The Republic of Ireland makes up about five-sixths of the island of Ireland, one of the islands of the archipelago known as the British Isles (a term many Irish find offensive) at the north-western edge of the continent of Europe. It is a country characterized by moderation — in size, climate, physical features and people. Ireland is the twentieth largest island in the world, though is still quite small, about the size of South Carolina, or one-sixth the size of Spain. Thus one can easily get from any part of the country to any other part within a day — from Malin Head in Donegal to Mizen Head in Cork is 466 kilometres as the crow flies or about 700 kilometres by road (which gives some indication of the nature of Ireland’s road network!). This small size in part accounts for the homogeneity of the people. Except in the north-east of the island, there are few important regional divisions, though the dominance of Dublin over the rest of the country (see Box 2.2) does lead to derogatory references to Dubliners as Jackeens (derived from the assertion that the British flag, the Union Jack, was flown more popularly in Dublin than anywhere else) and anyone outside Dublin, but most particularly rural-based people, as Culchies (derived from the name of a small rural town, Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo).
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