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The country is divided into four provinces: Leinster, Munster, Connaught, and Ulster.All of the first three and part of the fourth are situated within the Republic of Ireland.Ulster is made up of nine counties; the northeastern six constitute Northern Ireland.The area of the Republic of Ireland is 27,137 square miles, that of Northern Ireland is 5,458 square miles.Following O'Neill's defeat in 1603 and his subsequent flight to the Continent, the Crown commenced the large-scale plantation of Ulster with English; Scottish Presbyterians soon followed.
In 1800, two years after the defeat of the rebellion of Protestant and Catholic United Irishmen led by Wolfe Tone, the Act of Union was passed, combining Great Britain and Ireland into one United Kingdom.
Toward the end of the eighth century Vikings invaded Ireland and for over two centuries battled with the Irish.
Finally in 1014 the Irish under King Brian Boru soundly defeated the Viking forces at the Battle of Clontarf.
Thus began a great religious and cultural period for the country.
While the rest of Europe was swiftly declining into the Dark Ages, Irish monasteries—preserving the Greek and Latin of the ancient world—not only became great centers of learning, but also sent many famous missionaries to the Continent.
The entire island, with a total area of 32,595 square miles, is a little larger than the state of Maine.