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Country Risk: Ireland

Official Name: Republic of Ireland
National Symbols: Irish Harp, shamrock, Celtic cross

Internet Domain: .ie
International Dialing Code: +353

Flag of Ireland

Table of Contents

Location and Size Comparative Economic Indicators
Government Credit and Collections
Legal Systems Risk Assessment
Interesting Facts Business Protocol
Economy Sources for Further Information

Location and Size

Ireland is a western European country, occupying five-sixths of the island of Ireland in the North Atlantic Ocean, west of Great Britain. Its land area is 68,883 sq. km., making it slightly larger than the U.S. state of West Virginia. The capital city of Dublin is on the country’s east coast on the banks of the Liffey River.


Ireland’s government is a republic, parliamentary democracy including 29 counties and 5 cities.


Executive: Chief of state President Michael D. HIGGINS; head of government Prime Minister Michael MARTIN; cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president with previous nomination by the prime minister and approval of the lower house of Parliament.

Legislative: Bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate with 60 seats; 43 members elected by the universities and from candidates put forward by five vocational panels, 11 nominated by the prime minister and 6 elected by 2 university constituencies; members serve five-year terms and the lower house of Parliament with 166 seats; members elected by popular vote on the basis of proportional representation to serve five-year terms.

Judicial: Highest court(s): Supreme Court or Court of Final Appeal (consists of the chief justice and 7 judges); judges are nominated by the prime minister and Cabinet and appointed by the president; judges serve until age 70. Subordinate courts: High Court, Court of Criminal Appeal; circuit and district courts.

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Legal System

Ireland has a common law system based on the English model, but substantially modified by customary law with judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court.

The country has not accepted compulsory International Court of Justice (ICJ) jurisdiction declaration.

10 Interesting Facts About Ireland

  1. The Tara mine near Narvan is the largest zinc mine in Europe, and fifth largest in the world.
  2. The word “boycott” originated in Ireland after an Irish landowner, Charles Boycott refused to drop his rents.
  3. The Polish are the largest group of non-Irish living in Ireland.
  4. The Irish drink an average of 1,184 cups of tea per year, making it the greatest tea drinking nation per capita. It is fourth in the consumption of beer.
  5. According to the Irish birthday traditions, people hold the birthday child upside down and bump the head slightly on the floor. The bumps correspond to the age of the child. It is believed that this tradition brings good luck.
  6. There are more tourists than residents living in Ireland. Five million people visit Ireland every year and live in a country of 3.8 million people.
  7. The average temperature in the city of Dublin is 41°F in January and is 63°F in July.
  8. There are only 26 land mammal species native to Ireland and fewer plant and animal species than Britain or mainland Europe.
  9. Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way is the longest defined coastal drive in the world.
  10. Ireland was the last country in Europe to permit divorce. The first divorce granted was in 1997.

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In the wake of the collapse of the construction sector and the downturn in consumer spending and business investment during the 2008-11 economic crisis, the export sector, dominated by foreign multinationals, has become an even more important component of Ireland’s economy. Ireland’s low corporation tax of 12.5% and a talented pool of high-tech laborers have been some of the key factors in encouraging business investment. Loose tax residency requirements made Ireland a common destination for international firms seeking to pay less tax or, in the case of U.S. multinationals, defer taxation owed to the United States.

In 2014, amid growing international pressure, the Irish government announced it would phase in more stringent tax laws, effectively closing a commonly used loophole. The Irish economy continued to grow in 2017 through 2019, supported by a strong export sector, robust job growth, and low inflation, to the point that the Government must now address concerns about overheating and potential loss of competitiveness.

The greatest risks to the economy is the UK’s departure from the European Union (“Brexit”) in March 2019, possible changes to international taxation policies that could affect Ireland’s revenues, and global trade pressures.

Leading Markets (2021): US 28%, Belgium 10%, Germany 10%, UK 9%, China 5%, Netherlands 5%

Leading Exports – Commodities: medical cultures/vaccines, nitrogen compounds, packaged medicines, integrated circuits, scented mixtures

Leading Suppliers (2021): UK 31%, US 16%, Germany 10%, Netherlands 5%, France 5%

Leading Imports – Commodities: aircraft, computers, packaged medicines, refined petroleum, medical cultures/vaccines

Top Industries: Pharmaceuticals, chemicals, computer hardware and software, food products, beverages and brewing, medical devices

Top Agricultural Products: milk, barley, beef, wheat, potatoes, pork, oats, poultry, mushrooms/truffles, mutton

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Comparative Economic Indicators – 2021

Ireland Belgium France Iceland Netherlands Norway
Population (millions) 5.2 11.8 68.1 0.3 17.3 5.5
Population growth rate (%) 0.97 0.59 0.33 0.97 0.37 0.8
Age Structure (%)
(15 to 64 years old)
65.0 63.6 61.2 64.2 64.1 64.6
Age Structure (%)
(65+ years old)
13.8 19.2 20.5 15.47 19.8 17.4
Literacy (%) 99 99 99 99 99 100
Unemployment rate (%)* 4.98 5.36 8.12 3.62 3.41 3.72
Inflation (%) 0.9 1.4 1.1 3.0 2.6 2.1
Population below poverty line (%) 13.1 14.8 13.6 8.8 13.6 NA
GDP** (USD billions) 398.5 533.0 2,715.0 24.6 907.0 405.7
GDP real growth rate (%) 5.86 1.41 1.49 1.94 1.63 0.86
GDP per capita** (USD) 86,781 51,934 46,184 55,874 56,935 63,633
Public debt (% of GDP) 68.6 103.4 96.8 40.0 56.5 36.5
Industrial production growth rate (%) 7.8 0.2 2.0 2.4 3.3 1.5
Exports (USD billions) 541.8 474.3 969.1 10.4 857.6 185.1
Imports (USD billions) 489.9 473.1 1,021.6 9.4 755.6 158.0
Reserves of foreign exchange and gold (USD billions) 4.41 26.16 156.4 6.6 38.4 65.9
Currency Euro
Exchange rates (per USD) 07/22/2021 1.18 1.18 1.18 0.008 1.18 0.11
Exchange rates (per EUR) 07/22/2021 n/a n/a n/a 0.006 n/a 0.09

* 2021 Estimate
** PPP – Purchasing Power Parity
Economic Data from CIA World Factbook

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Credit and Collections

Collecting in Country

Irish Statute of Limitations:

  • Open Account: 6 years
  • Promissory Notes: 6 years
  • Written Contracts: 6 years
  • Oral Agreements: 6 years

Dispute Resolution

Ireland has no specific domestic body for handling investment disputes. The Companies Act 1963 (amended 1990) is the most important body of law dealing with commercial and bankruptcy law and is applied consistently by the courts. Irish bankruptcy laws give creditors a strong degree of protection.

Ireland has no specific laws governing investment disputes that apply only to foreign firms. There is, however, a legal arbitration framework available to parties that opt to arbitrate a dispute, including investment disputes, rather than litigate the case. Should parties opt for litigation, the judiciary is independent, and litigants are entitled to trial by jury in commercial disputes.

Ireland is a member of the International Center for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), and the Irish Government has been willing to agree to binding international arbitration of investment disputes between foreign investors and the state.

Ireland is also a party to the New York Convention of 1958 on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (UNCITRAL). The UNCITRAL Model Law, adopted by more than 50 countries, covers all stages of the arbitral process. Ireland originally adopted the Model Law in the Arbitration (International Commercial) Act 1998, but only for international commercial arbitrations. With the 2010 Arbitration Act, Ireland has implemented the UNCITRAL Model Law to both domestic and international arbitration.

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Risk Assessment

Coface Country Rating: A4 — The overall risk is a combination of business-specific factors and factors relating to the country in which the business operates.

Coface Business Climate Rating: A1 — Evaluating the business environment involves measuring the quality of a country’s private sector governance – in other words businesses’ financial transparency and the effectiveness of the courts in settling debts. Evaluations use a seven-level ranking.

The Irish economy is expected to record significant growth in 2021, after a year marked by the economic consequences of the pandemic. While, in 2020, the country was one of the few in the region not to see its activity decline, this was exclusively due to the strength of exports by multinationals in the pharmaceutical sector (31% of exports of goods in 2019, 52% including chemicals) and computer services (more than half of exports of services). While the activity of these firms will remain solid in 2021, the acceleration of the Irish economy will be driven by domestic activity, which was hit in 2020 by two lockdowns, first in the spring and then in the autumn. These measures, coupled with uncertainty, hampered household consumption and pushed households to increase their savings considerably, despite having their purchasing power boosted by support measures (short-time work arrangements, temporary reduction in VAT from 23% to 21% from September).

Economic Freedom: Ireland’s economic freedom score is 81.4, making its economy the 5th freest in the 2021 Index of Economic Freedom. The Irish economy is ranked 2nd among 45 countries in the Europe region, and its overall score is above the regional and world averages.

Market Access: The Irish Government actively promotes foreign direct investment (FDI). 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-invested companies to enhance research and development (R&D) activities and to deliver higher-value goods and services.

The United States and Ireland have shared a Friendship, Commerce, and Navigation Treaty since 1950.

Regulatory System: The Irish government employs a transparent and effective policy framework that fosters competition between private businesses in a non-discriminatory fashion. U.S. businesses can, in general, expect to receive national treatment in their dealings with the government. Bureaucratic procedures are transparent and reasonably efficient, in line with a general pro-business climate espoused by the Government.

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 the 2000’s brought Irish intellectual property rights (IPR) law into compliance with Ireland’s obligations under the WTO Trade-Related Intellectual Property Treaty (TRIPs). This legislation gives Ireland one of the most comprehensive legal frameworks for IPR protection in Europe.

Exchange Control: Euro notes and coins are the official currency and there are no exchange controls. Any sums of money in any currency can be freely brought into or taken out of the country without disclosure or other formalities.

Corruption: Corruption is not a serious problem for foreign investors in Ireland. Ireland signed the UN Convention against Corruption, and ratification is pending a review of the legal measures required for implementation.

Political Violence: There was no significant spillover of violence from Northern Ireland in the 1970s and 1980s, or since the cease-fires of 1994.

Business Protocol in Ireland

  • Irish business-people are generally less formal and more outwardly friendly than in many European countries. Shake hands with everyone at the meeting and be sure to smile.
  • Meetings may occur in several venues, not merely the office. It is quite common to conduct a business meeting in a restaurant or pub. In most cases, meetings will be relaxed. It is customary to have a period of small talk before the actual meeting, which is when a rapport is built to take forward into the meeting.
  • Business cards are exchanged after the initial introductions without formal ritual. Many business-people do not have business cards, so you should not be offended if you are not offered one in return.
  • The Irish use stories and anecdotes to relay information and value a well-crafted message. How you speak says a lot about you in Ireland. The Irish appreciate modesty and can be suspicious of people who are loud and tend to brag.
  • When discussing your professional achievements it is best to casually insert the information in short snippets during several conversations rather than embarking on a long self-centered outline of your successes.
  • There is a tendency to use understatement or indirect communication rather than say something that might be contentious. Generally speaking, the Irish do not like confrontation and prefer to avoid conflict, which they attempt to do by being humorous and showing good manners.

Sources for further information on doing business in Ireland

American Chamber of Commerce, Ireland

Irish American Business Chamber & Network, Philadelphia

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This information is provided by ABC-Amega Inc. Providing international receivable management and debt collection services for exporters to more than 200 countries including Ireland. For further information, contact [email protected].

This report represents a compilation of information from a wide variety of reputable sources.

Comparative Economic Indicators: CIA World Factbook

Risk Assessment information: Coface Country Rating

Exchange Rates: The Currency Site.