Political relations with Ireland are excellent and marked by numerous bilateral visits. The partnership between France and Ireland is strong, particularly as regards European affairs (CAP). The French and Irish share views on many international and EU issues.
The private visit by General de Gaulle in June 1969, during which he recalled his Irish roots on his mother’s side (Mac Cartan clan) went down in history.
The only French state visit by a French President of the Republic to date was that of François Mitterrand in 1988, during which he made a powerful speech before Parliament in favour of the European project.
French presidential visits have often 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.
During the Irish Presidency of the EU in 2013, the pace and level of bilateral visits increased substantially, and these have remained high since.
- 5 July 2017, 31 October 2018, 15 March 2019: visits to Paris by Simon Coveney, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade. Meetings with Jean-Yves Le Drian and Nathalie Loiseau.
- 25 July 2017, 23 November 2017: visits to Paris by Helen McEntee, Minister of State for European Affairs. Meetings with Nathalie Loiseau.
- 24 October 2017: visit to Paris by Leo Varadkar, Taoiseach. Meeting with the President of the French Republic.
- 19-20 February 2018: visit to Ireland (Dublin, County Meath and the Irish border) by Nathalie Loiseau. Meeting and dinner with her counterpart, Helen McEntee.
- 15 July 2018: visit to Ireland by Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Meetings with Simon Coveney, Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Michael Higgins, President.
- 16 October 2018: meeting of Nathalie Loiseau, Minister for European Affairs, with Simon Coveney, Tánaiste (Deputy Prime Minister) and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, on the sidelines of the Foreign Affairs Council in Brussels.
- 18-19 February 2019: visit to Ireland by Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs. Meetings with President Higgins, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs Coveney, and the Ministers for Transport and Agriculture.
Trade in goods between France and Ireland stood at €9.8 billion in 2018, up 2.5% on 2017. According to French Customs, our exports stood at €3.2 billion, up 12.1%, while our imports fell by 1.5% to €6.6 billion. Our trade deficit with Ireland is down 11.5% on 2017, standing at €3.4 billion.
France is the ninth largest recipient of Irish investment worldwide. Irish investors hold assets of nearly €4.8 billion in France according to the Banque de France, in 300 businesses with more than 20,000 employees. French investment in Ireland is valued at €21.5 billion, with a flow of €3.2 billion in 2015. There are approximately 350 French companies in Ireland, employing 13,000 people and making France the fourth-largest investor in Ireland according to Irish statistics, after the United States, the Netherlands, and offshore financial centres. 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%).
France’s presence is stable. Several companies have set up in Dublin’s International Financial Services Centre (IFSC), including BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Caceis (subsidiary of Crédit Agricole) and Airbus Financial Services. Dublin has become a major hub for insurance companies, with major French players also present: AXA, CACI (Crédit Agricole), Coface, Euler Hermes and SCOR. The agrifood industry is represented by Danone and Pernod Ricard (which bought out Irish Distillers in 1988). In the transport sector, Alstom supplies trams to the Dublin tram and light rail system (Luas).
Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation
Irish interest in our country and language is strong, and French is taught in 680 of Ireland’s 720 secondary schools. The number of people speaking French in Ireland is remarkable. Some 60% of Irish secondary school students choose French as their first foreign language and Ireland has 3,000 French teachers. France supports the teaching of French in Ireland through a continuous training programme for teachers.
This interest was demonstrated by the success of the first Journée de la Francophonie (20 March 2015) with Irish universities, and the successive “Irish Francophonie Month” which has been held annually since 2016.
The Alliance Française branch in Dublin is the third-largest in Europe in terms of student numbers, behind Paris and Brussels. Four other branches are also present in Ireland. Cork, Limerick, Waterford/Wexford and Kilkenny.
The Irish authorities obtained observer status within the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) during the Yerevan Summit in October 2018.
Linguistic and cultural cooperation is led by two vibrant institutions: the Irish College in Paris (which includes a cultural centre) and the Lycée Français d’Irlande (LFI), which, together with St. Kilian’s German/Irish School, offers a true “Eurocampus”.
Academic cooperation is also dynamic. France ranks as the top host country for Irish students in the Erasmus programme. Ireland is the fourth most popular EU destination for French students on the same programme.
Scientific cooperation is supported by the Hubert Curien Partnership “Ulysses” (and a series of high-level agreements between institutions) which is one of the most attractive in Europe (over 60 requests per year) with high-quality projects (70% of the proposals are rated A or A+).
Updated: May 2019