The Department is one of the oldest institutions of State. Ireland’s first foreign minister, Count Plunkett, was appointed by Dáil Éireann on 22 January 1919, and our first envoys were despatched abroad soon after. In the decades since then, the Department has played a central role at key moments of Irish history: from consolidating our independence in the 1920s and 1930s, to protecting our security and neutrality during WWII, making a distinctive contribution at the UN, to negotiating our entry to the EEC in 1973 and guiding our membership of the EU since then, to building and sustaining peace and promoting reconciliation on the island of Ireland. Each of these achievements required the Department to evolve, as the interests and goals of the nation have evolved. The Department will mark the centenary of the founding of the Irish diplomatic service in 2019 and a century of service to the Irish people. As it looks to the future, its goal is to serve the Irish people, promote their values and advance their prosperity abroad, and to provide Government with the capabilities, analysis and influence to ensure that Ireland derives the maximum benefit from all areas of its external engagement.
The Department serves as a knowledge bank for Government, helping other Departments achieve their external goals through its access to networks abroad through Ireland’s embassies and consulates and its local knowledge. Maintaining a permanent corps of experience in international affairs is vital if the Government is to secure the maximum benefit from Ireland’s international engagement. The Government keeps the mission network under review and will move to address this in light of evolving needs and priorities and as resources permit. At present the Department comprises a headquarters at home and eighty diplomatic and consular offices abroad, as well as the North South Ministerial Council, the Joint Secretariat in Armagh and the British Irish Inter-Governmental Secretariat in Belfast. A system of concurrent accreditations allows us to manage relations with a wider range of countries than those where we have embassies. We provide a limited range of services for Irish citizens and businesses in these locations through a network of almost 100 honorary consuls.
Some 1,400 people work for the Department at home and abroad, including a multinational workforce of locally engaged staff. Staff work in over forty languages daily, in offices located across fourteen time zones. 60% of staff are directly engaged in providing services to Irish citizens and business, or delivering aid to some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the world. In relative terms, the Irish foreign service is modest in size: 60% of Ireland’s offices abroad have one or two diplomatic officers, while only fourteen have more than three.
Follow the links below for further information about the Department;