For expats moving to Ireland, the first thing to recognize about this renowned country, whose reputation and influence extend much beyond its diminutive size, is that the island is technically home to two nations. The Republic of Ireland, consisting of twenty-six of the island’s thirty-two counties, resides in the South. Northern Ireland, on the other hand, is comprised of the remaining six counties and a part of Great Britain, although it is important to note that it does have its own devolved government. However, when people speak of Ireland, whether they are aware of the political milieu or not, they will generally be referring to the Republic.
After moving to Ireland, you will quickly become acquainted with its long and well documented history, stretching back to the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age, of which its people are extremely proud. Although modern Ireland is recognized and celebrated as an extremely globalized country, the belief that it was previously isolated and inward-looking from the rest of the world is a misconception. Irish history, from the ancient period to the contemporary, is one that is characterized by trade with the international community. This is attested to by the fact that archaeologists uncovered the skull of a Barbary ape, dating back to the Iron Age, in County Armagh, and a whales tooth from the Early Medieval period.
As you travel around Ireland, the sites and signs of its rich and enduring history can be seen throughout the country, and information can be found in museums and fun tours such as Viking Splash in Dublin city. However, the most profound examples of foreign influence upon the island are inarguably that of the British Empire. Ireland was under British reign for more than eight hundred years and as such, the remnants of colonialism are not only seen in the Georgian architecture that pervades the country’s cities but also in the political and economic structure.
After centuries of rebellion, the South of Ireland finally secured a de facto independence in 1922 and seceded from the British Common Wealth in 1937. We should probably warn those moving to Ireland that the British Empire and Northern Ireland can prove to be something of a touchy subject for those in the South!
Obviously, expats moving to Ireland will decide where to relocate to based on the work they have found. It is rather rare, but not unheard of, for expats to first arrive in Ireland and then look for employment. For further information on job hunting, please read our article on working in Ireland.
Large cities and centers of industry are obviously a haven for new expatriates moving to Ireland. We have listed some choice destinations for expats below.
Dublin, the capital and largest city in Ireland, is the cultural and economic heart of the nation. There are about 1.8 million people living in the Greater Dublin area, which corresponds to about 40% of the total population. The number of new expats choosing to live in Ireland’s capital is, of course, substantial.
As the overwhelming majority of offers on online job portals are in Dublin, the lure of moving to Ireland's unrivalled focal point is immense. Moreover, with transport focused upon the capital, it is an easy place to travel to and from. In fact, the city is such a prime destination that it prompted us to dedicate a whole series of articles to the city, beginning with our article on moving to Dublin.
For those contemplating the move to Ireland’s second largest city and metropolitan area — with circa 120,000 residents in 2011 — Cork, is a great choice if you are looking for work in the industry sector. Located in the southwest of the country, it is the heart of the local industry, specifically of pharmaceutical companies and IT.
Global players such as Pfizer and Apple have subsidiaries and even European headquarters here, making the county a good option for expats working in these sectors. Other big names from ICT and healthcare located in or around Cork include Novartis, Amazon, Johnson & Johnson, and Logitech.
For people occupied in the oil industry, the southwest of the county might be of particular interest as it is home of Ireland’s only oil refinery and storage facility. Cork is also home to one of the country’s main airports, which should make moving to Ireland’s South a smooth and convenient matter.
Limerick in Western Ireland is a major economic hub, mainly due to the importance of the Shannon Free Zone, Business and Technology Park. The attractive tax terms in this free trade zone prompted many international corporations to move to Ireland’s heartland to set up shop. Over 100 international and Irish businesses are located within the park. Its location adjacent to the third busiest airport in the country, Shannon Airport, makes moving to Ireland’s premier free trade zone a breeze.
Apart from the FTZ’s advantages for companies, Ireland’s third largest metropolitan area also proves attractive for many employees, both national and those just moving to Ireland, in key sectors like ICT, aviation, engineering, and medical care. Large employers include Cook Ireland (medical devices), Vistakon, and Dell, despite the shutdown of Dell’s local production site.
Or perhaps a smaller city is more attractive to you? Galway is a small, coastal city in the west of Ireland with a large student population and a growing market for start-up companies. According to the 2011 census, the city has a population of just under 76,000, meaning it can provide you with all the things you would expect from city-life, such as regular events and many opportunities to socialize, while also being quieter and more intimate than some of the bigger Irish cities. The many medieval streets are an added bonus.
The city has a good infrastructure and is less than two hours from Dublin along the motorway. There are two airports within an hour of Galway and many villages a short commute away if you would rather live away from the hustle of the city center and commute into work. Alongside the many start-ups in Galway, you will also find international companies in different sectors such as IT, medical technologies, and engineering. The city of Galway is also home to two universities, with one, The National University of Ireland Galway, being in the top 2% of universities in the world.
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