An island off the coast of Europe, west of mainland Britain. "Ireland" refers to the home of the Irish and the totality of the island of Ireland, but is also (because of Irish nationalist aspirations to a united Ireland) the official name in English of the Republic of Ireland, according to the Irish Constitution. The Republic of Ireland (area 70,000 km2) covers the greater part of the island (area 84,000 km2) , excluding the six north-eastern counties which comprise Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland, sometimes incorrectly referred to as Ulster, is part of the United Kingdom. The population of the island is something over 5 million with the population of the Republic of Ireland being something over 3.5 million.
Ireland is a small, modern, trade-dependent economy with growth averaging a robust 9% in 1995-99. Agriculture, once the most important sector, is now dwarfed by industry, which accounts for 39% of GDP and about 80% of exports and employs 28% of the labor force. Although exports remain the primary engine for Ireland's robust growth, the economy is also benefiting from a rise in consumer spending and recovery in both construction and business investment. Over the past decade, the Irish government has implemented a series of national economic programs designed to curb inflation, reduce government spending, and promote foreign investment. The unemployment rate has been halved; job creation remains a primary concern of government policy. Recent efforts have concentrated on improving workers' qualifications and the education system. Ireland joined in launching the euro currency in January 1999 along with 10 other EU nations.
From the CIA World Factbook 2000: