The Republic of Ireland is a sovereign state, located to the northwest of continental Europe. It covers just under five-sixths of the island of Ireland, sharing a border with Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. The country is a constitutional republic with a parliamentary system of government. According to the 2011 census, the population of the Republic of Ireland is approximately 4.5 million.
Gaining independence from the United Kingdom in 1922 before becoming a full republic in 1949, the Irish Republic remained one of Europeís most impoverished states for decades. Things began to improve after the country joined the European Community in 1973 while a policy of economic liberalism during the 1980s led to extensive growth. In 2002, the Republic of Ireland introduced the euro currency, along with 11 other European Union
A period of tremendous growth and expansion took place from the mid-1990s until 2007, known universally as The Celtic Tiger. A well educated workforce, English-language business environment and a low income tax rate enticed many multinational corporations to the country. Dell, Intel, Microsoft, Google and Facebook
have all invested heavily in the Irish Republic.
The rapid growth during the Celtic Tiger period slowed considerably in 2007, in line with the global financial crisis. The growth was characterized by a property bubble which burst, leading to a devastating collapse on the housing market. The dependence of the economy on the construction sector coupled with a serious banking crisis led to the Republic of Ireland entering recession in 2008 before receiving 85 billion euros of assistance from the European Union and International Monetary Fund
. Irelandís national debt rose in line with the economic slowdown and statistics show that is is currently standing at 180 billion euros
Based on statistics about U.S. imports from Ireland
, forecasts suggest that the Irish economy may grow by 2.2 percent in 2012. An extensive agricultural sector coupled with a modern, knowledge based workforce should further aid the countryís economic recovery. Statistics show that after plummeting substantially in 2010, Irelandís budget balance is showing some signs of stabilization
For such a small country, the Republic of Ireland enjoys very strong influence on the worldwide stage due to a large diaspora, especially in the United States
. The Republic of Ireland has a long standing policy of neutrality, has been a member of the United Nations since 1960 and is an active member of NATOís Partnership for Peace program.
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