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Ireland’s contribution to the EU

Coming as we do from an island on the edge of Europe, we Irish have a long history of travelling and trading with our foreign partners. Mobility forms part of Ireland’s DNA and is at the heart of the European project.

The legacy of previous Irish EU Presidencies

The EU Presidency in 2013 marks 40 years since Ireland joined the EU. Ireland has held the Presidency on six previous occasions, including during pivotal moments in the EU’s history which still resonate today:

  • 1975: hosting the first European Council meeting in Dublin in March, and the establishment of the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), designed to reduce the development gap between different regions of Europe;
  • 1979: the first Presidency to deal with  a directly elected European Parliament, forging a close relationship between Ireland and the EP which endures to this day;
  • 1984: agreement to reinforce the EMS and ECU instruments which preceded monetary union; commercial & co-operation agreement with China;
  • 1990: common approach on German reunification and on relations with central and eastern European countries;
  • 1996:  significant progress towards the introduction of the single currency: Dublin Declaration on Employment;
  • 2004:  the “Day of Welcomes” in Dublin marked the Union’s largest-ever enlargement, with the accession of ten new Member States.

2004 family photo 

Irish EU Presidency 2004, Leaders “Family Photo”, Farmleigh House, Day of Welcomes May 1st 2004

Find more information visit Ireland’s previous Presidencies.

During its seventh Presidency, Ireland will seek again to drive forward a positive EU agenda, in challenging times.  In September 2012 Viviane Reding, Vice-President of the European Commission, told the Joint Oireachtas (Irish Parliament) Committee on EU Affairs that “2013 will be the year that Ireland builds Europe and, in doing so, secures its own future.” 

Irish Citizens working in the EU

Irish people have helped to build the EU and its institutions, and continue to play an important role in its development and management.


For example, to date the European Commission has had only five Secretary-Generals -  two of them have been Irish. Since 2005 Catherine Day has been Secretary General while David O’Sullivan held the position before her, from 2000-2005.

David O’Sullivan is now Chief Operating Officer of the European External Action Service (EEAS). 


There are many Irish citizens working within the EU’s institutions.

Irish Commissioners

Máire Geoghegan-Quinn has been Commissioner for Research and Innovation since 2010.  She has responsibility for the European Union’s research programme which will provide €53billion in funding for research in Europe between 2007 and 2013.

Ireland’s past Commissioners include:

  • Peter Sutherland, who was a reforming Competition Commissioner from 1985-89 and also initiated the Erasmus programme for higher level education student exchange.  More than 2.2 million students have benefited from this programme to date.
  • Ray MacSharry, who introduced the first major reforms of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP)

Irish Members of the European Parliament

From 2002-2004 Irish MEP Pat Cox was President of the European Parliament. Overall, Irish MEPs have had a disproportionate impact in the Parliament through their active contribution to Parliamentary committees and delegations.

In 2012, 19 out of the current total of 754 MEPs were given awards in recognition of their outstanding work over the previous year.  Of the 19, no fewer than three were Irish: Marian Harkin, for her work on Employment and Social Affairs; Gay Mitchell, for his work on Development; and Seán Kelly for his work on Research and Innovation.

Irish Diplomacy and the EU

Within the EU we work closely with our partners in the development and implementation of the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy.  Ireland maintains a policy of military neutrality and is not a member of any military alliance. However, for fifty years we have been an active contributor to UN and UN-mandated peace-keeping operations and we play an active part in the development of European Security and Defence Policy.

The civilian nature of most of the EU’s peace operations has facilitated the direct involvement of Irish professionals in areas such as policing and justice, to help stabilise and develop the institutions of fragile states.  Irish men and women from the Defence Forces, the Garda Síochána (Irish Police Force), judiciary and medical professions have participated to great effect in many EU operations within and outside the EU.

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