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Privileges and immunities

One of the oldest and most accepted fields of international law is the formal relations between states and their official representatives.  To facilitate the peaceful and efficient conduct of these relations, certain privileges and immunities exist under international law and have been given effect to in Irish law.

In 1967 Ireland ratified the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961 and the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations 1963. These two international treaties codify what is perhaps one of the oldest and most accepted fields of international law, namely the formal relations between states and their official representatives. As is stated in the preamble to the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, “peoples of all nations from ancient times have recognised the status of diplomatic agents”.

The two Vienna Conventions recognise the functional necessity of diplomatic and consular privileges and immunities for the peaceful and efficient conduct of international relations.  Effect is given to Ireland’s obligations under these Conventions by the Diplomatic Relations and Immunities Acts 1967-2006. The Acts also confer certain privileges and immunities on:

  • the United Nations and specialised agencies of the United Nations;
  • the Council of Europe;
  • the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development;
  • the Customs Co-Operation Council.

In addition, under the Acts the Government may, by order, confer on designated bodies, or their agents, “inviolability, exemptions, facilities, immunities, privileges and rights”, of the nature of those contained in the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.  The three categories of body are:

  • an international organisation, community or body of which the State or the Government is or intends to become a member; 
  • an international organisation, community or body and persons for whom immunities are provided for by an international agreement to which the State or the Government is or intends to become a party; and
  • an international judicial body or a semi-judicial body established under an agreement to which the State or the Government is or intends to become a party.

Ireland is not a party to the United Nations Convention on Jurisdictional Immunities of States and their Property. However, Ireland is bound by the rules of customary international law as regards state immunity.

General Scheme of a Diplomatic Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill

On 27 July 2016 the Government approved the General Scheme of a Diplomatic Relations (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill. Its broad purpose is to update and improve arrangements with respect to international organisations and the staff of diplomatic missions.

Regulatory Impact Assessment