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Ireland-Portugal Relations

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

Ambassador Orla Tunney, President of Portugal Cavaco Silva and Minister for Foreign Affairs Rui Machete

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.

An enduring, strong historic bond

Irish relations with Portugal can be traced back to the mists of antiquity. Archaeological evidence from the Iron, Bronze and Megalithic periods charts the earliest contacts between the Iberian Peninsula and Ireland. And, in recent years, DNA analysis suggests that, dating from the last Ice Age, the Portuguese-Iberian peoples were ancestors to the Gaelic Irish.

And the links persisted- during the medieval period, trade increased between Irish and Iberian ports, as Irish mercenaries, pilgrims and scholars found a sanctuary in Portugal.

By 1450 merchant oligarchies along the south and west coast of Ireland had a key role in controlling the wine trade between Ireland and the Iberian Peninsula. Portuguese and Spanish wine was imported, along with silver, textiles, ceramics and leather. Among Irish exports to the Iberian Peninsula were salted fish, beef, wool and timber.

During the Cromwellian war in Ireland (1649-1658) and in the centuries which followed, increasing numbers of Irish people left Ireland, seeking refuge overseas. Many Irish migrants settled in Portugal, including in the University cities of Lisbon, Coimbra and Évora. This formed a firm foundation for commercial, cultural and intellectual exchanges.

An enduring testament to Portuguese-Irish kinship during the dark days in Ireland continues to flourish to this day in the historic suburb of Belem in Lisbon- the Convent and School Bom Successo-founded by the Irish Dominican order in 1639.

Between the eighteenth and nineteenth century, essential commercial and cultural links emerged between ports in Cork and Lisbon. A number of prominent Cork based merchant families, including the Barry, Gould and Gallwey clans became influential figures in the banking, business and cultural sectors in Lisbon.

And these strong historic bonds endure to the present day- the direct descendent of Hugh O’Neill of Tyrone, Hugo O’Neill, the acknowledged leader of the O’Neill clan, resides with his family in the greater Lisbon area and actively maintains that unbroken link.

And what of current relations between Ireland and Portugal? Today, that close feeling of mutual liking and respect endures, happily under very different political circumstances than those of more distant centuries. Our two countries are natural allies and have a strong tradition of working together in partnership in major intergovernmental organizations, especially in the European Union, where we continue to work in solidarity with each other 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.

On a personal level, Portugal is close to the top of holiday destinations for Irish people, and thousands of Portuguese people call Ireland their second home from home- as do Irish people resident in Portugal.