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. Other factors cited by foreign firms include the quality and flexibility of the English-speaking workforce; availability of a multilingual labor force; cooperative labor relations; political stability; and pro-business government policies and regulators. Additional positive features include a transparent judicial system; transportation links; proximity to the United States and Europe; and Ireland’s geographic location, which leaves it well placed in time zones to support investment in Asia and the Americas. Ireland also benefits from its membership in the European Union (EU) and resulting access to a Single Market of 500 million consumers, plus the drawing power of existing companies operating successfully in Ireland (a so-called “clustering” effect). The planned withdrawal by the United Kingdom (UK) from the EU, or Brexit, will leave Ireland as the only remaining English-speaking country in the EU and may make Ireland even more attractive as a destination for FDI.
The Irish government treats all firms incorporated in Ireland on an equal basis. Ireland’s judicial system is transparent and upholds the sanctity of contracts, as well as laws affecting foreign investment. Conversely, the following factors hurt Ireland’s ability to attract investment: high labor and operating costs (such as for energy); skilled-labor shortages; Eurozone-risk; sometimes-deficient infrastructure (such as in transportation, housing, energy and broadband Internet); uncertainty in EU policies on some regulatory matters; and absolute price levels among the highest in Europe.
There is no formal screening process for foreign investment in Ireland. 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, however, to meet certain employment and investment criteria.
Ireland uses the euro as its national currency and enjoys full current and capital account liberalization.
The government recognizes and enforces secured interests in property, both chattel and real estate. Ireland is a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and a party to the International Convention for the Protection of Intellectual Property.
Several state-owned enterprises (SOEs) operate 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 since 1950 have shared a Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation Treaty, which provides for national treatment of U.S. investors. The two countries also have shared a Tax Treaty since 1998, 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: Key Metrics and Rankings
|TI Corruption Perceptions Index||2018||18 of 180||http://www.transparency.org/research/cpi/overview|
|World Bank’s Doing Business Report||2019||23 of 190||http://www.doingbusiness.org/en/rankings|
|Global Innovation Index||2018||10 of 126||https://www.globalinnovationindex.org/analysis-indicator|
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)||2017||$446,383||http://www.bea.gov/international/factsheet/|
|World Bank GNI per capita||2017||$55,290||http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GNP.PCAP.CD|
1. Openness To, and Restrictions Upon, Foreign Investment
Policies Towards Foreign Direct Investment
The Irish government actively promotes 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. The stock of American FDI in Ireland stood at USD 446 billion in 2017, more than the U.S. total for China, India, Russia, Brazil, and South Africa (the so-called BRICS countries) combined. There are approximately 700 U.S. subsidiaries currently in Ireland employing roughly 155,000 people and supporting work for another 100,000. This figure represents a significant proportion of the 2.28 million people employed in Ireland. 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, and employment opportunities. The activities of U.S. firms in Ireland span from the manufacturing of high-tech electronics, computer products, medical devices, and pharmaceuticals to retailing, banking, finance, and other services. More recently, Ireland has also become an important R&D center for U.S. firms in Europe, and a magnet for U.S. internet/digital media investment. Industry leaders like Google, Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Electronic Arts use Ireland as the hub or important part 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 EU market of 500 million consumers and other global markets, mainly the Middle East and Africa. Ireland is a successful FDI destination for many reasons, including a corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent for all domestic and foreign firms; a well-educated, English-speaking workforce; the availability of a multilingual labor force; cooperative labor relations; political stability; and pro-business government policies and regulators. Ireland also benefits from a transparent judicial system; good transportation links; proximity to the United States and Europe, and the drawing power of existing companies operating successfully in Ireland (a so-called “clustering” effect).
Conversely, factors that negatively affect Ireland’s ability to attract investment include high labor and operating costs (such as for energy) costs; sporadic skilled-labor shortages; residual fallout from Ireland’s economic and financial restructuring; and sometimes-deficient infrastructure (such as in transportation, energy and broadband quality). Ireland also suffers from housing and high-quality office space shortages; uncertainty in EU policies on some regulatory matters; and absolute price levels that are among the highest in Europe. Some Irish government agencies have in the past expressed concern that energy costs and the reliability of energy supply also could undermine Ireland’s attractiveness as a 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. It also has asserted that high personal income tax rates can make attracting talent from abroad difficult.
In 2013, Ireland became the first country in the Eurozone to exit the EU, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund (EU/ECB/IMF, or so-called Troika) bailout program. Compliance with the terms of the Troika program came at a substantial economic cost with gross domestic product (GDP) stagnation, austerity measures, and high unemployment (15 percent). The economy has since recovered and has been the fastest growing Eurozone economy for the past five years, with a growth rate of 6 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, government initiatives to attract investment have continued to stimulate job creation and employment. As a result, unemployment levels have fallen dramatically and the Central Bank of Ireland forecasts that Ireland’s unemployment rate will fall to 4.9 percent in 2019. Against this good economic background, there is a resurgent interest in Ireland as an investment destination. Since exiting the bailout program, the Irish government has successfully returned to international sovereign debt markets, and successful bonds sales exemplify renewed international confidence in Ireland’s recovery.
Brexit and its Implications for Ireland
The UK’s exit from the EU will leave Ireland as the only remaining English-speaking country in the bloc. Ireland is the only EU country to share a land border with the UK. It is still unclear what the full economic consequences of Brexit will be for Ireland as it loses a close EU ally on policy matters. Econometric models from the Irish Department of Finance and from the Central Bank of Ireland suggest Brexit will cut economic growth modestly in the near term. Ireland is heavily dependent on the UK as an export market, especially for food products, and sectors such as food and agri-business may be hardest hit. Ireland also sources many imports from the UK, which could raise costs if supply chains are disrupted. A number of UK-based firms (including US firms) have moved headquarters or opened subsidiary offices in Ireland to facilitate ease of business with other EU countries.
Six government departments and organizations have responsibility to 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 in the Shannon Free Zone (see below). IDA Ireland is also responsible for attracting foreign financial and insurance firms to Dublin’s International Financial Services Center (IFSC). IDA Ireland maintains seven U.S. offices (in New York, NY; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Mountain View, CA; Irvine, CA; Atlanta, GA; and Austin, TX), as well as offices throughout Europe and Asia.
- Enterprise Ireland (EI) 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 five offices in the United States (New York, NY; Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; and Mountain View, CA), as well as offices in Europe, South America, the Middle East, and Asia.
- 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. Since 2006 and the Industrial Development Amendments Act, EI assumed responsibility for investment by Irish firms in the Shannon region. 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 the predominant language is Irish, and works with IDA Ireland to promote overseas investment in these regions.
- Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) has responsibility for economic messaging and supporting the country’s trade promotion agenda as well as diaspora engagement to attract investment.
- Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (DBEI) 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
Irish law allows foreign corporations (registered under the Companies Act 2014 or previous legislation and known locally as a public limited company, or plc for short) to conduct business in Ireland. Any company incorporated abroad that establishes a branch in Ireland must 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 domestic company incorporated in Ireland. Private businesses are not competitively disadvantaged to public enterprises with respect to access to markets, credit, and other business operations.
No barriers exist to participation by foreign entities in the purchase of state-owned Irish companies. Residents of Ireland may, however, be given priority in share allocations over all other investors. In 1998, the Irish government sold the state-owned telecommunications company Eircom, and Irish residents received priority in share allocations. In 2005, the Government privatized the national airline Aer Lingus through a stock market flotation, but it chose to retain about a one-quarter stake. U.S. investors purchased shares during its privatization. In 2015, the International Airlines Group (IAG) purchased the Government’s remaining stake in the airline.
Citizens of countries other than Ireland and 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 owned by foreign nationals. No restrictions exist on the acquisition of urban land.
Ireland does not have formal investment screening legislation, but as an EU member it may need to implement any future common EU investment screening regulations/directives.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
The Economist Intelligence Unit and World Bank’s Doing Business 2019 provide current information on Ireland’s investment policies.
All firms must register with the Companies Registration Office (www.cro.ie). 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 firm or company registered under the Companies Act 2014 becomes a body corporate as and from the date mentioned in its certificate of incorporation. The website permits online data submission. Firms must submit a signed paper copy of this online application to the CRO, unless the applicant company has already registered with www.revenue.ie (the website of Ireland’s tax collecting authority, the Office of the Revenue Commissioners).
Enterprise Ireland assists Irish firms in developing partnerships with foreign firms mainly to develop and grow indigenous firms.
2. Bilateral Investment Agreements and Taxation Treaties
Ireland has signed no formal bilateral investment treaties (BITs) 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 is here: .
Since 1998, Ireland and the United States have shared a Tax Treaty, supplemented in December 2012 with an agreement to improve international tax compliance and to implement the U.S. Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). See for a copy of the existing treaty.
Ireland has signed comprehensive double taxation agreements with 74 countries, 73 of which (except Ghana) are fully ratified and in effect. Agreements with other countries are also in negotiation. 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 2018, includes the following countries: Albania, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Botswana, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, 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.
3. Legal Regime
Transparency of the Regulatory System
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 (1993), which outlines the functions of IDA Ireland.
The Companies Act (2014), with more than 1,400 sections and 17 Schedules, is the largest-ever Irish statute. It consolidated and reformed all Irish company law for the first time in over 50 years.
In addition, numerous laws and regulations pertain to employment, social security, environmental protection and taxation, with many of these keyed to EU Directives.
International Regulatory Considerations
Ireland has been a member of the European Union since 1973. It incorporates all EU legislation into national legislation and applies all EU regulatory standards and rules. Ireland is a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and follows all WTO procedures.
Legal System and Judicial Independence
Laws and 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 all firms, foreign and domestic, is 12.5 percent. Ireland’s headline corporate tax rate is among the lowest in the EU. The Irish government continues to oppose strongly EU proposals to harmonize corporate taxes at a common EU rate. In 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, making use of an arrangement colloquially 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 and has already incorporated a number of BEPS recommendations including Ireland’s ratification of the BEPS Multilateral Instrument in January 2019. The government implemented a Knowledge Development Box (KDB), effective 2016, which is reportedly consistent with OECD guidelines. The KDB allows for the application of a tax rate of 6.25 percent on profits arising to certain intellectual property assets that are the result of qualifying research and development activities carried out in Ireland.
Ireland treats all firms incorporated in Ireland on an equal basis. With only a few exceptions, no constraints prevent foreign individuals or entities from ownership or participation in private firms/corporations. The most significant of these exceptions is that, in common with other EU countries, Irish airlines must be at least 50 percent owned by EU residents to have full access to the single European aviation market. Citizens of countries other than Ireland and 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 owned by foreign nationals in such areas. No restrictions exist on the acquisition of urban land.
Competition and Anti-Trust Laws
The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) is an independent statutory body with a dual mandate to enforce competition and consumer protection law in Ireland. Ireland established the CCPC on October 31, 2014, after the amalgamation of the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority.
The Competition Act of 2002, subsequently amended and extended by the Competition Act 2006, mandates the enforcement power of the CCPC. The Act 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. The government publishes proposed drafts of laws and regulations to solicit public comment, including those 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 regulate commercial behavior in 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 prevented foreign takeovers, and, in fact, there have been several high-profile foreign takeovers of Irish companies in the banking and telecommunications sectors in the recent past. In 2006, Babcock & Brown (an Australian investment firm) acquired the former national telephone company, Eircom. Babcock & Brown subsequently sold Eircom 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. Irish legislation fully implemented the Directive in 2006, though the Irish Takeover Panel Act 1997 had already incorporated many of its principles.
Companies must notified the CCPC of mergers over a certain financial threshold for review as required by the Competition Act 2002, as amended (Competition Act).
Expropriation and Compensation
The government normally expropriates private property only for public purposes in a non-discriminatory manner and in accordance with established principles of international law. The government condemns private property 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.
There is no specific domestic body for handling investment disputes. The Irish Constitution, legislation, and common law form the basis for the Irish legal system. The DBEI has primary responsibility for drafting and enforcing company law. The judiciary is independent, and litigants are entitled to trial by jury in commercial disputes.
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.
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. Unsuccessful bidders have claimed they 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.
The Companies Act 2014 is the most important body of law dealing with commercial and bankruptcy law, which Irish courts consistently apply. Irish company bankruptcy laws give creditors a strong degree of protection.
4. Industrial Policies
Three Irish organizations – IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, and Udaras – currently have regulatory authority for administering grant aid to investors for capital equipment, land, buildings, training, and R&D. 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. These organizations treat this information in confidence, and each investment proposal is subject to an economic appraisal before they offer support.
The state investment agencies and foreign investors establish employment creation targets, which usually serve as the basis for performance requirements. The agencies only pay grant aid after the foreign investors have attained externally audited performance targets. 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 was 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 operate until 2020. The RAGs govern the maximum grant aid the Irish government can provide to firms/businesses, 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 actively encouraged investment in regions outside Dublin since the 1990s. Investment regionalization became Irish government policy in 2001, officially seeking to spread investment more evenly around the country. The IDA’s current strategy targets locating over 50 percent of all new FDI investments outside the two main urban centers of Dublin and Cork. To encourage the location of firms outside Dublin, IDA Ireland has developed “magnets of attraction,” providing cluster areas of activity around the country. IDA Ireland also has supported construction of business parks in counties Galway and Louth for the biotechnology sector.
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 United States, 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 United States, 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. In 2015, the program was expanded to include agricultural research topics.
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. In addition, the Government in 2016 introduced the Knowledge Development Box (KDB), which offers a lower tax rate for certain R&D activities carried out in Ireland.
Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation
The Government established Shannon duty-free Processing Zone (SDFPZ) under legislation in 1957. At that time, companies operating in the area were entitled to a number of taxation and duty-free benefits not available elsewhere in Ireland.
All firms operating in the area, now called the Shannon Free Zone, have the same investment opportunities and tax incentives as indigenous Irish companies. There are more than 150 companies operating within the 254-hectare business park. These include 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, 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. The Shannon Group currently operates the SDFPZ, as well as Shannon Airport.
Performance and Data Localization Requirements
Visa, residence, and work permit procedures for foreign investors are non-discriminatory and, for U.S. citizens (as investors or employees), generally liberal. No restrictions exist on the numbers and duration of employment of foreign managers brought in to supervise foreign investment projects, though they must renew work permits annually. There are no discriminatory export policies or import policies affecting foreign investors.
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.
5. Protection of Property Rights
The Government recognizes and enforces secured interests in property, both chattel and real estate. 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. Since 2010, all property buyers must register their acquisition with 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 Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) Agreement. 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 international and local organized criminal groups. Heavy cigarette taxes in Ireland make illegal trade in counterfeit and untaxed cigarettes highly lucrative. Ireland became the first European country and the fourth in the world to pass a plain packaging law for tobacco products, The Public Health (Standardized Packaging of Tobacco) Act in 2015. In practice, tobacco packaging is devoid of branding, with health warnings covering nearly the entire box and only the producer/product name otherwise visible. This legislation became active from September 30, 2017. Since September 2018, all tobacco products have to be in plain, standardized packaging.
The Irish government has enacted the EU Copyright and Related Rights Regulation 2012 into law. This legislation makes it possible for copyright holders to seek court injunctions against firms, such as internet service providers (ISPs) or social networks, whose systems host copyright-infringing material. Irish courts are to ensure any remedy provided will uphold the freedom of ISPs to conduct their business. The legislation ensures that the Government cannot mandate any ISP to carry out monitoring of information. The legislation must also ensure that measures implemented are “fair and proportionate” and not “unnecessarily complicated or costly.” The law also states that the courts must respect the fundamental rights of ISP customers, including the customers’ right to protection of personal data and the freedom to receive or impart information.
The Government introduced a proposed Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Bill 2018 in March 2018. The Bill will implement certain recommendations of the ‘Modernizing Copyright’ report published in 2013 by the Copyright Review Committee, make better provision for copyright and other IPR protection in the digital era, and enable right-holders to better enforce their IPR in the courts. The bill is still undergoing review in the Irish Senate.
Ireland is not listed on the United States Trade Representative (USTR) Special 301 Report, nor is it on the Notorious Markets List.
6. Financial Sector
Capital Markets and Portfolio Investment
Capital markets and portfolio investments operate freely with no discrimination between Irish and foreign firms. In some instances, development authorities and banks can facilitate loan packages to foreign firms with favorable credit terms. All loans are offered on market terms. Since the banking crisis in 2008 there has been a limited amount of credit available, especially to small and medium-sized firms, although as the balance sheets of banks have improved, lending levels have improved along with the health of the economy. The government introduced a number of steps to address this, including the establishment of the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI). 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 has been 33 percent since December 2012.
Money and Banking System
The Irish banking sector, like many worldwide, came under intense pressure in 2007 and 2008 following the collapse of Ireland’s construction industry and the end of Ireland’s property boom. A number of Ireland’s financial lenders were severely under-capitalized and required government bailouts to survive. The Government introduced temporary guarantees (still in operation) to personal depositors in 2008 to ensure that deposits remained in Ireland. Anglo Irish Bank (Anglo), which was heavily involved in construction and property lending, failed and had to be resolved by the government. The government then took majority stakes in several other lenders and effectively nationalized two banks while owning a significant proportion of another. The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), into which the Irish banks (including Anglo Irish Bank) transferred most of their property-related loan books, was established in 2009.
The Government (with its increased exposure to bank debts) had difficulty in placing sovereign debt on international bond markets following the economic crash of 2008. In November 2010, it had to seek EU/ECB/IMF (Troika) assistance. A rescue package of EUR 85 billion (EUR 67.5 billion of this from external sources) was agreed upon to cover government deficits and costs related to the bank recapitalizations. Further government capitalization of Allied Irish Bank (AIB) transferred effective control of the bank to the Irish government at the end of 2010. The Government took into state control and subsequently resolved two building societies, Irish Nationwide Building Society and Educational Building Society. The Government also helped to re-capitalize Irish Life and Permanent (the banking portion of which was spun off and now operates under the name Permanent TSB) and the Bank of Ireland (BOI). The government, in line with IMF and EU bailout program recommendations, forced Irish banks to deleverage their non-core assets to limit Ireland’s banks to effectively service domestic demand. BOI succeeded in remaining non-nationalized by realizing capital from the sale of non-essential portfolios as well as by targeted burden sharing with some bondholders. The Government sold just over 28 percent of its shareholding in AIB Bank in July 2017, but it still remains the remainder shareholding.
Ireland exited the Troika program in 2013. Shortly thereafter it was able to re-enter sovereign debt markets. Since then, international rates have fallen to record lows for Irish debt, and Ireland was fully repaid IMF loans with bond sales secured at better rates. Ireland in 2017 also paid off some bilateral loans extended to it by Denmark and Sweden, ahead of schedule, also by securing funding from international markets at lower rates.
Many U.S. banks have operations in Dublin’s International Financial Services Center (IFSC), which originally functioned somewhat like a business park for financial services firms, from which they provide a range of financial services to clients in Europe and worldwide. Among these firms are State Street, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, and Northern Trust. Regulation of the international banks operating within the IFSC falls under the jurisdiction of the Central Bank of Ireland.
In March 2018, Euronext acquired the full operation of the Irish Stock Exchange (ISE) now known as Euronext Dublin, after it received full regulatory approval. Equity market capitalization (main securities market) in the Irish Stock Exchange (ISE) was USD 143 billion at the end of 2017 while latest data indicate that by September 2018 this had fallen by about seven percent. 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.
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 (ESCB), 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. 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 as 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.
Foreign Exchange and Remittances
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).
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.
Sovereign Wealth Funds
The National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA) is the asset management bureau of the Irish government. Day-to-day funding for government operations is normally through the sale of sovereign debt worldwide, which is the responsibility of the NTMA. In the past, the NTMA invested Irish government funds, such as the national pension funds, in financial instruments worldwide. Ireland suspended issuing sovereign debt upon entering the EU/ECB/IMF (“Troika”) bailout program in 2010. Since exiting the bailout in 2013, however, the NTMA has been successful in placing Irish debt at record low rates, including into 2019.
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 in 2014 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–requires all of its investments to generate returns as well as having a positive (i.e. job-creating) economic impact in Ireland.
7. State-Owned Enterprises
There are a number of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in Ireland in the energy, broadcasting, and transportation sectors. Eirgrid is the SOE with responsibility of managing and operating the electricity grid on the island of Ireland. There are two energy SOEs – Electric Ireland for electricity and Ervia (formerly Bord Gáis Eireann) for natural gas. Raidió Teilifís Éireann (RTE) operates the national broadcasting (radio and television) service while Córas Iompair Éireann (CIE) provides bus and train transportation throughout the country. The government privatized both Eircom (the national telecommunication service) and Aer Lingus (the national airline). CIE remains wholly owned by the government. Irish Water (which operates as a subsidiary of Ervia) began operations in 2013 to serve as the state-owned entity to deliver water services (previously delivered by local authorities) to homes and businesses. Irish Water introduced new residential charges (previously funded from general government revenue) in 2015. It subsequently suspended these charges in 2016 and has yet to decide on their future collection.
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. This statutory body is required to not 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. A board of directors usually governs SOEs. The government appoints some of the SOE directors.
Ireland does not have a formal privatization program but the government agreed in 2010, as part of the EU/ECB/IMF bailout program, to privatize some of its state-owned and semi-state owned enterprises. The government nominated but has yet to sell some non-strategic elements of Ervia (formerly Bord Gais Eireann, the gas supply company) while it has also indicated that it may sell the electricity generating arm of Electric Ireland, the electricity supply company.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
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 in Ireland has also released its own report documenting the widespread CSR efforts of American affiliate firms in the country.
The Irish government published its National Action Plan on Corporate Social Responsibility in 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. Ireland, as an adherent to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, has established a National Contact Point (NCP) responsible for promoting CSR/RBC (responsible business conduct) and facilitating mediation when complaints arise regarding a company not observing the Guidelines. Contact information for the NCP is:
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.
Irish police (An Garda Siochana, or Garda) investigate all allegations of corruption. The Director of Public Prosecutions prepares a file for prosecution, on detection of sufficient evidence of criminal activity. In the past, the Government convicted a small number of public officials for corruption and/or bribery. In 1996, Ireland established a Criminal Asset Bureau (CAB), an independent body responsible for seizing illegally acquired assets. CAB has powers to focus on the illegally acquired assets of criminals involved in organized crime by identifying criminally acquired assets of persons and taking the appropriate action to deny such people of these assets. Any action is primarily taken through the application of the Proceeds of Crime Act, 1996 legislation. 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
Telephone: + 353 1 602-8202
Contact at Transparency International:
The Capel Building
Telephone: +353 1 871 9432
10. Political and Security Environment
Impact of Northern Ireland Instability
There has been no significant spillover of violence from Northern Ireland since the cease-fires of 1994 and the signing and 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. Since then there has been funding earmarked 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.
Other Acts of Political Violence
There have been some incidents of criminal terrorism and gangland violence attributed to cross-border groups believed to be involved in the black market. There is considerable Garda and Police Service Northern Ireland (PSNI) 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 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. In 2017, two anti-war activists defaced a U.S. aircraft with graffiti. In March 2019, the Garda arrested two peace protesters as they attempted to gain illegal access to Shannon airport runways. Nonetheless, these anti-military acts have not found expression in acts against U.S. firms or private interests in Ireland.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Ireland’s population in April 2018 was 4.86 million, up by 64,500 from the previous year. Net migration in the year was 34,000 persons. The total number of persons employed in 2018 was 2.28 million, up by 51,000 persons on the previous year. Employment opportunities in the early part of this century attracted unprecedented inward migration levels, particularly from Eastern Europe. However, the 2008 construction industry collapse led to a sharp increase in Ireland’s unemployment rate, which peaked at 15.1 percent in early 2012. With the downturn, many economic migrants left Ireland to return home or search for employment opportunities elsewhere. Economic recovery and increased employment opportunities has seen a dramatic fall in the unemployment rate and by March 2019 it had reached 5.4 percent.
Despite the decline in unemployment levels, some areas of Ireland continue to have higher unemployment rates than others. The proportion of youth (under-25) unemployment continues to be high, although significant emigration has lessened this problem.
Private sector wages increased by 4.4 percent in 2018. During the year, the average industrial earnings increased by 1.7 percent to 898 euro (USD 1,061) per week. The minimum wage rate increased by 0.30 euro to 9.80 euro per hour in January 2019, with lower rates set for younger and less experienced workers.
In general, the Government regulates the Irish labor force less than is done in most continental EU countries. The workforce has a high degree of flexibility, mobility, and education. There is a relative gender balance in the workforce, with 1,231,300 males and 1,050,000 females employed in 2018. 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 resulted in a rapid increase of individuals who hold third-level qualifications. (Students must still pay registration fees, currently capped at 3,000 euro or USD 3,390 per year). The availability of highly educated and qualified potential employees makes Ireland an attractive place to do business. That availability has been a significant factor in attracting the large number of multinational companies that have located operations in Ireland. Over 60 percent of new third-level students in Ireland undertake business, engineering, computer science, or science courses. The focus of government strategy has shifted to upgrading skills and increasing the number of workers in technology-intensive, high-value sectors to ensure the availability of an educated workforce.
The Irish system of industrial relations is voluntary. Employers and employees generally agree to pay levels and conditions of employment through collective bargaining. There are generally good industrial relationships and there were just ten firms involved in industrial disputes in 2018. The Government negotiated a series of agreements since 2010 on public service pay and conditions that have in general reduced public service labor disputes.
Employers typically resist trade union demands for mandatory trade/labor 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 to withhold union recognition 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. The Government estimates up to 80 percent of workers in foreign-owned firms do not belong to unions. This may reflect more attractive pay, benefits, and conditions by these employers compared with domestic firms. The Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation explicitly addressed the country’s collective bargaining rights through an amendment of existing legislation in the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015.
12. OPIC and Other Investment Insurance Programs
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) has been authorized since 1986 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).
13. Foreign Direct Investment and Foreign Portfolio Investment Statistics
U.S. and foreign companies with major foreign direct investments in Ireland include:
Abbott, AdRoll, Adobe, Alcatel-Lucent/Bell Labs, Aldi, Alexion, Allianz, Analog Devices, AOL, Apple, Aramark, AWS, Axa, BAM, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Biotrin, BNY Mellon, Boots, Boston Scientific, BT, Citi, DellEMC, Dropbox, eBay, Eli Lilly, Ericsson, Etsy, Facebook, Fidelity, Generali, Gilead, Google, Heineken, HPE, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, Lidl, Liebherr, LinkedIn, Mastercard, Microsoft, MSD (Merck Sharp & Dohme), Oracle, PayPal, Pfizer, Qualtrics, Quantcast, Regeneron, Salesforce.com, 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
* Source: Central Statistics Office (www.cso.ie)
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
|Direct Investment From/in Counterpart Economy Data – 2017|
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)|
|Inward Direct Investment||Outward Direct Investment|
|Total Inward||$892,742||100%||Total Outward||$860,058||100%|
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.|
Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment
|Portfolio Investment Assets|
|Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)|
|Total||Equity Securities||Total Debt Securities|
|All Countries||$3,236,420||100%||All Countries||$1,331,249||100%||Al lCountries||$1,905,172||100%|
14. Contact for More Information
American Embassy, Dublin, Ireland
Telephone: +353-1 630 6274
(Arrives Summer 2019)
American Embassy, Dublin, Ireland
Senior Commercial Representative
Foreign Commercial Service
American Embassy, Dublin, Ireland