The United States v. Ireland: Are They Truly A Chasm Apart?
When you look at a map the obvious disparity leaps out. The total square footage of Ireland, a landmass surrounded by water, is nearly half the size of the Arkansas, which isn’t even close to being the largest U.S. state. Considered to be a relatively young country by Asian and European standards, the settlers arrived in the United States about 1600, while Ireland’s first inhabitants set foot upon its shores only 1,000 years after the last ice age. Since the fifth century, Ireland has remained a predominantly Catholic nation. It’s the complete opposite of the U.S., as it is one of the most culturally, socially, ethnically and religiously diverse nations in the world. The U.S. possesses the world’s largest gross domestic product and is one of the globe’s largest manufacturers. Ireland, an agricultural nation up until as recently as 1987, certainly does not have the same kind of purchasing power. (Infoplease, Web)(Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book, web).
The vast difference in size between the two nations is certainly one of the main reasons for their disparities. Ireland has made inroads at improving their infrastructure, but it still has a long journey to achieve the same standard of organization and services the U.S. established and maintains for its economic viability. Since Ireland has traditionally been a poor country until the
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last several decades when they experienced an economic boom, which recently has plummeted to a crisis, the government simply did not have the available funds to invest in improving roads or
building highways. The lack of capital is also the culprit for a plethora of schools not being constructed, for not developing a more streamlined system of public transit, and boosting the quality of health care programs. Another reason the government may not have jump-started the country’s infrastructure is throughout its history, many Irish citizens leave their native shores to seek their rainbow in another clime. The island typically has a high emigration rate that only slowed when the economy improved by leaps and bounds in 1987. (Infoplease, Web).
Larry Donnelly, a writer for www.IrishCentral.com, published a piece on September 19, 2011 discussing the differences and similarities between Ireland and America. He admitted he has seen many Irish-Americans sneer at how highly priced consumer goods are and he claims there are reasons, such as price gouging and an expensive value added tax, but states the primary reason the Irish pay so much for products and services is because it’s an island and nearly everything needs to be imported. He likens it to Hawaii without the sun and beaches. (Donnelly, Web).
Although it was under British rule for much longer than the United States, Ireland is much more inclined towards social democracy than the U.S. The Irish are generally quite content their taxes are much higher and they spend more on goods and services than U.S. citizens, but
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the government provides more social welfare services in nearly every area than the United States. The Irish that are uninsured receive coverage through a public healthcare system that is much cheaper than what uninsured Americans spend to obtain healthcare. (Collins, p 134).
Another variance between the two nations is the massive dissimilarity in the amount of funds necessary for each nation’s citizens to obtain a college degree. The average cost for post- secondary education in Ireland is, €2,000 and in the U.S., popular colleges such as Boston College, Notre Dame or Holy Cross now easily costs $50,000. (Central Intelligence Agency World Fact Book, Web).
Despite the presence of a thriving Irish-American community, the popularity and acceptance of Irish culture in the U.S. and no real political strife between the two nations, the Irish tend to have no real curiosity about Americans and they can be quite vociferous regarding their viewpoint of the U.S. This attitude could persist for various reasons but the behavior the U.S. has exhibited in its foreign policy since 9/11 is generally not popular in Ireland. Most citizens have serious issues with President Bush’s canon of “pre-emptive war” and the stalwart U.S. support of Israel no matter what the facts of the case maybe. (Collins, p 54-62).
In spite of the number of obvious deviations between the two countries socially, economically, politically and religiously, there are many cultural bonds they have in common. Although Ireland is a member of the European Union and does not resemble a U.S. territory, a long list of Irish surnames was announced to the public at a Ground Zero ceremony several years ago. Irish President Mary McAleese did not fail to mention the country’s friends and family that reside in the United States at a ceremony in Dublin ten years after the tragedy and even though Ireland is a
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European nation, and has been influenced by other European countries they seem to hold the United States culturally closer to their hearts than their union colleagues and with good reason.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau 34.5 million U.S. residents claimed they were of Irish descent in 2011. The only nationality that comprises a larger segment of the U.S. population is German and there are far more Irish living in America (34.5 million vs 4.68 million) than in their homeland. (U.S. Census Bureau, Web).
March has been instituted as national Irish Heritage month since 1995. The president makes an annual declaration recognizing Irish-born Americans and their progeny’s contributions to society throughout the history of the country. In fact, President Obama’s mother was Irish and Vice President Biden is Irish American.
Although it has been an Irish holiday since the fifth century in honor of the saint who introduced Christ to Ireland, the first ever Saint Patrick’s Day parade was in New York before the Revolutionary War in 1762. (U.S. Census Bureau, Web).
In Donnelly’s opinion, although Ireland is a part of the European Union and has been influenced much more by their European neighbors, Irish society has culturally turned to the United States and views Boston with much more warmth than Berlin. (Donnelly, Web).
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Central Intelligence Agency. “United States.” The World Fact Book. n.d. Web.
20, April 2013.
Central Intellingence Agency. “Ireland.” The World Fact Book. n.d. Web. 20, April 2013.
Collins, Neil, Terry Cradden. “Irish Politics Today”. Manchester University Press: UK.
Donnelly, Larry. “Compare and contrast-Ireland and the United States and Irish-Americans.”
Irish Central. Web. 19, September 2001.
Ellis, Steven G. “The Story of the Irish Race: A Popular History of Ireland”. The Irish
Publishing Company. 1921.
Infoplease. “Ireland”. Information Please Database. 2008. Web. 18, April 2013.
United States Census Bureau. “Irish-American Heritage Month and St. Patrick’s Day: 2013”.
U. S. Department of Commerce. 29, January 2013. Web. 22, April 2013.