The Government and Politics of the European Union

Seventh edition

by Neill Nugent


Population 4.4 m
Capital Dublin
Surface area 68,400 km2
Official Languages Irish and English
Gross domestic product (GDP) (in euros) 143.7 bn
GDP as a % of EU-27, based on 2009 data 1.2
GDP per capita by purchasing power standards (indexed to EU average of 100) 136.6
Currency Euro
Human development index (HDI), an index based on life expectancy, education and GDP (max. 1) 0.959
World rank in HDI 5/177
Key economic sectors (% of GDP in 2002) Services (55.5); industry (41.2); agriculture (3.3)
Leading Companies CRH Plc. (building materials); Allied Irish Banks; Bank of Ireland
Unemployment in January 2010 13.8% (source:
Main religious denominations (numbers in millions) Roman Catholic (3.46); Church of Ireland and other Protestants (0.12)
Political system The President’s role is largely ceremonial, but s/he does have the power to refer legislation which might infringe the Constitution to the Supreme Court. The National Parliament is bicameral, with a House of Representatives and a Senate.
Electoral system The House of Representatives is elected by the Single Transferable Vote system. The Senate is composed of 60 members, 11 of whom are chosen by the prime minister, six by the universities, and the remainders by five panels convened to represent public interests in culture, agriculture, labour, industry and commerce, and social services.
Current (March 2010) leaders President: Mary McAleese (b. 1951), since November 1997
Prime minister: Brian Cowan (b. 1960), since May 2008
Previous leaders: Presidents: Mary Terese Robinson (1990-97); Patrick John Hillery (1976-90)
Prime ministers: Bertie Ahern (1997-2008); John Gerard Bruton (1994-97)
Joined the EU/EC 1973
Commissioner from country in Barroso II College of Commissioners, and portfolio Maire Geoghegan-Quinn (Research, Innovation and Science)
Number of MEPs 12/754
Turnout in 2009 EP elections (%) 57.6
Member of eurozone Yes (founder member)

Except where a specific reference is inserted, the sources for this profile are either Neill Nugent’s book itself, or Barry Turner (ed.), The Statesman’s Yearbook Online, Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan. If your library subscribes, you can gain access at