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Ireland-Czech Republic Relations

The Embassy plays an important role in fostering the strong and close relationship between Ireland and the Czech Republic.

The two Governments work closely together on many issues, particularly in the EU context. We continue to work in solidarity with one another and with our fellow EU Member States to ensure a full and sustainable economic recovery in both countries and in the Union as a whole.

A strong historical bond

The links between the Czech Republic and Ireland are long and extensive: Celtic Boii tribes came to the Czech lands in the second century B.C. before travelling westward to Ireland. Along their journey, they passed on a rich heritage and even named both countries, Bohemia and Éire, as well as the Vltava River, which translates to “wild water” in the old Germanic language of those ancient tribes.

Following the flight of the Earls, a steady stream of Catholic Irishmen made their way to continental Europe in the hope of being employed in positions of responsibility denied them in their own land. Those that chose to settle in the Austrian Empire were drawn to it because of career prospects and also because of its staunch Catholicism.

In 1637, lured in part by this official endorsement of Catholicism, an order of Franciscan monks established a monastery in Prague on what is known to this day as "Hybernská ulice" or "the street of the Irish". The monastery served as a home away from home for the Franciscans and many other Irish émigrés. Up until 1786, when the monastery was closed by Joseph II as part of his plans for rationalising religion in his dominions, the Franciscans enjoyed great advantages from Bohemian hospitality with access to facilities for printing and publishing their books. At one point in the early eighteenth century the monastery was the most important Irish centre in Europe. Portions of its library were integrated into other collections in Prague, Olomouc and elsewhere in Bohemia, where they survive to this day.

Numerous Irishmen left their mark on Czech history, many of them soldiers serving in the Imperial army. Among the most illustrious was General Walter Butler, who achieved early notoriety by being the commanding officer of the force which carried out the assassination of Albrecht von Wallenstein, the Duke of Friedland, on the orders of Emperor Ferdinand II. Wallenstein was said to be greedy and deceitful, and most importantly, within five years of the battle of Bílá hora in 1620, he owned a quarter of Bohemia. Ferdinand became increasingly reliant on him and rumours began to circulate that Wallenstein was about to declare himself king and defect to the French army. Ferdinand sent a group of Irish, Scottish and English mercenaries under the command of Butler to Cheb, where they assassinated Wallenstein, reputedly as he lay on his sickbed. Another Irishman, Jakub Smith, was rector of Charles University in the mid-18th century.

In more contemporary eras, Czech and Irish histories continued to parallel one another. The nationalist and language movements in the Czech lands and Ireland in the 19th and early 20th centuries inspired one another, and the two countries gained independence almost simultaneously.

Recent history

In the 1920s, Czechs, including Alfred Navrátil, helped establish the sugar processing industry in Ireland, while in the 1940s, Karel Bačík was a founder of the world-renowned Waterford Crystal factory.

Since the Velvet Revolution of 1989, contacts between Ireland and The Czech Republic have been growing in all areas. Many Irish came into the Czech Republic in the 1990s, while there was significant Czech immigration to Ireland after EU accession in 2004. Diplomatic links have been strengthened too, especially with the establishment in 1995 of resident Embassies in Dublin and in Prague and the visits of President Havel and Premier Klaus to Ireland in 1996.

The Czech Republic is one of the most popular destinations worldwide for Irish investors and entrepreneurs. Some of the largest Irish investors in the country include paper-packaging manufacturer SmurfitKappa, insulation panel producer Kingspan, car parts supplier C&F Manufacturing, plastics producer Mergon and Eirtech Aviation in Ostrava. The Czech Irish Business and Cultural Association aims to support both corporate and private members in business and to act as a bridge between Irish business and culture and the general public.

There is great interest in Irish music and dance in the Czech Republic, as well as in the Irish language, with classes and programmes in a number of cities. Many Irish literary works have been translated into Czech, including those by classic authors like Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, as well as those by contemporary writers like Seamus Heaney.