Ireland tends towards independence in foreign policy, thus it is not a member of NATO and has a longstanding policy of military neutrality. This policy has helped the Irish Defence Forces to be successful in their contributions to UN peace-keeping missions since 1960 (in the Congo Crisis) and subsequently in Cyprus, Lebanon and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
As of 2008, Dick Roche is Minister of State with special responsibility for European Affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs. Ireland has held the Presidency of the Council of the European Union on six occasions (in 1975, 1979, 1984, 1990, 1996 and 2004) and is scheduled to hold the presidency again in 2013.
The Irish Government has sought, with mixed success, to prevent the importation of weapons and ammunition through the state by the illegal IRA, for use in their conflict with the security forces in Northern Ireland. In the 1970s the Irish warship, the LÉ Ciara intercepted a ship carrying weapons from Libya which were more than likely destined for the republican paramilitaries. Law enforcement acts such as these additionally improved relations with the government of the United Kingdom. However, the independent judiciary blocked many attempts to extradite suspects between 1970 and 1998 on the basis that their crime might have been 'political'.
Ireland is also a party to the Rockall continental shelf dispute that also involves Denmark, Iceland, and the United Kingdom. Ireland and the United Kingdom have signed a boundary agreement in the Rockall area. However, neither have concluded similar agreements with Iceland or Denmark (on behalf of the Faroe Islands) and the matter remains under negotiation. Iceland now claims a substantial area of the continental shelf to the west of Ireland, to a point 49°48'N 19°00'W, which is further south than Ireland.
The controversial Sellafield nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in western England has been a contentious issue between the two governments. The Irish government has sought the closure of the plant, taking a case against the UK government under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. However, the European Court of Justice found that the case should have been dealt with under EU law.
The use of Shannon Airport as a stop-over point for US forces en-route to Iraq has caused domestic controversy. Opponents of this policy brought an unsuccessful High Court case against the government in 2003, arguing that this use of Irish airspace violated Irish neutrality. Foreign direct investment by U.S. companies is vital to the Irish economy — the U.S. is Ireland's largest source of foreign investment, and exports to the U.S. amounted to 10% of GDP in 2005. The large Irish-American population in the United States strengthens ties between the two countries.
The U.S. government has appointed a Special Envoy to Northern Ireland to help with the Northern Ireland peace process. As of 2006, this position is held by Mitchell Reiss. Areas of interest between the U.S. and Ireland include the Northern Ireland peace process, the status of Irish illegal immigrants in the U.S. and investment by U.S. companies in Ireland.
List of major peacekeeping operations:
Asian Development Bank, Australia Group, Bank for International Settlements, Council of Europe, Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, European Investment Bank, Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union, European Space Agency, European Union, Food and Agriculture Organization, International Atomic Energy Agency, International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Civil Aviation Organization, International Criminal Court, International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, International Development Association, International Energy Agency, International Fund for Agricultural Development, International Finance Corporation, International Labour Organization, International Monetary Fund, International Maritime Organization, Interpol, Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, International Organization for Migration, Inter-Parliamentary Union, International Organization for Standardization, International Telecommunication Union, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nuclear Energy Agency, Nuclear Suppliers Group, Organization of American States (observer), OECD, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, Paris Club, Permanent Court of Arbitration, Partnership for Peace, United Nations, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, UNESCO, UNHCR, United Nations Industrial Development Organization, United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon, United Nations Mission in Liberia, United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire, United Nations Truce Supervision Organization, Universal Postal Union, World Customs Organization, Western European Union (observer), World Health Organization, World Intellectual Property Organization, World Meteorological Organization, World Trade Organization, Zangger Committee.
There have been no serious civil, human or social rights abuses/problems in the State, according to Amnesty International and the U.S. State Department. The country consistently comes among the top nations in terms of freedom and rights ratings.
|Freedom in the World - Political Liberties||Joint 1st||1 ("Free")|
|Freedom in the World - Civil Rights||Joint 1st||1 ("Free")|
|Index of Economic Freedom||3rd||1.58 ("Free")|
|Global Peace Index||6th||1.41 ("More Peaceful")|
|Worldwide Press Freedom Index Ranking||Joint 8th||2.00 ("Most Free")|
|Democracy Index||11th||9.01 ("Full Democracy")|
|Failed States Index||174th (4th from the bottom)||19.5 ("Sustainable")|