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Executive Summary

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.

U.S. companies are attracted to Ireland as an exporting, sales, and support platform to the EU market of 500 million consumers (EU) and other global markets, mainly the Middle East and Africa. Ireland is an attractive 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, and multi-lingual workforce; cooperative labor relations; political stability; pro-business policies and regulators; 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).

The United Kingdom (UK) is due to exit the EU at the end of March 2019, leaving Ireland as the only remaining English-speaking country in the bloc. Ireland is also the only EU country to share a land border with the UK. It is still unclear what the full economic consequences will be for Ireland as it loses a close EU ally on policy matters. Irish Department of Finance and Central Bank of Ireland econometric models suggest that Brexit will cut economic growth modestly in the near term. However, Ireland is heavily dependent on the UK as an export market, especially for food products, and sectors such as food and agri-business could be hit hard. Ireland also sources many imports from the UK, which could raise costs if supply chains are disrupted. To date, some sectors such as food have suffered from the depreciation of the pound, although consumers have benefited from lower costs of imports from the UK. As the UK prepares to leave the EU, many UK-based firms may seek to move headquarters or open subsidiary offices in other EU countries to facilitate business in the EU. Ireland, as a member of the Eurozone, stands to be an attractive option for such moves, according to Irish government and business leaders, but faces heavy competition from cities like Paris, Frankfurt, and Luxembourg.

There is no formal screening process for foreign investment in Ireland. However, 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.

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.

Table 1

Measure Year Index/Rank Website Address
TI Corruption Perceptions Index 2017 19 of 175
World Bank’s Doing Business Report “Ease of Doing Business” 2017 17 of 190
Global Innovation Index 2017 10 of 128
U.S. FDI in partner country (M USD, stock positions) 2015 387,092
World Bank GNI per capita 2015 USD 52,010

Policies Towards 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 2016, the stock of U.S. foreign direct investment in Ireland stood at USD 387 billion – 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 250,000 — a significant proportion of the 2.23 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, as well as 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 research and development 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 an integral part of their respective operations in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and/or India.

U.S. companies are attracted to Ireland as an exporting, sales, and support platform to the EU market of 500 million consumers (EU) and other global markets, mainly the Middle East and Africa. Ireland is an attractive 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, and multi-lingual workforce; cooperative labor relations; political stability; pro-business policies and regulators; 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 (such as energy) costs; sporadic skilled-labor shortages; residual fallout from Ireland’s economic and financial restructuring; sometimes-deficient infrastructure (such as in transportation, energy and broadband quality); shortages in housing and high-quality office space; 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 could potentially 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 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 an EU/ECB/IMF (the European Union, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund, the so-called Troika) bailout program. Compliance with the terms of the Troika program came at a substantial economic cost in the form of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) stagnation, austerity measures, and chronically high unemployment. The economy has since recovered and was the fasting-growing Eurozone economy for the fourth successive year in 2017, with a growth rate of 7.8 percent. Meanwhile, government initiatives to attract investment are continuing to stimulate employment and as a result, unemployment levels have dropped dramatically, with the rate forecast by the Central Bank of Ireland to fall below 5 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 that exemplify renewed international confidence in Ireland’s recovery.

Brexit and its Implications for Ireland

The United Kingdom (UK) is due to exit the EU at the end of March 2019, leaving Ireland as the only remaining English-speaking country in the bloc. Ireland is also the only EU country to share a land border with the UK. It is still unclear what the full economic consequences will be for Ireland as it loses a close EU ally on policy matters. Irish Department of Finance and Central Bank of Ireland econometric models suggest that Brexit will cut economic growth modestly in the near term. However, Ireland is heavily dependent on the UK as an export market, especially for food products, and sectors such as food and agri-business could be hit hard. Ireland also sources many imports from the UK, which could raise costs if supply chains are disrupted. To date, some sectors such as food have suffered from the depreciation of the pound, although consumers have benefited from lower costs of imports from the UK. As the UK prepares to leave the EU, many UK-based firms may seek to move headquarters or open subsidiary offices in other EU countries to facilitate business in the EU. Ireland, as a member of the Eurozone, stands to be an attractive option for such moves, according to Irish government and business leaders, but faces heavy competition from cities like Paris, Frankfurt, and Luxembourg.

Industrial Promotion

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 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 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; Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; and Mountain View, CA), with offices also located 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. Under the 2006 Industrial Development Amendments Act, Enterprise Ireland assumed responsibility from the Shannon Group 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 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 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) 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.

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, as 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. In 2005, the government privatized the national airline Aer Lingus through a stock market floatation but the government 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.

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 state-owned telecommunications company Eircom was sold and Irish residents were given priority in share allocations.

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.

Other Investment Policy Reviews

The Economist Intelligence Unit and World Bank’s Doing Business 2018 provide current assessments of Ireland’s investment policies.

Business Facilitation

All firms must register with the Companies Registration Office ( ). As well as registering companies, the CRO 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 from the date of its certificate of incorporation. The website permits online data submission. However, a signed paper copy of this application must also be submitted in conjunction with the online application, unless the applicant company is already registered with (the website of Ireland’s tax collecting authority, the Office of the Revenue Commissioners).

Outward Investment

Enterprise Ireland assists Irish firms in developing partnerships with foreign firms, mainly to promote growth of the local firms.

Ireland has the unique distinction of being the only major economy that shares no formal bilateral investment treaties (BITs) with any country. However, Ireland is included in some 56 EU treaties with third countries that contain investment provisions; the full list is here: .

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 .

Ireland has signed comprehensive double taxation agreements with 74 countries, 73 of which are fully ratified and in effect. Agreements with other countries are also in negotiation. These tax 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, is: 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.

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 establish headquarters and conduct research and development in Ireland;
  • 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;
  • The Industrial Development Act (1993), which outlines the functions of IDA Ireland; and,
  • The Mergers, Takeovers and Monopolies Control Act of 1978, which sets out rules governing mergers and takeovers by foreign and domestic companies;

The Companies Act (2014), 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, 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

Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment

One of Ireland’s most attractive features as an FDI destination is its relatively low corporate tax rate. Since 2003, the headline corporate tax rate for all firms, foreign and domestic, has been 12.5 percent – about half the current OECD average of 23.9 percent. This rate is one of the lowest in the EU, and the Irish government continues to strongly oppose EU efforts to harmonize corporate taxes to a single 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 Shifting (BEPS) discussions. 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 intangible/Intellectual Property assets that are the result of qualifying research and development activities carried out in Ireland.

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. The CCPC was established on 31 October 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, strengthens the enforcement power of the Competition Authority, now 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, for example, an Australian investment group, Babcock & Brown, acquired the former national telephone company, Eircom, and subsequently sold it in 2009 to Singapore Technologies Telemedia. 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.

Mergers over a certain financial threshold must be notified to the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) 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.

Dispute Settlement

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 Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation (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 World Bank-based 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.

Bankruptcy Regulations

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.

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, and research and development (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 issue grant funding after the foreign investors have attained externally audited performance targets. Grant agreements generally have a repayment obligation if the target is not maintained within five years of issuance. 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 operate until 2020. The RAGs govern the maximum grant that the Irish Government can provide to businesses, which varies according to location. The difference in 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. The IDA’s current strategy seeks to locate over 50 percent of all new FDI outside the two main urban centers of Dublin and Cork. To encourage this, IDA Ireland has developed “magnets of attraction,” such as 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 also incentivizes the construction of biotech parks in Oranmore and Dundalk.

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 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. The program 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. In addition, the government introduced the Knowledge Development Box (KDB) in 2016, which applies a tax rate of 6.25 percent on profits arising to certain intangible/Intellectual Property assets that are the result of qualifying R&D activities.

Foreign Trade Zones/Free Ports/Trade Facilitation

Legislation established the Shannon duty-free Processing Zone (SDFPZ) 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 over 150 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, 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, which also operates 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.

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.

Real Property

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 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 international and local organized criminal groups. Heavy cigarette taxes in Ireland make illegal trade in counterfeit and untaxed cigarettes highly lucrative. Ireland has become the first European country and the fourth in the world to pass a plain packaging law for tobacco products. That law, The Public Health (Standardized Packaging of Tobacco) Act, passed in 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. This legislation became active from September 30, 2017. However, any products already manufactured by that date may be sold for another year. From September 2018, all tobacco products will 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. It is intended that Irish courts will ensure that any remedy provided will uphold the freedom of ISPs to conduct their business. The legislation ensures that any ISP cannot be mandated 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 fundamental rights of ISP customers must be respected by the courts, 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 intellectual property (IP) protection in the digital era, and enable right-holders to better enforce their IP rights in the courts.

Ireland is not listed in USTR’s Special 301 Report.

Ireland is not listed in the notorious market report.

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

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 beginning of the banking crisis in 2008 there was a limited amount of credit available, especially to small and medium-sized firms. 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 is 33 percent, effective since December 2012.

Money and Banking System

The Irish banking sector, came under intense pressure in 2007 and 2008 due to the global financial crisis which led to the collapse of Ireland’s construction industry and the 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. (These guarantees are still in operation.) One of the main banks involved in construction and property lending, Anglo Irish Bank (Anglo), failed and had to be resolved by the government. The government took majority stakes in several other lenders and effectively nationalized two banks while owning a significant proportion of another. In 2009, the government created the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), into which the Irish banks (including Anglo Irish Bank) transferred most of their property-related loan books.

Throughout 2010, the government (with increased exposure to bank debts) found it difficult to place sovereign debt on international bond markets, and in November 2010 it had to seek EU/ECB/IMF (Troika) assistance. A rescue package of EUR 85 billion (EUR 67.5 billion of which came from external sources) was agreed to cover government deficits and costs related to the bank recapitalizations. Following further government capitalization of Allied Irish Bank (AIB), effective control of the bank transferred 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 simply servicing 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 AIB Bank in July 2017. It continues to retain the remainder shareholding.

Ireland exited the Troika program in 2013, and shortly after was able to re-enter sovereign debt markets. Since then international rates have fallen to record lows for Irish debt and Ireland was able to fully repay IMF loans with bond sales secured at better rates. Ireland also paid off some bilateral loans extended to it by Denmark and Sweden in 2017, 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.

At the end of 2017, equity market capitalization (main securities market) in the Irish Stock Exchange (ISE) was USD 143 billion, an increase of USD 4 billion from the end of 2016. 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 began to fall in 2007. This drop came in part by concerns over possible spillover effects from the sub-prime crisis in the United States. 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 Enterprises Security Market (ESM)—which caters to smaller firms with a minimum market capitalization of EUR 5 million (USD 5.5 billion). In March 2018, the ISE became part of the Euronext group and will now operate as Euronext Dublin.

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 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

Foreign Exchange Policies

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.

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. Upon entering the EU/ECB/IMF (“Troika”) bailout program with full funding, Ireland suspended issuing sovereign debt. Since exiting the bailout in 2013, the NTMA has been successful in placing Irish debt at 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.

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. The two energy SOEs are Electric Ireland and Ervia (formerly Bord Gáis Eireann), 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. The government privatized both Eircom (the national telecommunication service) and Aer Lingus (the national airline). CIE remains wholly owned by the government. Irish Water (IW, which operates as a subsidiary of Ervia) began operations in 2013 to serve as the state-owned entity to deliver water services to homes and businesses. IW installed new water meters at residential properties throughout the country and began the first charges for water service, previously funded out of general government revenue, in 2015. In 2016, IW suspended collection of the charges, pending a political agreement on their future.

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 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.

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, the gas supply company) while it also indicated that it may sell the electricity generating arm of Electric Ireland, the electricity supply company.

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 can be found at: .

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, 1889the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1906the 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. The Director of Public Prosecutions prepares a file for prosecution, on detection of sufficient evidence of criminal activity. In the past, a small number of public officials were convicted for corruption and/or bribery. In 1996, Ireland established a Criminal Asset Bureau (CAB), an independent body responsible for seizing illegally acquired assets. CAB was established with powers to focus on the illegally acquired assets of criminals involved in organized crime. The aims of CAB are to identify the criminally acquired assets of persons and to take 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
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

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 (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. In 2017, two anti-war activists defaced a U.S. aircraft with graffiti. Nonetheless, these anti-military acts have not found expression in acts against U.S. firms or private interests in Ireland.

The total number of persons employed in 2017 was 2.23 million, up by 67,000 persons on the previous year. The total population of Ireland is 4.79 million. 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 this downturn, many economic migrants left Ireland. By March 2017, thanks to both increasing employment and continued emigration, the unemployment rate in Ireland had fallen to 6.1 percent.

Even though unemployment levels are falling, the Irish government continues its commitment 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 remains stubbornly above 40 percent. While the overall level of unemployment has declined, some areas of Ireland have higher unemployment rates than others. The proportion of youth (under-25) unemployment continues to be high, though eased by emigration. The government had introduced JobBridge – a national internship program aimed at retraining employees and that provided work experience opportunities for unemployed people. The program offered interns a stipend on top of unemployment benefits to allow them to take up employment and/or retraining with employers without losing their benefits. A new replacement program, Youth Employment Support Scheme (YESS), is due to commence in mid-2018.

There was a 2.3 percent increase in private sector wages in 2017. During the year, the average industrial earnings per worker increased by the same percentage to EUR 888 per week. The minimum wage rate increased by EUR 0.30 to EUR 9.55 per hour in January 2018, but there are lower rates for younger and less experienced workers.

In general, the Irish labor force is less regulated than 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 1,206,600 males and 1,024,500 females employed in 2017. 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 EUR 3,000 per year) resulted in a rapid increase of individuals who hold third-level qualifications. Over 60 percent of new third-level students in Ireland undertake business, engineering, computer science, or science courses. To ensure the continued attractiveness of an educated workforce, the 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. Employers and employees generally agree to pay levels and conditions of employment through collective bargaining. There are generally good industrial relationships and just ten firms were involved in industrial disputes in 2017.

Since 2010, the government has negotiated a series of agreements on public service pay and conditions. The current agreement, the “Lansdowne Road agreement” (LRA), was generally accepted by all public service labor unions. A number of teacher labor unions did not sign up to the LRA. These unions continue to have some work stoppages. There have also been a number of ongoing disputes and work stoppages in the national transportation services.

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 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. 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. 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.

The Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) is 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).

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

Abbott, 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, DellEMC, Dropbox, eBay, Eli Lilly, Ericsson, Etsy, Facebook, Fidelity, Generali, Gilead, Gilt Groupe, Google, Heineken, HPE, IBM, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, Kellogg’s, Lidl, Liebherr, LinkedIn, Mastercard, Merck, Microsoft, MSD (Merck Sharp & Dohme), Oracle, PayPal, Pfizer, Qualtrics, Quantcast, Regeneron,, 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 IRELAND

Host Country Statistical Source* USG or International Statistical Source USG or International Source of Data:
BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
Economic Data Year Amount Year Amount
Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (M USD) 2016 USD 311,300 N/A N/A
Foreign Direct Investment Host Country 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) N/A 2016 USD 387,092 BEA data available at
Host country’s FDI in the United States (M USD, stock positions) N/A 2016 USD 279,647 BEA data available at
Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP 2016 124.4% N/A N/A

*Irish Department of Finance/Central Statistics Office (CSO)
Note: Direct comparison of Irish government and USG FDI statistics is not possible because the CSO (who calculate such data in Ireland) and the U.S. Department of Commerce utilize different base data.

Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI

Direct Investment from/in Ireland Economy Data – 2016
From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
Inward Direct Investment Outward Direct Investment
Total Inward 842,931 100% Total Outward 842,001 100%
United States 244,847 29% Luxembourg 419,111 50%
Netherlands 114,916 14% UK 99,468 12%
Luxembourg 72,574 9% United States 95,934 11%
UK 64,606 8% Netherlands 57,778 7%
Switzerland 61,296 7% Bermuda 43,744 5%
“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.

Source: IMF
Note: Direct comparison of Irish government/IMF and USG FDI statistics is not possible because the CSO (who calculate such data in Ireland) and the U.S. Department of Commerce utilize different base data.

Table 4: Sources of Portfolio Investment

Portfolio Investment Assets
Top Five Partners (Millions, US Dollars)
Total Equity Securities Total Debt Securities
All Countries 2,475,558 100% All Countries 966,374 100% All Countries 1,509,184 100%
United States 717,131 29% United States 316,325 33% United States 400,806 27%
UK 476,318 19% UK 114,693 12% UK 361,625 24%
France 170,616 7% Luxembourg 79,576 8% France 134,580 9%
Germany 117,331 5% Japan 57,852 6% Germany 76,925 5%
Luxembourg 109,518 4% Germany 40,406 4% Italy 73,780 5%

Source: IMF
Note: Direct comparison of Irish government/IMF and USG FDI statistics is not possible because the CSO (who calculate such data in Ireland) and the U.S. Department of Commerce utilize different base data.

Timothy Forsyth
Political/Economic Counselor
American Embassy, Dublin, Ireland
Telephone: +353-1 630 6274

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

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

2018 Investment Climate Statements: Ireland
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