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Tuesday 12th December
Ireland Facts
The oldest rocks in Ireland, dated at around 2400 million years, are found in Co. Wexford, near the south-eastern coast.

Geologists suggest that there is evidence in Kiltorcan in Co. Kilkenny that plant life, trees and the first forests were established as early as 375 million years ago.

There are amphibious tetrapod footprints in rocks on Valentia Island, Co. Kerry.

During prehistoric times the main means of transport was by boat. These boats were made of a timber frame covered by animal skins or vegetable materials. One of the oldest boats, 52 feet long, was found in a bog in Lurgan, Co. Galway and dates back to the beginning of the Bronze Age.

Burial sites are among the earliest type of construction in Ireland. Megalithic tombs (large stone tombs) were popular in the northern part of the country. These were portal tombs, court tombs and passage tombs. Newgrange, in Co. Meath is the best example of a passage tomb. It has been carbon dated at about 3,200 BC, older than Stonehenge in England and a few hundred years older than the Pyramids in Egypt.

It is possible that the sun played an important part in the beliefs of prehistoric people. There is a specially constructed narrow opening above the entrance to the Newgrange passage tomb in Co. Meath. It allows the rays of the rising sun to penetrate directly to the centre of the tomb at the midwinter soltice.

Erin or Eriu, one of the three queens of the Tuatha De Danann (people of the goddess Dana), was a Celtic goddess whose name means peace.

Cessair was said to be the granddaughter of Noah and the first queen of Ireland.

The hill of Tara in Co. Meath was the base for the pagan High Kings of Ireland.

Cormac Mac Airt, who married a princess of the Tuatha De Danann, was the most famous of the High Kings of Ireland.

Cu Chulainn was a foster son of King Conor and a famous warrior.

The Fianna also known as Fianna Eiriann, and the Fenians, were a legendary army of Irish warriors of the High King of Ireland. Their last and greatest leader was Finn mac Cumhail (Finn mac Cool).

The story of Sir Tristan, one of King Arthur's knights, and Iseult of Ireland is one of legend's great love stories.

The saying "touch wood" derives from pagan beliefs regarding trees.

A belief in fairy people (Sidhe) was common in Celtic countries.

It was thought that sometimes fairies exchanged their children for mortal babies leaving a changeling, often a weak fairy child.

The banshee was the Celtic messenger of death.

In the famous Irish legend the Children of Lir were transformed into swans and had to wander the lakes and rivers until Christianity came to Ireland.

St Patrick is said to have driven the snakes from Ireland.

St Patrick and St Bridget of Ireland are Ireland's patron saints.

Cork City in County Cork is the second city of the south of Ireland. In the sixth century St. Fin Barre founded a monastery where Cork City has grown.

It is said that kissing the Blarney Stone gives people the gift of eloquence.

The Duke of Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo, came from Co. Meath.

Many Irish people emigrated to the United Kingdom, Australia and America.

Ned Kelly, the Australian outlaw, had family roots in Wexford.

The Caribbean island of Montserrat is known as the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean. This is because a number of Irish colonists settled on the island.

In 1879 Our Lady, St. Joseph, and St. John the Evangelist appeared to fifteen people at Knock Parish Church. Knock has become a place of pilgrimage.

In 1986 Knock opened an international airport.

There is a legend that St. Brendan of Kerry visited North America in the sixth century AD.

John Kennedy, the thirty-fifth President of the USA, was born in Massachusetts in 1917. The Kennedy family were descendants of Irish Catholics (Wexford) who migrated to America in the nineteenth century.

The ancestors of US President Ronald Reagan came from Tipperary.

The National Parliament (Oireachtas) is in Dublin and consists of the President and two Houses: Dail Eireann (House of Representatives) and Seanad Eireann (the Senate). The Taoiseach is the Prime Minister of Ireland.

In May 2008 Bertie Ahern stepped down as Taoiseach, less than a year after winning a third term, amid allegations concerning his financial dealings; he was succeeded by Brian Cowen, his deputy.

In June 2008 Ireland voted in a referendum to reject the EUís Lisbon Treaty. Following a new referendum in October 2009, Ireland this time voted in favour of the Treaty.

In November 2010 Ireland agreed an 85 billion euro bailout package with the EU in a move to tackle Irelandís crippled public finances.

Elections held in February 2011 which saw the Taoiseach Brian Cowen and Fianna Fail defeated and a new coalition government led by the opposition party Fine Gael with Enda Kenny as the new Taoiseach.

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