Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs
July 5, 2016

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Executive SummaryShare    

The Irish government actively promotes foreign direct investment (FDI) and has had considerable success in attracting U.S. investment, in particular. Currently, there are approximately 700 U.S. subsidiaries in Ireland operating primarily in the following sectors: chemicals, bio-pharmaceuticals and medical devices, computer hardware and software, electronics, and financial services.

One of Ireland's most attractive features as an FDI destination is its low corporate tax rate, which has remained at 12.5 percent since 2003. The regime is also relatively simple, as the reported effective tax rate is 12.4 percent. Other factors cited by foreign firms include: the quality and flexibility of the English-speaking workforce, availability of a multi-lingual labor force, cooperative labor relations, political stability, pro-business government policies and regulators, a transparent judicial system, transportation links, proximity to the United States and Europe, and the drawing power of existing companies operating successfully in Ireland (a "clustering" effect).

All firms incorporated in Ireland are treated on an equal basis; Ireland's judicial system is transparent and upholds the sanctity of contracts, as well as laws affecting foreign investment. Conversely, factors that negatively affect Ireland’s ability to attract investment include: high labor and operating (such as energy) costs, skilled-labor shortages, eurozone risk, any residual fallout from Ireland’s ongoing economic and financial restructuring, sometimes-deficient infrastructure (such as in transportation, energy and internet/broadband), uncertainty in European Union policies on some regulatory matters, and absolute price levels that are among the highest in Europe.

There is no formal screening process for foreign investment in Ireland, though investors looking to receive government grants or assistance through one of the four state agencies responsible for promoting foreign investment in Ireland are often required to meet certain employment and investment criteria.

Ireland uses the euro as its national currency and enjoys full current and capital account liberalization.

Secured interests in property, both chattel and real estate, are recognized and enforced. Ireland is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and a party to the International Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property.

There are a number of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Ireland in the energy, broadcasting and transportation sectors. All of Ireland’s SOEs are open to competition for market share.

The United States and Ireland do not have a Bilateral Investment Treaty, but have shared a Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation Treaty, which provides for national treatment of U.S. investors, since 1950. The two countries also share a Tax Treaty since 1998 which was supplemented in December 2012 with an agreement to improve international tax compliance and to implement the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

Table 1



Index or Rank

Website Address

TI Corruption Perceptions index


17 of 175

World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business”


17 of 189

Global Innovation Index


8 of 143

U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)



World Bank GNI per capita




1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign InvestmentShare    

Attitude toward Foreign Direct Investment

The Irish government actively promotes foreign direct investment (FDI), a strategy that has fueled economic growth since the mid-1990s. The principal goal of Ireland’s investment promotion has been employment creation, especially in technology-intensive and high-skill industries. More recently, the government has focused on Ireland’s international competitiveness by encouraging foreign-owned companies to enhance research and development (R&D) activities and to deliver higher-value goods and services.

The Irish government's actions have achieved considerable success in attracting U.S. investment, in particular. As of year-end 2014, the stock of U.S. foreign direct investment in Ireland stood at USD 311 billion, more than the U.S. total for China, India, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa (the BRICS countries) combined. There are approximately 700 U.S. subsidiaries currently in Ireland employing roughly 140,000 people and supporting work for another 250,000, out of a total of 1.98 million people employed in a labor force of 2.17 million. U.S. firms operate primarily in the following sectors: chemicals, bio-pharmaceuticals and medical devices, computer hardware and software, electronics, and financial services.

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, management and manufacturing best practices, as well as employment opportunities. U.S. firms in Ireland have

activities that span from the manufacturing of high-tech electronics, computer products, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals to retailing, banking, finance, and other services. In more recent years, Ireland has also become an important research and development center for U.S. firms in Europe, and a magnet for U.S. internet/digital media investment, with industry leaders like Google, Amazon, eBay/Paypal, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Electronic Arts making Ireland the hub of their respective European, and sometimes Middle Eastern, African, and/or Indian operations.

U.S. companies are attracted to Ireland as an exporting sales and support platform to the European Union (EU) and other global markets, mainly the Middle East and Africa. Other reasons for Ireland’s attractiveness as an FDI destination include: a 12.5 percent corporate tax rate for domestic and foreign firms and simple tax regime, the quality and flexibility of the English-speaking workforce, availability of a multi-lingual labor force, cooperative labor relations, political stability, pro-business government policies and regulators, a transparent judicial system, transportation links, proximity to the U.S. and Europe, and the drawing power of existing companies operating successfully in Ireland (a "clustering" effect).

Conversely, factors that negatively affect Ireland’s ability to attract investment include: high labor and operating (such as energy) costs, skilled-labor shortages, eurozone risk, any residual fallout from Ireland’s ongoing economic and financial restructuring, sometimes-deficient infrastructure (such as in transportation, energy and internet/broadband), uncertainty in EU policies on some regulatory matters, and absolute price levels that are among the highest in Europe. The Irish government has expressed concern that energy costs and the reliability of energy supply could undermine Ireland’s attractiveness as an FDI destination. The American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland has noted the need for greater attention to a “skills gap” in the supply of Irish graduates to the high technology sector, and has also asserted that high personal income tax rates can make attracting talent from abroad difficult.

In December 2013, Ireland became the first country in the eurozone to exit an EU/ECB/IMF (Troika) bailout program. Compliance with the Troika’s terms came at a substantial economic cost, in the form of GDP stagnation, austerity measures and chronically high unemployment. The economy has since recovered and was the fasting growing economy in the EU in 2015, with a growth rate of 7.8 percent. Meanwhile, government initiatives to attract investment are helping to stimulate employment. With unemployment numbers dropping, there is a resurgent interest in Ireland as an investment destination. A number of recent successful sales of government bonds on sovereign debt markets appear to exemplify renewed international confidence in Ireland’s recovery.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Economist Intelligence Unit and World Bank's Doing Business 2015 provide current information on Ireland's investment policies.

Laws/Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

One of Ireland's most attractive features as an FDI destination is its low corporate tax rate. Since 2003, the headline corporate tax rate for both foreign and domestic firms has been 12.5 percent. The tax regime is also relatively simple, as the reported effective tax rate is 12.4 percent. Ireland's headline corporate tax rate is among the lowest in the EU, and the Irish government continues to oppose proposals to harmonize taxes at a single EU rate. In October 2014, the government announced that firms would no longer be able to incorporate in Ireland without also being tax resident. Prior to this change, firms could incorporate in Ireland and be tax resident elsewhere and could use an arrangement commonly known as the “Double Irish” to reduce tax liabilities. The Irish government has indicated it will adhere to future decisions reached through the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Sharing (BEPS) discussions. The government implemented a Knowledge Development Box, effective in 2016, which is reportedly consistent with OECD guidelines.

All firms incorporated in Ireland are treated on an equal basis. With only a few exceptions, there are no constraints preventing foreign individuals or entities from ownership or participation in private firms/corporations. The most significant of these exceptions is that, as with other EU countries, Irish airlines must be at least 50 percent owned by EU residents in order to have full access to the single European aviation market. Citizens of countries other than Ireland and other EU member states can acquire land for private residential or industrial purposes. Under Section 45 of the Land Act, 1965, all non-EU nationals must obtain the written consent of the Land Commission before acquiring an interest in land zoned for agricultural use. There are many stud farms and racing facilities in Ireland that are owned by foreign nationals in such areas. No restrictions exist on the acquisition of urban land.

Ireland's judicial system is transparent and upholds the sanctity of contracts, as well as laws affecting foreign investment. These laws include:

  • The Companies Act 2014, which contains the basic requirements for incorporation in Ireland;
  • The 2004 Finance Act, which introduced tax incentives to encourage firms to set up headquarters in Ireland and to conduct R&D;
  • The Mergers, Takeovers and Monopolies Control Act of 1978, which sets out rules governing mergers and takeovers by foreign and domestic companies;
  • The Competition (Amendment) Act of 1996, which amends and extends the Competition Act of 1991 and the Mergers and Takeovers (Control) Acts of 1978 and 1987, and sets out the rules governing competitive behavior; and,
  • The Industrial Development Act of 1993, which outlines the functions of IDA Ireland.

The Companies Act, with more than 1,400 sections and 17 Schedules, is the largest-ever Irish statute, consolidating and reforming Irish company law for the first time in over 50 years.

In addition, there are numerous laws and regulations pertaining to employment, social security, environmental protection and taxation, with many of these keyed to EU Directives, and Ireland has a Foreign Account Tax Compliance Agreement (FATCA) agreement in force with the U.S.

Business Registration

All firms must register with the Companies Registration Office ( As well as registering companies, the CRO also can register a business/trading name, a non-Ireland based foreign company (external company), or a limited partnership. A company registered under the Companies Act 2014 becomes a body corporate as and from the date mentioned in its certificate of incorporation. While the website permits online data submission, it must be supplemented by a paper copy with relevant signatures unless the company has already registered at (the tax collecting authority).

Industrial Promotion

The following six government departments and organizations currently promote investment into Ireland by foreign companies:

  • The Industrial Development Authority of Ireland (IDA Ireland) has overall responsibility for promoting and facilitating FDI in all areas of the country, except the Shannon Free Zone (see below). IDA Ireland is also responsible for attracting foreign companies to Dublin's International Financial Services Center (IFSC). IDA Ireland maintains seven U.S. offices in New York; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Mountain View, CA; Irvine, CA; Atlanta, GA; and Austin, TX as well as multiple offices in Europe and Asia.
  • Enterprise Ireland promotes joint ventures and strategic alliances between indigenous and foreign companies. The agency also assists foreign firms that wish to establish food and drink manufacturing operations in Ireland. EI has four offices in the United States: New York; Austin, TX; Boston, MA; and Mountain View, CA.
  • Shannon Group (formerly the Shannon Free Airport Development Company) promotes FDI in the Shannon Free Zone (see description below) and owns properties in the Shannon region as potential green-field investment sites. Under the 2006 Industrial Development Amendments Act, responsibility for investment by Irish firms in the Shannon region was transferred from the Shannon Group to Enterprise Ireland. IDA Ireland remains responsible for FDI in the Shannon region outside the Shannon Free Zone.
  • Udaras na Gaeltachta (Udaras) has responsibility for economic development in those areas of Ireland where Irish (Gaeilge) is the predominant language and works with IDA Ireland to promote overseas investment in these regions.
  • Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has responsibility for economic messaging and supporting the country’s trade promotion agenda as well as Diaspora engagement to attract investment.
  • Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation supports the creation of good jobs by promoting the development of a competitive business environment in which enterprises will operate with high standards and grow in sustainable markets.

Limits on Foreign Control and Right to Private Ownership and Establishment

There are no barriers to participation by foreign entities in the sale of state-owned Irish companies, as seen, for example, in the purchase by U.S. investors of shares of the formerly state-owned national airline Aer Lingus during its privatization. Residents of Ireland, however, may be given priority in share allocations to retail investors, as was the case with the state-owned telecommunications company Eircom when it was privatized in 1998. The government privatized Aer Lingus in 2005 through a stock market flotation but retained about a one-quarter stake in the airline. In 2015, the International Airlines Group (IAG) made purchased the government’s remaining stake in the airline.

Irish law does not prevent foreign corporations (registered under the Companies Act 2014 or previous legislation and known locally as a public limited company, or plc for short) from conducting business in Ireland. Any company incorporated abroad that establishes a branch must, however, file certain papers with the Registrar of Companies. A foreign corporation with a branch in Ireland will have the same standing in Irish law for purposes of contracts, etc., as a company incorporated in Ireland. Private businesses are not at a competitive disadvantage to public enterprises with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations.

Citizens of countries other than Ireland and other EU member states can acquire land for private residential or industrial purposes. Under Section 45 of the Land Act, 1965, all non-EU nationals must obtain the written consent of the Land Commission before acquiring an interest in land zoned for agricultural use. There are many equine stud farms and racing facilities in such areas that are owned by foreign nationals. No restrictions exist on the acquisition of urban land.

Privatization Program

While Ireland does not have a formal privatization program, the government agreed in 2010, as part of its Troika bailout program, to privatize some of its state-owned and semi-state owned enterprises. The government nominated but has not yet sold some non-strategic elements of Ervia (formerly Bord Gais Eireann (BGE) - the gas supply company) while it also indicated that it may sell the electricity generating arm of Electric Ireland, the electricity supply company. (See “State-Owned Enterprises” below.)

Screening of FDI

There is no formal screening process for foreign investment in Ireland, though investors looking to receive government grants or assistance through one of the four state agencies responsible for promoting foreign investment in Ireland are often required to meet certain employment and investment criteria. These screening mechanisms are transparent and do not impede investment, limit competition, or protect domestic interests. Potential investors are also required to examine the environmental impact of the proposed project and to meet with Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officials.

Competition Law

The Competition Act of 2002, subsequently amended and extended by the Competition Act 2006, strengthens the enforcement power of the independent statutory agency, the Competition Authority. The Act also introduced criminal liability for anti-competitive practices, increased corporate liability for violations, and outlined available defenses. Most tax, labor, environment, health and safety, and other laws are compatible with EU regulations, and they do not adversely affect investment. Proposed laws and regulations are published in draft form for public comment, including by foreign firms and their representative associations. Bureaucratic procedures are transparent and reasonably efficient, in line with a general pro-business climate espoused by the government.

The Irish Takeover Panel Act of 1997 governs company takeovers. Under the Act, the “Takeover Panel” issues guidelines, or "Takeover Rules," which aim to regulate commercial behavior in the context of mergers and acquisitions. According to minority “squeeze-out” provisions in the legislation, a bidder who holds 80 percent of the shares of the target firm (or 90 percent for firms with securities on a regulated market) can compel the remaining minority shareholders to sell their shares.

There are no reports that the Irish Takeover Panel Act has been used to prevent foreign takeovers, and, in fact, there have been several high-profile foreign takeovers of Irish companies in the banking and telecommunications sectors in recent years. In 2006, for example, an Australian investment group, Babcock & Brown, acquired the former national telephone company, Eircom, and subsequently sold it to Singapore Technologies Telemedia in 2009. The EU Directive on Takeovers provides a framework of common principles for cross-border takeover bids, creates a level playing field for shareholders, and establishes disclosure obligations throughout the EU. The Directive was fully implemented through Irish legislation in May 2006, though many of its principles had already been enacted in the Irish Takeover Panel Act 1997.

2. Conversion and Transfer PoliciesShare    

Foreign Exchange

Ireland uses the euro as its national currency and enjoys full current and capital account liberalization. Foreign exchange is easily obtainable at market rates. Ireland is a member of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF).

Remittance Policies

There are no restrictions or significant reported delays in the conversion or repatriation of investment capital, earnings, interest, or royalties, nor are there any announced plans to change remittance policies. Likewise, there are no limitations on the import of capital into Ireland.

3. Expropriation and CompensationShare    

Private property is normally expropriated only for public purposes in a non-discriminatory manner and in accordance with established principles of international law. State condemnations of private property are carried out in accordance with recognized principles of due process.

Where there are disputes brought by owners of private property subject to a government action, the Irish courts provide a system of judicial review and appeal.

4. Dispute SettlementShare    

Legal System, Specialized Courts, Judicial Independence, Judgments of Foreign Courts

The Irish legal system is based on the Irish Constitution, legislation, and common law.


The Companies Act 2014 is the most important body of law dealing with commercial and bankruptcy law and is applied consistently by the courts. Irish company bankruptcy laws give creditors a strong degree of protection.

Investment Disputes

There is no specific domestic body for handling investment disputes. The Irish legal system is based on the Irish Constitution, legislation, and common law. The Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (DJEI) has primary responsibility for drafting and enforcing company law. The judiciary is independent, and litigants are entitled to trial by jury in commercial disputes.

International Arbitration

ICSID Convention and New York Convention

Ireland is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), and a party to the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, meaning local courts must enforce international arbitration awards under appropriate circumstances.

Duration of Dispute Resolution – Local Courts

In recent years, some U.S. business representatives have occasionally called into question the transparency of government tenders. According to some U.S. firms, lengthy procedural decisions often delay the procurement tender process. There have been claims that unsuccessful bidders have had difficulty receiving information on the rationale behind the tender outcome. Additionally, some successful bidders have experienced delays in finalizing contracts, commencing work on major projects, obtaining accurate project data, and receiving compensation for work completed, including through conciliation and arbitration processes. Successful bidders have also subsequently found that the original tenders may not accurately describe conditions on the ground.

5. Performance Requirements and Investment IncentivesShare    


The Irish government does not maintain any measures that are inconsistent with Trade-Related Investment Measures (TRIMs) requirements, nor have there been any allegations that the government maintains such measures.

Investment Incentives

Three Irish organizations -- IDA Ireland, Shannon Group, and Udaras -- currently have regulatory authority for administering grant aid to investors for capital equipment, land, buildings, training, R&D, etc. Foreign and domestic business enterprises that seek grant aid from these organizations must submit investment proposals. Typically, these proposals include information on fixed assets (capital), labor, and technology/R&D components, and establish targets using criteria such as sales, profitability, exports, and employment. This information is treated in confidence by the organizations, and each investment proposal is subject to an economic appraisal before support can be offered.

Performance requirements are generally based on employment creation targets established between the state investment agencies and foreign investors. Grant aid is paid out only after externally audited performance targets have been attained. Grant agreements generally have a repayment term of five years after the date on which the last grant is paid. Parent companies typically must also guarantee repayment of the government grant if the company closes before

an agreed period of time elapses, normally ten years after the grant has been paid. There are no requirements that foreign investors procure locally or allow nationals to own shares.

The current EU Regional Aid Guidelines (RAGs) that apply to Ireland are effective since January 1, 2007. The RAGs govern the maximum grant aid that the Irish Government can provide to companies, which depends on their location. The differences in the aid ceilings reflect the less developed status of business/infrastructure in regions outside the greater Dublin area.

While investors are free, subject to planning permission, to choose the location of their investment, IDA Ireland has encouraged investment in regions outside Dublin since the 1990s. This linkage was institutionalized in Irish government policy in 2001, officially seeking to spread investment more evenly around the country. The IDA’s “Ireland Horizon 2020” strategy targets locating over 50 percent of all new FDI investments outside the two main urban centers, Dublin and Cork. To encourage the location of firms outside Dublin, IDA Ireland has developed "magnets of attraction," including: a Cross Border Business Park linking Letterkenny (in Ireland) with Derry (aka Londonderry, in Northern Ireland), a regional Data Center in Limerick, and the National Microelectronics Research Center in Cork. IDA Ireland has supported construction of business parks in Oranmore and Dundalk for the biotechnology sector.

Research and Development

There are no restrictions, de jure or de facto, on participation by foreign firms in government-financed and/or -subsidized R&D programs on a national basis. In fact, the government strongly encourages and incentivizes (via a partial tax break) foreign companies to conduct R&D as part of a national strategy to build a more knowledge-intensive, innovation-based economy. Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), the state science agency, has been responsible for administering Ireland’s R&D funding since 2000. Under its current strategy, SFI is investing over USD 200 million annually in R&D activities. It is targeting leading researchers in Ireland and overseas to promote the development of biotechnology, information and communications technology, and energy, as well as complementary worker skills.

The U.S.-Ireland Research and Development Partnership, launched in July 2006, is a unique initiative involving funding agencies across three jurisdictions: the U.S., Ireland, and Northern Ireland (NI). Under the program, a ‘single-proposal, single-review’ mechanism is facilitated by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S. which accept submissions from tri-jurisdictional (U.S., Ireland, and NI) teams for existing funding programs. All proposals submitted under the auspices of the Partnership must have significant research involvement from researchers in all three jurisdictions. The program was expanded in 2015 to include agricultural research.

A key aspect of government support is a flexible 25 percent tax credit on the cost of eligible research, development and innovation (RDI) activity and of any building with a 35 percent RDI activity level over four years. A number of U.S. firms have already used these tax credits to build and operate R&D facilities.

Performance Requirements

Visa, residence, and work permit procedures for foreign investors are non-discriminatory and, for U.S. citizens (as investors or employees), generally liberal. There are no restrictions on the numbers and duration of employment of foreign managers brought in to supervise foreign investment projects, though their work permits must be renewed yearly. There are no discriminatory export policies or import policies affecting foreign investors.

Data Storage

The government does not follow forced localization nor does it require foreign IT providers to turn over source code and/or provide access to surveillance (e.g., backdoors into hardware and software, or encryption keys). There are no rules on maintaining minimum amounts of data storage in Ireland.

6. Protection of Property RightsShare    

Real Property

Secured interests in property, both chattel and real estate, are recognized and enforced. The Department of Justice and Equality administers a reliable system of recording such security interests through the Property Registration Authority (PRA) and Registry of Deeds. The PRA registers a person's interest in property on a public register. In certain cases, this ensures that an owner's interest in property is documented and protected (by a State guarantee). Any property acquired after 2010 must be registered in the PRA. Ireland also operates a document registration system through the Registry of Deeds in which deeds (as distinct from titles) may be registered, priority obtained, and third parties placed on notice of the existence of documents of title. An efficient, non-discriminatory legal system is accessible to foreign investors to protect and facilitate acquisition and disposition of all property rights.

Intellectual Property Rights

Ireland is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and a party to the International Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property. Legislation enacted in 2000 brought Irish intellectual property rights (IPR) law into compliance with Ireland's obligations under the WTO Trade-Related Intellectual Property Treaty (TRIPs). The legislation gave Ireland one of the most comprehensive legal frameworks for IPR protection in Europe. It addressed several TRIPs inconsistencies in prior Irish IPR law that had concerned foreign investors, including the absence of a rental right for sound recordings, the lack of an "anti-bootlegging" provision, and low criminal penalties that failed to deter piracy. The legislation provides for stronger penalties on both the civil and criminal sides; it does not include minimum mandatory sentencing for IPR violations.

As part of this comprehensive copyright legislation, revisions were also made to non-TRIPs conforming sections of Irish patent law. Specifically, the IPR legislation addressed two

concerns of many foreign investors in the previous legislation:

  • The compulsory licensing provisions of the previous 1992 Patent Law were inconsistent with the "working" requirement prohibition of TRIPs Articles 27.1 and the general compulsory licensing provisions of Article 31; and,
  • Applications processed after December 20, 1991, did not conform to the non-discrimination requirement of TRIPs Article 27.1.

The government continues to crack down on the sale of illegal cigarettes smuggled into the country by both international and local organized criminal groups. Cigarettes in Ireland are heavily taxed, making illegal trade in counterfeit and untaxed cigarettes highly lucrative. Ireland has become the first European country and the second in the world (after Australia) to pass a plain packaging law for tobacco products. The Public Health (Standardized Packaging of Tobacco) Bill was signed into law on March 9th, 2015. In practice, tobacco packaging will be devoid of branding with health warnings covering nearly the entire box and only the producer/product name otherwise visible.

The Irish government enacted the EU Copyright and Related Rights Regulation 2012 into law in February 2012. The law makes it possible for copyright holders to seek court injunctions against companies such as internet service providers (ISPs) or social networks whose systems host copyright-infringing material. It is intended that the courts will ensure that any remedy provided will uphold the freedom of internet service providers, or ISPs, to conduct their business. The legislation ensures that an ISP cannot be mandated to carry out monitoring of the information it carries. It must also ensure that measures implemented are “fair and proportionate” and not “unnecessarily complicated or costly.” The law also states that fundamental rights of customers of an ISP must be respected by the court including their right to protection of their personal data and their freedom to receive or impart information.

For additional information about treaty obligations and points of contact at local IP offices, please see WIPO’s country profiles at

Resources for Rights Holders

Embassy Dublin contact:

Brian Jensen (to August 2016)
Kurt van der Walde (from September 2016)
Political/Economic Section Chief
American Embassy, Dublin, Ireland
Telephone: +353-1 630 6274

Other contacts:

American Chamber of Commerce
6 Wilton Place
Dublin 2
Telephone: + 353 1 6616201
Fax: + 353 1 6616217

7. Transparency of the Regulatory SystemShare    

The Irish government employs a transparent policy framework that fosters competition between private businesses in a non-discriminatory fashion. U.S. businesses can, in general, expect to receive national treatment in their dealings with the government.

In recent years, a number of independent bodies have taken over regulatory powers from government departments in key economic sectors. The Commission for Communications Regulation and the Commission for Energy Regulation are responsible for regulating the communications and energy sectors, respectively. Both have institutional links to the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources but are autonomous. The Commission for Aviation Regulation, another autonomous body, regulates the aviation sector. The Commission is institutionally linked to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport which has direct regulatory powers over other segments of the transportation sector.

8. Efficient Capital Markets and Portfolio InvestmentShare    

Capital markets and portfolio investments operate freely, and there is no discrimination between Irish and foreign firms. In some instances, development authorities and banks are able to facilitate loan packages to foreign firms with favorable credit terms. Credit is allocated on market terms. However, following the 2008 banking crisis there has been a limited amount of credit available, especially to small and medium-sized firms; it is not clear if this is driven more by lack of credit from banks or by lack of creditworthiness of SMEs. Irish legal, regulatory, and accounting systems are transparent and consistent with international norms and provide a secure environment for portfolio investment. The current capital gains tax rate is 33 percent (effective since December 2012).

Money and Banking System, Hostile Takeovers

The Irish banking sector, like many worldwide, came under intense pressure in 2007 and 2008 following the collapse of Ireland’s construction industry and end of Ireland’s property boom. Subsequently, it was determined that a number of Ireland’s financial lenders were severely under-capitalized and required government bailouts to survive. The government introduced temporary guarantees to personal depositors in 2008 to ensure that deposits remained in Ireland and has continued these guarantees. One of the main banks involved in property lending, Anglo Irish Bank (Anglo), failed and had to be resolved by the government. The government took majority stakes in several others; two banks remain effectively nationalized as a result and the government owns a significant share of another. The government also created the National

Asset Management Agency (NAMA), into which the Irish banks (including Anglo) transferred most of their property-related loan books.

With increased exposure to bank debts, the government found it difficult to place sovereign debt on international bond markets and had to seek EU/ECB/IMF (Troika) assistance in November 2010. A rescue package of EUR 85 billion (EUR 67.5 billion of this from external sources) was agreed to cover government deficits and costs related to the bank recapitalizations. Following further government capitalization of Allied Irish Banks (AIB), effective control of the bank transferred to the Irish government by the end of 2010. Irish Nationwide Building Society (INBS) and Educational Building Society (EBS) were also taken into state control and resolved. The government also helped to re-capitalize Irish Life and Permanent (the banking portion of which was spun off and operates under the name Permanent TSB) and Bank of Ireland (BOI). The government, in line with IMF and EU bailout program recommendations, forced Irish banks to deleverage their non-core assets with a view to reducing Ireland’s banks to simply servicing domestic demand. BOI succeeded in remaining non-nationalized by realizing capital from the sale of non-essential portfolios as well as targeted burden-sharing with some bondholders.

Ireland successfully exited the Troika program in December 2013, and shortly after was able to re-enter sovereign debt markets. Since then debt rates have fallen to record low for Irish debt and Ireland was able to fully repay IMF loans with bond sales secured at more attractive rates.

Many U.S. banks have operations in Dublin’s International Financial Services Center (IFSC, which functions somewhat like a virtual business park for financial services firm) and provide a range of financial services to clients in Europe and worldwide. Among these are State Street, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan and Northern Trust. While international banks operate within the IFSC, the regulation of the activities of banks operating there is carried out by the Irish Financial Regulator.

At the end of 2015, equity market capitalization (main securities market) in the Irish Stock Exchange (ISE) was USD 110 billion, up USD 7 billion from the end of 2014. In terms of market weight, the stocks of CRH (a construction industry supplier), Ryanair (a low-cost airline), Kerry Group (a food and ingredient firm), Tesco (supermarket group), and some other food-related firms continue to dominate. While the ISE delivered returns of over 20 percent annually from 2002 to 2006, its market capitalization started to fall in 2007. This fall was driven initially in part by concerns over possible spillover effects from the sub-prime crisis in the U.S. As the Irish banking and fiscal crisis evolved, the market capitalization of bank stocks plummeted. The markets began to stabilize in 2011. In 2005, the ISE opened up a secondary market—the Irish Enterprise Exchange (IEX)—which caters to smaller firms with a minimum market cap of EUR 5 million (USD 5.5 billion).

The Central Bank Reform Act of 2010, created a single unitary body — the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) — responsible for both central banking and financial regulation. The new structure replaces the previous related entities, the Central Bank and the Financial Services Authority of Ireland, and the Financial Regulator. The CBI is a member of the European System of Central Banks (ECB), whose primary objective is to maintain price stability in the euro area.

Ireland is part of the eurozone, and therefore does not have an independent monetary policy. Rather, the European Central Bank (ECB) formulates and implements monetary policy for the eurozone; the CBI implements that policy at the national level. The Governor of the CBI is a member of the ECB's Governing Council and has an equal say as other ECB governors in the formulation of monetary and interest rate policy. The other main tasks of the CBI include: issuing euro currency in Ireland, acting as manager of the official external reserves of gold and foreign currency, conducting research and analysis on economic and financial matters, overseeing the domestic payment and settlement systems, and managing investment assets on behalf of the State.

9. Competition from State-Owned EnterprisesShare    

There are a number of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Ireland in the energy, broadcasting and transportation sectors. The two energy SOEs are Electric Ireland (EI) and Ervia (formerly Bord Gáis Eireann, (BGE)), while Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTE) operates the national broadcasting (radio and television) service; and Córas Iompair Éireann (CIE) provides bus and train transportation throughout the country. Eircom, the national telecommunication service, and Aer Lingus, the national airline, have both been privatized. CIE remains wholly-owned by the government. Irish Water (which operates as a subsidiary of Ervia) was established in 2013 to serve as the state-owned entity to deliver water services to homes and businesses. Water meters have been installed around the country and the first charges for water service (which was previously funded out of general government revenue) were collected in April 2015.

All of Ireland’s SOEs are open to competition for market share and can, as in the case of Electric Ireland and Ervia, compete with one another. The SOEs do not discriminate against, or place unfair burdens on foreign investors or foreign-owned investments. There has been a statutory transfer of responsibility for the regulatory functions for the energy sector from the government to the Commission for Energy Regulation – a statutory body that is required not to discriminate unfairly between participants in the sector, while protecting the end-user. In general, SOEs aspire to pay their own way, financing their operations and funding further expansion through profits generated from their own operations. Some pay an annual dividend to the government. The SOEs themselves are governed usually by a board of directors, some of whom are chosen by the government.

OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance of SOEs

All SOEs are autonomous organizations, led by a senior management team. That team reports to a board of directors largely appointed by the government for a fixed term. Day-to-day policy and activities lie within the executive management without any political interference. SOE’s are responsible to self-fund, often from commercial loans and bonds. They do this without government influence or interference.

Ireland follows the OECD Guidelines on Corporate Governance for SOEs. All SOEs must present annual reports to the government.

Sovereign Wealth Funds

The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) is the asset management bureau of the Irish government. In the past, the NTMA invested Irish government funds, such as the national pension funds, in financial instruments worldwide. Day-to-day funding for government operations is normally through the sale of sovereign debt worldwide, which is the responsibility of the NTMA. Upon entering the EU/IMF ("Troika") bailout program, Ireland was fully funded and so suspended issuing sovereign debt. Since exiting the bailout in 2013, the NTMA has been successful in placing Irish debt at new record low rates.

The NTMA also has oversight of the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), the agency established to take on, and dispose of, the property-related loan books of bailed-out banks.

The government also created the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) with a statutory mandate to invest on a commercial basis to support economic activity and employment in Ireland. The dual objective mandate of the ISIF - investment return and economic impact - will require all of its investments to both generate both returns and have a positive (i.e., job-creating) economic impact in Ireland.

10. Responsible Business ConductShare    

There is a growing awareness of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Ireland, mainly driven by a number of independent organizations and multinational corporations. According to “Business in the Community–Ireland,” an organization at the forefront of promoting CSR in Ireland, many of the participant firms believe CSR-oriented policies can play a major role in rebuilding Ireland's corporate reputation. Companies advertise their participation in such programs as the Fairtrade Certification Mark. The American Chamber of Commerce also released in 2014 an interactive map of CSR activities by its member companies:

The Irish government published its National Action Plan on Corporate Social Responsibility in April 2014, as called for by the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights. The plan outlines the government’s commitment to encourage good business practices by Irish companies both domestically and internationally. The Plan also proposes the establishment of a Corporate Responsibility Stakeholder Forum to bring business, government departments, state agencies and community sectors together to drive action, create awareness and achieve the stated vision of corporate responsibility. As an adherent to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, Ireland has established a National Contact Point responsible for promoting CSR/RBC and facilitating mediation when complaints arise regarding a company not observing the Guidelines. Contact information for the NCP:

11. Political ViolenceShare    

Impact of Northern Ireland Instability

There has been no significant spillover of violence from Northern Ireland since the cease-fires of 1994 and the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. Indeed, the growth of business investment and confidence in Northern Ireland following the cessation of widespread violence has also benefited Ireland. The 2007-2013 National Development Plan earmarked funding to develop cross-border cooperation on R&D collaboration, energy and transportation infrastructure linkages, and joint trade missions. No violence related to the situation in Northern Ireland has been specifically directed at U.S. citizens or firms located in Ireland. InterTrade Ireland is a cross-border body established to augment two-way trade on the island.

Other Acts of Political Violence

There have been some incidents of criminal terrorism and gangland violence attributed to cross-border groups involved in the black market. There is considerable Garda (Irish National Police) and Police Service Northern Ireland cooperation to stem this illegal activity. There have been no recent incidents involving politically motivated damage to foreign investment projects and/or installations in Ireland. There were two instances of damage to U.S. military assets transiting Shannon Airport, in 2003 and in 2011, by a small number of Irish citizens opposed to wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nonetheless, these anti-military acts have not found expression in acts against U.S. firms or private interests in Ireland.

12. CorruptionShare    

Corruption is not a serious problem for foreign investors in Ireland. The principal Irish legislation relating to anti-bribery and corruption includes the Public Bodies Corrupt Practices Act, 1889; the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1906; the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1916; and the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2001. This body of law makes it illegal for Irish public servants to accept bribes. The Ethics in Public Office Act, 1995, provides for the written annual disclosure of interests of people holding public office or employment.

The law on corruption in Ireland was strengthened by the enactment of the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Act, 2001, which gave effect in domestic law to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and two other conventions concerning criminal corruption and corruption involving officials of the European Communities and officials of EU member states. The legislation has ensured that there are strong penalties in place, up to 10 years imprisonment and an unlimited fine, for those found guilty of offenses under the Act, including convictions of bribery of foreign public officials by Irish nationals and companies that takes place outside of Ireland.

The Irish police investigate allegations of corruption. If sufficient evidence of criminal activity is found, the Director of Public Prosecutions prepares a file for prosecution. A small number of public officials have been convicted of corruption and/or bribery in the past. Two recent Tribunals of Inquiry - Mahon and Moriarty - detailed corrupt practices by political and business figures from 1970-1996. In 1996, Ireland established a Criminal Asset Bureau (CAB), an independent body responsible for seizing illegally acquired assets. The CAB was established with powers to focus on the illegally acquired assets of criminals involved in serious crime. The aims of the CAB are to identify the criminally acquired assets of persons and to take the appropriate action to deny such people of these assets. This action is taken primarily through the application of the Proceeds of Crime Act, 1996. Ireland is a member of the Camden Asset Recovery Inter-Agency Network (CARIN).

UN Anticorruption Convention, OECD Convention on Combatting Bribery

Ireland signed the UN Convention on Corruption in December 2003 and ratified it in 2011. Ireland is also a participating member of the OECD Working Group on Bribery.

Resources to Report Corruption

Government agency responsible for combating corruption:

Department of Justice and Equality, Crime and Security Directorate
94 St. Stephen's Green
Dublin 2
Telephone: + 353 1 602-8202

Contact at Transparency International:

John Devitt
Chief Executive
Transparency International
The Capel Building
Dublin 7
Telephone: +353 1 871 9432

13. Bilateral Investment AgreementsShare    

Bilateral Taxation Treaties

Ireland has no formal bilateral investment treaties (BITs), including with other EU members or the United States.

The United States and Ireland have shared a Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation Treaty since 1950, which includes provisions common to BITs regarding national treatment, most-favored nation benefits, expropriation, and protection and security. The full text can be found here

Ireland and the U.S. share a Tax Treaty from 1998 which was supplemented in December 2012 with an agreement to improve international tax compliance and to implement the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

Ireland has signed comprehensive double taxation agreements with 72 countries, of which 70 are fully ratified and in effect. Agreements with some other countries are also being negotiated. These taxation agreements serve to promote trade and investment between Ireland and the partner countries that would otherwise be discouraged by the possibility of double taxation. The agreements generally cover corporate tax, income tax, and capital gains tax (direct taxes). The current list of agreements in effect, as of January 2016, is: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Ethiopia, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Korea (Republic of), Kuwait, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Zambia.

In the absence of a bilateral tax treaty, provisions within the Irish Taxes Act allow unilateral credit relief against Irish taxation for taxes paid in the other country with respect to certain types of income, e.g., dividends and interest.

14. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance ProgramsShare    

Since 1986 the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has been authorized to operate in Ireland as part of the U.S. effort to support the process of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. There is some potential in Ireland for OPIC's credit guarantee programs, such as aircraft purchases. No other countries have an investment insurance program in Ireland. Ireland is also a member of the World Bank Group's Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA).

15. LaborShare    

Out of a 4.64 million population, the total number of persons employed in 2015 was 1.98 million, up by 44,000 persons on the 2014 average. Employment opportunities in the early part of this century attracted unprecedented inward migration levels, particularly from Eastern Europe. The collapse of the Irish construction industry in 2008 contributed significantly to a sharp increase in Ireland’s unemployment rate, which peaked at 15.1 percent in early 2012. Following the downturn, many economic migrants left Ireland, either to return home or search for employment opportunities elsewhere. By February 2016, thanks to both increasing employment and continued emigration, the unemployment rate in Ireland had fallen to 8.8 percent.

With unemployment levels falling, the Irish government continues to be committed to reducing the high proportion of unemployed who are long-term unemployed (those collecting benefits for over one year), which increased significantly since 2008 and currently stands at 45 percent. As with all national data, some areas of Ireland are more affected by unemployment than others. The proportion of youth (under-25) unemployment continues to be high, though it has been eased by significant emigration, especially in the youth demographic. The government introduced JobBridge – a national internship program aimed at retraining employees. Potential interns are offered a stipend on top of unemployment benefits to allow them to take up employment and/or retraining with employers without losing their benefits.

While overall private sector wages increased by just over three percent in the year to December 2015, average industrial earnings per worker increased marginally (by 0.8 percent) to EUR 864 per week. After nine years of no increases, the minimum wage rate increased by 0.50 to EUR 8.65 per hour in January 2016.

The Irish labor force is generally less regulated than most continental EU countries. The workforce is characterized by a high degree of flexibility, mobility, and education. There is a relative gender balance in the workforce, with 1,072,000 males and 911,000 females employed in 2015. This gender balance reflects a change in social mores and government support that have facilitated a surge in female employment since the mid-1980s.

Ireland has been an attractive destination for foreign investment due to its availability of a young, highly-educated workforce. The removal of tuition fees for third-level (university) education in 1995 (students must still pay registration fees, currently capped at 3,000 euro per year) resulted in a rapid increase of individuals who hold third-level qualifications. The growing availability of highly educated and qualified potential employees made Ireland an attractive place to do business. This has been a significant factor in attracting the large number of multinationals that have located operations in Ireland. Over 60 percent of new third-level students in Ireland undertake business, engineering, computer science or science courses. To ensure the availability of an educated workforce, the focus of government strategy has shifted to upgrading skills and increasing the number of workers in technology-intensive, high-value sectors.

The Irish system of industrial relations is voluntary. Pay levels and conditions of employment are generally agreed through collective bargaining between employers and employees. Despite the economic downturn and austerity measures, only nine firms were involved in industrial disputes in 2015. A 2010 government/public sector agreement on pay and conditions (known as the “Croke Park Agreement”) was subsequently replaced by the 2013 “Haddington Road Agreement.” These agreements, which run to 2016, have ensured no public service unrest or work stoppages.

Employers typically resist trade union demands for mandatory trade union recognition in the workplace. While the Irish Constitution guarantees the right of citizens to form associations and unions, Irish law also affirms the right of employers not to recognize unions and to deal with employees on an individual basis. Currently, around one-third of all workers are unionized; however, there is much higher participation in unions by public sector workers. Among foreign-owned firms, roughly 80 percent of workers do not belong to unions, although pay and benefits are usually more attractive compared with domestic firms. An amendment of existing legislation is being worked on by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, and is expected to explicitly address the country’s collective bargaining rights.

16. Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade FacilitationShare    

The Shannon duty-free Processing Zone (SDFPZ) was established by legislation in 1957. Under the legislation, eligible companies operating in the Shannon Free Zone are entitled to the following benefits: goods imported from non-EU countries for storage, handling or processing are duty-free; there is no duty on goods exported from Shannon to non-EU countries; no time limit exists on disposal of goods held duty-free; customs documentation and formalities are reduced; there is no value-added tax (VAT) on imported goods, including capital equipment; and importers have a choice of having import duty on non-EU product calculated on its landing value or selling price. Qualifying criteria for eligible companies include employment creation and export-orientation.

Foreign-owned firms in the Shannon Free Zone have the same investment opportunities as indigenous Irish companies. There are over 100 companies operating within the 254 hectare business park, including the following U.S. companies: Benex (Becton Dickinson), Connor-Winfield, Digital River, Enterasys Networks, Extrude Hone, GE Capital Aviation Services, GE Money, Sensing, Genworth Financial, Hamilton Sundtrand (United Technologies), Intel, Illinois Tool Works, Kwik-Lok, Lawrence Laboratories (Bristol Myers Squibb), Le Bas International, Magellan Aviation Services, Maidenform, Melcut Cutting Tools (SGS Carbide Tools), Mentor Graphics, Molex, Phoenix American Financial Services, RSA Security, Shannon Engine Support (CFM International), SPS International/Hi-Life Tools (Precision Castparts Corp), Sykes Enterprises, Symantec, Travelsavers Corp, Viking Pump, Western Well Tool, Xerox, and Zimmer. At present, the Shannon Free Zone is technically an asset of the Shannon Group.

17. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment StatisticsShare    

U.S. and foreign companies with major foreign direct investments in Ireland include:

Abbott, Accenture, AdRoll, Adobe, Alcatel-Lucent/Bell Labs, Aldi, Alexion, Allianz, Amazon, Analog Devices, AOL, Apple, Aramark, Axa, BAM, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Biotrin, BNY Mellon, Boots, Boston Scientific, BT, Citi, Dell, Dropbox, eBay, Eli Lilly, EMC, Ericsson, Etsy, Facebook, Fidelity, Generali, Gilead, Gilt Groupe, Google, Heineken, HP, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, Lidl, Liebherr, LinkedIn, Mastercard, McAfee, Medtronic, Microsoft, MSD (Merck Sharp & Dohme), Oracle, PayPal, Pfizer Qualtrics, Quantcast,, Sanofi, SAP, ServiceSource, Servier, Siemens, State Street, Stream Global Services, Tesco, Teva, Twitter, UnitedHealth Group, United Technologies Research Centre, Vodafone, Waters, Yahoo!, Zeus and Zurich.

Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy


Ireland Statistical source*

USG or international statistical source

USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other

Economic Data






Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)





Foreign Direct Investment

Ireland Statistical source*

USG or international statistical source

USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other

U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)






Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)






Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP





U.S. FDI stock in Ireland (2014) as a percent of GDP in 2014

* Department of Finance/CSO. Note: direct comparison of Irish government and USG FDI statistics is not possible because the CSO and U.S. Commerce Department utilize different base figures.

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment from/in Ireland Economy Data

From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)

Inward Direct Investment

Outward Direct Investment

Total Inward



Total Outward












United Kingdom



United Kingdom


















"0" reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets - Ireland

Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)


Equity Securities

Total Debt Securities

All Countries



All Countries



All Countries












United Kingdom



United Kingdom



United Kingdom






























18. Contact for More InformationShare    

To August 2016
Brian Jensen
Political and Economic Section Chief
American Embassy, Dublin, Ireland
Telephone: +353-1 630 6274

From September 2016
Kurt van der Walde
Political and Economic Section Chief
American Embassy, Dublin, Ireland
Telephone: +353-1 630 6274

Michael Hanley
Economic Specialist
American Embassy, Dublin, Ireland
Telephone: +353-1-630-6254

Finola Cunningham
Foreign Commercial Service
American Embassy, Dublin, Ireland
Telephone: +353-630-5849