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Ireland comprises five-sixths of the island of Ireland. The north-eastern part of the island is Northern Ireland which is part of the United Kingdom.
Ireland has a long coastline. To the west is the northern Atlantic Ocean and to the south the Celtic Sea. To the east Ireland is separated from Great Britain by the Irish Sea.
The most important sectors of Ireland’s economy in 2012 were industry (26.3 %), public administration, defence, education, human health and social work activities (17.8 %) and wholesale and retail trade, transport, accommodation and food service activities (16 %).
Ireland’s main export partners are the US, the UK and Belgium, while its main import partners are the UK, the US and Germany.
Geographical size: 69 797 km2
Population: 4 582 707 (2012)
Population as % of total EU population: 0.9 % (2012)
GDP: € 163.938 billion (2012)
Official EU language(s): Irish, English
Political system: parliamentary republic
EU member country since: 1 January 1973
Seats in the European Parliament: 11
Currency: Eurozone member since: 1 January 1999
Passport-free travel? No, Ireland is not a member of the Schengen Area.
Presidency of the Council: Ireland has held the revolving presidency of the Council of the EU 7 times between 1975 and 2013.
In the Council of the EU, national ministers meet regularly to adopt EU laws and coordinate policies. Council meetings are regularly attended by representatives from the Irish government, depending on the policy area being addressed.
The Council of the EU doesn't have a permanent, single-person president (like e.g. the Commission or Parliament). Instead, its work is led by the country holding the Council presidency, which rotates every 6 months.
During these 6 months, ministers from that country's government chair and help determine the agenda of Council meetings in each policy area, and facilitate dialogue with the other EU institutions.
Dates of Irish presidencies:
Jan-Jun 1975 | Jul-Dec 1979 | Jul-Dec 1984 | Jan-Jun 1990 | Jul-Dec 1996 | Jan-Jun 2004 | Jan-Jun 2013
More on the current presidency of the Council of the EU.
The Commission is represented in each EU country by a local office, called a "representation".
Ireland has 9 representatives on the European Economic and Social Committee. This advisory body – representing employers, workers and other interest groups – is consulted on proposed laws, to get a better idea of the possible changes to work and social situations in member countries.
Ireland has 9 representatives on the Committee of the Regions, the EU's assembly of regional and local representatives. This advisory body is consulted on proposed laws, to ensure these laws take account of the perspective from each region of the EU.
Ireland also communicates with the EU institutions through its permanent representation in Brussels. As Ireland's "embassy to the EU", its main task is to ensure that the country's interests and policies are pursued as effectively as possible in the EU.
Member countries' financial contributions to the EU budget are shared fairly, according to means. The larger your country's economy, the more it pays – and vice versa. The EU budget doesn't aim to redistribute wealth, but rather to focus on the needs of all Europeans as a whole.
Breakdown of Ireland's finances with the EU in 2012:
More figures on the EU budget, revenue and spending:
The money paid into the EU budget by Ireland helps fund programmes and projects in all EU countries - like building roads, subsidising researchers and protecting the environment.
Find out more about how Ireland benefits from EU funding.