Ireland is a country in northwestern Europe. The modern sovereign state occupies about five-sixths of the island of Ireland, which was partitioned into two jurisdictions on 3 May 1921. It is a parliamentary democracy and a republic. It is bordered to the northeast by Northern Ireland, a part of the United Kingdom, and is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean: particularly, the Irish Sea to the east, St George's Channel to the southeast, and the Celtic Sea to the south.
The Irish state came into being as the result of Irish partition in 1921 which divided the island of Ireland into Southern Ireland and Northern Ireland. In December 1922, the former seceded from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland to become the Irish Free State while the latter opted to remain within the United Kingdom. In December 1937 the state was renamed Ireland and on Easter Monday 1949 Ireland left the British Commonwealth to become a republic.
Irish independence from Britain in 1922 was preceded by the 1916 Easter Rising and the War of Independence, when Irish volunteers and the Irish Citizen Army took over sites in Dublin and Galway under terms expressed in the Proclamation of the Irish Republic. The seven signatories of this proclamation, Patrick Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, Thomas Clarke, Sean MacDiarmada, Joseph Plunkett, Eamonn Ceannt and James Connolly, were executed by the British, along with nine others, and thousands were interned precipitating the Irish War of Independence.
Ireland is a republic, with a parliamentary system of government. The President of Ireland, who serves as head of state, is elected for a seven-year term and can be re-elected only once. The president is largely a figurehead but can still carry out certain constitutional powers and functions, aided by the Council of State, an advisory body. The Taoiseach (prime minister), is appointed by the president on the nomination of parliament. Most Taoisigh have been the leader of the political party which wins the most seats in the national elections. It has become normal for coalitions to form a government, and there has not been a single-party government since 1989.
The bicameral parliament, the Oireachtas, consists of the President of Ireland, a Senate, Seanad Éireann, being the upper House, and a House of Representatives, Dáil Éireann, being the lower House. The Seanad is composed of sixty members; eleven nominated by the Taoiseach, six elected by two universities, and 43 elected by public representatives from panels of candidates established on a vocational basis. The Dáil has 166 members, Teachtaí Dála, elected to represent multi-seat constituencies under the system of proportional representation by means of the Single Transferable Vote. Under the constitution, parliamentary elections must be held at least every seven years, though a lower limit may be set by statute law. The current statutory maximum term is five years.
Ireland has a temperate oceanic climate meaning that it is mild with temperatures not much lower than −3 °C (26.6 °F) in winter and not much higher than 22 °C (72 °F) in summer. The Atlantic Ocean is the main force shaping Ireland's weather and there is a warming influence due to the Gulf Stream. It can be quite variable and differs from region to region—for instance the middle and east tend to be more extreme throughout the year, compared to other parts of the country. Sunshine duration is highest in the south-east. Ireland rainfall patterns are highest in the winter and lowest during the early months of summer.
The education systems are largely under the direction of the government via the Minister for Education and Science. Recognised primary and secondary schools must adhere to the curriculum established by authorities that have power to set them.
The Programme for International Student Assessment, coordinated by the OECD, currently ranks Ireland's education as the 20th best among participating countries in science, being statistically significantly higher than the OECD average. Primary, Secondary and Tertiary (University/College) level education are all free in Ireland for all EU citizens.
The official languages are Irish and English. Teaching of the Irish and English languages is compulsory in the primary and secondary level schools that receive money and recognition from the state. Some students may be exempt from the requirement to receive instruction in either language.