Ireland’s population is the youngest in Europe, and is also increasingly diverse as more people from around the world choose to live, work and study here. The Social Progress Index 2015 ranks Ireland highly at 12th of 130 countries, which reflects the changing values embraced by a changing Irish people.
In a 2015 Eurobarometer report on Discrimination in the EU, it was shown that Ireland had much higher rates of acceptance, tolerance and open-mindedness compared to other EU countries when it comes to issues of gender, race, sexuality, age and disability. Since the 1990s, Ireland has seen a sharp rise in immigration as people come from all around the world to work, study or seek refuge here, leading to a much more culturally and racially diverse population.
Equality is protected by Irish law, in both the Employment Equality Acts of 1998 and 2004 and the Equal Status Acts 2000 to 2004. Both pieces of legislation promote equality and prohibit sexual harassment and discrimination based on gender, age, race, sexuality, religion, and family status.
In 2015, Ireland proudly became the first country in the world to introduce Equal Marriage for same-sex couples through a popular vote. The result is largely attributed to the huge surge in young people registering to vote for the first time, illustrating the change in values of younger Irish generations. Today, one in three families in Ireland are non-traditional and policies continue to become more progressive and inclusive.
Another 2015 landmark for equality in Ireland was the introduction of the Gender Recognition Bill, allowing transgender people over 18 to have their preferred and self-declared gender recognised by the state, without requiring testimony from any doctors.
Ireland has traditionally been a Catholic country and in the past, the church had quite a significant influence on people and policy. However, in recent decades, its authority has greatly decreased and though 84% of people in Ireland still identified as Catholic in the 2011 Census, only 30% regularly attend church services.
Other Christian religions such as Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist are also present in Ireland, while Islam and Hindu communities are currently small but growing. An increasing number of people in Ireland identify as atheist or as having no religion.
Ireland is a parliamentary democracy and a member of the EU. Although Ireland has a president (currently President Michael D. Higgins), this is mainly a ceremonial role. The government is made up of 15 ministers and headed by the Taoiseach (prime minister). Presidential elections are held every seven years, while government elections are held every five years.
Gender quotas were introduced to Ireland in 2012, to offer citizens an equal choice in their representatives. According to the legislation, political parties must ensure at least 30% of the candidates they put forward are female, and 30% male. These figures will be increased to 40% in the coming years.
If you’re living and working in Ireland, your ability to vote depends on where you’re originally from. UK citizens can vote in European elections, government elections and local elections. EU citizens resident in Ireland can vote in European and local elections, while non-EU citizens can only vote in local elections.
Media & Communications
According to Akamai’s 2015 State of the Internet report, Ireland has the fastest average connection speed in Europe, and it’s used by the vast majority of Irish people through either broadband or mobile services. Cell phone services can be based on 1-2 year contracts or as contract-less prepaid plans, and many providers offer unlimited mobile data for as low as €20 per month. Major broadband and mobile providers include Eir, Virgin Media, Vodafone, Three, and Meteor.
Freedom of the press and information is important in any modern society. Ireland ranks highly on the Press Freedom Index and also has very few issues with internet surveillance and privacy, according to Reporters Without Borders and the OpenNet Initiative.
RTÉ is the semi-state owned public broadcaster which produces and airs programming on television, radio and online. Other Irish TV channels include TV3 and Irish language station TG4. Access to these networks are free but there is a mandatory Television License fee which is payable annually. Many households also subscribe to digital TV, gaining access to hundreds or thousands of international channels. Media subscription services such as Netflix for films and TV and Spotify for music are also popular in Ireland.