International Relations

Ireland’s foreign policy is based on our values and interests. Ireland is a democracy, with a small and exceptionally open free-market economy. We enjoy particularly close ties with our European neighbours, especially our partners in the European Union.


From earliest times, Ireland has been reaching out to the world. Ireland’s Catholic Missionaries founded many Churches and centres of learning in Europe during the sixth and seventh centuries, St. Brendan the Navigator sailed to Iceland and, some claim, America. Whether it be through our missionaries or merchants, sailors or soldiers, like the Wild Geese serving in the armies of France, Spain, Russia and Austria or those who, in later centuries served in the armies and navies of Argentina, Chile and Mexico, whether it be through her artists and writers, sportsmen and women or through our aid workers and engineers, Ireland has a long tradition of engagement with the rest of the world. Most notable has been the large scale emigration in the nineteenth century, which has established a special relationship with the United States, Canada, Australia, the UK, Argentina and New Zealand.

Ireland continues this outward-looking tradition today. Business leaders are forging new links with Chinese and other Asian counterparts. Trade delegations head to India, contracts are signed with Argentina, Brazil and many other nations. Ireland plays her role as a member of the European Union, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Council of Europe and the United Nations, to name just four of the organisations through which we seek to influence developments.

The influence has not all been one way. Over the centuries, Celtic Ireland has seen the arrival of Vikings and Normans, Flemish and British, Germans and Dutch. More recently, Polish, Chinese, Nigerians and many other nationalities have settled in Ireland. Writers, artists and film makers have made their home here. Inward investment has become a significant factor in the development of our economy. Trade and tourism bring thousands of visitors to our shores. All these factors play a role in the continuous development of our dynamic and outward-looking country.

Foreign Policy

Central to Ireland’s foreign policy are our membership since 1955 of the United Nations and our membership since 1973 of the European Union. Ireland is committed to the maintenance of international peace and security under the UN Charter, and to respect for international law. We recognise the essential interconnections between security, development, and human rights, as acknowledged in the 2005 World Summit outcome document. Ireland is particularly active in the promotion of disarmament and the protection of human rights. A key achievement was the Cluster Munitions Conference in 2008.

Within the EU we work closely with our partners in the development and implementation of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy, which is the primary day-to-day focus of the Department’s Political Division. The Common Foreign and Security Policy aims at increased political cooperation between EU member states:

to safeguard the common values, fundamental interests, independence and integrity of the Union in conformity with the principle of the United Nations Charter;

to strengthen the security of the Union in all ways;

to preserve peace and strengthen international security, in accordance with the principles of the United Nations Charter, as well as the principle of the Helsinki Final Act and the objectives of the Paris Charter , including those on external borders;

to promote international co-operation;

to develop and consolidate democracy and the rule of law, and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Our strong commitment to effective multilateralism is also demonstrated by our active participation in other international organisations, including the World Trade Organisation, the Council of Europe and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Ireland maintains a policy of military neutrality and is not a member of any military alliance. However, for fifty years it has been an active contributor to UN and UN-mandated peace-keeping operations and is playing an active part in the development of European Security and Defence Policy.