Ireland. In January, the coalition government presented a
budget that improved the conditions for long-term unemployed
people. According to
Countryaah.com, unemployment is traditionally high and reached 17.4%
in the early 1990s. In October 1996 it was about 11%. In
1995, 55,000 new jobs were created, including thanks to
societal contracts between employers, farmers and trade
unions. The contracts guaranteed low wage increases, which
also led to increased foreign investment in the country. The
Republic's economic growth in 1995 was estimated at between
7 and 9%, which can be compared with Sweden's 2.7 and
Germany's 1.9%. The positive trend continued in 1996.
Important meat exports declined drastically due to the
uproar around mad cow disease in the UK. However, beef
exports increased during the autumn. In June, the Supreme
Court upheld the ruling by a 1995 referendum that gave
married couples the right to divorce. Divorce supporters won
the vote in 1995 by the smallest possible margin - 0.5% or
9,118 votes. 80,000 couples were waiting to be separated
when the law was ratified.
During the summer, the Irish government took part in the
peace talks on the future of Northern Ireland. Foreign
Minister Dick Spring supported Britain's demand that the
IRA's political branch, Sinn Fein, not be allowed to
participate until the ceasefire was resumed (see also
Investigative journalist Veronica Guerin was murdered on
June 27 by order of a drug syndicate. The murder involved an
escalation of the war between the authorities and the
syndicates that increasingly use I. as a transit country for
drugs. President Mary Robinson and Prime Minister John
Bruton were among the approximately 1,000 funeral guests.
Ireland took over the alternate presidency of the EU
Council of Ministers and more than 230 committees on 1 July.