Political and Economic Security
Ireland’s 1937 Constitution makes provision for a President, elected by the population every 7 years; a Dáil (pronounced ‘doyle’) or lower house of Parliament, with 166 members (TDs); and a Seanad (pronounced ‘shannad’) or upper house with 60 members. The Government consists of a cabinet led by the Taoiseach (pronounced ‘tee-shock’) i.e. Prime Minister. Parliamentary elections are held every five years, or less if the President dissolves Parliament on the advice of the Taoiseach before its full term.
The present government was formed in March 2011 after Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael party won enough seats in the General Election to form a coalition government with the Labour Party. The current Taoiseach is Enda Kenny and the Tánaiste (i.e. deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs & Trade is Eamon Gilmore, the leader of the Labour Party.
The economy and dealing with the highest deficit in Europe have dominated Irish politics for the last number of years. The last and current Irish Governments have been forced to adopt a series of austerity budgets since it entered recession in mid-2008 to cut spending – particularly public sector wages and pensions and welfare benefits.
Ireland and international engagement
EU membership remains the self-declared central framework within which the Irish Government pursues its foreign policy objectives. Ireland has a traditional policy of military neutrality but also a proud defence tradition, particularly in peacekeeping. The Irish have played a major role in the development of the EU’s Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). As a percentage of armed forces, the Irish have the highest figure in the EU for contributions to the EU’s six military operations. Recent deployments by the Irish military have included joining an EU peacekeeping operation in Chad (MINURCAT), participation in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), and as a joint British-Irish operation as part of an EU training mission in Mali.
Ireland held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union from the 1st of January 2013 until June of 2013.
Ireland is a small, open, trade-dependent, economy. During the 1990’s, unprecedented economic growth saw the level of real Irish GDP almost double. The economy was transformed from being based on agricultural and traditional manufacturing to one increasingly based on hi-tech and internationally traded services sectors and Ireland became known as the “Celtic Tiger”.
This rapid economic growth, low interest rates and several other factors fuelled a massive increase in commercial and residential property prices – the average price of a house in Ireland rose over 280% in the period 1996-2006.
However, in 2007 economic growth lost pace; the speed and extent of the Celtic Tiger’s collapse took many, including the Government, by surprise. Over-reliance on the construction sector and the collapse of the property market pushed Ireland into recession at the mid-year 2008 point. Several of Ireland’s banks were heavily exposed to property lending and have since required billions of euro of financial assistance from the Government.
The Exchequer Deficit for end 2009 was 11.5% of GDP; more than double that of 2008. Central Government Gross Debt was around 95% of GDP at the end of 2010, estimated to peak at 102% in 2013 (not taking into account any additional support to the banking system from the EU-IMF assistance package). Ireland’s GDP was positive in 2011 and 2012, but growth has shown signs of slowing in the first half of 2013 due to a drop in merchandise export performance and a fall in domestic consumption.
Ireland has one of the higher jobless rates in the OECD; In July 2013 the figure was 13.5% – a significant rise from the 6.3% rate of 2008, though notably below the high of 15.1% in February 2012.
Ireland remained the the UK’s 5th largest export market for goods in 2012, the largest in some sectors such as Food and Drink. Exports of goods to Ireland in 2012 were £10.9bn, over 6% of total UK exports. The UK also has its second largest trade surplus with Ireland, the largest with the US.
Ireland was one of the first States to ratify the European Convention on Human Rights in 1953. Ireland has been a member of the International Labour Organisation since 1923 and in that time has ratified 71 of its conventions, 58 of these are in place.
The Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) was established under statute in 2000, to promote and protect the human rights of everyone in Ireland. The IHRC is recognised by the UN as Ireland’s National Human Rights Institution. Ireland was elected to the UN Human Rights Council for the first time in November 2012, as part of the process earlier in 2012 the UN had made 127 recommendations on how Ireland could improve its Human Rights record, 108 recommendations were accepted, 19 were rejected. Ireland made a number of additional commitments at the time of its election.
Trade unions operate freely and without interference in Ireland, employees have a legal right to join a trade union of their choice. The constitution provides for freedoms of assembly and association. The constitution and law prohibit discrimination based on race, gender, disability, language, or social status. However, the IHRC continues to be concerned at the level of racial discrimination in Ireland and believes that further action is needed to protect the rights of asylum seekers, the Traveller Community, migrant workers and their families, and victims of human trafficking.
Women have the same legal rights as men, including rights under family law, property law, and in the judicial system. However, women continue to be underrepresented in senior positions in both government and business. According to a recent OECD report, average pay for younger female workers in Ireland is higher than for their male counterparts, reflecting higher average qualification levels. But the report also found that women in Ireland are more likely to leave the labour market once they have children than women in other EU Member States.
Bribery and Corruption
Bribery is illegal. It is an offence for UK nationals and bodies incorporated under UK law, to bribe anywhere in the world.
The fight against bribery and corruption has been strengthened substantially on national and international levels in the last number of years. In May 2008 the Irish Government launched an . Its purpose is to inform the public about the consequences of bribery and corruption, both for individuals and for companies working in an international business environment. The website provides access to the relevant conventions and provides details of how and where to make complaints about suspected bribery and corruption.
There is an underlying threat from terrorism. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
Protective Security Advice
Most visitors to Ireland enjoy a trouble-free time and experience no difficulties during their stay. Take sensible precautions to avoid personal attacks, bag snatching and pick pocketing. Try to avoid carrying valuables and large sums of money. You should make sure that vehicles are properly secured, and where possible park in secure parking lots. Do not leave valuables such as handbags or mobile phones in your car.
IP rights are territorial, that is they only give protection in the countries where they are granted or registered. If you are thinking about trading internationally, they you should consider registering your IP rights in your export markets.
As in many other major European countries, international organised criminal activity takes place in parts of Ireland, in particular linked to drugs and people trafficking. There has been government action to tackle these issues and the UK and Ireland work closely together in this area.