The COVID-19 crisis had a massive impact on Ireland’s economy and its effects will continue in 2022. The Irish government implemented varying degrees of lockdown measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic from the onset in March 2020, including restrictions to close non-essential businesses and services for extended periods of time. Unemployment (including COVID-19 related temporary unemployment) peaked at 28.1 percent in April 2020. Ireland’s official unemployment rate remained around 5 percent (currently at 5.2 percent as of February 2022) due to the unprecedented pandemic related government assistance programs to businesses and workers furloughed due to COVID-19. Over the past two years, the government sustained a level of unprecedented deficit spending to combat the pandemic. Despite the prolonged difficulties caused by COVID-19, Ireland’s economy performed extremely well with GDP growth of 13.5 percent recorded in 2021 following growth of 5.9 percent in 2020. Most of this growth can be attributed to export focused industries (technology, pharmaceutical, and other large multinational companies headquartered in Ireland) while the domestic economy struggled with temporary business closures due to the restrictions. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exasperated Ireland’s growing inflation concerns with fuel and gas price rises leading to price increases across all sectors, which could dampen consumer spending and confidence and could result in lower-than-expected growth for 2022.
The Irish government actively promotes foreign direct investment (FDI) and has had considerable success in attracting investment, particularly from the United States. There are over 950 U.S. subsidiaries in Ireland operating primarily in the following sectors: chemicals, biosciences, pharmaceutical and medical devices; computer hardware and software; internet and digital media; electronics, and financial services.
One of Ireland’s many attractive features as an FDI destination is its favorable 12.5 percent corporate tax (in place since 2003), the second lowest in the European Union (EU). Ireland signed the OECD Inclusive Framework Agreement, which institutes minimum corporate tax rate of 15 percent when implemented. Firms routinely note that they come to Ireland primarily for the high quality and flexibility of the English-speaking workforce; the 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 making it well placed in time zones to support investment in Asia and the Americas. Ireland benefits from its membership of the EU and a barrier-free access to a market of almost 500 million consumers. In addition, the clustering of existing successful industries has created an ecosystem attractive to new firms. The United Kingdom’s (UK) departure from the EU, or Brexit, on January 1, 2021, leaves 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, Ireland’s ability to attract investment are often marred by relatively high labor and operating costs (such as for energy); skilled-labor shortages; licensing and permitting challenges (e.g., for zoning, rezoning, project permissions, etc.) Eurozone-risk; infrastructure in need of investment (such as in transportation, affordable housing, energy and broadband internet); high income tax rates; uncertainty in EU policies on some regulatory matters; and absolute price levels among the highest in Europe.
New data centers must meet new requirements regarding location, energy consumption and energy storage as Ireland’s electricity system struggles to meet demand for energy.
A formal national security screening process for foreign investment in line with the EU framework is expected to be in place by late 2022, though the original date was 2020 but delayed due to the pandemic. At present, 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.
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.
While Ireland has no bilateral investment treaties, the United States and Ireland have shared a Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation Treaty since 1950 that provides for national treatment of U.S. investors. The two countries have also 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).
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.
U.S. companies are attracted to Ireland as an exporting sales and support platform to the EU market of almost 500 million consumers and other global markets. Ireland is a successful FDI destination for many reasons, including a currently low corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent for all domestic and foreign firms (Ireland is party to the October 2021 OECD deal on a global minimum corporate tax that will set the tax rate to 15 percent); 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).
The stock of American FDI in Ireland stood at USD 390 billion in 2020, more than the U.S. total for Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa (the so-called BRICS countries) combined. There are approximately 900 U.S. subsidiaries currently in Ireland employing roughly 190,000 people and supporting work for another 152,000. This figure represents a significant proportion of the 2.51 million people employed in Ireland. U.S. firms operate primarily in the following sectors: chemicals, biosciences, pharmaceuticals and medical devices, computer hardware and software, web and digital media; electronics, and financial services.
U.S. investment has been particularly important to the growth and modernization of Irish industry over the past thirty years, providing new technology, export capabilities, management and manufacturing best practices, and employment opportunities. Ireland has more recently become an important R&D center for U.S. firms in Europe, and a magnet for U.S. internet and digital media investment. Industry leaders like Google, Amazon, eBay, PayPal, Meta (Facebook), Twitter, LinkedIn, Electronic Arts and cybersecurity firms like Tenable, Forcepoint, AT&T Cybersecurity, McAfee use Ireland as the hub or important part of their respective European, and sometimes Middle Eastern, African, and/or Indian operations.
Factors that challenge Ireland’s ability to attract investment include relatively high labor and operating costs (such as for energy); sporadic skilled-labor shortages; the fall-out from the COVID-19 pandemic; and sometimes-deficient infrastructure (such as in transportation, energy and broadband quality). Ireland also suffers from housing and high-quality office space shortages; and absolute price levels that are among the highest in Europe. The American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland has called for greater attention to a “skills gap” in the supply of Irish graduates to the high technology sector. It also has asserted that relatively high personal income tax rates can make attracting talent from abroad difficult.
In 2013, Ireland became the first country in the Euro zone to exit a financial bailout program from the EU, European Central Bank, and International Monetary Fund (EU/ECB/IMF, or so-called Troika). Compliance with the terms of the Troika program came at a substantial economic cost with gross domestic product (GDP) stagnation and austerity measures, while dealing with high unemployment (which hit 15 percent). Strong economic progress followed through government-backed initiatives to attract investment and stimulate job creation and employment.
Despite the prolonged difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Ireland’s economic performance continued to be the best in the Euro zone in 2021 with an estimated 13.5 percent growth, achieved on the back of strong exports from the food, pharmaceutical and med-tech sectors and other large multinational companies headquartered in Ireland. The domestic economy struggled with temporary business closures due to the restrictions. With Ireland’s official unemployment rate at 5.2 percent in February 2022, employers are expecting a tight labor market over the next year. Ireland’s sovereign debt remains attractive to investors exemplifying international confidence in Ireland’s economic progress.
Brexit and its Implications for Ireland
The UK’s exit from the EU (Brexit) in 2021, leaves Ireland as the only remaining English-speaking country in the bloc. The UK is now a non-EU member which shares a land border with Ireland. The December 2020 Brexit agreement dictates the future trading relationship between the UK and the EU and will likely affect Ireland’s future economic performance. The agreement allows for tariff-free Ireland to Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) trade but comes with increased customs procedures. Existing Ireland – Northern Ireland trade continues unimpeded (aka, the Northern Ireland Protocol). While some disruption has been noticed in the supply chain of retail and agricultural sectors (due to their traditional use of the UK “land-bridge” to move products to and from the EU), Irish companies have generally been able to find alternate routes (i.e., using ferries from Ireland directly to continental Europe), though this has raised costs in some sectors. The EU and UK are in ongoing discussions to ensure the Northern Ireland Protocol remains.
With Brexit, Ireland has lost a close EU ally on policy matters, particularly free trade and business friendly open markets. Ireland continues to be heavily dependent on the UK as an export market and source especially for food products, and the full effect of Brexit may yet hit sectors such as food and agri-business with disruptions to supply chains and increased red-tape. Irish trade with its EU colleagues has already seen a dramatic switch to direct shipping rather than using Great Britain as a land-bridge for trucking products. Some UK-based firms (including U.S. firms) have moved headquarters or opened subsidiary offices in Ireland to facilitate ease of business with other EU countries. The Irish Department of Finance and the Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) estimate Brexit will cut Ireland’s economic growth modestly in the near term, but such models are complicated with the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
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 Ireland. 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 assists entrepreneurs establish in Ireland and assists foreign firms that wish to establish food and drink manufacturing operations in Ireland. EI has six existing offices in the United States (Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; New York, NY; San Francisco, CA; and Seattle, WA and has 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 (SFZ) and owns properties in the Shannon region as potential green-field investment sites. Since 2006, the responsibility for investment by Irish firms in the Shannon region has passed to Enterprise Ireland while IDA Ireland remains responsible for FDI in the region.
Udaras na Gaeltachta (Udaras) has responsibility for economic development in those areas of Ireland where the predominant language is Irish. Udaras works with IDA Ireland to promote overseas investment in these regions.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has responsibility for economic messaging and supporting the country’s trade promotion agenda as well as diaspora engagement to attract investment.
Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) supports the creation of jobs by promoting the development of a competitive business environment where enterprises can 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 (plc)) to conduct business in Ireland. Any company incorporated abroad that establishes a branch in Ireland must file certain papers with the Companies Registration Office (CRO). A foreign corporation with a branch in Ireland has 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. There are no recent examples of this, but Irish residents did receive priority in share allocations in the 1998-sale of the state-owned telecommunications company Eircom. The government privatized the national airline Aer Lingus through a stock market flotation in 2005 but chose to retain about a one-quarter stake. At that time, U.S. investors purchased shares in the sale. The International Airlines Group (IAG) purchased the government’s remaining stake in the airline in 2015, and subsequently took an overall controlling interest which it continues to hold.
Citizens of countries other than Ireland and EU member states can acquire land for private residential or industrial purposes. In the past, all non-EU nationals needed written consent from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine before acquiring an interest in land zoned for agricultural use but these limitations no longer exist. 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 yet have formal investment screening legislation in place. Draft legislation has been submitted to the Dail (Irish parliament) which is expected to be enacted during 2022. (The bill was partially delayed due to the government’s efforts to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.) As a member of the EU, Ireland is required to implement any common EU investment screening regulations or directives such as the EU Framework.
Other Investment Policy Reviews
There were no third-party investment policy reviews in the past five years.
All firms must register with the Companies Registration Office (CRO) online at www.cro.ie . The CRO, as well as registering companies, can also register a business/trading name, a non-Ireland based foreign company (external company), or a limited partnership. Any 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 CRO 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).
The Ireland pages in the following link gives the most up-to-date information:
Enterprise Ireland assists Irish firms in developing partnerships with foreign firms mainly to develop and grow indigenous firms.
2. Bilateral Investment and Taxation Treaties
Bilateral Investment Treaties
Ireland has not negotiated any 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: http://tcc.export.gov/Trade_Agreements/All_Trade_Agreements/exp_005438.asp .
Bilateral Taxation Treaties
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). The full text is here: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-trty/ireland.pdf http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-trty/ireland.pdf
Ireland has signed comprehensive double taxation agreements (DTA) with 76 countries, 73 of which are fully ratified and in effect. 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 March 2022, 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, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Korea (Republic of), Kuwait, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Moldova, Montenegro, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Romania, Russian Federation, 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.
Updates available here: https://www.revenue.ie/en/tax-professionals/tax-agreements/double-taxation-treaties/tax-treaties-by-country.aspx
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.
Ireland is a member of the OECD Inclusive Framework on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting, and party to the Inclusive Framework’s October 2021 deal on the two-pillar solution to global tax challenges and a global minimum corporate tax.
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 firms;
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. The Act 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, environment protection and taxation, with many of these keyed to EU regulations and directives.
International Regulatory Considerations
Ireland has been a member of the EU since 1973. As a member, 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
Ireland’s legal system is common law. Courts are presided over by judges appointed by the President of Ireland (on the advice of the government). The Commercial Court is a designated court of the High Court which deals with commercial disagreements between businesses where the value of the claim is at least €1 ($1.2) million. The Commercial Court also oversees cases on intellectual property rights, including trademarks and trade secrets.
Laws and Regulations on Foreign Direct Investment
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.
In the past, one of Ireland’s many attractive features as an FDI destination was its low corporate tax rate. Since 2003, the headline corporate tax rate was 12.5 percent, one of the lowest in the EU. In 2014, the government announced firms would no longer be able to incorporate in Ireland without also being tax resident. Prior to this, firms could incorporate in Ireland and be tax resident elsewhere, making use of a tax avoidance arrangement colloquially known as the “Double Irish” to reduce tax liabilities. The Irish government is party to the OECD’s Base Erosion and Profit Sharing (BEPS) negotiations and ratified the BEPS Multilateral Instrument in January 2019. The government implemented a Knowledge Development Box (KDB), effective 2016, which is 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.
In October 2021, Ireland signed up to the OECD Inclusive Framework Agreement and will raise its corporate tax rate to 15 percent when implemented.
Competition and Antitrust 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 CPCC was established in 2014, following the amalgamation of the National Consumer Agency and the Competition Authority. The CPCC enforces Irish and EU competition law in Ireland. It has the power to conduct investigations and can take civil or criminal enforcement action if it finds evidence of breaches of competition law.
The CPCC is given enforcement powers by the Competition Act of 2002, subsequently amended and extended by the Competition Act 2006. 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 trade associations. Bureaucratic procedures are transparent and reasonably efficient, in line with the general pro-business approach of the government.
The Irish Takeover Panel Act of 1997 gives the ‘Irish Takeover Panel’ responsibility for monitoring and supervising takeovers and other relevant corporate transactions. The minority squeeze-out provisions in the legislation, allows a bidder who holds 80 percent of the shares of the target firm (or 90 percent for firms with securities on a regulated market) to 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 past. Although not recent, Babcock & Brown (an Australian investment firm) acquired the former national telephone company, Eircom in 2006 which it subsequently sold 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 notify 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.
The Irish courts provide a system of judicial review and appeal where there are disputes brought by owners of private property subject to a government action.
There is no specific domestic body for handling investment disputes apart from the judicial system. The Irish Constitution, legislation, and common law form the basis for the Irish legal system. DETE 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.
Some U.S. business representatives have occasionally called into question the transparency of Irish government tenders. According to some U.S. firms, lengthy procedural decisions often delay the procurement tender process. Unsuccessful bidders have expressed concerns over difficulties receiving information on the rationale behind the tender outcome. In addition, 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. Some successful bidders have also subsequently found that the original tenders may not have accurately described conditions on the ground.
Investor-State Dispute Settlement
Ireland treats all firms incorporated in Ireland on an equal basis. Ireland’s legal system is common law and Ireland’s courts apply Irish and EU legislation. All disputes are dealt with judicially. In the past ten years, we are not aware of any investment disputes involving U.S. investors nor of any extrajudicial action against foreign investors.
International Commercial Arbitration and Foreign Courts
Ireland’s judicial court system is used to settle all investor disputes. Investment disputes involving U.S. or other foreign investors in Ireland are extremely rare. There were no known instances of SOE investment disputes in the past five years.
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 legislation gives creditors a strong degree of protection.
4. Industrial Policies
Three Irish organizations – IDA Ireland (IDA), EI, and Udaras – have regulatory authority for administering grant aid to investors for capital equipment, land, buildings, training, and R&D. Foreign and domestic business enterprises seeking grant aid from these organizations must submit detailed investment proposals. These proposals typically include information on fixed assets (capital), labor, and technology/R&D components, and establish targets using criteria such as sales, profitability, exports, and employment. The submitted information is business confidential, and each investment proposal is subject to an economic appraisal before support is offered or denied.
Ireland’s investment agencies and foreign investors jointly 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-aid agreements generally have a repayment term of five years after the date on which the last installment is paid. Parent companies of the investor generally must also guarantee repayment of the government grant if the grant-aided company closes before an agreed time period elapses, normally ten years after the grant was paid. There are no requirements foreign investors must procure locally or allow nationals to own shares.
The EU Regional Aid Guidelines (RAGs) in place from 2022- 2027, govern the maximum grant-aid the Irish government can provide to firms/businesses which are graded based on the regional location. The differences in the various aid ceilings reflect the relative development status of business/infrastructure in regions outside the greater Dublin area.
Investors are generally free, subject to planning permission, to choose the location of their investment, however IDA has actively encouraged investment in regions outside Dublin since the 1990s. Investment regionalization has been government policy since 2001. IDA set out its plan to secure 800 investments and generate 50,000 new jobs by 2025 in its Driving Recovery and Sustainable Growth 2021 – 2024 strategy. IDA’s goal is to locate over half of all new FDI investments outside the two main urban centers of Dublin and Cork. IDA has developed regional hubs to facilitate clusters of activity around the country. In the past IDA has supported construction of business parks in counties Galway and Louth, to encourage biotechnology sector activity in those counties.
There are no restrictions 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 its 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 annually invests over USD 200 million in R&D activities. SFI targets leading researchers in Ireland and overseas to promote the development of biotechnology, information and communications technology; and energy. SFI has specific research centers of excellence – hubs that draw researchers from all of Ireland’s universities together for research on specific themes.
The U.S.-Ireland Research and Development Partnership (UIRDP), launched in 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 and National Institutes of Health 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 UIRDP must have significant research involvement from researchers in all three jurisdictions. In 2015, the UIRDP program topics expanded to include agricultural research; and in 2019 cybersecurity research was also incorporated as a topic.
A key aspect of government support is a tax credit on the cost of eligible research, development, and innovation (RDI) activity; and on buildings used for RDI activity. A tax credit of 25 percent is subject to certain conditions and is available for R&D activities carried out in a wide variety of science and technology areas such as software development, engineering, food and beverage production, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, financial services; agriculture and horticulture. Some U.S. firms have already used these tax credits to build and operate R&D facilities.
The Irish government’s Knowledge Development Box (KDB), introduced in 2016, also 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 under legislation in 1957. Firms operating in the area were at the time entitled to taxation and duty-free benefits not available elsewhere in Ireland. Nowadays, all firms in Ireland are treated equally and the Shannon Free Zone (SFZ) as it is now called, continues to operate albeit without any additional tax benefits.
All firms operating in the SFZ area have the same investment opportunities and tax incentives as indigenous Irish companies. More than 150 companies operate within the 254-hectare business park.
U.S. companies are located in SFZ include: 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, 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 Biomet.
The Shannon Group currently operates the SFZ, 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 of, and duration of employment for, foreign managers brought in to supervise foreign investment projects, though all work permits must be renewed annually. There are no discriminatory export policies or import policies affecting foreign investors.
The government does not force data-localization, nor does it require foreign information technology 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. Many U.S. firms already operate, and are planning for additional, data centers in Ireland. Future construction of new data centers may face additional planning restrictions particularly to access the power grid. In November 2021, Ireland’s energy regulator, the Commission for Regulation of Utilities (CRU), announced new requirements regarding location, energy consumption, and energy storage for future data centers connecting to the power grid.
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 (DJE) 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. All property buyers must since 2010 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 party to many of its treaties, including the Berne Convention, the Paris Convention, the Patent Cooperation Treaty, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, and the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty.
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 also addressed several TRIPs inconsistencies in prior Irish copyright 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, but it does not include minimum mandatory sentencing for IPR violations. As part of this comprehensive legislation, revisions were also made to non-TRIPS conforming sections of Irish patent law.
Specifically, the IPR legislation addressed two outstanding 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 previously 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. High taxation on tobacco products makes illegal trade in counterfeit and untaxed cigarettes highly lucrative. Ireland became the first European country, and fourth globally, to enact legislation on plain packaging for tobacco products via The Public Health (Standardized Packaging of Tobacco) Act in 2015. In practice, all tobacco packaging is devoid of branding, and health warnings cover nearly the entire box with only the producer/product name otherwise visible. The legislation has been in force since September 2018.
The Irish government has transcribed the 2012 EU Copyright and Related Rights Regulations 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 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 also ensures 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 enacted the Copyright and Other Intellectual Property Law Provisions Act in 2019. The legislation improves provision for copyright and other IPR protection in the digital era, and its enables rights holders to better enforce their IPR in the courts.
Ireland implemented the EU’s 2019 Copyright in the Digital Single Market directive in November 2021.
Ireland is not included on the U.S. Trade Representative’s (USTR’s) Special 301 Report or the Notorious Markets List.
For additional information about Ireland’s legislation and IP points of contact, please see WIPO’s country profiles at https://www.wipo.int/directory/en/details.jsp?country_code=IE
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 commercial banks facilitate loan packages to foreign firms with favorable credit terms. All loans are offered on market terms. There was limited credit available, especially to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), after the financial crisis of 2008. Bank balance sheets have since improved with lending levels increasing as the health of the economy improved. The government established the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) to ensure SMEs had access to credit available at market terms. 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 (since December 2012).
Euronext, an EU-based grouping of stock exchange operators in 2018 acquired and operates the Irish Stock Exchange (ISE), now known as Euronext Dublin.
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, fearing a flight of private investments, introduced temporary guarantees (still in operation) to personal depositors in 2008 to ensure that deposits remained in Ireland. Anglo Irish Bank (Anglo), a bank heavily involved in construction and property lending, failed and was resolved by the government. The government subsequently took majority stakes in several other lenders, effectively nationalized two banks and acquired a significant proportion of a third. The National Asset Management Agency (NAMA), established in 2009, acquired most of the property-related loan books of the Irish banks (including Anglo) at a fraction of their book value.
The government, with its increased exposure to bank debts and a rising budget deficit, had difficulty in placing sovereign debt on international bond markets following the economic crash of 2008. Ireland sought and got assistance from the Troika (International Monetary Fund (IMF), EU and European Central Bank (ECB)) in November 2010. A rescue package of $110 (€85) billion, with $88 (€67.5) billion of this provided by the Troika, was agreed to cover government deficits and costs related to the bank recapitalizations.
The government then took effective control of Allied Irish Bank (AIB), following a further recapitalization by the end of 2010. The government took into state control, and then resolved, two building societies, Irish Nationwide Building Society and Educational Building Society. The government helped 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).
Irish banks were forced to deleverage their non-core assets in line with Troika bailout program recommendations and were effectively limited to service domestic banking demand. BOI succeeded in remaining non-nationalized by realizing capital from the sale of non-essential portfolios and by imposing some targeted burden sharing with some of its bondholders. The government has been actively selling down its stake in BOI since 2021 and its holding has declined to below 6 percent. The government also signaled its to fully sell off its AIB shareholding by mid-2022.
Soon after it exited the Troika program in 2013, Ireland re-entered sovereign debt markets. International financing rates continued to fall to record lows for Irish debt, and Ireland was able to fully repay all of its IMF loans by securing bond sales at less expensive rates. Ireland also paid off some bilateral loans extended to it by Denmark and Sweden ahead of schedule in 2017. Currently, Ireland is placing its sovereign debt at very low interest rates in line with other nations.
Ireland’s retail banking sector rebounded from the crisis and is now healthy and well capitalized in line with ECB rules on bank capitalizations. The stock of non-performing loans on bank balance sheets remains high; and banks continue to divest themselves of these loans through bundle sales to investors. Ulster Bank, part of the UK-based NatWest Banking group and Ireland’s third largest retail bank, announced its withdrawal from retail banking in Ireland.
KBC Bank also announced its withdrawal of services in Ireland in late 2022/early 2023. The move by the two banks is expected to create an unprecedented demand for new accounts with the remaining banks. The two banks are actively selling off portfolios of loan books and mortgages, but up to a million customers will need to find an alternative bank for daily business and credit card facilities.
The Central Bank of Ireland (CBI) is responsible for both central banking and financial regulation. 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.
There are a large number of U.S. banks with operations in Ireland, many of whom are located in Dublin’s International Financial Services Center (IFSC) Dublin. The IFSC originally functioned somewhat like a business park for financial services firms. U.S. banks located in Ireland provide a range of financial services to clients in Europe and worldwide. These firms include State Street, Citigroup, Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, JP Morgan, and Northern Trust. The regulation of the international banks operating throughout Ireland falls under the jurisdiction of the CBI.
Ireland is part of the Eurozone, and therefore does not have an independent monetary policy. The ECB formulates and implements monetary policy for the Eurozone and 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 Eurozone monetary and interest rate policy. The CBI also issues euro currency in Ireland, acts as manager of the official external reserves of gold and foreign currency, conducts research and analysis on economic and financial matters, oversees the domestic payment and settlement systems, and manages 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 available 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 government. NTMA is responsible for day-to-day funding for government operations normally through the sale of sovereign debt worldwide. NTMA is also responsible for investing Irish government funds, such as the national pension funds, in financial instruments worldwide.
Ireland suspended issuing sovereign debt upon entering the Troika bailout program in 2010 but has been successfully placing Irish debt since Ireland’s 2013 exit from the Troika program,
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 Ireland’s bailed-out banks.
The Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) established in 2014 has the 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 its investments to generate returns as well as having a positive (i.e., job-creating) economic impact in Ireland. The ISIF has assisted some small and medium sized enterprises during Ireland’s economic revival.
7. State-Owned Enterprises (SOEs)
There are State-Owned Enterprises (SOE)s in Ireland operating 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. (Eirgrid has a sister company SONI in Northern 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 delivering water services (previously delivered by local authorities) to homes and businesses. New residential water charges (previously funded from general government revenue) were introduced by Irish Water in 2015 and subsequently suspended in 2016. Irish Water continues to deliver water services with the cost of domestic water supplies paid by the government.
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 Regulation of Utilities. This statutory body is required to not discriminate unfairly between participants in the sector, while protecting the end-user.
SOEs generally pay their own way, finance their operations and fund further expansion through profits generated from their own operations. Some SOEs pay an annual dividend to the government. A board of directors usually governs a SOE with some of these directors appointed by the government.
Ireland does not have a formal privatization program, but the government agreed in 2010, as part of the Troika 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). The government indicated that it may sell the electricity generating arm of Electric Ireland, an electricity supply company, but has not yet done so.
8. Responsible Business Conduct
A growing awareness of corporate social responsibility (CSR) in Ireland is mainly driven by 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 government promotes responsible business conduct in Ireland. Its national action plan “Towards Responsible Business – Ireland’s National Plan on Corporate Social Responsibility 2017- 2020″ aims to support businesses in Ireland to create sustainable jobs; embed responsible practices in the marketplace; embrace diversity and promote responsible workplaces; and encourage enterprises to consider their businesses’ impacts on the environment. It gives effect to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and sets out the Irish government’s commitments to promoting responsible business practice at home and overseas. DETE maintains a web page www.csrhub.ie for information on all aspects of CSR in Ireland.
Ireland, as an adherent to the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, established a National Contact Point (NCP) responsible for promoting CSR/RBC and facilitating mediation when complaints arise regarding a company not observing the Guidelines. Contact information for the NCP is: https://enterprise.gov.ie/en/What-We-Do/Trade-Investment/OECD-Guidelines-NCP/
Department of State
Department of the Treasury
Department of Labor
In November 2021, the government released its Climate Action Plan which detailed the actions required to achieve a 51 percent emissions reduction target by 2030 and a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, as set out in the Climate Act 2021. The plan will be updated annually to ensure alignment with Ireland’s legally binding economy-wide carbon budgets and sectoral ceilings. The Climate Action Plan lays out sector specific targets to achieve these goals, with the largest reduction slated to come from the energy sector (62-81 percent reduction). Some of the actions outlined in the action plan to meet the energy decarbonization targets include a review of policy for large energy users, such as data centers, incentivizing demand side flexibility, and developing supportive policies for wind, solar, and micro generation.
Security of energy supply continues to be an issue in Ireland which has been further complicated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Ireland is highly dependent on imports of oil and natural gas. While renewable energy, mainly from onshore wind turbines, is growing, Ireland must still import gas, through interconnectors from the UK. Eirgrid, the national grid operator, said Ireland could face electricity shortages over the next five winters unless base load production (from gas or coal) is increased to ensure that intermittent supply from renewables is supplemented.
The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and the IDA have highlighted the importance of Ireland’s green credentials and climate improvement plans in attracting future investment from international financial services firms. The IDA said Ireland aims to be a global leader in the area of green or sustainable finance. Taoiseach Micheál Martin said sustainable finance remains “a top priority” within the government’s financial services agenda, and Ireland was “uniquely positioned” to benefit from significant global investment in fintech due to the country’s track record for foreign direct investment, entrepreneurial culture and existing number of international financial services firms.
Corruption is not a serious problem for foreign investors in Ireland. The principal Irish legislation relating to anti-bribery and corruption is the Criminal Justice (Corruption Offences) Act of 2018. The Act consolidates all previous legislation for the prevention of corruption. The legislation 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 gives effect in domestic law to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and other conventions concerning criminal corruption and corruption involving officials of the European Union and officials of EU member states. Irish legislation ensures there are strong penalties in place with prison terms of up to ten years 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 is responsible for preparing files for prosecution, on detection of sufficient evidence of criminal activity. The government has, in the past, convicted a small number of public officials for corruption and/or bribery. In 1996, Ireland established the Criminal Asset Bureau (CAB), an independent body responsible for seizing illegally acquired assets. CAB has the 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 CAB 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:
69 Middle Abbey St
Telephone: +353 1 554 3938
10. Political and Security Environment
There has been no significant spillover of violence from Northern Ireland since the ceasefires of 1994 and the signing and implementation of the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) in 1998. The cessation of violence in Northern Ireland led to increased business investment and confidence in Northern Ireland which also benefited Ireland. The GFA designated funding to develop cross-border cooperation on R&D collaboration, create energy and transportation infrastructure linkages, and for participation in 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 any illegal activity.
There have been no recent incidents involving politically motivated damage to foreign investment projects and/or installations in Ireland. There were some instances of damage to U.S. military assets transiting Shannon Airport in 2003 and later 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. The Garda arrested two peace protesters as they attempted to gain illegal access to Shannon airport runways in 2019. Other than these incidences of anti-military acts, there have been no acts against U.S. firms or private interests in Ireland.
11. Labor Policies and Practices
Ireland’s population reached 5.01 million in April 2021 an increase of 34,000 on 2020 levels. Net migration in the year to April 2021 was 11,200 persons. The total number of persons employed at the end of 2020 was 2.28 million, but this increased to 2.51 million by the end of 2021 as COVID-19 restrictions relaxed and employers began hiring. Employment opportunities continue to attract inward migrations particularly for employees with language skills.
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it three lockdowns of the economy (in April, October and December 2020) with maximum restrictions on movements and a sharp rise in the numbers receiving temporary government employment supports. Temporary government unemployment supports (pandemic unemployment payments) were put in place to keep employees linked to their employers to assist in a rapid return to operations following the lockdowns. The COVID-19 adjusted unemployment rate for Ireland stood at 27.0 percent (with an underlying unemployment rate of 7.2 percent) in February 2021. In the year since, most of those claiming temporary unemployment payments have returned to work and by February 2022 the traditional unemployment rate stood at 5.2 percent with the COVID-adjusted rate at 7.0 percent. The Central Bank of Ireland forecasts Ireland’s unemployment rate will average of 5.8 percent in 2022 before declining to 5.3 percent in 2023.
Average hourly labor costs in Ireland increased by 2.0 percent in 2020. During
2021, average industrial earnings increased by 2.1 percent to 989 euro (USD 1,170) per week. The government mandated minimum wage rate was increased by 0.30 euro to 10.50 euro ($12.40) per hour from January 2022, with lower rates set for younger and less experienced workers.
The government regulates the Irish labor force less than governments in most continental EU countries. The 2.633 million workforce has a high degree of flexibility, mobility, and education. There is relative gender balance in the workforce, with 1,328,100 males and 1,177,900 females employed in 2021. The gender balance reflects a societal change and government support that facilitated a surge in female employment from the mid-1980s. There are no restrictions on the hiring of non-national labor, and many firms, especially in the technology sector, hire young professionals with a diverse range of language and technology skills.
Ireland, since the mid-1990’s, is an attractive destination for foreign investment due to the availability of a young, highly educated workforce. The removal of tuition fees for third level (university) education in 1995 resulted in a rapid increase of third-level qualified graduates. While tuition fees are paid by the government, students must still pay registration fees, currently capped at 3,000 euro ($ 3,600) per academic year. The availability of highly educated and qualified potential employees in Ireland is an attractive feature for employers looking to locate in the EU and has been a significant factor in attracting the already large number of multinational companies located 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 onset of the COVID-19 pandemic introduced mass teleworking to Ireland. The huge change in work practice came almost overnight and despite the immense change, workers and their employers seem to have adapted well. Key to Ireland’s teleworking success was the access to good broadband services. Adequate broadband is already available in most urban areas while the government’s national broadband plan to bring high speed broadband to all areas is still rolling out. It is likely that these plans may be accelerated to get earlier delivery of broadband services in more rural parts of the island. The government is expected to enact legislation giving rights to employees to seek remote working opportunities from their employers.
The Irish system of industrial relations is voluntary. Employers and employees generally agree on pay levels and conditions of employment through collective bargaining. There are generally good industrial relationships and very few industrial disputes. There were just three labor disputes in 2021 down from seven in 2020. (Note: Pandemic measures are likely to have affected the number of disputes in 2020 and 2021. End note). A series of agreements between the government and public service labor unions in place since 2010 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. One quarter of all workers are unionized but there is much higher participation by public sector workers in unions. 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. DETE explicitly addressed the country’s collective bargaining rights through an amendment of existing legislation in the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2015.
12. U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC), and Other Investment Insurance or Development Finance Programs
U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) has been authorized since 1986 (then as OPIC) to operate in Ireland, as part of the U.S. effort to support the process of peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. 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 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, Avolon, AWS, Axa, BAM, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Biotrin, BNY Mellon, Boots, Boston Scientific, BT, Citi, Coca Cola, Consensys, DellEMC, Dropbox, eBay, Eli Lilly, Ericsson, Etsy, Facebook, Fidelity, Generali, Gilead, Google, GSK, Heineken, HPE, Huawei, Hubspot, IBM, Indeed, Intel, Johnson & Johnson, JP Morgan, Kellogg’s, Lidl, Liebherr, LinkedIn, Mastercard, Microsoft, Merit Medical, MSD (Merck Sharp & Dohme), Northern Trust, Oracle, PayPal, Pfizer, Qualtrics, Quantcast, Regeneron, Salesforce.com, Sanofi, SAP, ServiceSource, Servier, Siemens, State Street, Stream Global Services, Tesco, Teva, TikTok, Twitter, UnitedHealth Group, United Technologies Research Centre, Vodafone, Waters, Wuxi Biologics, Yahoo!, Zeus, and Zurich.
Table 2: Key Macroeconomic Data, U.S. FDI in Host Country/Economy
||Host Country Statistical source*
||USG or international statistical source
||USG or International Source of Data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
|Host Country Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ($M USD)
|Foreign Direct Investment
||Host Country Statistical source*
||USG or international statistical source
||USG or international Source of data: BEA; IMF; Eurostat; UNCTAD, Other
|U.S. FDI in partner country ($M USD, stock positions)
|Host country’s FDI in the United States ($M USD, stock positions)
|Total inbound stock of FDI as % host GDP
||UNCTAD data available at
* Source for Host Country Data: Central Statistics Office (CSO) www.cso.ie
Note: Host country’s FDI inbound and outbound data are not shown as they relate to 2019.
Table 3: Sources and Destination of FDI
|Direct Investment from/in Counterpart Economy Data (through 2020)
|From Top Five Sources/To Top Five Destinations (US Dollars, Millions)
|Inward Direct Investment
||Outward Direct Investment
||Isle of Man
|“0” reflects amounts rounded to +/- USD 500,000.
14. Contact for More Information
Until August 2022:
Economic Affairs Chief
American Embassy, Dublin, Ireland
Telephone: +353-1-630 6274
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
From September 2022:
Economic Affairs Chief
American Embassy, Dublin, Ireland
Telephone: +353-1-630 6274
Email: email@example.com .