Ireland can refer either to the island of Ireland or the Republic of Ireland, which recognises the name "Ireland" in its constitution.
Ireland is located in the British Isles, west from Great Britain across the Irish Sea. There are four historic provinces to Ireland; Ulster, Leinster, Munster, and Connacht, and thirty-two historic counties, six in Northern Ireland and twenty-six in the Republic. Leinster, Munster and Connacht are located in the Republic of Ireland, along with three of the nine counties of Ulster, the remaining six counties making up Northern Ireland, leading to Northern Ireland's unofficial title of "Ulster", as much of Ulster is located in Northern Ireland.
 The Troubles
Until U.S. President Bill Clinton sent former Senator George Mitchell over to help with negotiations, instructing him not to come home until they stopped fighting, Ireland was the scene of ugly violence over the issue of Northern Ireland. The British Army acted as an occupation force, and the Irish Republican Army and "Loyalist" paramilitaries both engaged in terrorist attacks on civilians in various parts of Great Britain and Ireland. The Irish were also brutal to each other. The British Government claimed that the army prevented this violence and brutality from escalating further, despite actually murdering children and boy bands. This battle, essentially fought over whether to allow Northern Ireland to come under the control of the Republic of Ireland, was referred to colloquially as the "Troubles".
Amazingly, things have quieted down tremendously since the agreements were forged. This has led to a meteoric rise in tourism, since so many Irish emigrated over the last century or two, and they are prime candidates for nostalgia and genealogy trips to the "Emerald Isle". Ireland's economy was growing at almost double-digit rates for many years after the blowing things up stopped. Most Irish people enjoy showing ageing yankee's around Dublin, only to lead them down a dark alleyway to mug them. The Americans presumably love the roguish charm of it all, and don't care when their wedding rings and passports are seized by young Irishmen hungry for their next pint.
 Nationalism and Loyalism
To understand the conflict in Ireland, one must understand the political ideals of both sides and the history of British control in Ireland. The Nationalists believe that the whole of Ireland should be united and that the British government have no valid claim or ownership over Ulster. The Loyalists believe the exact opposite, that British control in Ireland is right. The Irish War of Independence ended in 1921 with what is now known as the Anglo-Irish Treaty. The treaty was what separated the island into two. The provinces of Connacht, Munster and Leinster were relinquished while most of Ulster remained under British control. Of course there were certain people who disagreed with this treaty which resulted in the Irish Civil War. Eventually the Irish managed to end this war and found their own Republic and the British had continued their oppression of the North. Catholics in Northern Ireland were perceived to have been treated like second class citizens and their votes had counted for less in certain local elections. The foundation of the Provisional Irish Republican Army (also known as the "Provos") occured well before any of these grievances too place, and had been brewing for decades, and a Civil Rights Movement had also started. This was an extremely dark time for the North and both sides were guilty of killing civilians. The most infamous is Bloody Sunday where civil rights protesters were gunned down by British paratroopers without provocation in 1972 this particular event had provoked much controversy over the years as no arrests were made and the soldiers claimed that the protesters had weapons and fired first. This has been proven as a lie since and the current British Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the soldiers involved in the massacre.
There are no snakes in Ireland. Legend has it that St. Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland, banished them. St Patrick was so efficient at this that not only did he banish the snakes from Ireland, but he also removed all paleontological evidence of them having ever been in Ireland in the first place. The snakes are actually an allegory for pagans.