Jan Morris, doyenne of the travel writing world, had a lovely piece about her recent travels through Ireland in the Saturday FT (10.7.10). Despite claiming that it's difficult to capture exactly what it is about the country that makes it what is, this final paragraph doesn't do a bad job:
To my mind there is something transcendental to the charm of the Irish, the very emblem of their national identity. They are no nicer than other peoples, no less bitchy, no less quarrelsome, no less murderous indeed, but without doubt they are, come boom or bust, come faith or disbelief, come peace or war the most charming of nationalities. I cannot make out how deeply they have been affected by the three great communal anxieties that have lately afflicted them, but I can vouch for the fact that in externals, at least, they are just as they always were.
Call it national character, call it community resilience, or call it, most mystically, spiritually and irresistibly of all, simply the luck of the Irish.
I'd encourage you to read the whole piece.