Ireland stays put at 19th in this year’s index, holding onto gains made in 2017. Despite a politically turbulent year for Ireland’s minority government, the country’s continued economic growth, coupled with positive international coverage in the lead up to Ireland’s abortion referendum, has helped maintain positive perceptions among international audiences. The continued uncertainty surrounding the impact of Brexit, especially on the issue of the Northern Irish border, remains a concern for Ireland and has caused its Enterprise sub-index to tumble several places. The makeup of any future Brexit deal will play a significant role in how Ireland is positioned and perceived, both politically and economically. Achieving a good deal will be crucial if Ireland hopes to regain its previously high ranking in the Enterprise sub-index. A snap election, widely tipped for Autumn 2018, may offer the country some much needed political stability, something which has been lacking in recent years. All this uncertainty has been somewhat offset by Ireland’s robust economic growth, which continues apace. A sleuth of announcements from international companies over the last twelve months have seen the promise of many new high-skilled jobs moving to Ireland, further cementing Ireland’s position as Europe’s tech hub.
Ireland’s economy continues to perform strongly. With headline growth of 7.8 per cent, it is comfortably the highest in Europe. Despite this positive trend, the ongoing fiscal uncertainty associated with Brexit and the future of the Northern Irish border significantly impacts Ireland’s Enterprise sub-index, causing it to drop ten places to 14th.
Despite largely positive perceptions around its new leader, Ireland’s stance on women’s rights looks set to come to a head in the next 12 months. The Repeal the 8th Movement has gathered significant momentum over the last year, and a vote is looking likely in the near future. A socially regressive vote, either in parliament or in a potential referendum, could set international perceptions of Ireland back.
Ireland faces several national and international challenges over the next 12 months. The country will have to navigate the debate around women’s rights with sensitivity, and will need to manage international negotiations on Brexit carefully so as to ensure it is treated fairly while maintaining good relations with close neighbours. Improving its Digital scores could be key to Ireland communicating these challenges effectively, and ultimately winning over more of the population – both at home and abroad.