France and Ireland

Bilateral relations

Political relations with Ireland are excellent and marked by numerous bilateral visits. France’s initiative is very appreciated and the Irish regularly join some of our initiatives, dependent on the specificities and limitations inherent to Irish positions in the area of defence. The partnership between France and Ireland is strong, particularly in regards to European affairs. The French and Irish share views on a number of international and EU issues.

Visits

The private visit by General de Gaulle in June 1969, during which he recalled the Irish roots on his mother’s side (McCartan clan) greatly marked minds.

The first State visit by a President of the French Republic was that of François Mitterrand in 1988, during which he made a strong statement before the Oireachtas (Irish Parliament), including a statement in support of the European project.

French presidential visits have mostly taken place in a European framework, during the French Presidencies of the Council of the European Union: François Mitterrand in 1984, Jacques Chirac in 2000 and Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008.

Since the Irish Presidency of the European Union (2013), the pace and level of bilateral visits has increased substantially:

  • 3 March 2014: visit to Dublin by Mr Thierry Repentin, Minister Delegate for European Affairs (received by his counterpart, Mr Paschal Donohoe).
  • 13-15 March 2014: visit to Paris by Mr Eamon Gilmore, Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (received by the French President, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs).
  • 1-3 August 2014: visit to France by President Michael D. Higgins (Inter-Celtic Festival in Lorient).
  • 8-11 May 2014: visit to Dublin by Ms Marylise Lebranchu, Minister of Administrative Reform, Decentralization and the Civil Service.
  • 27 November 2014: visit to Dublin by Mr Matthias Fekl, Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad (meetings with the Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Mr Enda Kenny, and the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr Paschal Donohoe).
  • 27 November 2014: visit to Dublin by the Minister of Finance, Mr Michel Sapin (meeting with his counterpart Mr Michael Noonan).
  • 19-20 February 2015: visit to Cork by the Minister of State for European Affairs, Mr Harlem Désir (meeting with his counterpart, Mr Dara Murphy).
  • 17 March 2015: visit to Paris by Mr Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (St Patrick’s Day, meeting with his counterpart, Mr Emmanuel Macron).
  • 24-25 April 2015: visit to Dublin by the Prime Minister, Mr Manuel Valls, accompanied by Mr Harlem Désir, Minister of State for European Affairs, and Ms Axelle Lemaire, Minister of State for the Digital Sector (meetings with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Ms Joan Burton, Tánaiste).
  • 21 July 2015: visit to Paris by the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins (meeting with the President of the French Republic).
  • 9 September 2015: visit to Paris by the Taoiseach, Mr Enda Kenny (meeting with the French President).
  • 3-4 November 2015: visit to Dublin by Axelle Lemaire, Minister of State for the Digital Sector (Web Summit).
  • 8-9 November 2015: visit to Dublin by Mr Jean-Marc Todeschini, Minister of State for Veterans and Remembrance (meeting with Heather Humphreys, Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs).
  • 17 November 2015: visit to Paris by Alex White, Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (meeting with Ségolène Royal).
  • 17 March 2016: visit to Paris by Richard Bruton, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (St Patrick’s Day, meetings with Mr Michel Sapin, Minister of Finance and Public Accounts, and Mr Emmanuel Macron, Minister of the Economy, Industry and the Digital Sector).
  • 7 July 2016: visit to Paris by Mr Dara Murphy, Minister of State for European Affairs, EU Digital Single Market and Data Protection (meetings with Mr Harlem Désir, Minister of State for European Affairs, and Ms Axelle Lemaire, Minister of State for the Digital Sector).
  • 21 July 2016: visit to Dublin by the President of the Republic (meetings with the Irish President and Taoiseach).
  • 1 December 2016: visit to Paris by Mr Charles Flanagan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (meeting with his counterpart, Mr Jean-Marc Ayrault).

Economic relations

Bilateral trade between our two countries amounts to €8.9 billion. In 2015, French exports to Ireland increased by 13%. France is Ireland’s third-largest supplier with 10.2% market share, behind the United Kingdom (31.8%) and the United States (15%). Two sectors alone represent more than a third of our exports: chemicals (€633 million; +14%) and pharmaceuticals (€325 million; +6%).

Imports from Ireland, meanwhile, grew 4.6% in 2015. France receives 4.2% of Ireland’s exports, making it the country’s seventh largest customer, behind the United States (23.8%), the United Kingdom (13.7%), Belgium (13.1%), Germany (6.5%), Switzerland (5.5%) and the Netherlands (4.4%). Pharmaceuticals are our main import (€2.4 billion, or 39% of imports). Chemicals, which are our second-largest import (16.2% of imports) remain stable at €1 billion.

According to French statistics, France therefore had a trade deficit of €3.7 billion with Ireland in 2015. Conversely however, Irish statistics conclude that France has a surplus of €2.3 billion, primarily because of differences in accounting of aircraft purchases by aircraft leasing companies (half of the global fleet is registered in Ireland).

Several investment projects have come to fruition in France, which is the ninth-largest destination for Irish investment in Europe. Irish investors hold a stock of close to €5 billion of assets in France according to the Banque de France, through 200 businesses employing 18,000 people. Irish foreign direct investment (FDI) stock is concentrated in real estate activities (56%), financial activities and insurance (24%), and manufacturing and other sectors (20%).

The building materials company CRH is in the process of becoming the largest Irish employer in France through the purchasing of Holcim and Lafarge assets worth €6.5 billion, including €1.6 billion in France. CRH is set to increase its employee numbers in France from 2,200 to 4,700. The groups Smurfit-Kappa (packaging), Glen Dimplex (second-largest global manufacturer of electric heating and domestic appliances), Kingspan (isolation), DCC (an energy distribution group that purchased Butagaz for €600 million in 2015), and Kerry (agrifood) are amongst the major Irish investors.

The stock of French investments in Ireland is estimated at €17.5 billion, with a flow of €0.6 billion in 2014. There are about 350 French companies in Ireland, which employ 20,000 people. France is the fifth-largest investor after Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and offshore centres. French FDI is concentrated in insurance (39%), agrifood (29%) and ITC (15%).

The French presence is thus relatively stable. Several companies are established in the international financial centre in Dublin: BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Caceis (Crédit Agricole subsidiary), and Airbus Financial Services. As Dublin has become a leading centre for insurance companies, the major French players are also present: AXA, CACI (Crédit Agricole subsidiary), Coface, Euler Hermes and SCOR. The agrifood sector is represented by Danone and Pernod Ricard (which acquired Irish Distillers in 1988). In the transport sector, Alstom is present through the supply of trams of the Dublin tram and light rail system (Luas).

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Our cultural relations are based on a Framework Agreement of 4 November 1967. Cooperation between France and Ireland is focused on scientific and linguistic cooperation. Ireland’s Francophonie is remarkable. The first teaching chair of French worldwide was created at Trinity College in 1776. Thanks to Irish schools in France, which educated young Catholics who were forbidden education in Ireland, the Irish school system, which is mostly Catholic, was strongly influenced by the French language. Today, 60% of young Irish continue to choose French as their first foreign language in secondary education. 3,000 French teachers of Irish nationality and more than 600 schools form a unique network.

The Alliance Française in Dublin is the third-largest in Europe in terms of students, behind those of Paris and Brussels. Four other branches are also present in Ireland. France also supports the French language in Ireland through the creation of a continuous training programme for French teachers in Ireland.

The Collège des Irlandais in Paris, which dates back to the sixteenth century, is a modern centre for Irish students in Paris but also the largest Irish cultural centre in Europe. It was completely renovated in 2000 (at a cost of €10 million) to promote Irish culture both in France and Europe, with Paris judged to be the best city on the continent to do so.

The Lycée français d’Irlande (LFI) is based in Dublin and has 500 pupils. Since 2005, it has offered its pupils a genuine bilingual curriculum in partnership with St. Kilian’s German School, Dublin. In January 2008, an agreement was signed between the LFI and St Kilian’s to formalize the existence of a French-German-Irish “Eurocampus” – the only one of its kind to be truly incorporated into the network of the Agency for French Education Abroad (AEFE). In a new building, which has been open since October 2008, students from both schools follow a bilingual curriculum and halfway through secondary school they can sit the French brevet and a Franco-German-Irish Junior Certificate.

University cooperation is growing quickly. There are now more than 400 French-Irish agreements, most involving the mobility of students, teachers and researchers (Erasmus+ programme).

Joint training courses leading to dual or joint degrees have been developed with all Irish universities and business schools, including at University College Dublin (bachelor and master’s degree in law) and the Dublin Institute of Technology (management and trade). There are now more than 30 of them. On the whole, the attractiveness of French grandes écoles and universities is excellent, and France is the leading destination for Irish students under the Erasmus programme. Ireland, meanwhile, is the fourth-largest destination in the EU for French students under the same programme, and the leader when account is taken of its size. Above and beyond those positions, the Irish are twice as likely as the average European to choose France as a destination, and the reverse is also true, showing the mutual interest between the two countries.

Scientific cooperation draws on the Hubert Curien Partnership (HCP) Ulysses and a series of high-level agreements between institutions. This cooperation is one of the most attractive in Europe (more than 60 applications per year) with high-quality projects (70% of proposals are ranked A or A+).

Our cooperation has developed considerably in sectors that have jointly been determined as priorities (energy, agronomy, health care, digital technology, and maritime science). In each of these sectors, French and Irish research teams cooperate for joint supervision of dissertations, post-docs, exchanges of staff, European projects and the development of start-ups.

French and Irish research bodies recently signed cooperation agreements (French National Institute for Agronomic Research – INRA with Teagasc, the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea – IFREMER with the Marine Institute, and the French Institute of Health and Medical Research – INSERM with NUI Galway, in 2015; Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland – RSCI with the University of Montpellier in 2016; etc.) or will do so soon. Plans for International Associated Laboratories (LIA) are also underway (French National Centre for Scientific Research – CNRS and INSERM). In the 2000s, a considerable community of French graduates (around 3,000) moved to Ireland and contribute to the country’s economy (digital companies such as Intel, IBM, Microsoft, Google and Facebook, as well as pharmaceutical companies including Pfizer and GSK).

Today, French-Irish partnerships are often remarkable success factors for joint applications for European funding under Horizon 2020. 40% of Irish projects selected under the framework programme include at least one French partner, while 12% of French projects include at least one Irish partner. Ireland has a return rate of 158% on the Horizon 2020 programme, and French-Irish participations over the period 2014-2015 represent €260 million of grants.

Several academic networks have been created in order to support cooperation activities:

  • Network of French researchers in Ireland (200 people, in both universities and businesses);
  • Network of alumni;
  • Network of French and Irish catering and hospitality schools to support mobility of students and apprentices in the tourism, hospitality and catering sector;
  • Thematic networks: Irish climate networks, French and Irish researchers working on marine energy, France-Ireland History Society;
  • Academic networks specialized in French-Irish studies: Association des Etudes Françaises et Francophones (ADEFFI), Association for Franco-Irish Studies (AFIS).

Updated: 20 February 2017

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