Once upon a time sun never sat in United Kingdom of Great Britain but currently it is merely 93,000 Sq Miles (Pakistan is 310,000 Sq Miles). It consists of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. All are on a big island except Ireland which is on a separate small island next to the main one. For political correctness, Gibraltar & many small islands are also part of now known as “United Kingdom of Great Britain & Northern Ireland”; most famous of these islands is Falkland which is also claimed by Argentina.
[NOTE: As I am writing these lines, UK has just survived a referendum on Independence in Scotland. Had it been successful, Scotland would have become an independent country.]
Been living here in Britain for decades, visited most of it but I didn’t get the chance to visit Ireland though visited a lot of other countries. So when chance arrived I was naturally excited!…..So what is Ireland?
Ireland is an island situated in west of Great Britain in Atlantic Ocean. It is politically sub divided into Northern Ireland (NI) which is under British control and Republic of Ireland (ROI), an independent state. Some interesting stats are:
- Area: Approximately 32,000 Sq Mile (300 miles long x 170 mile wide)
- 80% of the area is under ROI control and 20% is in NI hence under UK.
- Population: 6.4 Million (4.5 Million in ROI and 1.8 Million in NI)
- Ethnicity: White: 96%, Asian: 2%, Black & Mixed: 2%
- Religion: 84% Catholics, 8% No Religion, 3% Church of Ireland
- Language: English and Irish (which is actually Gaelic, spoken by a small minority & declining)
- Currency: Euro in ROI & British Pound in NI
- Dublin is the Capital & biggest city in ROI
- Belfast is the biggest city in NI
Little Bit of History
Once part of main land Europe, it is thought that rising sea levels separated it from the main land, and then later from Britain. This area was initially populated by humans arriving from Britain around 8000 BC. Christianity was introduced in 5th century. England assumed its control on some parts in 1600s. Later, whole Ireland came under British rule in 1801. A war of independence in early 20th century shaped Ireland in this current political format i.e. NI & ROI. There was a huge political unrest from 1960s till 1998 (IRA Rise) which subsided when a political agreement was reached between Ireland and Britain. Ireland joined European Union in 1973. More on this topic later..
Tight Security & Long Tunnels
I reached airport near the time, expecting the pre-flight rituals to be same as for other European destinations. But flight to Ireland is not the same. Technically it was an international flight because I was flying from UK to Republic of Ireland. But it was a kind of local flight too. For local flights, while passengers pass through security, their photos are taken because they don’t carry a passport. But as I passed through security, security man asked me to pose for a photo. Hmmm.. bit strange but I complied. Then I passed through security and started walking through walkways to departure gates. Terminal 1 at Heathrow is notorious for long ways. But this time it took me to new lengths…. After around half way covered, Ireland travellers were asked to turn left. Then I realised there was another security check. This was a designated area for flights to Ireland.
My documents were checked, photo taken again, and compared to the previous one. You looked different from the original photo taken earlier, officer pointed. I realised he was staring at my earlier photo displayed on screen. It was without glasses so I removed glasses. The photo matched and I was allowed to move on. I am going to Ireland – tough security reminded me. IRA’s campaign was similar to what we experience nowadays.
I walked and walked and walked to no end. And tunnels were dark & depressing. Eventually I reached at the gate. It was not like ordinary gate though; rather an ovel tunnel like structure painted in black which was making it even gloomy. Soon it was time to board. The plane was just standard as you would expect on a British Airways flight. I sat on my seat. Soon a smiling attendant approached me; I have a message for you sir! Message for me? I was surprised.
To be continued…