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HISTORY

Today Ireland can again look forward to a bright future having come through the turbulent era of "The Celtic Tiger" when the economy went from boom to bust! Ireland was selected by the "Economist" as being the best place in the World to live in 2005.

Ireland was first settled around the year 8000 BC by people from Britain and Europe who probably came by land bridge, they were hunter gatherers but about 4000 BC turned to farming. Their descendants built burial mounds and monuments such as Newgrange before 3000 BC making them older than the pyramids in Egypt. Irish society was pagan for thousands of years but this changed in the early 5th century with the arrival of Christian missionaries including Patrick who became the patron saint. Monks introduced the Roman alphabet and recorded a rich collection of stories, legends and mythology. Irish society had a number of kingdoms, rich culture, a learned upper class and artisans who created elaborate metalwork with bronze, iron and gold.

From the early 9th century AD Vikings invaded Ireland with continuous at tacks for more than a 100 years. They built settlements which grew into important towns such as Dublin, Limerick, Cork, Wexford and Waterford.

The Normans invaded in 1169 which led to 7 centuries of Norman and English rule in Ireland, both the Vikings and the Normans/English assimilated into Irish society.

The Reformation in 1534 put down Irish Chiefs who would not submit to the English king. Plantations began with land being confiscated from Irish Catholic landowners and given to Protestant settlers from England and Scotland.

Many laws were passed during the 18th century that discriminated against Catholics. The native Gaelic language was banned in schools. By 1778 only 5% of land was owned by Catholics. In 1801 the Irish Parliament was abolished and Ireland became part of "the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland". Catholics could not hold parliamentary office until 1829.

Poverty was widespread and potatoes were the most important food so when blight struck in 1845 about 1000.000 people died. A further million emigrated, reducing the population from 8000.000 to 6000.000 between 1841 and 1852.

By 1900 civil war loomed, the Home Rule act was passed in1914 but suspended due to First World War. There was an uprising on Easter Day, April 24th, 1916 which failed and the leaders were executed. This tipped public opinion in favour of independence and subsequent war between 1919/1921. In 1922 the southern 26 counties of Ireland seceded from the United Kingdom and became the Irish Free State. Gaelic was restored as the official national language, together with English. In 1948 ties were cut with Britain and the country now became known the Republic of Ireland. The other 6 counties called Northern Ireland remained part of the UK until present day.

Sectarian violence flared in the North in the 1960s which ended in 1998 with the signing of a peace agreement. Ireland joined EEC now European Union in 1973.

After centuries of poverty and suffering, Ireland is now a prosperous, modern country with much to offer the World.

Irish dancing

Irish dancing is a group of traditional dance forms originating in Ireland which can broadly be divided into social dance and performance dances. Irish dancing was popularized in 1994 by the World famous Riverdance show, is notable for its rapid leg and foot movements, body and arms being kept largely stationary. The World of Irish dance has expanded to include "Lord of the Dance, Celtic Tiger, and Heartbeat of Home."

The Irish Dance Master appeared in Ireland in the eighteenth century and wandered from village to village teaching dance to peasants. The Feis is an important part of rural cultural life where children, teenagers and adults compete in separate competitions for Feis titles and prizes. Many of the participants qualify to enter the World Championships held in a Dublin each Easter where dancers from England, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand compete for the World title.

Music

The indigenous music of Ireland is termed Irish Traditional Music which has remained vibrant into the 21st century. Irish music has maintained many of its traditional aspects while influencing many forms of music such as country and roots music in the USA which in turn have had some influence on modern rock music.

In recent decades Irish music in many different genres has been very successful internationally with performers such as: Mary Black, Paul Brady, The Dubliners, the Chieftains, The Clancy Brothers, Clannad, The Corrs, Phil Coulter, Bill Whelan, The Cranberries, Christy Moore, Van Morrison, U2, Sinead O'Connor, Daniel O 'Donnel , etc, to name but a few.

TOURISM

The range of places to visit in Ireland is massive. Among Ireland's most famous attractions are places such as the Giant's Causeway, the Guinness Storehouse, Newgrange, and Glendalough. Many of the places to visit in Ireland are of a historical significance, but for visitors with a more modern outlook there is also an excellent choice.

There are many parks, characteristic of the true Irish green surroundings, such as the Irish National Heritage Park, Fota Island Wildlife Park, Bunratty Castle and the Marble Arch caves.

Ireland's long and eventful history can be traced through places such as the National Museum, Trim Castle, Kilmainham Gaol, Craggaunowen, the Rock of Cashel, the Hill of Tara, and Dublin Castle.

All parts of the country have their particular charming and sometimes dramatic scenery. Areas such as the Wicklow Mountains National Park, the Cliffs of Moher, the Glens of Antrim, and the Ring of Kerry boast outstanding natural beauty.

Literature

Ireland which is sometimes known as "The land of saints and scholars" has punched well above its weight when it comes to producing literary talent. Amongst its best known writers are John Banville whose most famous work is "The Sea".

Samuel Beckett is considered to be one the most influential play writers, poets and novelists of the 20th century who wrote in both French and English. Brendan Behan was a Dublin born poet, playwright and novelist whose works were written both in Irish and English. His best known work was "Borstal Boy" which was autobiographical. Anne Enright, Pulitzer Prize winner famous for her novels, short stories and essays. "The Gathering" is her most famous novel. James Joyce one of the most influential writers of the 20 th century best known for "Ulysses". Bloomsday is celebrated annually on June 16th dedicated to Joyce. John Mc Gahern, Flann O'Brien, Bram Stoker of "Dracula" fame. Other notable Irish talents are Jonathan Swift who penned "Gulliver's Travels", Oscar Wilde "The Importance of Being Earnest", Maeve Binchy and many more.

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