People The People of Ireland The Median Age of the People in Ireland is: 34.8 years, with the break down of males 34.5 years and females 35.1 years (2011 est.) The Irish people are hard-working, very honest and known for their friendliness, hospitality, sense of fun and wonderful humour. Family life is important in Ireland and children are included in most events. In the rural areas people often maintain a great sense of the old, traditional Irish ways, but in the urban areas, Ireland is very modern.
Education Irish people are well educated. Education is partly funded by the government and is free for the most part. School is compulsory for children 5 – 15 years old. Approximately 80% of Irish students complete secondary school and approximately 50% continue on to higher education. The majority of primary schools are day schools; however, there are a few boarding schools in Ireland. Homeschooling is allowed in Ireland with some regulation, and more families are getting into home-schooling. The National Education (Welfare) Board is the body responsible for registration and assessment of homeschooling families in Ireland. The legislative framework for home education in Ireland is more progressive than in many other western European countries.
Food Traditional foods of Ireland are simple and include lamb, Irish stew, sausage, homemade cheeses, fresh fish, fresh baked breads and scones, fish & chips (chippers), potatoes, cabbage, carrots, corne d beef, cabbage and boxty. The Irish are known for their large breakfasts called “frys”. Today the foods of Ireland feature their local ingredients and include sophisticated international cooking technique and gourmet dishes. All types of international cuisine are found in Ireland.
The Arts Irelandis known to be a nation of scholars and there are many well known authors, playwrights and poets from the Emerald Isle. James Joyce, Frank McCourt, Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw, William Butler Yates and Seamus Heaney are just a few of the greats.
Irish Music Singing is a favourite pastime in Ireland and traditional Celtic music is an important part of the Irish culture. Some of the traditional musical instruments consist of the button accordion, harp, tin whistle, fiddle, bedhran (drum), and Uilleann pipes. Contemporary music is also very popular in Ireland and Ireland boasts many famous musicians and bands such as; Enya, Sinead O’Connor, Chieftains, Chris de Burgh, Andrea Corr and U2. There is plenty of opportunity in Ireland to enjoy classical, pop, rock and jazz concerts.
Irish Dancing The Irish word “céili” is used to describe an informal evening of traditional Irish music and dancing. Irish step-dancing is performed mostly with the legs and feet while the arms hang stiffly at the side. The traditional Irish dress for Irish female dancers are copies of the traditional Irish peasant dress and feature elaborate Gaelic designs. The shoes are similar to ballet shoes which are laced over the feet and the ankles. The males costume is less elaborate; men wear plain kilts or pants and jackets and folded cloaks hanging from the shoulders, called brats.
Irish Dancing (Cont’d) RiverDance and Lord of the Dance have brought international acclaim to Irish music and dance. RiverDance is an exciting performance of music, dancing and singing. The performance depicts the evolution of Irish culture and its influence on other cultures through immigration during the potato famine. The Lord of the Dance is an outstanding dance performance and a celebration of the Celtic heritage.
Crafts and Activities Some of the traditional Irish crafts include woolen sweaters, woven wool clothing, Irish linen, Irish lace, jewelry making, peat sculptures, fine glassware, musical instruments and pottery. Walking is one of Irelands biggest attractions, and the country has miles of tailor-made walks. Other popular activities in Ireland include gardening, enjoying nature, fishing, boating, water sports, mountaineering and golfing. Irish pubs are famous and important part of the Irish lifestyle. Children are allowed in the pubs, though they are not allowed to drink alcoholic beverages. However, in the last few years many of the pubs in Ireland have had to close. In 2011 it is reported that 1 in 8 pubs in the Republic of Ireland have during the previous 6 years.
Story Telling Ireland is well known for its many myths and legends which began long ago when the Celts ruled Ireland and many tales were told by the Druids. There are many fun and wonderful stories of fairies and leprechauns – the little people. It is said that fairies dwell in mounds in the earth and to touch one of these mounds is to bring bad luck. Leprechauns, on the other hand, bring good luck – especially if you can catch one. It is said that leprechauns are mischievous, but will lead you to their pot of gold, which they keep at the end of the rainbow. However, they’ll disappear should you take your eyes off them for even just a moment. There are also many other tales of skilled warriors, the eerie wail of the Banshee, brave queens and gods, lovers and a horse spirit who can take the form of a handsome man…the list goes on and on. The Irish are wonderful story-tellers and there are many books available on Irish myths and legends.
Sport The most popular sports in Ireland are Hurling (field sport played with sticks) and Gaelic football. Other popular sports are soccer, horseback riding, rugby, golf, horse racing, cycling and many water sports.