Country profile

The Republic of Ireland is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy island nation in Western Europe with a population of over 4.8 million inhabitants. Ireland has recovered considerably since the 2008 financial crash, with a nominal per capita GDP of $79,925 (2018 est.). On a per capita basis, Ireland spends around 40% more than the EU average. Approximately 70% of health spending in Ireland is publicly financed, a proportion well below the EU average.

All persons resident in Ireland are entitled to receive health care through the public health care system, which is managed by the Health Service Executive. However, Ireland is the only Western European country that does not offer universal coverage of primary care. At present  less than half of the population have public coverage for primary care. Life expectancy at birth in Ireland increased by nearly five years between 2000–15, to 81.5 years, much faster than in nearly all other EU countries. A substantial gap persists in life expectancy between men and women, with men living about four years less than women, but this gender gap has narrowed by one year since 2000.


Policy responses

Due to the economic crisis health inequalities are not as high on the political agenda as they otherwise would be. Attempts to explicitly address health inequalities can be found in initiatives such as providing free medical care to the elderly, providing free access to general practitioners, and planning universal health insurance. The Ministry of Health is still regarded as the one responsible for taking initiatives in this area. However, a number of measures have been introduced since 2010 to tackle health inequalities. Healthy Ireland – A Framework for Improved Health and Wellbeing (2013-2025) is the over-riding national public health framework. This aims to ensure effective co-operation and collaboration across the government, the health system and the whole of society. The main goals of Healthy Ireland are to increase the proportion of people who are healthy at all stages of life, reduce health inequalities, protect the public from threats to health and wellbeing, and create an environment where every individual and sector of society can play their part in achieving a healthy Ireland.

An overview of policy responses addressing health inequalities in can be found in our Policy Database.


Good practices

An overview of projects and initiatives that are currently taking place or that have successfully been finalized, and that are addressing health inequality issues, can be found in our Project Database.

Key actors

Please find below an overview of key actors in the Republic of Ireland working on health inequality issues:

  • Department of Health. On the website of the Department of Health many relevant publications are available
  • Institute of Public Health (IPH). The remit of the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) is to promote cooperation for public health between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland in the areas of research and information, capacity building and policy advice. The approach is to support Departments of Health and their agencies in both jurisdictions, and maximise the benefits of all-island cooperation to achieve practical benefits for people in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.


Are you aware of any other key actors that should be added to this list?
Please let us know!


Key resources

Please find below an overview of relevant documents addressing health inequality issues in the Republic of Ireland. Further publications can be found in our Publications Database.

  • The Health Well. The Health Well is an all-island health information website which supports an evidence-informed approach to health policy and practice. It has been developed by the Institute of Public Health in Ireland (IPH) in partnership with other health focused organisations across the island.
  • Healthy Ireland Healthy Ireland is a Government-led initiative which aims to create an Irish society where everyone can enjoy physical and mental health, and where wellbeing is valued and supported at every level of society.

Are you aware of any other key resources that should be added to this list?
Please let us know!

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