Area 70,285 sq.km. Comprises 80% of the island of Ireland. Northern Ireland is a constituent part of the United Kingdom.
Millions of Irish have emigrated all over the English-speaking world especially to the USA and the UK.
Capital Dublin 1,000,000. Urbanites 58%.
Irish 95%. Predominantly of Celtic origin.
Other 5%. UK citizens 140,000; Itinerants 7,000; increasing numbers of EU and Central European workers.
Literacy 99%. Official languages Irish, English. Irish spoken as first language by 5% and used by 13% of the population.
High-tech industries have replaced dairy farming and tourism as most important. EU membership in 1973 has transformed the economy, now with one of Europe's most successful growth rates. HDI 0.900; 20th/174. Public debt 73% of GNP. Income/person $17,110 (56.7% of USA).
Ireland was under British rule for over 700 years. In 1921 Ireland was partitioned between the 26 counties that were Catholic and Celtic, and the 6 counties in Northern Ireland that were predominantly Protestant Scots Anglo-Saxon. The south became independent in 1922 and then a parliamentary republic in 1949. Partition affected the political life of both parts. Of Northern Ireland's 1.6 million population, approximately 41% are Catholic and look to having closer links with the south, while 54% are mainly Protestant and determined to maintain their links with the UK. Thirty years of violence in Northern Ireland now appear to be nearing an end thanks to a peace agreement between the Irish and British governments and the political parties of Northern Ireland.
There is freedom of religion. The Catholic Church has no official link with the state, though it has a strong, but waning, influence on all aspects of national life.
1 A significant work of the Holy Spirit has gained momentum over the past 30 years. There are hundreds of evangelical fellowships multiplying and growing across the Republic. Most are Pentecostal or charismatic in orientation. There are few towns without such groups today.
1 Ireland's ancient Celtic Church and its missionaries took the gospel to many nations in Europe one and a half millennia ago. Then followed centuries of suffering, oppression, violence and bloodshed at the hands of the Vikings and the British. Sadly the long conflict has, in the eyes of the world, been portrayed as religious in origin. Pray that:
2 The Catholic Church was for centuries the preserver and defender of the Irish. Active involvement in the Church has always been high though now declining quite fast. The Church has been blighted by high-profile scandals in the priesthood in the 1990s. The number of priests has halved since 1970, vocations have dropped dramatically and young people generally are turning away from the Church. Charismatic renewal and revival movements have in the past helped many to come into a personal experience of salvation and to a love of the Scriptures. Pray that increasing numbers of Catholics may turn from the dead works of religion to a living faith in Christ.
3 Church attendances in non-Catholic denominations have declined from 10% in 1900 to 3.4% of the population in 2000 through emigration, nominalism and the Catholic Church's policy on mixed marriages. Even the term 'Protestant' has a political connotation. Yet the Church of Ireland (Anglican), the Presbyterian Church, the Methodists and the Baptists have seen growth where there has been good evangelical leadership, and some new churches are being planted. Pray that these Christians may be led by the Holy Spirit for effectiveness and relevance in an increasingly secular and affluent society.
4 Evangelicals have grown most in both Pentecostal denominations and in more informal networks of fellowships across the country. These, together with Evangelicals among Anglicans and Protestants, are about 1.6% of the population the lowest percentage of any country in the English-speaking world. Pray that these groups may be Bible-centred, preserved from division and promote unity with the wider body of Christ. Pray also for good Bible-trained leadership to be raised up. There are two Bible training centres the Irish Bible Institute launched in 2000 as a merger of two Bible colleges and the ICI-based ministry of the AoG.
5 Young people. Ireland is a young country, with half its population under 28 years old. Their spiritual need is underlined by the dramatic rise in suicides, unwed mothers and marriage breakdowns. They are responsive to the gospel. Christian camps are run by Scripture Union (with some 2-3,000 children per year), CEF, BCM International, the Faith Mission and others. IFES-Ireland has an island-wide ministry in 25 colleges and universities. There is an increasing openness in Dublin to presenting the gospel by street drama and sketchboard. As this new spiritual openness is also being tapped by many cults, pray that more of Ireland's young people may come to know Jesus, who is the Truth.
b) Muslims are mostly of Arabic origin. The Islamic movement has published a major part of the Qur'an in Irish and there are now seven mosques in the Republic. Pray that God would bring Muslims to know Jesus.
7 Foreign missionaries are working in nearly all of the 26 counties. GEM, with 33 workers, has been instrumental in establishing Bible churches in the greater Dublin area with a strong indigenous membership. Other significant missions include YWAM (37), Brethren (34), Global Outreach (24), UFM (17), AoG (10) and ECM (10). Pray for their harmonious integration into the unique Irish scene, and for fruitfulness in ministry.
8 Ireland has long been one of the great missionary-sending countries of the world from the early Celtic Church onwards. Many Catholic and Protestant missionaries have gone to the ends of the earth. Catholic numbers are falling from the high of 7,085 foreign missionaries in 1965 to 3,884 in 1994. Pray for the release, training and funding of more Irish missionaries and leaders by evangelical churches and fellowships.
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