Ireland in the 21st Century

In a referendum on June 7, 2001 (in which only 33.7% of those eligible to vote took part), the Irish surprisingly rejected the Treaty of Nice, adopted by the EU states in December 2000, with 54%. In a new referendum on October 19, 2002, however, the Irish people approved the agreement with 63% of the votes, paving the way for EU enlargement. After several years of economic boom, the coalition cabinet formed by Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats under Bartholemew P. Ahern became clearly confirmed in office in the parliamentary elections on May 17, 2002 (first re-election of a coalition government in the history of Ireland). The opposition Fine Gael lost 23 of its previous 54 seats (and thus much of its political influence).

The governing coalition of Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrats suffered a drastic drop in popularity in 2003. Fianna Fáil, in particular, was accused of misleading voters about the true state of public finances. In addition, the budgetary situation forced the government to take drastic and sometimes unpopular austerity measures against the opposition of influential interest groups (especially the public service unions). The referendum on changing citizenship law in 2004 was particularly controversial. With 79.1% of the vote, the citizens adopted a constitutional amendment that abolished the previously automatic right to Irish citizenship for every child born on the island. Regardless of this, Fianna Fáil again asserted itself as the strongest political party in the parliamentary elections on May 24, 2007. However, the great losses suffered by coalition partner Progressive Democrats (PD) made it necessary to expand the governing coalition. After successful coalition negotiations, the Green Party also took part in the new Ahern cabinet.

After a long phase of growth, in which GDP growth of 6% was achieved in 2007, the country plunged into a severe economic crisis in 2007/08. Worn down by a financial affair that had lasted for months, Ahern announced his resignation in April 2008. On May 7, 2008, the previous Finance Minister Brian Cowen was elected as the new head of government. He continued the coalition with the Greens and Progressive Democrats.

According to allcitycodes, the Lisbon Treaty negotiated by the EU member states was initially rejected in a referendum in June 2008, but was approved by a clear majority in a second referendum in October 2009. At the end of September 2008, several major Irish banks came to the brink of insolvency. As a result, the government was the first in Europe to issue a state guarantee for all savings deposits; on December 15, 2008 it announced a rescue package for the banks of € 10 billion. In January 2009, the government was forced to nationalize the Anglo Irish Bank, which was ailing by speculative real estate deals.

To overcome the budget crisis, the Cowen government relied on drastic cuts in the social network and income cuts for employees in the public sector. The extensive austerity measures, which provoked sharp protests in the population and in the trade unions, were aimed at v. a. looking to maintain the country’s credit rating after rating agencies downgraded Ireland’s credit rating. After the self-dissolution of the Progressive Democrats, the government lost its majority in parliament. Because of the ongoing crisis in the banking system, threatening the stability of the euro zone, Ireland went under the euro rescue package in November 2010 and applied for aid totaling € 85 billion.

On January 23, 2011, the Green Party also withdrew from the coalition. Early parliamentary elections became necessary, in which Fianna Fáil suffered a dramatic drop in votes on February 25, 2011 and only won 19 seats (2007: 77). The Fine Gael party, led by Enda Kenny , was the strongest party with 76 seats, but missed an absolute majority. The Labor Party won 37 seats, and on March 9, 2011, Kenny became Prime Minister of a strong Fine Gael-Labor ruling coalition. For the first time in 100 years, a British head of state, Queen Elizabeth II , visited the country again in May 2011. On November 11, 2011, Labor Party politician Michael D. Higgins succeeded Mary McAleese sworn in as the 9th President of the Republic of Ireland.

A referendum on the European Fiscal Compact took place on May 31, 2012, in which 60.3% of those who voted were in favor of ratification. Ireland thus fulfilled a necessary condition for the later use of funds from the European Stability Mechanism (ESM).

After it was discovered in the 1990s that girls and women in Catholic reformatory institutions for prostitutes, rape victims and socially or psychologically conspicuous people, so-called »Magdalenenheimen«, as well as in so-called industrial schools (state and church institutions for orphaned and neglected children) had been exploited and mentally and physically abused for years, a committee of inquiry presented its report in February 2013. This also demonstrated the involvement of state institutions in the scandal. Between 1922 and 1996 there were a total of around 10,000 women and girls in Magdalenenheimen. The government then apologized to the victims and promised compensation. The passage of a law in July 2013,

The Kenny administration’s plans to abolish the Senate in order to save costs were rejected by a majority of the Irish in a referendum in October 2013. In the course of 2013, the general economic conditions improved slightly. On December 15, 2013, Ireland was the first country to leave the euro rescue package. In April 2014, an Irish head of state, President Higgins, visited Great Britain for the first time. In the European elections on May 23, 2014, the governing parties suffered heavy losses. Fine Gael lost 6.8% and was only able to win 22.3% of the votes, and the co-ruling Labor Party fell from 13.9% to 5.3%. Fianna Fáil came to 22.3% of the vote, a loss of only 1.8%. On May 22, 2015, a majority of 62.1% voted in a referendum for a constitutional amendment to introduce same-sex marriage. In the same month, the British heir to the throne, Prince Charles, met Sinn Féin President Gerard Adams on his visit to Ireland.

The meeting in Galway was interpreted by political observers as a signal of reconciliation between the British Crown and the Irish Republican movement.

In the parliamentary elections on February 26, 2016, the governing parties suffered another devastating defeat. Fine Gael only won 25.5% of the vote and 50 seats (2011: 36.1% and 76 seats). Your coalition partner Labor Party received 6.6% of the vote and 7 seats (2011: 19.5% and 37 seats). In contrast, Fianna Fáil improved from 17.5% of the vote to 24.3% and moved into parliament with 44 members (2011: 20). Sinn Féin also increased significantly with 13.8% of the votes and 23 seats (2011: 9.9% and 14 seats). Negotiations on the formation of a coalition government were unsuccessful. Finally, Enda Kenny came to an agreement with Fianna Fáil on the tolerance of a minority cabinet he had formed, made up of members of his party and independent politicians. On May 6, 2016, parliament confirmed him as head of government. The poor election result brought Kenny a loss of reputation in his party. Although he was able to win a vote of confidence in parliament on February 15, 2017, he finally announced his resignation from the party leadership and his resignation from the office of prime minister in May 2017. Successor in both functions became on 2.6. and June 14, 2017 Leo Varadkar . He vehemently advocated the legalization of abortion.

In the referendum on May 25, 2018, a clear majority of 66.4% of voters spoke out in favor of the right to abortion (turnout: two-thirds of those eligible to vote). Since then, abortion has been legal and not a crime. (The strict law in force since 1865 threatened women with up to 14 years imprisonment in the event of an abortion, even if the fetus was rape, incest or deformed.)

On October 26, 2018, President Michael D. Higgins became Presidentre-elected for a second term with 55.8% of the vote. On January 14, 2020, he dissolved parliament on the initiative of the Prime Minister. Varadkar justified this, among other things, with the changed majority in parliament and the near Brexit. In the early parliamentary elections on February 20, 2020, Sinn Féin achieved a surprisingly high victory (24.5% and 37 seats plus 1 seat due to a change of party). Fianna Fáil was the second strongest party with 22.2% and – due to the extremely complicated electoral system – 38 seats. Fine Gáil received 20.9% of the vote (35 seats) and Labor a minuscule 4.4%. The unexpected election results came about because the voters wanted to punish the government, among other things, for the health system, which is in dire need of reform, the unresolved housing issue and the abnormally high level of homelessness. Brexit, Sinn Féin, on the other hand, focused on social issues such as the housing crisis. Faced with this situation, Varadkar offered to resign. After the parliamentary elections in 2020, an unprecedented coalition of the bourgeois parties Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael with the Greens formed the government. On June 27, 2020, Fianna Fáil boss Micheál Martin (* 1960) was elected as the new prime minister.

On January 31, 2020, Great Britain under Boris Johnson declared the United Kingdom to leave the EU. The problems associated with this for the Republic of Ireland were not resolved, in particular the question of whether Brexit will take place with or without an agreement between Great Britain and the EU. A key issue for particularly hard hit Ireland was to politically redefine the border with Northern Ireland and to mitigate the economic and other consequences of this. This also includes the so-called backstop clause, which is intended to avoid a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland in order to avoid the Good Friday Agreement put in danger. In addition, the handling of the EU Free Trade Agreement in relation to Ireland and the UK and the general reorganization of political, economic and cultural relations between the Republic of Ireland and the UK had to be clarified.

Ireland in the 21st Century