International Relations

European Union Membership

Ireland joined the European Economic Community (EEC) on 1 January 1973 and has participated actively in the evolution of what is now the European Union (EU). EU membership is pivotal to Government policy. It is a central framework within which the Government pursues its foreign policy objectives. Ireland’s membership of the European Union is rooted in an understanding that the Union is the cornerstone of political and economic stability in Europe.

The fortieth anniversary of Ireland’s accession to the European Union coincided with Ireland’s seventh Presidency of the Council of the European Union in the first six months of 2013. As Presidency, Ireland was committed to delivering real and positive decisions to support Europe’s economic recovery and social cohesion. The Irish Presidency Programme reflected the desire across the EU to learn from the economic crisis and to focus on strengthening competitiveness, fighting unemployment and its causes, and driving forward proposals that will deliver sustainable economic growth and employment.

The Irish Abroad

More than one million Irish citizens are currently living abroad, and it is estimated that as many as 70 million people worldwide can claim Irish descent. While our largest emigrant communities have consistently lived in Britain and the United States, a significant Irish presence can also be found in in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Southern Africa.

Successive Irish Governments have accorded a high priority to maintaining and strengthening links with the Diaspora. President Michael D. Higgins awarded the first Presidential Distinguished Service Awards for the Irish Abroad in November 2012. The Award was established to provide a formal recognition by the Irish State to individuals resident abroad who have provided sustained and distinguished service to Ireland, Irish communities abroad or Ireland’s international reputation.

In 2009, the Government hosted the first Global Irish Economic Forum which brought together influential Irish and Irish connected individuals from abroad for an intensive exchange of ideas on how the Irish at home and abroad could work together and contribute to our overall efforts at economic recovery. One of the key outcomes of the Forum was the establishment of the Global Irish Network. Comprising of over 350 Irish connected decision makers from almost 40 countries, the Network provides Ireland with an invaluable resource of international expertise. A second Global Irish economic Forum took place in 2011.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade oversees the Government’s Emigrant Support Programme which provides financial support to voluntary and Irish community organisations engaged in the delivery of services to Irish communities. With its focus on assisting the most vulnerable of our community, the programme has made a substantive difference to the lives of Irish emigrants, particularly in Britain and the United States.


Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (
Irish Aid (
EU Gateway (
The Global Irish Network/Global Irish Economic Forum (