wld_ireland vot-1581158969769
Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin and his family leave after casting their votes in Ireland's national election in Cork, Ireland, February 8, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

Dublin: Here are five snapshots of the Republic of Ireland as it goes to the polls in a general election on Saturday.

Church and state

Ireland is a traditionally Catholic country.

Its 1937 constitution referred to the “special position of the Holy Catholic Apostolic and Roman Church as the guardian of the Faith professed by the great majority of the citizens”.

But the grip of the once-restrictive church has begun to wane in recent years.

In 2015, same-sex marriage was legalised by referendum. In May 2018, a further landslide referendum repealed the republic’s laws forbidding abortion, some of the strictest in the West.

Tech/tax haven

Ireland houses a number of the world’s most profitable tech companies.

Apple’s European headquarters are based in the southern city of Cork, while Google’s are in Dublin. Facebook’s international HQ is also in the capital.

Ireland has a 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate, fuelling accusations it acts as a “tax haven” for such firms, a charge the government rejects.

Dublin took 11.4 billion euros ($12.5 billion, Dh45.8 billion) in gross corporation tax receipts in 2018. The top 10 companies accounted for 41 per cent of that.

Diaspora

Ireland has a strong history of emigration, often prompted by poverty and famine.

Approximately 10 million people have emigrated from the island of Ireland since 1800, according to University College Cork.

Around 31 million Americans — about 10 per cent of the total population — identify as being of Irish ancestry, according to 2018 census estimates.

Every March 17, US cities with large Irish-American populations participate in St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

Traditionally the Chicago River is dyed green to celebrate the patron saint of the “Emerald Isle”.

Old ties

Ireland was under British rule until the early 20th century. The 1916 “Easter Rising” marked the beginning of a violent struggle to establish independence, leading to a 1919-1921 war.

A 1921 treaty created the Irish Free State — internally self-governing and outside of the United Kingdom but remaining a Commonwealth dominion.

In 1937, the Free State ended and Ireland was declared a fully-independent sovereign state.

The province of Northern Ireland, 17 per cent of the island’s land mass, remains a British territory.

Thirty years of conflict over the region between republicans and unionists ended with a 1998 peace deal which accommodates citizens who consider themselves British or Irish or both.

Literary powerhouse

Ireland wields an outsized influence in the world of literature.

James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, Jonathan Swift and Bram Stoker are among the island’s best-known cultural exports.

But not all of Ireland’s authors have enjoyed a good relationship with their homeland.

Joyce was critical of the Catholic Church’s conservative influence over the republic in his lifetime.

Beckett lived much of his life in France. He is reported to have said of his decision to remain in the country when Germany invaded in 1940: “I preferred France in war to Ireland at peace.”