U.S. Department of State
Background Notes:  Ireland, November 1995
Bureau of Public Affairs

November 1995
Official Name:  Ireland
Area: 70,282 sq. km. (27,136 sq. mi.); slightly larger than West 
Cities: Capital--Dublin (pop. 502,749; about 1 million in metropolitan 
area, or about one-third the total population). Other cities--Cork 
(133,271), Limerick (56,279), Galway (47,104), Waterford, (39,529). 
Terrain: Arable 10%, meadows and pastures 77%, rough grazing in use 11%, 
inland water 2%. 
Climate: Temperate maritime.
Nationality:  Noun--Irishman, Irishwoman.  Adjective--Irish. 
Population: 3.6 million. 
Ethnic groups: Celtic, with English minority. 
Religions: Roman Catholic 91%, other Christian denominations 4%. 
Languages: English, Irish (Gaelic). 
Education: Years compulsory--9. Attendance--93%.  Literacy--90%. 
Health: Infant mortality rate--6/1,000. Life expectancy--75 years: male 
72 yrs., female 78 yrs. 
Work force: Services--54%.  
Industry-- 28%. Agriculture--12%.   Government--6%.
Type: Parliamentary republic. 
Independence: 1921. 
Constitution: December 29, 1937. 
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state); prime minister 
(Taoiseach--pronounced "TEE-shuk") head of government.  Legislative--
bicameral National Parliament (Oireachtas--pronounced "ir-ROCK-tas"): 
House of Representatives (Dail--pronounced "DAW-il"), and Senate 
(Seanad--pronounced "SHAN-ad"). Judicial--Supreme Court. 
Administrative subdivisions: 26 counties. 
Major political parties: Fianna Fail, Fine Gael, Labor, Workers' Party, 
Progressive Democrats, Democratic Left, Green Party. 
Suffrage: Universal over 18.
GNP (1994): $46 billion. 
Annual growth rate (1994): 5.5%. 
Per capita income: $12,000. 
Natural resources: Zinc, lead, natural gas, barite, copper, gypsum, 
limestone, dolomite, peat, silver, gold. 
Agriculture (8% of GNP): Products--cattle, meat, and dairy products, 
potatoes, barley, sugar beets, hay, silage, wheat. 
Industry (36% of GNP): Types--food processing, beverages, engineering, 
computer equipment, textiles and clothing, chemicals and 
pharmaceuticals, construction. Trade (1994): Exports--$36 billion:   
computer equipment, chemicals, meat, dairy products, machinery. Major 
markets--U.K. 27%, other EU countries 41%, U.S. 8%. Imports--$26 
billion:  grains, petroleum products, machinery, transport equipment, 
chemicals, textile yarns.  Major suppliers--U.K. 36%, other EU countries 
20%, U.S. 18%.
U.S. relations with Ireland are based on common ancestral ties and on 
similar values and political views. The United States seeks to maintain 
and strengthen the traditionally cordial relations between the people of 
the United States and Ireland. 

Emigration is a major factor affecting the political, economic, and 
social fabric of Ireland. Pushed by high unemployment, more than 150,000 
persons have left the country in the last 10 years. The primary 
destination is the United Kingdom, with the United States a strong 
second. The status of tens of thousands of Irish illegals in the United 
States, most of them under 30 years of age, is a matter of concern and 
debate in Irish public life.

U.S. Government policy on Northern Ireland condemns all acts of 
terrorism and violence. It also cautions all Americans to question 
closely any appeal for financial or other aid from groups involved in 
the Northern Ireland conflict to ensure that contributions do not end up 
in the hands of those who perpetuate violence, either directly or 
indirectly. The United States has warmly welcomed the Anglo-Irish 
Agreement of 1985 and the 1993 Downing Street Declaration as a framework 
for progress in Northern Ireland. 
Trade and Investment
 In 1994, trade between Ireland and the United States was $7.6 billion, 
a 20%  increase over 1993.  U.S. exports to Ireland were $4.7 billion, 
an increase of about 25% over 1993 and 18% of Ireland's total imports.  
The range of U.S. products includes electrical components, computers and 
peripherals, drugs and pharmaceuticals, electrical equipment and 
livestock feed.  Irish exports to the United States grew by 10% to just 
under $3 billion in 1993, representing about 8% of all Irish exports. 
Exports to the United States include alcoholic beverages, chemicals and 
related products, electronic data processing equipment, electrical 
machinery, textiles and clothing, and glassware.

The U.S. traditionally has had a trade surplus with Ireland, due 
primarily to purchases of U.S.-origin raw materials and intermediate 
goods by the many U.S. subsidiaries in Ireland and substantial trade in 
agricultural products. In 1994, the U.S. trade surplus was $1.8 billion, 
compared to  $1 billion in 1993. Given the continued favorable outlook 
for the Irish economy, good sales opportunities exist for U.S. producers 
in Ireland. Export-Import Bank financing and the presence of major U.S. 
banks in Ireland facilitate marketing by U.S. suppliers.

U.S. statements have noted the important contribution toward economic 
and social progress represented by American industrial investment in 
Ireland--north and south--and have pledged to maintain the U.S. 
commitment to facilitate the growth of such job-creating investment. 
U.S. investment has been particularly important to the growth and 
modernization of Irish industry over the past 25 years, providing new 
technology, export capabilities, and employment opportunities. U.S. 
investment in Ireland is more than  $8 billion. There are more than 400 
U.S. subsidiaries, employing about 50,000 people and spanning activities 
from manufacturing of high-tech electronics, computer products, medical 
supplies, and pharmaceuticals to retailing and services.  

Many U.S. businesses find Ireland an attractive location to manufacture 
for the EU market, since it is inside the EU customs area. Government 
policies are generally formulated to facilitate trade and inward direct 
investment. The availability of an educated, well-trained, English-
speaking work force and relatively moderate wage costs have been 
important factors. Ireland offers good long-term growth prospects for 
U.S. companies under an innovative financial incentive program, 
including capital grants and favorable tax treatment, such as a 
reduction from 40% to 38% in the standard corporation tax rate and a 10% 
corporation income tax rate for certain manufacturing firms.
Principal U.S. Officials
Ambassador--Jean Kennedy Smith 
Deputy Chief of Mission--Dennis A. Sandberg 
Administrative Officer--vacant 
Commercial Attache--Edward Cannon 
Consular Officer--Ann Sides 
Defense Attache--Col. William Torpey 
Economic Officer--Madelyn Spirnak 
Political Officer--Richard Norland 
Public Affairs Officer--Lynn Cassel 
The U.S. embassy in Ireland is located at 42 Elgin Road, Ballsbridge, 
Dublin 4 (tel. 668-7122;  fax 668-9946). The consular section is located 
in an annex across the street on the third floor of Hume House. 
Ireland is a sovereign, independent, democratic state with a 
parliamentary system of government. The president, who serves as chief 
of state in a largely ceremonial role, is elected for a seven-year term 
and can be re-elected only once. In carrying out certain constitutional 
powers and functions, the president is aided by the Council of State, an 
advisory body. On the prime minister's advice, the president also 
dissolves the House of Representatives.

The president appoints as prime minister the leader of the political 
party, or coalition of parties, which wins the most seats in the House 
of Representatives. Executive power is vested in a cabinet whose 
ministers are nominated by the prime minister and approved by the House.

The bicameral National Parliament (Oireachtas) consists of the Senate 
(Seanad Eireann) and the House of Representatives (Dail Eireann). The 
Senate is composed of 60 members--11 nominated by the prime minister, 
six elected by the national universities, and 43 elected from panels of 
candidates established on a vocational basis. The Senate has  the power 
to delay legislative proposals and is allowed 90 days to consider and 
amend bills sent to it by the House, which--because it can initiate 
legislation--wields greater power in Parliament. The House has 166 
members popularly elected to a maximum term of five years under a 
complex system of proportional representation.

Judges are appointed by the president on nomination by the government 
and can be removed from office only for misbehavior or incapacity and 
then only by resolution of both houses of parliament. The ultimate court 
of appeal is the Supreme Court, consisting of the chief justice and five 
other justices. The Supreme Court can also decide upon the 
constitutionality of legislative acts if the president asks for an 

Local government is by elected county councils and--in the cities of 
Dublin, Cork, Limerick, and Waterford--by county borough corporations. 
In practice, however, authority remains with the central government.
Political Parties
From 1800 to 1921, Ireland was part of the United Kingdom. The Anglo-
Irish Treaty of 1921 established the Irish Free State, which after World 
War II left the British Commonwealth and became a republic. Six northern 
counties--Northern Ireland--remained part of the United Kingdom.

Irish politics remain dominated by the two political parties that grew 
out of Ireland's bitter 1922-23 civil war. Fianna Fail was formed by 
those who opposed the 1921 treaty that partitioned the island. Although 
treaty opponents lost the civil war, Fianna Fail quickly became 
Ireland's largest political party. Fine Gael, representative of the pro-
treaty forces, remains the country's second-largest party.

In recent years, however, there have been signs that this largely two-
party structure is breaking down. Mary Robinson of the Labour Party 
shocked the political establishment by winning the 1990 presidential 
election. Before Robinson, the presidency had always been held by either 
Fianna Fail or Fine Gael. Articulating a progressive agenda for 
Ireland's future and outspoken on social issues, Robinson represents a 
distinct break from the conservative politics of the two major parties.

The November 1992 general election confirmed this trend. The two main 
parties lost ground as the Labour Party scored a historic breakthrough, 
winning 19% of the vote and 33 seats in the House. Fianna Fail won 39% 
and 68 seats; Fine Gael won 24.5% and 45 seats.  As a result of the 
election, Labour holds the balance of power between the two largest 
parties, neither of which was able to win a parliamentary majority. 
Labour initially chose to go into coalition with Fianna Fail, but that 
government collapsed in November 1994 over a scandal involving the 
Attorney General's handling of the extradition of a pedophile priest. In 
the ensuing struggle, Labour again demonstrated its new kingmaking 
powers when it dictated the terms of a new "rainbow" government 
coalition with Fine Gael and the Democratic Left.
Northern Ireland
Resolving the Northern Ireland problem remains the leading political 
issue. Nationalists in Northern Ireland want unification with Ireland, 
while unionists and loyalists want continued union with Great Britain.

Since the 1985 Anglo-Irish Agreement granting Ireland a formal voice in 
Northern Ireland affairs, there has been an extensive dialogue between 
the two governments on how to bring about a peaceful, democratic 
resolution of the conflict. In December 1993, then-Irish Prime Minister 
Reynolds and British Prime Minister Major issued the "Downing Street 
Declaration." This held out the promise of inclusive political talks on 
the future of Northern Ireland and led the Irish Republican Army (IRA) 
to call a "total cessation" of military operations on August 31, 1994. 
This was followed six weeks later by a similar cease-fire by the 
loyalist paramilitaries.

Following up on the cease-fires, the two governments in February 1995 
issued their joint "Frameworks" document, which proposed a basis for 
negotiations. While the document was generally welcomed by nationalists, 
it was immediately rejected by unionists, who disparaged it as a 
"blueprint for a united Ireland."  Despite the negative unionist 
reaction, the two governments tried to launch the negotiating process by 
announcing that they would hold a series of bilaterals with all the 
constitutional parties in the north.

By the summer of 1995, however, this effort had yet to get off the 
ground due to a continuing disagreement between the British Government 
and Sinn Fein, the political arm of the IRA. The British Government 
insisted that Sinn Fein could not be included in all-party talks on the 
future of Northern Ireland until the IRA had demonstrated its commitment 
to the democratic process by beginning to decommission its large cache 
of arms. Sinn Fein responded that it was not in position to have the IRA 
decommission its weapons at least until a political settlement was in 
sight. With the approach of the one-year anniversary of the IRA cease-
fire, there was hope that the impasse could be broken by the 
establishment of an international commission to study the problem, 
although by mid-November, such a body had yet to be set up.
Principal Government Officials
President--Mary Robinson 
Prime Minister --John Bruton 
Deputy Prime Minister and 
Minister for Foreign Affairs--Dick Spring 
Ambassador to the United States--Dermot Gallagher 
Ireland maintains an embassy in the United States at 2234 Massachusetts 
Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20008 (tel. 202-462-3939/40/41/42). Irish 
consulates are located in New York, Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco.


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