Emerging Markets / April 2, 2018

Political Economy in Ireland and the European Union

The Republic of Ireland became independent from the United Kingdom in 1921 after years of guerilla warfare. However, the small territory of Northern Ireland has remained a part of the United Kingdom and nationalist forces within this territory desire its annexation to the Republic of Ireland. During the 1990s, as tensions escalated in Northern Ireland, the historic Good Friday Agreement was reached to create a compromise coalition government in the jurisdiction. The Agreement has facilitated almost two decades of peaceful power-sharing between Northern Ireland’s nationalist and unionist moderates. However, as the sociopolitical climate has become more polarized and with the new challenge of balancing Brexit, the political future of Northern Ireland has become one of the most contested political issues in Western Europe.

For decades, the ease of travel and economic activity between the UK’s Northern Ireland jurisdiction and the Republic of Ireland has served as a compromise, which cooled down both nationalist and unionist parties. Nevertheless, the uncertainty of whether or not a hard border will be reinstated between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland as part of the UK’s departure from the European Union is arousing tensions within both camps and throughout the region.

Political Economy in Ireland and the European Union

Today, Ireland is a parliamentary republic composed of 28 counties throughout five-sixths of the Island. With a total territory of 70.273 square kilometers, Ireland is somewhat larger than West Virginia. Furthermore, Ireland has a coastline of 1.448 kilometers and shares a 443-kilometer border with the UK’s Northern Ireland. Geographically, Ireland is mainly flat with rolling hills and low mountains throughout the Island’s interior. Similarly, the country has a temperate seasonal climate with the characteristics of being located in the North Atlantic. Currently, Ireland has a total population of little over 5 million citizens with an average age of 37 years. Likewise, about 64% of Ireland’s population lives in an urban setting, notably the capital city of Dublin with its 1.2 million inhabitants.

In economic terms, Ireland has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$345 billion (PPP), which is divided into 1% agriculture, 38% manufacturing, and 61% services. Moreover, it is estimated that the agricultural industry employs 5% of the national labor force, while manufacturing employs 11% and services employ another 84%. Furthermore, in Ireland, the agriculture industry utilizes 66% of the national territory, while another 11% is forested. In terms of trade, Ireland is the twenty-seventh largest export economy in the world and its main trade partners are the United States and the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile, the jurisdiction of Northern Ireland has a total territory of 14.130 square kilometers, which is slightly smaller than Connecticut. Moreover, Northern Ireland has a total population of some 1.9 million and its capital city of Belfast is home to approximately 500.000 citizens. Lastly, in economic terms, Northern Ireland has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of about US$52 billion (PPP).

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