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Safety Travel Safety: Europe: Ireland

Ireland: Ireland
Capital: Dublin
Population: 3,883,159
Currency: euro (EUR)
Languages: English is the language generally used, Irish (Gaelic) spoken mainly in areas located along the western seaboard
Religions: Roman Catholic 91.6%, Church of Ireland 2.5%, other 5.9% (1998)
Borders: UK 360 km

Ireland is a highly developed democracy with a modern economy.

A peace agreement for Northern Ireland was ratified by voters in Ireland and Northern Ireland on May 22, 1998. While the ceasefire that came into effect at that time is officially holding, there have been spates of violence in Northern Ireland associated with paramilitary organizations. These incidents have the potential for some spillover into Ireland. Travelers to Northern Ireland should consult the Consular Information Sheet for the United Kingdom. 

Several Americans have reported incidents of verbal abuse and one reported a physical assault apparently in reaction to U.S. policy on the war on terrorism. As elsewhere in Europe, there have been public protests, which for the most part are peaceful and well policed. Americans are advised, nonetheless, to avoid public demonstrations in general and to monitor local media when protests occur.

Although Ireland has historically had a low rate of violent crime, it is increasing, and there have been incidents in which foreigners and tourists have been victims of assault. There is a high incidence of petty crime, mostly theft, burglary, and purse snatching. Thieves target rental cars and tourists, particularly in the vicinity of tourist attractions and some purse and bag snatching incidents in these areas have turned violent, especially in Dublin. Extra caution should be taken to safeguard passports and wallets from pickpockets and bag snatchers.

There has been an increase over the last year in the number of crimes involving credit cards and Automated Teller Machines (ATMs). The use of skimmers to record credit card details has increased, and these recorded details are being sent elsewhere to program false and stolen credit cards.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protection available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Irish laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Ireland are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines. 

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident alien, to engage in illicit sexual conduct in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18, whether or not the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident alien intended to engage in such illicit sexual conduct prior to going abroad. For purposes of the PROTECT Act, illicit sexual conduct includes any commercial sex act in a foreign country with a person under the age of 18. The law defines a commercial sex act as any sex act, on account of which anything of value is given to or received by a person under the age of 18. 

Under the Protection of Children from Sexual Predators Act of 1998, it is a crime to use the mail or any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transmit information about a minor under the age of 16 for criminal sexual purposes that include, among other things, the production of child pornography. This same law makes it a crime to use any facility of interstate or foreign commerce, including the Internet, to transport obscene materials to minors under the age of 16.

Modern medical facilities and highly skilled medical practitioners are available in Ireland. Because of high demand, however, access to medical specialists can be difficult and admissions to hospitals for certain non-life threatening medical conditions may require spending significant periods of time on waiting lists. Those traveling to or intending to reside in Ireland who may require medical treatment while in Ireland should consult with their personal physicians prior to traveling and carefully consider this advice.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Ireland is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. 

Safety of public transportation: Good 
Urban road conditions/maintenance: Good 
Rural road conditions/maintenance: Fair 
Availability of roadside assistance: Good 

As driving is on the left side of the road in Ireland, motorists without experience in left drive countries should be especially cautious. Tourists driving on the wrong side of the road are the cause of several serious accidents each year. Turning on red is not legal in Ireland. The vast majority of the rental cars are stick shift; it can be difficult to find automatic transmission rental cars. Road conditions are generally good, but once off main highways, country roads quickly become narrow, uneven and winding. Roads are more dangerous during the summer and on holiday weekends due to an increase in traffic. More information on driving in Ireland can be found on the U.S. Embassy in Dublin's webpage at this address 

Taxis are reasonably priced but availability varies with time of day. Bus service in the cities is generally adequate, though many buses are overcrowded and frequently late. Inter-city bus and train services are reasonably good. 

For specific information concerning Irish driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Irish National Tourist Organization (Bord Failte) web site at

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Ireland's Civil Aviation Authority as Category 1 -- in compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Ireland's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA's Internet website at 

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact DOD at (618) 229-4801.

Please also refer to the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

October 4, 2004

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