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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 offenses. Facilitation payments are prohibited, and gifts and hospitality are considered illegal if provided ‘corruptly’.
Last updated: January 2018
There is a low risk of corruption in Ireland’s judiciary, and the courts and prosecution services are among the country’s most trusted public institutions. Companies perceive irregular payments and bribes to be very rare during judicial proceedings (GCR 2015-2016). About one in five citizens perceive bribery and abuse of power being widespread in the courts and tribunals (Eurobarometer 2017). Three out of five companies report they perceive the independence of the judiciary as fairly good or very good, while three out of four citizens share the same opinion (JS 2017). However, companies express insufficient confidence in the efficiency of the legal framework in relation to settling disputes and challenging regulation (GCR 2017-2018). Politicians are prohibited from interfering in the judiciary, and rarely appear to do so (SGI 2017). There is a lack of transparency in the appointment of judges in Ireland and there is no code of conduct for judges (GRECO 2017). Nearly a third of judges believe some judges in Ireland have been appointed or promoted on basis other than merit or experience (ENCJ 2017). Litigants are entitled to a trial by jury in commercial disputes (ICS 2017). Enforcing a contract is significantly more time consuming and expensive than the average of OECD high-income countries (DB 2018).
Ireland is a party to the 1958 New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards and a member state of the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).
There is a low risk of corruption in Ireland’s security sector. The reliability of police services to protect companies from crime is considered high (GCR 2017-2018). A third of citizens perceive corruption and abuse of power to be widespread in this sector, but there are virtually no reports of paying bribes to police officers (Eurobarometer 2017). The government has established effective mechanisms to investigate and punish abuse and corruption within the police force (the Gardai) (HRR 2016). The ombudsman commission received 1,996 complaints in 2015; the largest number of allegations pertained to police related abuse of authority or neglect of duty (HRR 2016).
There is a low risk of corruption when interacting with public services in Ireland. Corruption and demands for bribes are unlikely when dealing with Ireland’s public administration (GCR 2015-2016). Bureaucratic procedures are transparent and efficient, and the government has developed a transparent and non-discriminatory policy framework which embraces competition (ICS 2017). However, companies indicate that inefficient government bureaucracy is an obstacle to doing business in Ireland (GCR 2017-2018). There are concerns about corruption in municipal governments (EUACR 2014). The government generally acts predictably and follows known rules (SGI 2017).
Starting a business is significantly faster and less costly than elsewhere in OECD high-income countries (DB 2018). Dealing with construction permits takes less time and requires fewer steps than the OECD high-income average (DB 2018).
Companies face a moderate corruption risk when dealing with the Irish land administration. Ireland is the EU member state where most companies report paying bribes when obtaining building permits (European Commission, Feb. 2014). Companies express sufficient confidence in the government’s ability to protect property rights (GCR 2017-2018). Expropriation is normally only done for public purposes in a non-discriminatory manner and in accordance with established principles of international law (ICS 2017). After the collapse of the housing market in 2009, the scope for corruption in relation to development and public contracts has decreased; public concern about these matters has waned in tandem with this development (SGI 2017). While registering property takes the same number of steps as elsewhere in the region, the process is significantly more time-consuming (DB 2017).
The Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation opened a probe into allegations of bribery within the Irish National Asset Management Agency (Nama) in 2015. Eight people are under criminal investigation in connection with the sale of part of Nama’s portfolio of properties (RTE, Sept. 2017).
There is a low corruption risk in Ireland’s tax administration. Companies indicate that bribes and irregular payments when making tax payments are very rare (GCR 2015-2016). Likewise, only a small percentage of citizens believe corruption is widespread among tax authorities and no citizens indicate that they paid bribes to tax authorities (Eurobarometer 2017). Companies should note that Irish law prohibits the tax deductibility of any expenditure or income that constitutes a criminal offense, including bribes, both in Ireland and abroad (OECD 2016). Foreign investors are attracted to Ireland’s low corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent (ICS 2017). Ireland and the European Commission are entangled in a dispute over the legitimacy of Ireland’s application of transfer pricing methodology and arm’s length principle in tax assessments; a decision could potentially adversely impact large investors significantly with retroactively assessed taxes (ICS 2017). For example, the European Commission (EC) has ordered Ireland to collect EU 13 billion in back taxes from Apple because EC says the tax breaks amount to illegal state aid (Reuters, Aug. 2017). The VAT gap in Ireland amounts to roughly EUR 1.3 billion a year (ECTG 2017).
Paying taxes in Ireland requires roughly half the time required elsewhere in high-income OECD countries (DB 2018).
There is a very low risk of corruption in Ireland’s customs administration. Corruption at borders is not a problematic factor but burdensome procedures are among the main constraints for importing and exporting in Ireland (GETR 2016). Irregular payments and bribes during customs procedures are very rare (GETR 2016). Companies rate the efficiency and time-predictability of the clearance process highly (GETR 2016). The time and costs required to comply with border procedures significantly exceed the OECD high-income average (DB 2018). See the website of Irish Tax and Customs for information regarding customs rules.
There is a moderate risk of corruption in Ireland’s public procurement sector. Companies perceive favoritism in the decisions of government officials as fairly uncommon and diversion of public funds is not seen as a frequent occurrence (GCR 2017-2018). Likewise, bribes and irregular payments in the process of awarding public contracts and licenses are regarded as rare (GCR 2015-2016). Nonetheless, 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). Around half of citizens believe that close ties between politicians and businesses have heightened the risks of corruption (European Commission, Feb. 2014). 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 finalization of contracts (ICS 2017). Companies complain about lengthy procedural decisions which often delay the procurement tender process (ICS 2017). Companies have also reported difficulty with receiving compensation for work completed and some have found that original tenders sometimes do not accurately describe the conditions on the ground (ICS 2017). While many allegations have not been proven, anecdotal evidence of cartels controlling certain sectors, bid price rigging, and corrupt evaluation processes are concerns (Tenders Direct, Nov. 2016).
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 in various laws that overlap on some points. The government has generally implemented anti-bribery laws effectively (HRR 2016), but the OECD has repeatedly criticized Ireland for gaps in its legislation and prosecution of foreign bribery offenses (OECD 2016). 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 offenses. Companies can be found liable for corrupt acts committed by individuals working on their behalf. Settlements and plea bargaining are not allowed under the Irish Constitution, but it is widely perceived that self-reporting and cooperating with an investigation are considered mitigating factors by judges during the sentencing stage (Lexology, Aug. 2017). The Criminal Justice Act increases the investigative powers of law enforcement dealings with white-collar crime and establishes offenses for not cooperating with the police during investigations. Punishment for corruption offenses includes unlimited fines and of up to ten years’ imprisonment (ICS 2017). Private sector bribery is also criminalized (GTDT 2017). There is no distinction made between facilitation payments and other types of corrupt payments, and gifts and hospitality are considered illegal if provided ‘corruptly’ (GTDT 2017). Money laundering is criminalized 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 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 and requires public institutions to compile reports on the operationalization of the Act, including disclosing the number of whistleblowing reports received annually (GLI 2017).
The Criminal Justice (Corruption) Bill is slated to replace the various anti-corruption laws with a single piece of legislation (GLI 2017). The bill contains new provisions criminalizing trading in influence (GLI 2017). However, the draft bill was introduced as far back as 2012, and still has not been enacted (The Irish Times, Aug. 2017).
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).
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 2016). The media in Ireland plays an important role in exposing and following up on corruption allegations (EUACR 2014). Individuals and the press have effective access to government information under the Irish Freedom of Information legislation (SGI 2017). There are some concerns about the concentration of ownership with the Independent News and Media (INM) group, which accounts for 40 percent of national newspaper sales (FotP 2016). The country’s media environment is considered ‘free’ (FotP 2017).
Civil society organizations (CSOs) can operate freely in Ireland (HRR 2016). There have been reports of poor corporate governance and lack of transparency among a few larger NGOs, which resulted in the government withdrawing funding (NISA 2012). As a response, Irish charities have published the voluntary Code of Governance, which includes principles of transparency, accountability, and integrity (NISA 2012). The limited amount of funding available has led to a diminishing influence for civil society in the past six years (SGI 2017). Many CSOs prepare policy proposals, but there is an emphasis on advocacy rather than analysis (SGI 2017).
- World Bank: Doing Business 2018.
- US Department of State: Investment Climate Statement 2017.
- European Commission: Eurobarometer Corruption Perception 2017.
- World Economic Forum: Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018.
- Bertelsmann Stiftung: Sustainable Governance Indicators – Ireland Report 2017.
- European Commission: EU Justice Scoreboard 2017.
- Freedom House: Freedom of the Press 2017.
- GRECO: Fourth Evaluation Round – Compliance Report Ireland 2017.
- European Commission: VAT Gap Study 2017.
- Getting the Deal Through: Ireland Anti-Corruption Regulation 2017.
- Global Legal Insights: Bribery & Anti-Corruption Ireland 2017.
- RTE: “Eight People under Criminal Investigation over NAMA NI Sale”, 27 September 2017.
- Reuters: “Ireland Says EU Demanded That Apple Pay it 13 Billion Euros in Back Taxes Unjustified”, 16 August 2017.
- Lexology: “Anti-Corruption & Bribery in Ireland”, 3 August 2017.
- The Irish Times: “Corruption: Tackling White Collar Crime”, 2 August 2017.
- Freedom House: Freedom of the Press 2016.
- OECD: Phase 3 Follow-Up Report Ireland 2016.
- World Economic Forum: Global Enabling Trade Report 2016.
- US Department of State: Human Rights Practices Report 2016.
- Tenders Direct: “Tendering in Ireland: A New Era of Fair Procurement Practice?”, 9 November 2016.
- World Economic Forum: Global Competitiveness Report 2015-2016.
- 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.
- Transparency International: National Integrity System Assessment Ireland – Country Study Addendum 2012.
- Irish Examiner: “Mahon: Corruption Became ‘Acknowledged Way of Doing Business'”, 22 March 2012.