What Are The Major Natural Resources Of Ireland?

Small fishing boat at Killarney Lake in Kerry, Ireland.
Small fishing boat at Killarney Lake in Kerry, Ireland.

The Republic of Ireland is a Western European nation that has one of the best-developed economies globally. The World Bank estimated that in 2018, the Irish GDP was the 42nd highest in the world at $385 billion while its per capita GDP was the 4th highest in the world at $80,641. Most economists, however, do not consider the Irish GDP to be an accurate depiction of the country's economy because the country is considered a tax haven by several international companies. To get an accurate picture of the Irish economy, the Central Bank of Ireland established the Irish Modified Gross National Income. The Irish economy is dependent on several natural resources such as arable land, minerals, and the country's beautiful scenery.

Ireland's Natural Resources

Arable Land

One of Ireland's most important natural resources is arable land, which according to the World Bank, made up roughly 15% of the country's land area. During much of the 20th century, the agricultural sector was one of Ireland's most important industries; however, the government's economic policies shifted the country's economy from being dependent on agriculture to being reliant on other sectors. In 2013, the agriculture sector contributed roughly 1.6% of the country's GDP. The Irish labor department estimated that in 2013, the agriculture sector employed 5% of the Irish workforce. Irish farmers grow a wide variety of crops such as barley and potatoes. The Irish agriculture sector faces numerous challenges with some of the most significant ones being the fluctuation in the price of global agricultural products and global warming. Despite the challenges that the Irish agricultural industry faces, it has the potential to achieve tremendous growth. The government of Ireland has encouraged farmers to improve the country's agricultural sector for the country to achieve food security.


Livestock is also one of the most critical natural resources in Ireland. Since ancient times, Irish farmers have kept different animals such as cattle, sheep, and goats. Irish farmers also keep a variety of poultry such as chickens and ducks. In the modern era, livestock keeping is still one of the important industries in Ireland, particularly in the country's rural areas. The livestock is mainly kept to satisfy the local demand for livestock products such as meat, milk, and wool; however, some are sold to other nations particularly the Members of the EU. Irish livestock farmers face several challenges with the most significant one being pests and diseases that reduce the quality of the country's livestock. To combat the challenges, the Irish government has provided veterinary services for the country's livestock.


Data from the World Bank indicates that forests covered nearly 11% of Ireland's territory making it one of the country's most critical natural resources. The data also indicates that in 2004, the size of the forested area in Ireland has been increasing at a rapid rate which can be attributed to several factors mainly the efforts by the government and the private sector to encourage forest conservation. Ireland has diverse types of forests ranging from planted forests to commercial forests with some of the most well-known being the Clonbur, Brackloon, and Glendalough. Most of the forests in Ireland are situated in uplands and peatlands. Historical evidence indicated that the location of the forests in those areas was as a result of the rest of the country's land being used for agriculture. Most of the trees in the uplands and peatlands were introduced from North America such as lodgepole pine and Sitka spruce. The forests in these areas are used primarily to provide timber which is used for a variety of purposes such as construction and fencing. Another primary type of forests in Ireland is the farm forests which have been increasing during the 21st century. The increase in the size of land converted by farm forests can be attributed to the change in the agricultural policy of the EU. Most of the farmers who grow forests on their land do so to obtain timber for sale. Ireland is also home to forests referred to as native woodlands. Due to interference from human activities, the native woodlands were unable to maintain their natural state; however, the government and private individuals have worked towards the conservation of the forests.


Fish are some of the most critical natural resources in Ireland with the country having both marine and freshwater fish. For a long time fishing has been one of Ireland's most vibrant economic activities. Some of Ireland's most important marine fishing grounds are situated within the Celtic Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. Data from the UN indicates that in 2003, marine fishers caught roughly 293,598 tons of fish. At the time, more than 12,000 people worked in the country's marine fishing industry in a variety of jobs such as fishing or processing the fish. Marine fishers in Ireland catch a variety of fish such as horse mackerel and herring. In the country's inland water bodies, the fishermen obtain mainly salmon and trout. Ireland also has a vibrant fish farming sector with some of the most common varieties of fish being mussels and salmon.

Oil and Gas

Ireland also has significant quantities of oil and natural gas, which are some of its essential natural resources. The Irish government estimated that the country had roughly 300 million barrels of oil in one of its major oil fields, the Barryroe oil well. Initially, the field was thought to have more than 1 billion barrels of oil in reserves. Ireland has natural gas fields with the most significant ones being the Corrib gas field located in the country's northwestern section and the Kinsale Head gas field which is situated in the country's southern coast. The development of Ireland's natural gas deposits has been surrounded by controversies as the development of some of the projects would have a detrimental impact on the country's environment.

The Irish Economy

The government of Ireland has invested heavily in making the country's economy one of the top economies globally. One of the primary methods that it uses to promote its economy is through inviting international companies to invest in the country. The policies have been relatively successful in ensuring the country's economic growth.


More in Economics