Ireland Sustainability Issues

The critical environmental and sustainability issues of Ireland:

  1. Poverty 

Available data observations from 2016 indicate that the at risk of poverty rate in Ireland is 16.5%, the rate of material deprivation is 21.0% and the consistent poverty rate is 8.3%. The social impact of the post downturn saw both the rate of material deprivation and consistent poverty rise significantly and then fall as the economy recovered. The material deprivation rate rose from 17.1% in 2009 to a peak of 30.5% in 2013, and has consistently fallen since then to its current rate of 21.0%. Similarly, consistent poverty peaked at 9.1% in 2013. This comes years after the european debt crisis.


  1. Obesity

In common with other EU Member States, malnutrition in Ireland is primarily associated with overnutrition as opposed to undernutrition. Obesity rates in Ireland are above the EU average based on 2014 data. Childhood obesity rates are not included in the EU SDG indicator set. National data published in 2017 indicates that childhood overweight and obesity rates are stabilising in Ireland, but at a high level of approximately 20%.


  1. Health

An ageing population and lifestyle factors are contributing to a sharp increase in the prevalence of chronic disease with multiple morbidities. Approximately 38% of Irish people over 50 years have one chronic disease and 11% have more than one. Chronic disease accounts for 80% of all primary care physician visits, 40% of hospital admissions, and 75% of hospital bed days. 

In order to deal with the increasing burden of chronic disease in a sustainable manner there is a concerted effort to reduce the causative risk factors and to develop a model of care which is more integrated and continuous, person-centred, and delivered at the lowest level of complexity consistent with patient safety.


  1. Gender Equality

Turning to the judiciary, as of April 2018, 37% of Irish judges are female [59 of 161 judges]. In the Irish Supreme Court, 3 of the 9 judges are women, as is the former Chief Justice who retired in 2017. The number of female judges throughout the Irish judiciary has almost tripled in the past two decades.

While progress has been made to improve female representation in national politics, public administration, and on State boards, women remain underrepresented in decision-making roles in many areas of Irish life, including in senior business leadership and on corporate boards. While the percentage of women non-executive directors of corporate boards increased by almost 11 percentage points between 2007 and 2017, their representation still remains low at 17.6%. Women are similarly under-represented in senior positions in the financial sector. The Central Bank indicated in March 2017 that women occupied only 20% of senior management positions in the financial services sector between 2012 and 2016.


  1. Energy

Ireland had the fourth highest rate of energy import dependency (85.3%) among the EU Member States in 2014, mainly in fossil energy. This dependency is both expensive (€5.7 billion in 2014) and environmentally unsustainable. However, overall energy use in Ireland has declined since its peak in 2008. While this was primarily linked to the economic recession, there is evidence of increasing energy efficiency. There was also an increased use of renewable energy in this period. As Ireland returns to prosperity, decoupling of economic growth from increasing energy use needs to be accelerated. Ireland’s principal energy requirements arise from transport, accounting for 35% of the total, and residential heating and electricity, accounting for 25%. Decarbonisation of energy use in the transport sector is a key challenge. Fossil energy makes up about 90% of Ireland’s energy use profile, of which oil (at 47%) remains the dominant fossil energy used, primarily for heating and transport.