Foreign relations of the Republic of Ireland
|This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the Republic of Ireland
The foreign relations of Ireland are substantially influenced by its membership of the European Union, although bilateral relations with the United States and United Kingdom are also important to the country. It is one of the group of smaller nations in the EU, and has traditionally followed a non-aligned foreign policy. Ireland tends towards independence in foreign military policy, thus it is not a member of NATO and has a longstanding policy of military neutrality. According to the Irish Defence forces, this policy has helped them to be successful in their contributions to UN peace-keeping missions since 1960 (in the Congo Crisis) and subsequently in Cyprus, Lebanon and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- 1 Main relationships
- 2 Europe and the European Union
- 3 Americas
- 4 Oceania
- 5 Africa
- 6 Asia
- 7 Overview
- 8 United Nations
- 9 International organisations
- 10 Foreign aid
- 11 Human rights
- 12 Ireland and the Commonwealth of Nations
- 13 See also
- 14 References
- 15 External links
Since at least the 1600s Ireland has had political connections with the United Kingdom, with the whole island becoming a part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 1801 to 1922. From the time of Ireland declaring itself independent from the United Kingdom in 1937, the two countries have been involved in a dispute over the status of Northern Ireland. Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland formerly claimed Northern Ireland as a part of the "national territory", though in practice the Irish government did recognise the UK's jurisdiction over the region.
From the onset of the Troubles in 1969, the two governments sought to bring the violence to an end. The Sunningdale Agreement of 1973 and the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985 were important steps in this process. In 1998, both states signed the Good Friday Agreement and now co-operate closely to find a solution to the region's problems. Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland were amended as part of this agreement, the territorial claim being replaced with a statement of aspiration to unite the people of the island of Ireland. As part of the Good Friday Agreement, the states also ended their dispute over their respective names: Ireland and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Each agreed to accept and use the others' correct name.
When the Troubles were raging in Northern Ireland, the Irish Government sought, with mixed success, to prevent the import of weapons and ammunition through its territory by illegal paramilitary organisations for use in their conflict with the security forces in Northern Ireland. In the 1970s the Irish warship, the LÉ Ciara intercepted a ship carrying weapons from Libya which were probably destined for Irish Republican paramilitaries. Law enforcement acts such as these additionally improved relations with the government of the United Kingdom. However, the independent judiciary blocked a number of attempts to extradite suspects between 1970 and 1998 on the basis that their crime might have been 'political' and thus contrary to international law at the time.
Ireland is one of the parties to the Rockall continental shelf dispute that also involves Denmark, Iceland, and the United Kingdom. Ireland and the United Kingdom have signed a boundary agreement in the Rockall area. However, neither have concluded similar agreements with Iceland or Denmark (on behalf of the Faroe Islands) and the matter remains under negotiation. Iceland now claims  a substantial area of the continental shelf to the west of Ireland, to a point 49°48'N 19°00'W, which is further south than Ireland.
The controversial Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in north-western England has also been a contentious issue between the two governments. The Irish government has sought the closure of the plant, taking a case against the UK government under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. However, the European Court of Justice found that the case should have been dealt with under EU law. In 2006, however, both countries came to a friendly agreement which enabled both the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland and the Garda Síochána (Irish Police Force) access to the site to conduct investigations.
The cultural relationship between the two countries still remain strong, particularly in sport. The British and Irish Lions, for example, is a rugby team made up of players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales that undertakes tours of the southern hemisphere playing the major rugby nations such as New Zealand, Australia and South Africa every four years.
The United States recognised the Irish Free States on 28 June 1924 with diplomatic relations being established on 7 October 1924. In 1927, the United States opened an American Legation in Dublin. Due to the ancestral ties between the two countries, Ireland and the U.S. have a strong relationship, both politically and economically, with the U.S. being Ireland's biggest trading partner since 2000. Ireland also receives more foreign direct investment from the U.S. than many larger nations, with investments in Ireland equal to France and Germany combined and, in 2012, more than all of developing Asia put together.
The use of Shannon Airport as a stop-over point for US forces en route to Iraq has caused domestic controversy in Ireland. Opponents of this policy brought an unsuccessful High Court case against the government in 2003, arguing that this use of Irish airspace violated Irish neutrality. Restrictions such as carrying no arms, ammunition, or explosives, and that the flights in question did not form part of military exercises or operations were put in place to defend Irish neutrality, however allegations have been made against the Central Intelligence Agency that the airport has been used between 30 and 50 times for illegal extraordinary rendition flights to the U.S.
In 1995 a decision was made by the U.S. government to appoint a Special Envoy to Northern Ireland to help with the Northern Ireland peace process. During the 2008 presidential campaign in the United States, however, Democratic Party candidate Barack Obama was reported as having questioned the necessity to keep a US Special Envoy for Northern Ireland. His remarks caused uproar within the Republican Party, with Senator John McCain questioning his leadership abilities and his commitment to the ongoing peace process in Northern Ireland.
Ireland's official relationship with the People's Republic of China began on 22 June 1979. Following his visit to China in 1998, former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern authorised the establishment of an Asia Strategy. The aim of this Strategy was to ensure that the Irish Government and Irish enterprise work coherently to enhance the important relationships between Ireland and Asia. In recent years due to the rapid expansion of the Chinese economy, China is becoming a key trade partner of Ireland, with over $6bn worth of bilateral trade between the two countries in 2010. In July 2013, the Irish Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade were invited to China by the Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi on a trade mission to boost both investment and political ties between the two countries.
Ireland has raised its concerns in the area of human rights with China on a number of occasions. On 12 May 2007, during a visit to Beijing, former Taoiseach Brian Cowen (then Minister for Finance) discussed human rights issues with Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing. Former Tánaiste Mary Coughlan also raised human rights issues and concerns with visiting Chinese Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan. Ireland also participates in the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue.
Although Taiwan continues to exercise autonomy and to term itself ‘The Republic of China’, this is not recognised in international law. Taiwan’s official status is that of a Province of China...Ireland recognises the Government of the PRC as the sole legitimate government of China. Ireland does not maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan and there is no inter-Governmental contact between the two sides. A Taipei Representative Office, established in Dublin in 1988, has a representative function in relation to economic and cultural promotion, but no diplomatic or political status.
The former Minister's emphasis on the One China policy and to the Taiwan issue being best settled through dialogue "between the parties concerned" was consistent with Beijing's wish that the Taiwan issue be regarded as a domestic one between Chinese on both sides of the Taiwan Straits.
Europe and the European Union
Ireland is consistently the most pro-European of EU member states, with 77% of the population approving of EU membership according to a Eurobarometer poll in 2006. Ireland was a founding member of the euro single currency. In May 2004, Ireland was one of only three countries to open its borders to workers from the 10 new member states. EU issues important to Ireland include the Common Agricultural Policy, corporation tax harmonisation and the EU Constitution. The Irish electorate declined to ratify the Treaty of Lisbon in 2008. A second referendum in October 2009 passed the bill, allowing the treaty to be ratified before it was ratified legal guarantees on issues such as the right of Ireland to remain militarily neutral (and not engage in any kind of "European army"),the right of the state to maintain its low levels of corporation tax and that the treaty would not change the right to life article in the Irish constitution making abortion illegal and an act of murder under Irish constitutional law.
As of 2013[update], Paschal Donohoe is Minister of State for European Affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs. Ireland has held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on seven occasions (in 1975, 1979, 1984, 1990, 1996, 2004 and 2013).
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|Bosnia and Herzegovina||
|Cyprus||See Cyprus-Ireland relations|
|Denmark||1962||See Denmark-Ireland relations|
Ireland supports EU initiatives to promote peace between Georgia and Russia. Ireland recognises Georgian sovereignty over the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Ireland condemned the decision of Russia to recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. The separatist Parliament of Abkhazia expressly called on Ireland to recognise Abkhaz independence, drawing parallels between Ireland’s own historic struggle for independence and international recognition with its own, the Abkhaz Parliament’s statement recalling that:
“Just like Ireland, Abkhazia has finally acquired long-awaited independence and recognition at the cost of enormous efforts...[Ireland] was de facto independent for a long time, but remained unrecognised. Ireland was the only unrecognised country in Europe until the world's largest country recognised a free parliament of Ireland. And that country was Russia.”
The parallel the Abkhaz Parliament referred to stems from the fact that the breakaway and largely unrecognised Irish Republic (1919–22), enjoyed some form of recognition from the RSFSR.
|Greece||1975||See Greece–Ireland relations
|Holy See||1929||See Holy See – Ireland relations|
|Kosovo||2008||See Ireland–Kosovo relations
|Republic of Macedonia||1994|
|Isle of Man||See Ireland-Isle of Man relations
|Romania||1990||See Ireland–Romania relations|
|Russia||See Ireland–Russia relations
In 2010 Slovak airport security planted actual explosives in the luggage of unsuspecting passengers as part of a security exercise. As result of additional mistakes, the explosives were flown to Dublin, Ireland causing international controversy. Prime Minister Fico refused to dismiss the interior minister after the incident.
|United Kingdom||See Above and Ireland–United Kingdom relations
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|Antigua and Barbuda||2000|
|Canada||See Canada–Ireland relations|
|Colombia||1999||See Colombia–Ireland relations|
|Mexico||21 August 1975||See Ireland–Mexico relations|
|Trinidad and Tobago|
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|Australia||See Australia–Ireland relations
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|Democratic Republic of Congo|
|Ethiopia||1994||See Ethiopia–Ireland relations
Ireland disbursed USD 71.67 million to Ethiopia in 2008, making it seventh in worldwide bilateral donors to the country. Irish foreign aid to Ethiopia includes grants towards focuses on Vulnerability, Health, Education, HIV and AIDS and Governance, either directly, through NGOs, and missionary societies. These grants amounted to € 32 million in 2007, and over € 37 million in 2006. In January, 2003, the Irish Minister of State with responsibility for Overseas Development Assistance, Tom Kitt, visited Ethiopia to see how his country could assist in famine relief. He planned to visit the Tigray Region, which was reported as being the most affected by famine at the time.
It was found in November 2012 that €4 million worth of Irish foreign aid was misappropriated by senior officials of the country. Instead of going towards aiding the development of the country, this money was redirected into the personal account of the prime minister of Uganda. The Irish government then halted all aid payments towards Uganda until the money was recouped, which eventually occurred in January 2013.
|Zambia||1965||See Ireland–Zambia relations|
|Country||Formal Relations Began||Notes|
|People's Republic of China||1979||See People's Republic of China–Ireland relations|
|India||See India–Ireland relations
Indo-Irish relations picked up steam during the freedom struggles of the respective countries against a common imperial empire in the United Kingdom. Political relations between the two states have largely been based on socio-cultural ties, although political and economic ties have also helped build relations. Indo-Irish relations were greatly strengthened by the such luminaries as the likes of Pandit Nehru, Éamon de Valera, Rabindranath Tagore, W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, and, above all, Annie Besant. Politically relations have not been cold nor warm. Mutual benefit has led to economic ties that are fruitful for both states. Visits by government leaders have kept relations cordial at regular intervals.
|Israel||1975||See Ireland–Israel relations
In 2010, the Israel Defense Forces forcibly boarded an Irish aid ship destined for the Gaza Strip which resulted in worsened relations, Israel's Mossad was also involved in the counterfeiting of five Irish passports used in an assassination, and 2 members of the Israeli ambassador's security staff in Dublin were subsequently deported. In 2010, there were numerous protests at the Israeli embassy in Ireland over the treatment of Palestinians.
|Republic of Korea||1983||
|Pakistan||See Ireland–Pakistan relations|
|Philippines||See Ireland–Philippines relations
Ireland has not yet established diplomatic relations with:
- Grenada, Guatemala, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Suriname;
- Benin, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Comoros, Equatorial Guinea, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritania, São Tomé and Príncipe, South Sudan, Swaziland, Togo;
- Marshall Islands, Niue, Tonga;
- Sovereign Military Order of Malta;
- states with limited recognition except Kosovo.
The United Nations was founded in 1945, but Ireland's membership was blocked by the Soviet Union until 1955. Since 25 July 2007, the Irish ambassador to the UN Office at Geneva has been Dáithí Ó Ceallaigh. Ireland has been elected to the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member on three occasions — in 1962, in 1981–1982 and most recently in 2001–2002.
Ireland has a long history of participation in UN peacekeeping efforts starting in 1958, just three years after joining the UN. As of 2006[update], 85 members of the Irish Defence Forces had been killed on peacekeeping missions.
List of major peacekeeping operations:
- June 1958 – December 1958: UNOGIL observer mission to Lebanon
- 1958–present: UNTSO mission to the Middle East
- 1960–1964: ONUC mission to Congo
- 1964–present: UNFICYP mission to Cyprus
- 1973–1974: UNEF II mission to Sinai after the Yom Kippur War
- 1978–present: UNIFIL mission to Lebanon
- 1988–1991: UNIIMOG mission to the Iran-Iraq border following the Iran–Iraq War
- 1993–1995: UNOSOM II "peace enforcement" mission to Somalia
- 1997–2004: SFOR mission to former Yugoslavia
- 1999–present: KFOR mission to Kosovo
- 1999–2000: INTERFET mission to East Timor
- 2003–present: UNMIL mission to Liberia
- 2008–present: EUFOR Chad/CAR mission to Chad and the Central African Republic
Ireland is a member of or otherwise participates in the following international organisations:
Ireland's aid program was founded in 1974, and in 2006 its budget amounted to €734 million. The government has set a target of reaching the Millennium Development Goal of 0.7% of Gross National Product in aid by 2012, a target which is projected to amount to €1.5 billion based on current GNP growth. Irish development aid is concentrated on eight priority countries: Lesotho, Mozambique, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia, Uganda, Vietnam and East Timor. in 2006, Malawi was announced as the ninth priority country, with a tenth country to follow. Aid has had to be reduced because of the 2008–2011 Irish financial crisis.
There have been no serious civil, human or social rights abuses/problems in the State, according to Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department. The country consistently comes among the top nations in terms of freedom and rights ratings.
|Index||Ranking (Most Recent)||Result|
|Freedom in the World – Political Rights||1st (Joint)||1 ("Free")|
|Freedom in the World – Civil Liberties||1st (Joint)||1 ("Free")|
|Index of Economic Freedom||9th||76.9 ("Mostly Free")|
|Worldwide Press Freedom Index Ranking||15th||-4.00 ("Free")|
|Global Peace Index||6th (Joint)||1.33 ("More Peaceful")|
|Democracy Index||12th||8.79 ("Full Democracy")|
|International Property Rights Index||13th (Joint)||7.9|
|Corruption Perceptions Index||16th (Joint)||7.7|
|Failed States Index||170th (7th from the bottom)||26.5 ("Sustainable")|
Ireland and the Commonwealth of Nations
Ireland was a member state of the British Commonwealth from 1922 until 1949, initially as a Dominion called the Irish Free State from 1922 until 1937, when Ireland adopted a new constitution and changed the name of the state to "Ireland". Although the king was removed from the Constitution in 1936, a republic was only formally declared from 18 April 1949. Under the rules at the time, a republic could not be a member state of the Commonwealth. This was changed a week later with the adoption of the London Declaration.
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- Department of Foreign Affairs official site
- Irish Treaty Series "All treaties published in the Irish Treaty Series since 2002 are available in pdf format on this site. A limited number of selected treaties published in earlier years is also available"