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Country Profile

Area: 70,282 sq. km (27,000 sq. miles)
Population: 4.58 million (Census 2011)
Capital City: Dublin (population: 1.2 million)
Languages: Irish is the first official language, although English, the second official language is almost universally used.
Religions: Roman Catholic 86.8%; Church of Ireland (Anglican) 3%; Presbyterian 0.6%; Methodist 0.3%; Jewish 0.05%; Other 3.3%; No religion 4.4%; Not stated 1.7% (Census 2006)
Currency: Euro
Government: The 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. Enda Kenny was elected as Taoiseach at the head of aFine Gael/Labour coalition government on 9 March 2011 by a margin of 117 votes to 27 in the Dáil.

Major political parties (number of TDs elected at 2011 General Election out of 166 seats): Fine Gael (76); Labour (37); Fianna Fáil (20); Independents (15); Sinn Féin (14); Green Party (0); Socialist Party (2); People Before Profit Alliance (2).

President: Michael D Higgins (since 11 November 2011)
Taoiseach/Prime Minister: Enda Kenny (since 9 March 2011)
Tanaiste (DPM) & Foreign Minister: Eamon Gilmore (since 9 March 2011)
Europe Minister: Lucinda Creighton (since 9 March 2011)
Full Cabinet:

-- Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade: Eamon Gilmore (Labour Party Leader)
-- Minister for Finance: Michael Noonan (Fine Gael)
-- Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation: Richard Bruton (Fine Gael)
-- Minister for Health: Dr James Reilly (Fine Gael)
-- Minister for Social Protection: Joan Burton (Labour)
-- Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform: Brendan Howlin (Labour)
-- Minister for Education and Skills: Ruairi Quinn (Labour)
-- Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources: Pat Rabbitte (Labour)
-- Minister for Children: Frances Fitzgerald (Fine Gael)
-- Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence: Alan Shatter (Fine Gael)
-- Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government: Phil Hogan (Fine Gael)
-- Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport: Leo Varadkar (Fine Gael)
-- Minister for Agriculture, Marine and Food: Simon Coveney (Fine Gael)
-- Minister for Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs: Jimmy Deenihan (Fine Gael)

-- Super Junior” Minister at Environment with responsibility for Housing and Planning: Willie Penrose (Labour) (seat at Cabinet but no vote).

Did You Know?

-- The value of two way trade of goods and services between the UK and Ireland in 2009 was a third more than our two way trade with China ).

-- Ireland is the UK’s top export market for Food and Drink, and Clothing and Textiles.

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Basic Economic FactsGNP: EUR 131,241bn (2009)
GNP per head: EUR 29,431 (2009)
Annual Growth: -7.6% GDP/-10.7%GNP (2009– Department of Finance)
Inflation: -4.5% (2009)
Government Debt (% GDP): 95% (2010 estimated)
Major Industries: Computer software, information technology, food and drink, pharmaceuticals, tourism
Major trading partners: The UK is Ireland's largest single trading partner; other key trading partners are the US, Germany and France.

The emergence of the ‘Celtic Tiger’ in mid-1990s saw Irish GDP more than double, reversing the previous trends of high unemployment and mass emigration. A key driver of this was low corporate tax rates which attracted significant foreign direct investment, a stable relationship between employers and unions (Social Partnership) and a highly educated workforce. The EU Single Market also helped Ireland to move to a more open and free-market based economy.

Between 2003 and early 2007 the Irish economy continued to expand at a steady 3-6% per annum. The drivers of the expansion were primarily construction and consumer spending. Construction in particular experienced phenomenal growth in the Tiger years with house prices in parts of Dublin regularly seeing annual increases of around 25%. The influx of migrant workers from the EU accession states helped provide a ready workforce for the construction sector and increased demand for domestic housing.

However, in 2008, with the onset of the financial crisis the Irish economy began to experience a slowdown. The near collapse of the property market put severe pressure on both the Irish banking system and the government finances. Ireland officially entered recession at the mid-2008 point. In November 2010, Ireland agreed to receive 85 billion euro of financial support from the EU and IMF. The UK, Sweden and Denmark also extended bilateral loans.

The Irish Government is committed to reducing its budget deficit to below 3% by 2014. It has taken a number of measures to try repair the banking system; to tackle unemployment; and to restore the public finances. Significant reductions in public sector pay, social welfare and capital expenditure have been made in the annual budgets since 2008.

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BBC Timeline of Ireland (

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Ireland's Relations with the International Community

Ireland is a member of the EU and has participated actively in its evolution since joining in 1973.

Ireland is also an active member of the United Nations where it lends its support to the Millennium Development Goals. Since 1958, the Irish Defence Force has had a continuous presence on UN peace support operations, mainly in the Middle East. Irish forces currently participate in several UN peacekeeping missions, notably in Kosovo and Africa.

Close links are maintained with the USA where there is a significant Irish American population. Ireland’s diaspora spreads all over the world and the country has close ties with Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Ireland has diplomatic relations with more than 100 countries, with approximately 70 Irish Embassies, Consulates-General and Permanent Representatives throughout the world.

Irish Aid

Irish Aid is the Government's Official Development Co-operation programme. It provides long-term and emergency support to developing countries to alleviate poverty and strengthen their capacity to help themselves. Funding is directed through bilateral programmes or through multilateral aid agencies such as UNICEF, UNHCR, UNDP and UNFPA.

In recent years Irish Aid has contributed to a number of new areas such as work to combat drugs and AIDS as well as increasing contributions to projects run by organisations such as UNICEF, UNHCR, UNDP and UNFPA.

Ireland's relations with the UK

The bilateral relationship with Ireland has never been stronger. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II paid a successful and historic State Visit in May 2011. There is frequent bilateral contact between Ministers and officials. We co-operate on a wide range of political and economic topics (see The British Council also has an office in Dublin to coordinate cultural and learning opportunities ( ( ).

British Council: Ireland (http://British Council Ireland)

Parliamentary Links

The British Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA) brings together representatives from the British and Irish Parliaments and the UK devolved Parliaments and assemblies. The Irish chair is Joe McHugh TD. The British chair is Lord Cope. See ( for more details.

Recent Visits

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh visited Ireland on 17-20 May 2011 at the invitation of President Mary McAleese. The programme included a series of events and ceremonies in Dublin, Cork and Counties Kildare and Tipperary.

This was the first State Visit to Ireland by a British monarch and demonstrates the closeness in relations. The Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary travelled to Ireland during the State Visit and met their Irish counterparts. The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland is also a frequent visitor.

The Irish Taoiseach and Tanaiste have both visited the UK in 2012.

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The island of Ireland lies to the west of Britain across the Irish Sea, with crossing points ranging in distance from 17.6 to 192 km (11 to 120 miles). Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom, covers an area of 13,967sq. km (5,456 sq. miles) in the North East of the island. Ireland is the only country sharing a land border with the UK.

Ireland is divided into 4 provinces and 26 counties. Agricultural lowlands form most of the interior, which is broken in places with low hills and includes considerable areas of bog and numerous lakes. There are coastal mountains to the west, rising to over 1,000m in places. Nearly a third of the population live in Dublin. Other major cities include Cork, Galway and Limerick.

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The trade and investment links between the two countries are very strong. Two way trade in goods and services amounted to more than £42 billion in 2010, accounting for 5% of total UK two way trade.

UK exports of goods to Ireland rose by 5% from 2010 to 2011. At an estimated £17.1billion in 2011, Ireland is the UK’s fifth largest export market. Meanwhile imports from Ireland rose 3% to £13 billion. Ireland is a strong market for most UK sectors including manufactured goods, food and drink, chemicals, machinery and transport equipment.

Foreign Direct Investment

At the end of 2009, direct investment in the UK by Irish companies (book value) totalled £12.1 billion. The Ernst & Young 2011 Attractiveness Survey ranked Ireland as the UK’s 9th largest investor and states that 51% of all Irish FDI goes to the UK.

The book value of UK investment in Ireland was £29.1 billion at the end of 2009 putting Ireland 9th, as a destination for UK investment abroad. In 2010, IDA Ireland listed the UK as the third largest source of new investment in Ireland.

UK Trade and Investment Country Profile: Ireland (

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Recent Political Developments

European Parliament (EP) elections and Local Government elections are held every five years and last took place on 5 June 2009.

The European Parliament results were (compared with the 2004):

Fine Gael - 4 seats
Fianna Fail - 3 seats
Labour - 3 seats
Green Party - 0 seats
Sinn Fein - 0 seats
Others/Independents - 2 seats

The Local Election results were (compared with 2004):
Fine Gael - 338 seats
Fianna Fáil - 213 seats
Labour - 116 seats
Greens - 3 seats
Sinn Féin - 53 seats
Others/Independents - 134 seats


The last general election took place on 25 February 2011.

The last Presidential election took place on 27 October 2011.

Ireland and the EU

Ireland joined the European Economic Community, which was later renamed the European Union, in 1973, along with the UK and Denmark. EU membership is the central framework within which the Irish Government pursues its foreign policy objectives. There are 12 Irish Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) representing four constituencies. Irish is an Official and Working Language of the European Union.

Ireland has held the six-month Presidency of the Council of the European Union on six occasions. Its most recent Presidency was in 2004, when it oversaw the enlargement that saw ten Member States join the EU. It will next hold the Presidency in the first half of 2013.

In a referendum held on 2 October 2009 the Irish people voted to approve the Lisbon Treaty by 67.1% to 32.9%. This overturned their previous rejection of the treaty in a referendum in June 2008.

Northern Ireland

There is regular contact with the Irish Government through the North South Ministerial Council, which brings together Irish Ministers and Ministers from the Northern Ireland Executive ( ( ) and through the British Irish Council( ( ), which brings together British and Irish Ministers and their counterparts from Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands.

For more information on NI devolved matters please go to ( . Non-devolved issues are covered at ( .

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Ireland has ratified the core UN human rights treaties and a wide range of other international human rights instruments. In 2007 Ireland signed five new international treaties: the United Nations Convention on the Rights of All Persons with Disabilities, the United Nations Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the United Nations Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings and the Council of Europe Convention on the Protection of Children Against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse.

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Last Updated: February 2012

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