become indicative of modern "Celtic" culture in general.
Religion has played a significant role in the cultural life of the island since ancient times and since the 17th century plantations , has been the focus of political identity and divisions on the island. Ireland's pre-Christian heritage fused with the Celtic Church following the missions of Saint Patrick in the 5th century. These missions brought written language to an illiterate population of Europe during the Dark Ages that followed the fall of Rome , earning Ireland the sobriquet, "the island of saints and scholars". Since the 20th century the Irish pubs worldwide have become, especially those with a full range of cultural and gastronomic offerings, outposts of Irish culture.
The Republic of Ireland's national theatre is the Abbey Theatre , which was founded in , and the national Irish-language theatre is An Taibhdhearc , which was established in in Galway. Ireland has made a large contribution to world literature in all its branches, both in Irish and English. Poetry in Irish is among the oldest vernacular poetry in Europe, with the earliest examples dating from the 6th century.
Irish remained the dominant literary language down to the nineteenth century, despite the spread of English from the seventeenth century on. The latter part of the nineteenth century saw a rapid replacement of Irish by English. By , however, cultural nationalists had begun the Gaelic revival , which saw the beginnings of a modern literature in Irish. Other notable eighteenth century writers of Irish origin included Oliver Goldsmith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan , though they spent most of their lives in England.
The playwright and poet Oscar Wilde , noted for his epigrams, was born in Ireland. In the 20th century, Ireland produced four winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature: Although not a Nobel Prize winner, James Joyce is widely considered to be one of the most significant writers of the 20th century. Joyce's novel Ulysses is considered one of the most important works of Modernist literature and his life is celebrated annually on 16 June in Dublin as " Bloomsday ".
Music has been in evidence in Ireland since prehistoric times. Outside religious establishments, musical genres in early Gaelic Ireland are referred to as a triad of weeping music goltraige , laughing music geantraige and sleeping music suantraige.
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Classical music following European models first developed in urban areas, in establishments of Anglo-Irish rule such as Dublin Castle , St Patrick's Cathedral and Christ Church as well as the country houses of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy, with the first performance of Handel 's Messiah being among the highlights of the baroque era. In the 19th century, public concerts provided access to classical music to all classes of society. Yet, for political and financial reasons Ireland has been too small to provide a living to many musicians, so the names of the better-known Irish composers of this time belong to emigrants.
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Irish traditional music and dance has seen a surge in popularity and global coverage since the s. In the middle years of the 20th century, as Irish society was modernising, traditional music had fallen out of favour, especially in urban areas. Groups and musicians including Horslips , Van Morrison and Thin Lizzy incorporated elements of Irish traditional music into contemporary rock music and, during the s and s, the distinction between traditional and rock musicians became blurred, with many individuals regularly crossing over between these styles of playing.
The earliest known Irish graphic art and sculpture are Neolithic carvings found at sites such as Newgrange  and is traced through Bronze age artefacts and the religious carvings and illuminated manuscripts of the medieval period. During the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, a strong tradition of painting emerged, including such figures as John Butler Yeats , William Orpen , Jack Yeats and Louis le Brocquy.
The Irish philosopher and theologian Johannes Scotus Eriugena was considered one of the leading intellectuals of the early Middle Ages. Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton , an Irish explorer, was one of the principal figures of Antarctic exploration. He, along with his expedition, made the first ascent of Mount Erebus and the discovery of the approximate location of the South Magnetic Pole.
Robert Boyle was a 17th-century natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, inventor and early gentleman scientist. He is largely regarded one of the founders of modern chemistry and is best known for the formulation of Boyle's law. Father Nicholas Joseph Callan , Professor of Natural Philosophy in Maynooth College , is best known for his invention of the induction coil , transformer and he discovered an early method of galvanisation in the 19th century.
With Sir John Douglas Cockcroft , he was the first to split the nucleus of the atom by artificial means and made contributions to the development of a new theory of wave equation. Sir Joseph Larmor , a physicist and mathematician, made innovations in the understanding of electricity, dynamics, thermodynamics and the electron theory of matter.