France and Ireland

Political relations

Political relations with Ireland are outstanding with numerous bilateral visits. France’s innovative capabilities are appreciated and the Irish regularly back French initiatives, with provision for inherent specificities and limits, notably as regards the Irish positions on defence. The partnership between France and Ireland is particularly strong regarding European Affairs. French and Irish views are convergent on a number of international and Community issues.


General de Gaulle’s private visit in June 1969 was an opportunity to recall the Irish roots of his maternal family (MacCartan clan) and remains strong in the memory.

The only State visit by a French President was made by François Mitterrand in 1988. The visit was notable for the French President’s strong intervention before the Irish Parliament in favour of the European project.

French presidential visits have since taken place within the European context, 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 in 2013, bilateral visits have been stepped up both in terms of frequency and level and have remained high in subsequent years.

  • 13-15 March 2014: visit by Eamon Gilmore, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs to Paris. Received by the President of the French Republic, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs.
  • 1-3 August 2014: the Irish President, Michael D. Higgins, participated in the inter-Celtic festival in Lorient.
  • 19-20 February 2015: visit to Cork by Harlem Désir, Minister of State to the Minister of Foreign and European Affairs for a meeting with his counterpart Dara Murphy.
  • 24-25 April 2015: visit to Dublin by the French Prime Minister, Manuel Valls, accompanied by Harlem Désir, Secretary of State for European Affairs, and Axelle Lemaire, Minister of State for Digital Affairs. Meetings with Enda Kenny and Deputy Prime Minister, Joan Burton.
  • 21 July 2015: visit to Paris by Irish President, Michael D. Higgins, meeting with the French President.
  • 9 September 2015: visit to Paris by Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, meeting with the French President.
  • 7 July 2016 : visit to Paris by Dara Murphy, Minister of State for European Affairs, Data Protection and the EU Single Digital Market. Meetings with Harlem Désir and Axelle Lemaire.
  • 21 July 2016: visit to Dublin by the French President, meetings with the Irish President and Prime Minister.
  • 1 December 2016: visit to Paris by Charles Flanagan, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Meeting with Jean-Marc Ayrault.
  • 22 February 2016: visit to Dublin by Jean-Marc Ayrault, meetings with Enda Kenny and Charles Flanagan.
  • 16 and 17 March 2017: visit by Leo Varadkar, Minister for Social Protection, to Paris and Cannes, meeting with Michel Sapin.
  • 27 March 2017: visit by Michel Sapin to Dublin, meeting with his counterpart, Michael Noonan.

Economic relations

Bilateral trade between France and Ireland totals some €8.9bn. In 2015, French exports to Ireland increased by 13%. France is Ireland’s third-biggest supplier with 10.2% market share, behind the United Kingdom (31.8%) and the United States (15%). Two main exports account for over a third of France’s exports alone: chemical industry (€633m, up 14%) and pharmaceutical products (€325m, up 6%).

Imports from Ireland increased 4.6% in 2015. With a market share of 4.2%, France is Ireland’s seventh-biggest customer. Pharmaceutical products are the main import (€2.4bn, 39% of France’s imports from Ireland).

According to French statistics, France therefore had a trade deficit with Ireland of €3.7bn in 2015. But the Irish statistics would suggest the opposite with a French trade excess of €2.3bn, mainly due to the different methods used for calculating purchases of aircraft by aerospace leasing companies (half of the global fleet is registered in Ireland).

Many investment projects have come to fruition in France, the ninth-biggest receiver of Irish investments in Europe. Irish investors hold stock of nearly €5bn in France according to the Banque de France, through 200 companies who employ 18,000 staff. Irish FDI is concentrated in the fields of real-estate (56%), finance and insurance (24%) and manufacturing and others (20%).

French FDI in Ireland was estimated at €17.5bn and increased by €0.6bn in 2014. There are roughly 350 French companies in Ireland who employ 20,000 staff. France if the fifth-biggest investor in Ireland behind Luxembourg, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the offshore centres. French FDI is concentrated in the fields of insurance (39%), agrifood (29%) and ITCs (15%).

French presence within Ireland remains stable. Several establishments are based in the international financial services centre in Dublin: BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Caceis (subsidiary of Crédit Agricole), as well as Airbus Financial Services. Dublin has become a major hub for insurance companies and, as such, major French players are also present: AXA, CACI (Crédit Agricole), Coface, Euler Hermes and SCOR. The agrifood industry is represented by Danone and Pernod Ricard (who bought out Irish Distillers in 1988). In the transport industry, Alstom is present as provider of the the Dublin tram system (Luas).

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Franco-Irish cooperation is based on scientific and linguistic cooperation. The presence of the French language in Ireland is remarkable. Some 60% of young Irish citizens choose French as their first foreign language in secondary education.

Some 3,000 French teachers of Irish nationality and over 600 schools create a unique network. The Alliance française in Dublin is the third-largest Alliance française in Europe for number of students behind Paris and Bussels. The country also hosts four other Alliances française branches. France supports the French language and Ireland most notably by implementing a continuous training programme for French teachers in Ireland.

Linguistic and cultural cooperation is also supported by two vibrant institutions: the Irish College in Paris (which also doubles as a cultural centre), and the French lycée in Dublin which provides a bilingual education.

University cooperation is also in good health. France is the leading country of choice for Irish students under the Erasmus programme while Ireland is the fourth most popular EU destination for French students on the same programme.

Scientific cooperation is supported by the Hubert Curien Partnership “Ulysse” 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+).

Cooperation between France and Ireland has developed significantly in jointly-defined priority sectors: energy, agronomy, health, digital technology, maritime sciences. Franco-Irish partnerships contribute to the success of joint submissions for European HORIZON 2020 funding. Some 40% of Irish projects selected for European funding were composed of at least one French partner while 12% of French projects have at least one Irish partner. Ireland has a return rate of 158% on the Horizon2020 programme and Franco-Irish participation in 2014 and 2015 represented €260m in subsidies.

Updated: 21 April 2017