- Ireland joined the European Economic Community
After several years of preparation and a previous application, Ireland signed the Treaty of Accession to the join the European Economic Community (EEC - now the European Union or EU) in 1972. As membership of the EEC resulted in the Oireachtas no longer being the sole law making power in the State, it was necessary to hold a referendum to amend the Constitution.
The referendum was held on the 10 May 1972. Four out of five people (83.09% of the electorate) voted in favour of the referendum. Turnout for the referendum was high at 70.3%. Ireland joined the EEC on 1 January 1973.
- Common Agricultural Policy
The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) was established in 1962 under the Treaty of Rome. Its objective was to increase food production by offering farmers guaranteed prices for their produce thereby managing supply.
Major reforms since then include the introduction of the Single Farm Payment (SFP), decoupling of farm support from production and a focus on environmental protection and animal welfare. Most recently under the 2014-2020 CAP reforms, the SFP has been replaced with the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS).
The then European Commissioner for Agriculture and former Minister for Finance, Ray MacSharry, played a key role in the 1992 ‘MacSharry reforms’. The MacSharry reforms & reduced price support in order to reduce trade distortion and introduced direct payments to compensate farmers.
In 2016, Irish farmers received €1.2 billion in direct payments and €494 million was allocated for investment in rural development from the EU CAP budget.
- Common Fisheries Policy
Twenty-two percent of EU waters lie off 7.500km of Irish coastline. As an island nation, fisheries have always played an important role in the Irish-EU relationship since Ireland’s accession.
The EU established the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) in the 1970s. The main aim of the CFP is to manage the EU’s fishing fleets and protect its fishing and marine environment for future generations.
Major reforms of the CFP include the introduction of Total Allowable Catches (TACs) for fish stocks, fishing quotas for Member States and control and enforcement measures to monitor and enforce the CFP.
In 2015, the EU adopted a €239 million investment package for the Irish fisheries and aquaculture sectors for six years from 2014 to 2020. The EU provided €147 million to the investment package. Ireland provided the rest of the funding. In 2016, the Irish Government secured an increase of 233,500 tonnes of its EU fishing quota for 2017. This is worth €280 million to the Irish fishing industry.
- Anti-Discrimination (Pay) Act 1974
Ireland hosted its first Presidency of the Council of the European Communities from January to June 1975 under the leadership of Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave. The Equal Pay Directive (Council Directive 75/117/EEC) establishing the principle of equal pay for men and women was passed during the Presidency.
During the Presidency, agreement was reached to begin work on creating a Passport Union and common Community rights for European Community citizens. The former Taoiseach Dr Garret FitzGerald has said that the success of Ireland’s first European Presidency helped to developed Ireland’s credentials as a serious European player.
The European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (Eurofound) is the first EU agency to be based in Ireland. Its headquarters are situated at Loughlinstown House in Dublin.
Eurofound provides knowledge to assist in the development of better social, employment and work-related policies. It also delivers information, advice and expertise on working and living conditions and supports the EU institutions and bodies, member states and social partners in developing and implementing social and employment policies. Much of its work promotes social dialogue on the basis of comparative information, research and analysis.
- Second Irish European Council Presidency
Ireland hosted its second Presidency of the Council of the European Communities from July to December 1979 under the leadership of Taoiseach Jack Lynch followed by Taoiseach Charles Haughey. In June 1979, European citizens had for the first time directly elected representatives to the European Parliament. Ireland elected 15 representatives, or Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).
The first President of the European Parliament was Simone Veil. Simone Veil appointed an Irish woman, Anne-Marie Manson-Hennon, to the President’s cabinet team of special advisors. Mrs Manson-Hennon’s duties included updating the President on the work of the Parliament’s fifteen committees.
- Third Irish European Council Presidency
Ireland hosted its third Presidency of the Council of the European Communities from July to December 1984 under the leadership of Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald. During the Presidency, the EEC signed the Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement with China.
A significant achievement of this Presidency was its work in achieving agreement on the issue of humanitarian aid in Africa. During this time, Member States agreed to allocate an additional IR£23 million in emergency aid to Africa and to allocate an additional 100 tonnes of grains in emergency food aid towards famine relief measures.
- Single European Act
On Christmas Eve 1986, President Patrick Hillery signed the European Communities (Amendment) Act 1986 bringing the provisions of the Single European Act into Irish law. However, that same day an injunction was successfully sought from the High Court preventing the Irish Government from ratifying the Treaty without first putting the matter to a referendum.
In April 1987, in Crotty v An Taoiseach the Supreme Court ruled that as the Single European Act “was a significant and decisive step along the path to a single European foreign policy” it could only be ratified by referendum.
On 26 May 1987 a referendum on the Single European Act was held. Seventy percent of the electorate voted in favour of it. Due to the judicial proceedings, Ireland missed the 1 January deadline for ratifying the Treaty. This delayed its entry into force across the entire EU.
Since the Supreme Court decision in Crotty v An Taoiseach, every European Treaty has been put to a referendum in Ireland.
- Fourth Irish European Council Presidency
Ireland hosted its fourth Presidency of the Council of the European Communities from January to June 1990 under the leadership of Taoiseach Charles Haughey. During the Presidency, a special European Council meeting was held in Dublin in April 1990. The Council agreed a common approach to German unification to allow for the smooth integration of the former territory of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) into the Union. It also agreed a common approach to Community relations with Central and Eastern European countries after the fall of the 'Iron Curtain'
- Treaty on European Union
The European Economic Community (EEC) became the European Union (EU) in 1993 under the Maastricht Treaty (formally the Treaty on European Union). Ireland held a referendum on the Maastricht Treaty on 18 June 1992. The referendum was passed with 69.1% of the electorate voting yes. The Maastricht Treaty paved the way for the creation of an Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) comprising some, but not all, EU Member States. This is now known as the eurozone or euro area.
- Fifth Irish European Council Presidency
Ireland hosted its fifth Presidency of the Council of the European Union from July to December 1996 under the leadership of Taoiseach John Bruton. During the Presidency, agreement was reached on a variety of matters concerning the introduction of a single European currency (the euro). These included the legal framework underpinning the use of the euro, the Stability and Growth Pact and a new Exchange Rate Mechanism. The ‘Dublin Declaration on Employment’ was also adopted during the Presidency. The Declaration set out national and Community measures to stimulate employment across the Community. Ireland and ten other Member States formally started using the euro as official currency, replacing their national currencies, on 1 January 2002.
- Treaty of Amsterdam
Ireland held a referendum on the Treaty of Amsterdam on 22 May 1998. The referendum was passed with 61.74% of the electorate voting yes. This would lay the groundwork for a further enlargement of the Union and reform of the EU institutions.
- Treaty of Nice
On 7 June 2001, Ireland held a referendum on the Treaty of Nice. It was the first European referendum to be rejected by the people. The referendum was defeated with 53.9% of the electorate voting no. The turnout at 34.8% was the lowest for any EU referendum.
Although it cannot be said exactly why the people rejected the Treaty, certain concerns are thought to have contributed to its rejection. Concerns included a loss of Ireland’s neutrality, political and economic concerns due to the planned enlargement of the EU and a reduction in Irish representation and power within the EU institutions.
In response to the rejection of the Treaty by the Irish electorate, the Irish Government obtained a declaration that the Treaty did not undermine Irish neutrality. A second referendum on the Treaty was held on 19 October 2002. The referendum was passed with 62.89% of the electorate voting yes.
- Sixth Irish European Presidency
Ireland hosted its sixth Presidency of the Council of the European Union from January to June 2004 under the leadership of Taoiseach Bertie Ahern. The theme of the Presidency was ‘Europeans – working together’. In what is known as ‘The Day of Welcomes’, ten new Member States were welcomed into the EU in the Phoenix Park, Dublin on 1 May 2004. This was the largest single enlargement in the history of the EU. Negotiations on the European Constitutional Treaty were finalised during the Presidency.
- Irish became an official language of the European Union
Irish was recognised as a 23rd official working language of the EU on 1 January 2007. However, it was placed under what is known as "derogation", meaning that the European institutions were not obliged to provide full translation or interpretation services. Under this arrangement, translation was mandatory only for co-decisions made by the European Parliament and the European Council.
Following a request from the Irish Government to gradually reduce the scope of the derogation with a view to phasing it out by 1 January 2022, the Council adopted Regulation 2015/22644 in December 2015, increasing the number of areas in which Irish translation is required. The gradual reduction of this derogation has seen the volume of material available in Irish increasing significantly. This volume has doubled between 2016 and mid-2019 and is expected to double again between 2020 and 2021. Irish is expected to attain full status as an official language in 2022.
A joint initiative between Ireland and the EU on developing an Irish version of EU law has seen the translation of 4,700 pages out of the 11,000 pages identified as key pieces of EU legislation.
- Treaty of Lisbon
On the 12 June 2008, Ireland held a referendum on the Treaty of Lisbon. The referendum was defeated with 53.4% of the electorate voting no. Ireland was the only Member State to hold a referendum on the Treaty and its rejection took the EU by surprise.
Issues contributing to its defeat included a lack of knowledge about the Treaty, the loss of a permanent EU Commissioner and concerns about a loss of national competency over issues such as neutrality and national tax rates.
In response to the rejection of the Treaty by the Irish electorate, the Irish Government obtained a number of guarantees from EU leaders. These included a commitment that the Treaty would not affect Irish law or policy on certain issues such as neutrality or tax. In addition, Member States would retain a permanent EU Commissioner. A successful second referendum on the Treaty was held on 2 October 2009 with 67.1% of the electorate voting yes.
- Programme of Financial Support for Ireland (EU-IMF Programme)
In November 2010, following a banking and ultimately a fiscal crisis, the Irish Government agreed to formally request financial support through a ‘bail-out’ package (Programme of Financial Support for Ireland) worth €85 billion.
The €85 billion was provided through a number of sources. These included from EU Member States through the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), external EU partners through the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM), the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and bilateral loans from three EU Member States (the United Kingdom, Sweden and Denmark). Ireland exited its EU-IMF programme of financial support in December 2013.
- Fiscal Stability Treaty
In March 2012, the Treaty on Stability, Coordination and Governance, otherwise known as the Fiscal Stability Treaty, was signed by 25 member states. Initially the Treaty was negotiated as a form of enhanced cooperation between member states as the Czech Republic and United Kingdom did not participate in the Treaty. The Irish people passed the Treaty in a referendum held on 31 May 2012.
Title III of the Treaty established a series of fiscal rules, known as the Fiscal Compact. These rules oblige contracting parties to maintain a balanced budget (defined as a budget deficit not exceeding 3% of GDP) and introduces a requirement that a state’s structural deficit does not exceed a country-specific medium-term budgetary objective (MTO), or is on a path to meeting this objective. This is set to 0.5% of GDP for countries with a debt-to-GDP ratio exceeding 60%, which may be increased up to 1% where this ratio is significantly under 60%. The Fiscal Compact also contains a debt rule, which requires that debt-to-GDP is below 60% or moving towards this at a sufficient rate.
The Fiscal Stability Treaty is now ratified by all Member States, following the completion of this process by Croatia (2018) and the Czech Republic (2019). However, as not all contracting parties have adopted the euro, the provisions of the Fiscal Compact only apply to 22 member states; the eurozone plus Bulgaria, Denmark and Romania.
Finally, the Treaty also requires that each country establishe an independent body to monitor implementation of the fiscal rules. In Ireland, this is the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council.
- Seventh Irish European Presidency
The 1 January 2013 marked the 40th year anniversary of Ireland’s membership of the EU. On the same day, Ireland assumed its seventh Presidency of the Council of the European Union under the leadership of Taoiseach Enda Kenny.
The themes of the Presidency were Stability, Jobs and Growth. During the Presidency, agreements were reached on the seven year €960bn EU Budget (Multiannual Financial Framework or MFF), a single supervisor for the banking sector, and a €16 billion budget for education and training, youth and sport (Erasmus for All). Agreements were also reached on the 7th Environmental Action Programme, reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and the Common Fisheries Policy and a negotiating mandate for an EU-US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).
- United Kingdom referendum on European Union membership
Following a referendum held on 23 June 2016, the British people voted to leave the European Union. On 29 March 2017, the formal notification under Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union was presented by the United Kingdom to the European Council. This was followed by negotiations on the terms of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal, which focused heavily on the rights of EU and UK citizens, the financial settlement for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal and arrangements for avoiding a hard Border on the island of Ireland.
- United Kingdom formally leaves the European Union
On 31 January 2020, the United Kingdom formally left the European Union after 47 years of membership. This was the first time a member state withdrew from the Union, reducing the number of member states to 27.
The entry into force of the withdrawal agreement on the same day marked the beginning of a transition period that expired on 31 December. During this transition period, the UK remained a member of the Single Market and the Customs Union and EU law continued to apply to the UK. However, as a non-EU country, the UK did not participate in the EU's decision-making processes.
Throughout 2020, negotiations focused on agreeing the future relationship of the EU and the UK, culminating with an agreement, the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, which was agreed in principle on 24 December and signed on the 30 December.
The UK Parliament voted in favour of ratifying the agreement on 30 December, with the Bill implementing it receiving royal assent the following day. The EU is expected to ratify the agreement shortly, through the consent of the European Parliament, followed by a decision of the Council of the EU. In the meantime, the agreement has been applied provisionally.