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Republic of Ireland

Sovereign state in northwestern Europe covering five-sixths of the island of Ireland

Top 10 Republic of Ireland related articles

Ireland[a]

Éire  (Irish)
Anthem: "Amhrán na bhFiann"
(English: "The Soldiers' Song")
Location of Ireland (dark green)

– in Europe (green & dark grey)
– in the European Union (green)

Capital
and largest city
Dublin
53°20.65′N 6°16.05′W / 53.34417°N 6.26750°W / 53.34417; -6.26750Coordinates: 53°N 8°W / 53°N 8°W / 53; -8
Official languages
Ethnic groups
(2016[2])
  • 82.2% White Irish
  • 9.5% Other White
  • 2.6% Not stated
  • 2.1% Asian Irish / Other Asian
  • 1.5% Other ethn.
  • 1.2% Black Irish / Black African
  • 0.7% Irish Traveller
  • 0.1% Other Black
Religion
(2016[3])
Demonym(s)Irish
GovernmentUnitary parliamentary republic
• President
Michael D. Higgins
• Taoiseach
Micheál Martin
• Tánaiste
Leo Varadkar
Frank Clarke
LegislatureOireachtas
Seanad
Dáil
Stages of independence 
24 April 1916
21 January 1919
6 December 1921
6 December 1922
29 December 1937
18 April 1949
• Joined the EEC
1 January 1973
Area
• Total
70,273 km2 (27,133 sq mi) (118th)
• Water (%)
2.00
Population
• 2019 estimate
4,921,500[4] (124th)
• Density
70/km2 (181.3/sq mi) (113th)
GDP (PPP)2019 estimate
• Total
$412.797 billion[5] (46th)
• Per capita
$86,988[5] (4th)
GDP (nominal)2019 estimate
• Total
$384.940 billion[5] (32nd)
• Per capita
$77,771[5] (4th)
Gini (2018)  28.9[6]
low · 23rd
HDI (2018)  0.942[7]
very high · 3rd
CurrencyEuro ()[note 1] (EUR)
Time zoneUTC (GMT)
• Summer (DST)
UTC+1 (IST)
Date formatdd/mm/yyyy
Driving sideleft
Calling code+353
ISO 3166 codeIE
Internet TLD.ie[c]
  1. ^ Article 4 of the Constitution of Ireland declares that the name of the state is Ireland; Section 2 of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948 declares that Republic of Ireland is "the description of the State".[8]
  2. ^ Also the sole national language, as per the Section 2 of the Official Languages Act 2003.
  3. ^ The .eu domain is also used, as it is shared with other European Union member states.

Ireland (Irish: Éire [ˈeːɾʲə] ( listen)), also known as the Republic of Ireland (Poblacht na hÉireann), is a country in north-western Europe occupying 26 of 32 counties of the island of Ireland. The capital and largest city is Dublin, which is located on the eastern side of the island. Around 40% of the country's population of 4.9 million people resides in the greater Dublin area.[9] The sovereign state shares its only land border with Northern Ireland. It is otherwise surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the Celtic Sea to the south, St George's Channel to the south-east, and the Irish Sea to the east. It is a unitary, parliamentary republic.[10] The legislature, the Oireachtas, consists of a lower house, Dáil Éireann, an upper house, Seanad Éireann, and an elected President (Uachtarán) who serves as the largely ceremonial head of state, but with some important powers and duties. The head of government is the Taoiseach (Prime Minister, literally 'Chief', a title not used in English), who is elected by the Dáil and appointed by the President; the Taoiseach in turn appoints other government ministers.

The state was created as the Irish Free State in 1922 as a result of the Anglo-Irish Treaty. It had the status of Dominion until 1937 when a new constitution was adopted, in which the state was named "Ireland" and effectively became a republic, with an elected non-executive president as head of state. It was officially declared a republic in 1949, following the Republic of Ireland Act 1948. Ireland became a member of the United Nations in December 1955. It joined the European Economic Community (EEC), the predecessor of the European Union, in 1973. The state had no formal relations with Northern Ireland for most of the twentieth century, but during the 1980s and 1990s the British and Irish governments worked with the Northern Ireland parties towards a resolution to "the Troubles". Since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998, the Irish government and Northern Ireland Executive have co-operated on a number of policy areas under the North-South Ministerial Council created by the Agreement.

Ireland ranks among the top ten wealthiest countries in the world in terms of GDP per capita,[11] and as the tenth most prosperous country in the world according to The Legatum Prosperity Index 2015.[12] After joining the EEC, Ireland enacted a series of liberal economic policies that resulted in rapid economic growth. The country achieved considerable prosperity between the years of 1995 and 2007, which became known as the Celtic Tiger period. This was halted by an unprecedented financial crisis that began in 2008, in conjunction with the concurrent global economic crash.[13][14] However, as the Irish economy was the fastest growing in the EU in 2015,[15] Ireland is again quickly ascending league tables comparing wealth and prosperity internationally. For example, in 2019, Ireland was ranked third most developed country in the world by the United Nations Human Development Index.[16] It also performs well in several national performance metrics, including freedom of the press, economic freedom and civil liberties. Ireland is a member of the European Union and is a founding member of the Council of Europe and the OECD. The Irish government has followed a policy of military neutrality through non-alignment since immediately prior to World War II and the country is consequently not a member of NATO,[17] although it is a member of Partnership for Peace and aspects of PESCO.

Republic of Ireland Intro articles: 41

Name

The 1922 state, comprising 26 of the 32 counties of Ireland, was "styled and known as the Irish Free State".[18] The Constitution of Ireland, adopted in 1937, provides that "the name of the State is Éire, or, in the English language, Ireland". Section 2 of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948 states, "It is hereby declared that the description of the State shall be the Republic of Ireland." The 1948 Act does not name the state as "Republic of Ireland", because to have done so would have put it in conflict with the Constitution.[19]

The government of the United Kingdom used the name "Eire" (without the diacritic) and, from 1949, "Republic of Ireland", for the state;[20] it was not until the 1998 Good Friday Agreement that it used the name "Ireland".[21]

As well as "Ireland", "Éire" or "the Republic of Ireland", the state is also referred to as "the Republic", "Southern Ireland" or "the South".[22] In an Irish republican context it is often referred to as "the Free State" or "the 26 Counties".[23]

Republic of Ireland Name articles: 2

History

Home-rule movement

From the Act of Union on 1 January 1801, until 6 December 1922, the island of Ireland was part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. During the Great Famine, from 1845 to 1849, the island's population of over 8 million fell by 30%. One million Irish died of starvation and/or disease and another 1.5 million emigrated, mostly to the United States.[24] This set the pattern of emigration for the century to come, resulting in constant population decline up to the 1960s.[25][26][27]

The Irish Parliamentary Party was formed in 1882 by Charles Stewart Parnell (1846–1891).

From 1874, and particularly under Charles Stewart Parnell from 1880, the Irish Parliamentary Party gained prominence. This was firstly through widespread agrarian agitation via the Irish Land League, that won land reforms for tenants in the form of the Irish Land Acts, and secondly through its attempts to achieve Home Rule, via two unsuccessful bills which would have granted Ireland limited national autonomy. These led to "grass-roots" control of national affairs, under the Local Government Act 1898, that had been in the hands of landlord-dominated grand juries of the Protestant Ascendancy.

Home Rule seemed certain when the Parliament Act 1911 abolished the veto of the House of Lords, and John Redmond secured the Third Home Rule Act in 1914. However, the Unionist movement had been growing since 1886 among Irish Protestants after the introduction of the first home rule bill, fearing discrimination and loss of economic and social privileges if Irish Catholics achieved real political power. In the late 19th and early 20th century unionism was particularly strong in parts of Ulster, where industrialisation was more common in contrast to the more agrarian rest of the island, and where the Protestant population was more prominent, with a majority in four counties.[28] Under the leadership of the Dublin-born Sir Edward Carson of the Irish Unionist Party and the Ulsterman Sir James Craig of the Ulster Unionist Party, unionists became strongly militant in order to oppose "the Coercion of Ulster".[29] After the Home Rule Bill passed parliament in May 1914, to avoid rebellion with Ulster, the British Prime Minister H. H. Asquith introduced an Amending Bill reluctantly conceded to by the Irish Party leadership. This provided for the temporary exclusion of Ulster from the workings of the bill for a trial period of six years, with an as yet undecided new set of measures to be introduced for the area to be temporarily excluded.

Revolution and steps to independence

Though it received the Royal Assent and was placed on the statute books in 1914, the implementation of the Third Home Rule Act was suspended until after the First World War which defused the threat of civil war in Ireland. With the hope of ensuring the implementation of the Act at the end of the war through Ireland's engagement in the war, Redmond and his Irish National Volunteers supported the UK and its Allies. 175,000 men joined Irish regiments of the 10th (Irish) and 16th (Irish) divisions of the New British Army, while Unionists joined the 36th (Ulster) divisions.[30]

The remainder of the Irish Volunteers, who opposed any support of the UK, launched an armed insurrection against British rule in the 1916 Easter Rising, together with the Irish Citizen Army. This commenced on 24 April 1916 with the declaration of independence. After a week of heavy fighting, primarily in Dublin, the surviving rebels were forced to surrender their positions. The majority were imprisoned but fifteen of the prisoners (including most of the leaders) were executed as traitors to the UK. This included Patrick Pearse, the spokesman for the rising and who provided the signal to the volunteers to start the rising, as well as James Connolly, socialist and founder of the Industrial Workers of the World union and both the Irish and Scottish Labour movements. These events, together with the Conscription Crisis of 1918, had a profound effect on changing public opinion in Ireland.[31]

In January 1919, after the December 1918 general election, 73 of Ireland's 106 Members of Parliament (MPs) elected were Sinn Féin members who refused to take their seats in the British House of Commons. Instead, they set up an Irish parliament called Dáil Éireann. This first Dáil in January 1919 issued a Declaration of Independence and proclaimed an Irish Republic. The Declaration was mainly a restatement of the 1916 Proclamation with the additional provision that Ireland was no longer a part of the United Kingdom. The new Irish Republic was recognised internationally only by the Russian Soviet Republic.[32] The Irish Republic's Ministry of Dáil Éireann sent a delegation under Ceann Comhairle (Head of Council, or Speaker, of the Daíl) Seán T. O'Kelly to the Paris Peace Conference of 1919, but it was not admitted.

In 1922 a new parliament called the Oireachtas was established, of which Dáil Éireann became the lower house.

After the War of Independence and truce called in July 1921, representatives of the British government and the five Irish treaty delegates, led by Arthur Griffith, Robert Barton and Michael Collins, negotiated the Anglo-Irish Treaty in London from 11 October to 6 December 1921. The Irish delegates set up headquarters at Hans Place in Knightsbridge, and it was here in private discussions that the decision was taken on 5 December to recommend the treaty to Dáil Éireann. On 7 January 1922, the Second Dáil ratified the Treaty by 64 votes to 57.[33]

In accordance with the treaty, on 6 December 1922 the entire island of Ireland became a self-governing Dominion called the Irish Free State (Saorstát Éireann). Under the Constitution of the Irish Free State, the Parliament of Northern Ireland had the option to leave the Irish Free State one month later and return to the United Kingdom. During the intervening period, the powers of the Parliament of the Irish Free State and Executive Council of the Irish Free State did not extend to Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland exercised its right under the treaty to leave the new Dominion and rejoined the United Kingdom on 8 December 1922. It did so by making an address to the King requesting, "that the powers of the Parliament and Government of the Irish Free State shall no longer extend to Northern Ireland."[34] The Irish Free State was a constitutional monarchy sharing a monarch with the United Kingdom and other Dominions of the British Commonwealth. The country had a governor-general (representing the monarch), a bicameral parliament, a cabinet called the "Executive Council", and a prime minister called the President of the Executive Council.

Irish Civil War

Éamon de Valera (1882–1975)

The Irish Civil War (June 1922 – May 1923) was the consequence of the creation of the Irish Free State. Anti-treaty forces, led by Éamon de Valera, objected to the fact that acceptance of the treaty abolished the Irish Republic of 1919 to which they had sworn loyalty, arguing in the face of public support for the settlement that the "people have no right to do wrong".[35] They objected most to the fact that the state would remain part of the British Empire and that members of the Free State Parliament would have to swear what the Anti-treaty side saw as an oath of fidelity to the British King. Pro-treaty forces, led by Michael Collins, argued that the treaty gave "not the ultimate freedom that all nations aspire to and develop, but the freedom to achieve it".[36]

At the start of the war, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) split into two opposing camps: a pro-treaty IRA and an anti-treaty IRA. The pro-treaty IRA disbanded and joined the new National Army. However, because the anti-treaty IRA lacked an effective command structure and because of the pro-treaty forces' defensive tactics throughout the war, Michael Collins and his pro-treaty forces were able to build up an army with many tens of thousands of World War I veterans from the 1922 disbanded Irish regiments of the British Army, capable of overwhelming the anti-treatyists. British supplies of artillery, aircraft, machine-guns and ammunition boosted pro-treaty forces, and the threat of a return of Crown forces to the Free State removed any doubts about the necessity of enforcing the treaty. The lack of public support for the anti-treaty forces (often called the Irregulars) and the determination of the government to overcome the Irregulars contributed significantly to their defeat.

Constitution of Ireland 1937

Following a national plebiscite in July 1937, the new Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann) came into force on 29 December 1937.[37] This replaced the Constitution of the Irish Free State and called the state Éire.[38] While Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution defined the national territory to be the whole island, they also confined the state's jurisdiction to the area that had been the Irish Free State. The former Irish Free State government had abolished the Office of Governor-General in December 1936. Although the constitution established the office of President of Ireland, the question over whether Ireland was a republic remained open. Diplomats were accredited to the king, but the president exercised all internal functions of a head of state.[39] For instance, the President gave assent to new laws with his own authority, without reference to King George VI who was only an "organ", that was provided for by statute law.

Ireland remained neutral during World War II, a period it described as The Emergency.[40] Ireland's Dominion status was terminated with the passage of the Republic of Ireland Act 1948, which came into force on 18 April 1949 and declared that the state was a republic.[41][42] At the time, a declaration of a republic terminated Commonwealth membership. This rule was changed 10 days after Ireland declared itself a republic, with the London Declaration of 28 April 1949. Ireland did not reapply when the rules were altered to permit republics to join. Later, the Crown of Ireland Act was repealed in Ireland by the Statute Law Revision (Pre-Union Irish Statutes) Act 1962.[43]

Recent history

In 1973 Ireland joined the European Economic Community along with the United Kingdom and Denmark. The country signed the Lisbon Treaty in 2007.

Ireland became a member of the United Nations in December 1955, after having been denied membership because of its neutral stance during the Second World War and not supporting the Allied cause.[44] At the time, joining the UN involved a commitment to using force to deter aggression by one state against another if the UN thought it was necessary.[45]

Interest towards membership of the European Economic Community (EEC) developed in Ireland during the 1950s, with consideration also given to membership of the European Free Trade Area. As the United Kingdom intended on EEC membership, Ireland applied for membership in July 1961 due to the substantial economic linkages with the United Kingdom. However, the founding EEC members remained skeptical regarding Ireland's economic capacity, neutrality, and unattractive protectionist policy.[46] Many Irish economists and politicians realised that economic policy reform was necessary. The prospect of EEC membership became doubtful in 1963 when French President General Charles de Gaulle stated that France opposed Britain's accession, which ceased negotiations with all other candidate countries. However, in 1969 his successor, Georges Pompidou, was not opposed to British and Irish membership. Negotiations began and in 1972 the Treaty of Accession was signed. A referendum held in 1972 confirmed Ireland's entry, and it finally joined the EEC in 1973.[47]

The economic crisis of the late 1970s was fuelled by the Fianna Fáil government's budget, the abolition of the car tax, excessive borrowing, and global economic instability including the 1979 oil crisis.[48] There were significant policy changes from 1989 onwards, with economic reform, tax cuts, welfare reform, an increase in competition, and a ban on borrowing to fund current spending. This policy began in 1989–1992 by the Fianna Fáil/Progressive Democrat government, and continued by the subsequent Fianna Fáil/Labour government and Fine Gael/Labour/Democratic Left government. Ireland became one of the world's fastest growing economies by the late 1990s in what was known as the Celtic Tiger period, which lasted until the global Financial crisis of 2007–08. However, since 2014, Ireland has experienced increased economic activity.[49]

In the Northern Ireland question, the British and Irish governments started to seek a peaceful resolution to the violent conflict involving many paramilitaries and the British Army in Northern Ireland known as "The Troubles". A peace settlement for Northern Ireland, known as the Good Friday Agreement, was approved in 1998 in referendums north and south of the border. As part of the peace settlement, the territorial claim to Northern Ireland in Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution of Ireland was removed by referendum. In its white paper on Brexit the United Kingdom government reiterated its commitment to the Good Friday Agreement. With regard to Northern Ireland's status, it said that the UK Government's "clearly-stated preference is to retain Northern Ireland’s current constitutional position: as part of the UK, but with strong links to Ireland".[50]

Republic of Ireland History articles: 105

Geography

The Cliffs of Moher on the Atlantic coast

The state extends over an area of about five-sixths (70,273 km2 or 27,133 sq mi) of the island of Ireland (84,421 km2 or 32,595 sq mi), with Northern Ireland constituting the remainder. The island is bounded to the north and west by the Atlantic Ocean and to the northeast by the North Channel. To the east, the Irish Sea connects to the Atlantic Ocean via St George's Channel and the Celtic Sea to the southwest.

The western landscape mostly consists of rugged cliffs, hills and mountains. The central lowlands are extensively covered with glacial deposits of clay and sand, as well as significant areas of bogland and several lakes. The highest point is Carrauntoohil (1,038 m or 3,406 ft), located in the MacGillycuddy's Reeks mountain range in the southwest. River Shannon, which traverses the central lowlands, is the longest river in Ireland at 386 kilometres or 240 miles in length. The west coast is more rugged than the east, with numerous islands, peninsulas, headlands and bays.

MacGillycuddy's Reeks, mountain range in County Kerry includes the highest peaks in Ireland.

Ireland is the least forested country in Europe.[51] Until the end of the Middle Ages, the land was heavily forested with native trees such as oak, ash, hazel, birch, alder, willow, aspen, elm, rowan, yew and Scots pine.[52] The growth of blanket bog and the extensive clearing of woodland for farming are believed to be the main causes of deforestation.[53] Today, only about 10% of Ireland is woodland,[54] most of which is non-native conifer plantations, and only 2% of which is native woodland.[55][56] The average woodland cover in European countries is over 33%.[54] According to Coillte, a state owned forestry business, the country's climate gives Ireland one of the fastest growth rates for forests in Europe.[57] Hedgerows, which are traditionally used to define land boundaries, are an important substitute for woodland habitat, providing refuge for native wild flora and a wide range of insect, bird and mammal species.[58]

Agriculture accounts for about 64% of the total land area.[59] This has resulted in limited land to preserve natural habitats, in particular for larger wild mammals with greater territorial requirements.[60] The long history of agricultural production coupled with modern agricultural methods, such as pesticide and fertiliser use, has placed pressure on biodiversity.[61]

Climate

The Atlantic Ocean and the warming influence of the Gulf Stream affect weather patterns in Ireland.[62] Temperatures differ regionally, with central and eastern areas tending to be more extreme. However, due to a temperate oceanic climate, temperatures are seldom lower than −5 °C (23 °F) in winter or higher than 26 °C (79 °F) in summer.[63] The highest temperature recorded in Ireland was 33.3 °C (91.9 °F) on 26 June 1887 at Kilkenny Castle in Kilkenny, while the lowest temperature recorded was −19.1 °C (−2.4 °F) at Markree Castle in Sligo.[64] Rainfall is more prevalent during winter months and less so during the early months of summer. Southwestern areas experience the most rainfall as a result of south westerly winds, while Dublin receives the least. Sunshine duration is highest in the southeast of the country.[62] The far north and west are two of the windiest regions in Europe, with great potential for wind energy generation.[65] Ireland normally gets between 1100 and 1600 hours of sunshine each year, most areas averaging between 3.25 and 3.75 hours a day. The sunniest months are May and June, which average between 5 and 6.5 hours per day over most of the country. The extreme southeast gets most sunshine, averaging over 7 hours a day in early summer. December is the dullest month, with an average daily sunshine ranging from about 1 hour in the north to almost 2 hours in the extreme southeast. The sunniest summer in the 100 years from 1881 to 1980 was 1887, according to measurements made at the Phoenix Park in Dublin; 1980 was the dullest.[66]

Republic of Ireland Geography articles: 41

Politics

Ireland is a constitutional republic with a parliamentary system of government. The Oireachtas is the bicameral national parliament composed of the President of Ireland and the two Houses of the Oireachtas: Seanad Éireann (Senate) and Dáil Éireann (House of Representatives).[67] Áras an Uachtaráin is the official residence of the President of Ireland, while the houses of the Oireachtas meet at Leinster House in Dublin.

The President serves as head of state, and is elected for a seven-year term and may be re-elected once. The President is primarily a figurehead, but is entrusted with certain constitutional powers with the advice of the Council of State. The office has absolute discretion in some areas, such as referring a bill to the Supreme Court for a judgment on its constitutionality.[68] Michael D. Higgins became the ninth President of Ireland on 11 November 2011.[69]

The Taoiseach (Prime Minister) serves as the head of government and is appointed by the President upon the nomination of the Dáil. Most Taoisigh have served as the leader of the political party that gains the most seats in national elections. It has become customary for coalitions to form a government, as there has not been a single-party government since 1989.[70] Micheál Martin succeeded Leo Varadkar as Taoiseach on 27 June 2020.

The Seanad is composed of sixty members, with eleven nominated by the Taoiseach, six elected by two universities, and 43 elected by public representatives from panels of candidates established on a vocational basis. The Dáil has 160 members (Teachtaí Dála) elected to represent multi-seat constituencies under the system of proportional representation and by means of the single transferable vote.

The Government is constitutionally limited to fifteen members. No more than two members can be selected from the Seanad, and the Taoiseach, Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Finance must be members of the Dáil. The Dáil must be dissolved within five years after its first meeting following the previous election,[71] and a general election for members of the Dáil must take place no later than thirty days after the dissolution. According to the Constitution of Ireland, parliamentary elections must be held at least every seven years, though a lower limit may be set by statute law. The current government is a coalition government composed of Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael, and the Green Party with Micheál Martin as Taoiseach and Leo Varadkar as Tánaiste. Opposition parties in the current Dáil are Sinn Féin, the Labour Party, Solidarity–People Before Profit, Social Democrats, Aontú, as well as a number of independents.

Ireland has been a member state of the European Union since 1973, but is not part of the Schengen Area. Citizens of the United Kingdom can freely enter the country without a passport due to the Common Travel Area, which is a passport-free zone comprising the islands of Ireland, Great Britain, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands. However, some identification is required at airports and seaports.

Local government

The Local Government Act 1898[72] is the founding document of the present system of local government, while the Twentieth Amendment to the constitution of 1999 provided for its constitutional recognition. The twenty-six traditional counties of Ireland are not always coterminous with administrative divisions although they are generally used as a geographical frame of reference by the population of Ireland. The Local Government Reform Act 2014 provides for a system of thirty-one local authorities – twenty-six county councils, two city and county councils and three city councils.[72] Below this (with the exception of the Dublin Region and the three city councils) are municipal districts, replacing a previous system of town councils.

  1. Fingal
  2. Dublin City
  3. Dún Laoghaire–Rathdown
  4. South Dublin
  5. Wicklow
  6. Wexford
  7. Carlow
  8. Kildare
  9. Meath
  10. Louth
  11. Monaghan
  12. Cavan
  13. Longford
  14. Westmeath
  15. Offaly
  16. Laois
  1. Kilkenny
  2. Waterford
  3. Cork City
  4. Cork
  5. Kerry
  6. Limerick
  7. Tipperary
  8. Clare
  9. Galway
  10. Galway City
  11. Mayo
  12. Roscommon
  13. Sligo
  14. Leitrim
  15. Donegal

Local authorities are responsible for matters such as planning, local roads, sanitation, and libraries. Dáil constituencies are required to follow county boundaries as much as possible. Counties with greater populations have multiple constituencies, some of more than one county, but generally do not cross county boundaries. The counties are grouped into eight regions, each with a Regional Authority composed of members delegated by the various county and city councils in the region. The regions do not have any direct administrative role as such, but they serve for planning, coordination and statistical purposes.

Law

The Four Courts, completed in 1802, is the principal building for civil courts.

Ireland has a common law legal system with a written constitution that provides for a parliamentary democracy. The court system consists of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal, the High Court, the Circuit Court and the District Court, all of which apply the Irish law and hear both civil and criminal matters. Trials for serious offences must usually be held before a jury. The High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court have authority, by means of judicial review, to determine the compatibility of laws and activities of other institutions of the state with the constitution and the law. Except in exceptional circumstances, court hearings must occur in public.

The Criminal Courts of Justice is the principal building for criminal courts.

Garda Síochána na hÉireann (Guardians of the Peace of Ireland), more commonly referred to as the Gardaí, is the state's civilian police force. The force is responsible for all aspects of civil policing, both in terms of territory and infrastructure. It is headed by the Garda Commissioner, who is appointed by the Government. Most uniformed members do not routinely carry firearms. Standard policing is traditionally carried out by uniformed officers equipped only with a baton and pepper spray.[73]

The Military Police is the corps of the Irish Army responsible for the provision of policing service personnel and providing a military police presence to forces while on exercise and deployment. In wartime, additional tasks include the provision of a traffic control organisation to allow rapid movement of military formations to their mission areas. Other wartime roles include control of prisoners of war and refugees.[74]

Ireland's citizenship laws relate to "the island of Ireland", including islands and seas, thereby extending them to Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom. Therefore, anyone born in Northern Ireland who meets the requirements for being an Irish citizen, such as birth on the island of Ireland to an Irish or British citizen parent or a parent who is entitled to live in Northern Ireland or the Republic without restriction on their residency,[75] may exercise an entitlement to Irish citizenship, such as an Irish passport.[76]

Foreign relations

Foreign relations are substantially influenced by membership of the European Union, although bilateral relations with the United Kingdom and United States are also important.[77] It held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on six occasions, most recently from January to June 2013.[78]

Ireland has been a member state of the European Union since 1973.

Ireland tends towards independence in foreign policy; thus the country is not a member of NATO and has a longstanding policy of military neutrality. This policy has helped the Irish Defence Forces to be successful in their contributions to peace-keeping missions with the United Nations since 1960, during the Congo Crisis and subsequently in Cyprus, Lebanon and Bosnia and Herzegovina.[79]

Despite Irish neutrality during World War II, Ireland had more than 50,000 participants in the war through enlistment in the British armed forces. During the Cold War, Irish military policy, while ostensibly neutral, was biased towards NATO.[80] During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Seán Lemass authorised the search of Cuban and Czechoslovak aircraft passing through Shannon and passed the information to the CIA.[81] Ireland's air facilities were used by the United States military for the delivery of military personnel involved in the 2003 invasion of Iraq through Shannon Airport. The airport had previously been used for the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, as well as the First Gulf War.[82]

Since 1999, Ireland has been a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) program and NATO's Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council (EAPC), which is aimed at creating trust between NATO and other states in Europe and the former Soviet Union.[83][84]

Military