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Corruption is not an obstacle for foreign investors operating in Ireland, although companies continue to experience bribery risks at the local level in relation to public procurement and the issuing of building permits. The Prevention of Corruption Act forbids any individual to give or accept a bribe, including to foreign public officials. A company can be found liable for corrupt acts committed by individuals working on its behalf, and companies registered under the Irish Companies Act can be prosecuted for foreign bribery offences. Facilitation payments are prohibited, and gifts and hospitality are considered illegal if provided 'corruptly'. Irregular payments and bribes almost never occur in business dealings. The government is currently implementing reforms aimed at increasing administrative transparency, accountability and anti-corruption standards after the national Tribunals of Inquiry found evidence throughout Ireland's public administration of conflicts of interest, corruption and collusion between politicians and businesspeople. The Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill is awaiting enactment; it promises to replace existing laws with a single anti-corruption law, to increase corruption penalties and to require companies to prevent corruption.
There is a very low risk of corruption in Ireland's judiciary, and the courts and prosecution services are among the country’s most trusted public institutions. The independence and professionalism of judges is high, and the country's legal system has a tradition of upholding high ethical standards (FER 2014). Companies consider the judiciary to be highly independent and effective in settling commercial disputes (GCR 2014-2015). Very few citizens perceive bribery andabuse of power being widespread in the courts and tribunals (European Commission, Feb. 2014).
There is a low risk of corruption in Ireland's security sector. The reliability of police services to protect companies from crime is considered very high (GCR 2014-2015). A police ombudsman commission and a police inspectorate independently handle complaints against the police (NISA 2012), and the government has established effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption within the police force (the Gardai) (HRR 2014). A quarter of citizens perceive corruption and abuse of power to be widespread in this sector, but there are no reports of paying bribes to police officers (European Commission, Feb. 2014).
Corruption and demands for bribes are unlikely when dealing with Ireland's public administration. Bureaucratic procedures are transparent and efficient, and the government has developed a transparent and non-discriminatory policy framework which embraces competition (ICS 2015). It is easy to deal with government administrative requirements (permits, licences, reporting, etc.), and companies report that bribery almost never occurs when obtaining public utilities, business permits, licences and related services (GCR 2014-2015; European Commission, Feb. 2014).
Companies face a moderate corruption risk when dealing with the Irish land administration. The Mahon Tribunal of Inquiry, which investigated irregularities in planning permissions and land rezoning, found that the construction and planning sectors are particularily vulnerable to corruption. Safeguards have been introduced to counter corruption in the planning system. The government has passed a Planning and Development Bill establishing the Office of the Planning Regulator to ensure independent supervision of the urban planning process. In an EU-sponsored business survey, Ireland is the EU member state where most companies report paying bribes when obtaining building permits (European Commission, Feb. 2014).
Former Fianna Fail politician GV Wright and former councillor Don Lydon, resigned after being found guilty of receiving bribes from the developer Monarch over the rezoning in south Dublin. Wright was also found guilty of taking bribes in return for his ongoing support for the development of a large shopping center also known as the Quarryvale project (The Journal, Mar. 2012). Former Fine Gael Councillor Fred Forsey Jnr was also sentenced to six years in prison for receiving EUR 80,000 in bribes from property developers (Independent, July 2015). In a separate case, the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation just opened an investigation into allegations of bribery within the Irish National Asset Management Agency (Nama). The investigation is still ongoing (Irish Times, July 2015).
There is a very low corruption risk in Ireland's tax administration. Citizens indicate that they do not pay bribes to tax authorities (European Commission, Feb. 2014). Companies should note that Irish law prohibits the tax deductibility of any expenditure or income that constitutes a criminal offence, including bribes, both in Ireland and abroad (P3R 2013).
There is a very low risk of corruption in Ireland's customs administration. Corruption at borders is not a problematic factor but access to buyers and trade finance, high cost or delays, and burdensome procedures are among the main constraints for importing and exporting in Ireland (GETR 2014). The transparency and efficiency of the border administration is high, and companies rarely experience demands of irregular payments when dealing with imports and exports (GETR 2014). Citizens do not consider the customs administration to be very affected by corruption and abuse of power, and bribery almost never occurs during interactions with customs officials (European Commission, Feb. 2014). See the website of Irish Tax and Customs for information regarding customs rules.
Ireland's public procurement sector poses corruption risks to investors (ICS 2015). Almost a third of businesses believe corruption has prevented their company from winning a public tender in the past three years (European Commission, Feb. 2014), and almost a fifth report it being common practice to use bribery in their sector to win contracts (NTCBR 2013). The National Procurement Service (NPS) attempts to bring centralised oversight to procurement practices in the public sector. Some companies question the transparency of government tenders and some unsuccessful bidders have had difficulty receiving information on the rationale behind tender outcomes, while other successful bidders report delays in the finalisation of contracts (ICS 2015). Companies complain about lengthy procedural decisions which often delay the procurement tender process (ICS 2015). Around half of citizens believe that close ties between politicians and businesses have heightened the risks of corruption (European Commission, Feb. 2014). Companies report that procurement officials are not very likely to show favouritism when deciding upon contracts (GCR 2014-2015). Businesses are recommended to implement special due diligence procedures to counter the likelihood of encountering corruption in the procurement process.
Corruption is not reported to be a risk in Ireland's natural resources sector, with no reports of companies expecting to pay a bribe for environmental permits, including waste and water treatment (European Commission, Feb. 2014).
Ireland’s anti-corruption legislation is contained across various laws that overlap on some points. Together they prohibit all major forms of corruption offences contained in international anti-corruption conventions. The Prevention of Corruption Act forbids any individual to give or accept a bribe or to make false statements. Bribing a foreign public official is prohibited in both the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Criminal Justice (Theft and Fraud Offences) Act, and any person who ordinarily resides in Ireland or any company registered under the Irish Companies Act, can be prosecuted in Ireland for foreign bribery offences. Companies can be found liable for corrupt acts committed by individuals working on their behalf. Punishment for corruption offences include unlimited fines and of up to ten years’ imprisonment. The government of Ireland has been identified to be among those that are making little or no effort to fight foreign bribery (Irish Times, Aug. 2015). There is no distinction made between facilitation payments and other types of corrupt payments, and gifts and hospitality are considered illegal if provided 'corruptly'. Money laundering is criminalised under the Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act. The Ethics Act obliges Irish public office-holders and senior members of the public administration to report and surrender gifts and payments above EUR 825. Rules regarding gifts and hospitality in the public sector are outlined in the Code of Conduct for Office Holders and the Civil Service Code of Standards and Behaviour. The Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Act implements the Third EU Money Laundering Directive and requires anyone to disclose information on money laundering to the police. The Criminal Justice Act increases the investigative powers of law enforcement dealings with white-collar crime, and establishes offences for not cooperating with the police during investigations. The Electoral Act bans corporate donations above EUR 254 unless the donor is registered with the Standards in Public Office Commission (SIPO). The Protected Disclosures Act establishes protection for whistleblowers. Still awating final enactment is the Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill, which will replace the various anti-corruption laws with a single piece of legislation (The Outspoken Post, June 2015).
Ireland is a signatory to the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), the Council of Europe’s Civil and Criminal Law Conventions against Corruption and the Group of States Against Corruption(GRECO). Access the Lexadin World Law Guide for a collection of legislation in Ireland.
Freedom of the press is constitutionally guaranteed, and, with a few exceptions, journalists can report freely without harassment and without having to exercise self-censorship (FotP 2014). The media in Ireland plays an important role in exposing and following up on corruption allegations (EUACR 2014). The country's media environment is considered 'free' (FotP 2014).
Civil society organisations (CSOs) can operate freely in Ireland. There have been reports of poor corporate governance and lack of transparency among a few larger NGOs, which resulted in the government withdrawing funding. As a response, Irish charities have published the voluntary Code of Governance, which includes principles of transparency, accountability and integrity (NISA 2012). Few CSOs work with anti-corruption and transparency measures in Ireland.
- World Economic Forum: Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015.
- US Department of State: Investment Climate Statement - Ireland 2015.
- Irish Times: 'Ireland making 'little or no' effort to curb corruption - report', 20 August 2015.
- Independent.ie: 'Former FG Councillor Fred Forsey Jnr moves to appeal conviction for receiving corrupt payments from property developer', 31 July 2015.
- Irish Times: 'Garda Corruption inquiry started into Nama allegations', 16 July 2015.
- Irish Central: 'Sinn Fein deputy names politicians with alleged accounts in Ansbacher tax evasion scandal', 4 December 2014.
- European Commission: EU Anti-Corruption Report: Annex 7, Ireland, February 2014.
- Eurobarometer: Special Eurobarometer 397 – Corruption Report, 2014.
- Eurobarometer: Flash Eurobarometer 374 – Businesses Attitudes towards Corruption in the EU, 2014.
- World Economic Forum: The Global Enabling Trade Report 2014.
- GRECO: Fourth Evaluation Round – Evaluation Report Ireland, November 2014.
- US Department of State: Investment Climate Statement – Ireland 2014.
- Freedom House: Freedom of the Press – Ireland Country Profile 2014.
- OECD: Phase 3 Report, Ireland, December 2013.
- Ernst & Young: Navigating Today’s Complex Business Risks – Europe, Middle East, India and Africa Fraud Survey 2013.
- Mondaq: Ireland: A guide to anti-corruption regulation in Ireland, 20 March 2013.
- US Department of State: Country Report on Human Rights Practices - Ireland 2013.
- Transparency International: National Integrity System Assessment Ireland – Country Study Addendum 2012.
- Journal: 'GV Wright and Don Lydon resigns from Fianna Fail', 27 March 2012.