The economy of the Republic of Ireland is modern and trade-dependent with growth averaging a 7% per annum in 1995–2007. Agriculture, once the most important sector, is now dwarfed by industry, which accounts for 46% of GDP, about 80% of exports, and employs 29% of the labour force. Although exports remain the primary engine for Ireland's robust growth, the economy also benefited from a rise in consumer spending and both construction and business investment. The annual rate of inflation stands at 5.1% as of 2007, up from recent rates of between 3% and 4%. On the EU HICP inflation index, inflation is 2.7% , against an EU average of 1.8% . House price inflation has been a particular economic concern (average house price was €251,281 in February 2005). Unemployment is low but is rising and up to 30,000 jobs may be lost between 2007 and 2008 much of which is attributed to a slowdown in house building. Incomes have been rising rapidly as well as service charges (utilities, insurance, healthcare, legal representation, etc.). Dublin, the nation's capital, was ranked 16th in a worldwide cost of living survey in 2006 (up from 22nd in 2004 and 24th in 2003).
Ireland has the second highest per capita income of any country in the EU next to Luxembourg, and fourth highest in the world based on measurements of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) per capita. The Gross National Income is $41,140, the seventh highest in the world. The unusually large divergance between GDP and GNI is due to the repatriation of profits by multinational companies. In any case, the vast majority of wealth held by Irish citizens is invested in property. Furthermore, the construction sector accounts for a significant component of Ireland's GDP and GNP and any downturn in this sector is likely to have a profound impact. In 2005, the World Bank measured Ireland's GNI per head at $41,140 - the seventh highest in the world, sixth highest in Western Europe, and the third highest of any EU member state.
The state known today as Ireland seceded from the United Kingdom in 1922. The state was troubled by poverty and emigration until the early 1990s. These problems virtually disappeared over the course of that decade, which saw the beginning of unprecedented economic growth, in a phenomenon known as the "Celtic Tiger". Over the past two decades, the Irish government has implemented a series of national economic programmes designed to curb inflation, ease tax burdens, reduce government spending as a percentage of GDP, increase labour force skills, and promote foreign investment. Ireland joined in launching the euro currency system in January 1999 along with ten other European Union countries. The economy felt the impact of the global economic slowdown in 2001, particularly in the high-tech export sector – the growth rate in that area was cut by nearly half. GDP growth continued to be exceptionally high in international terms, with a rate of about 6% in 2001 and 2002 – and it is expected to continue at more than 4 per cent (2006 onwards). Since 2001, GNI (which measures income to Irish residents rather than output) growth has been much slower.
Ireland's transport infrastructure came under strain due to the economic expansion of the past decade. Since 1993, road transport has been coordinated by the National Roads Authority in the case of the National Primary Routes, which are the most heavily used roads, The National Secondary Routes act as regional roads and linkages between the primary routes. The Dublin area is served by a light rail network (the Luas), the Dublin Port Tunnel the M50, Dublin Airport, Dublin Suburban Rail and the DART.
Ireland's rail network is run by the semi-state body Iarnród Éireann, a subsidiary of CIÉ and is made up of 9 national lines and several regional commuter lines such as the DART. CIÉ retain some freight customers, though few new freight services have started in recent years. Only some major ports remain technically freight-connected, the connection at Sligo for example was removed in 2003, while the link to Foynes has remained unused since 1999. The efficiency of the train network is poor, with regular delays and overcrowding on major routes. Some regional routes have few services, and as a result, struggle to achieve passengers. Much new rolling stock has been acquired since 1994, and as of 2004, this is finally beginning to expand capacity rather than just replacing old stock. Most major routes have been relaid with continuous welded rail, and signalling has in most cases been upgraded from the more than century-old mechanical semaphores.
The country has a total of 15 airports and airfields, of which 3 - Dublin Airport, Shannon Airport and Cork Airport are of a substantial size. The country is served by several airlines, most notably Aer Lingus, Ryanair, Aer Arann, and CityJet. Air transport is relatively cheap. The main ports are Rosslare Europort, Limerick, Dublin, Cork and Waterford. There are daily ferry services to Britain.
In Telecommunications, the deregulated market has ensured that other licenced operators now account for a 32% share of the market.
Broadband is now available in Ireland via DSL, Cable, Wireless and Satellite. As of November 2007, DSL is available to c. 88% of homes and businesses. Overall takeup of broadband (cable, dsl, wireless etc.) is 15.4% as of July '07 and there are 698,000 broadband subscriptions as of September ’07 The average monthly subscription cost is $40.41, 20% cheaper than the average of $49 for the 35 OECD countries surveyed.
In 2008 the Minister for Communications Eammon Ryan has announced an unprecedented investment in broadband infrastructure, which will see every household in Ireland capable of receiving broadband speeds of 100mb by 2012. .5% of lines connected to broadband-enabled exchanges cannot avail of DSL, due to distance and other issues.
There are five mobile telecommunications providers - 3 Ireland, O2 Ireland, Meteor, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone Ireland. The electricity transmission system is run by the Electricity Supply Board and is available nationwide. The gas network is currently being expanded.