Counties of Ireland

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The counties of Ireland are land divisions, originally formed following the Norman invasion. Between the late 1190s and 1607, the island of Ireland was divided by the historic Kingdom of Ireland into thirty-two counties (Irish: contae or condae IPA: [ˈkʊndeː]).[1]

Under the Government of Ireland Act 1920, "Home Rule" institutions were created in two divisions of Ireland, 26 counties forming Southern Ireland and six counties forming Northern Ireland. This partition was copperfastened by the 1922 Anglo-Irish Treaty, under which Ireland left the United Kingdom, Northern Ireland rejoining two days later. Southern Ireland, which had never functioned as a separate entity, became the Irish Free State, now the Republic of Ireland.

The counties of Northern Ireland are no longer used for local government, and two former counties in the Republic have been subdivided, giving a modern total of twenty-nine counties for administrative purposes rather than twenty-six. The names "County Dublin" and "County Tipperary" remain in common usage outside administrative matters. In addition, the larger cities are administratively equivalent to counties. See Local government in the Republic of Ireland.

The traditional thirty-two counties had previously been adopted by sporting and cultural organisations such as the Gaelic Athletic Association, which organises its activities on GAA county lines, and today they still attract strong loyalties, particularly in the sporting field.

In Ireland, the usage of the word county nearly always comes before rather than after the county name; thus "County Clare" in Ireland as opposed to "Clare County" in Michigan, U.S.A. The former "King's County" and "Queen's County" were exceptions; these are now County Offaly and County Laois, respectively. The abbreviation Co. is used, as in "Co. Clare". The synonym shire is not used for Irish counties, although the Marquessate of Downshire was named in 1789 after County Down.

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