Ireland: country overview21 June 2012
by Ina Dimireva -- last modified 12 February 2013
Ireland is a small, modern, trade-dependent economy. Ireland was among the initial group of 12 EU nations that began circulating the euro on 1 January 2002. GDP growth averaged 6% in 1995-2007, but economic activity has dropped sharply since the onset of the world financial crisis, with GDP falling by over 3% in 2008, nearly 7% in 2009, and less than 1% in 2010.
Year of EU entry: 1973
Member of Schengen area:No
Political system: Republic
Capital city: Dublin
Total area: 70 000 km²
Population: 4.7 million
Since joining the European Union in 1973, Ireland (Éire) has transformed itself from a largely agricultural society into a modern, technologically advanced Celtic Tiger economy.
Agricultural lowlands make up most of the interior, which is broken in places by low hills and includes considerable areas of bogs and lakes. There are coastal mountains to the west, rising to over 1 000m in places. Nearly a third of the population lives in Dublin.
The Dáil , or lower house of Parliament, is composed of 166 members while the Seanad , or upper house, has 60 members. Parliamentary elections are held every five years. The President, elected for a seven-year period, mainly performs ceremonial duties.
Although the history of Ireland has seen troubles and turbulence, its people have always been associated with a love of music and storytelling. Often referred to as the land of saints and scholars, the country is the birthplace of many famous English-language writers, such as Yeats, Joyce, Beckett, Wilde and Shaw. Ireland is home to internationally known rock bands and singers such as U2, The Corrs and Sinéad O’Connor.
Simple meat dishes and boiled vegetables such as the potato, carrot, turnip and parsnip form the principal ingredients of traditional Irish cooking.
Ireland is a small, modern, trade-dependent economy. Ireland was among the initial group of 12 EU nations that began circulating the euro on 1 January 2002. GDP growth averaged 6% in 1995-2007, but economic activity has dropped sharply since the onset of the world financial crisis, with GDP falling by over 3% in 2008, nearly 7% in 2009, and less than 1% in 2010. Ireland entered into a recession in 2008 for the first time in more than a decade, with the subsequent collapse of its domestic property and construction markets. Property prices rose more rapidly in Ireland in the decade up to 2007 than in any other developed economy. Since their 2007 peak, average house prices have fallen 47%. In the wake of the collapse of the construction sector and the downturn in consumer spending and business investment, the export sector, dominated by foreign multinationals, has become a key component of Ireland's economy. Agriculture, once the most important sector, is now dwarfed by industry and services. In 2008 the COWEN government moved to guarantee all bank deposits, recapitalize the banking system, and establish partly-public venture capital funds in response to the country's economic downturn. In 2009, in continued efforts to stabilize the banking sector, the Irish Government established the National Asset Management Agency (NAMA) to acquire problem commercial property and development loans from Irish banks. Faced with sharply reduced revenues and a burgeoning budget deficit, the Irish Government introduced the first in a series of draconian budgets in 2009. In addition to across-the-board cuts in spending, the 2009 budget included wage reductions for all public servants. These measures were not sufficient. In 2010, the budget deficit reached 32.4% of GDP - the world's largest deficit, as a percentage of GDP - because of additional government support for the banking sector. In late 2010, the former COWEN Government agreed to a $112 billion loan package from the EU and IMF to help Dublin further increase the capitalization of its banking sector and avoid defaulting on its sovereign debt. Since entering office in March 2011, the KENNY government has intensified austerity measures to try to meet the deficit targets under Ireland's EU-IMF program. Ireland achieved moderate growth of 1.4% in 2011 and cut the budget deficit to 9.1% of GDP. Although the recovery slowed in 2012 because of weaker EU demand for Irish exports, Dublin managed to trim the deficit to about 8.5% of GDP.
Source: European Commission, CIA World Factbook