Irish Aid and Diplomacy in the Twenty-first Century: Optimising Enlightened Self-Interest, Supranational Priorities and Foreign Policy Impact.

Sebastian Kevany, University of California
Ruairi F. Brugha, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

Document Type Article

The original article is available at


Irish Aid, Ireland’s overseas representative and international development presence, is undergoing a period of rapid evolution, reflecting parallel changes in corresponding government ministries and aid agencies in Europe, the United States and other high-income donor countries. Common to this political, governmental and structural evolution is an increased integration between development and diplomacy, which forms a key cornerstone of twenty-first century ‘enlightened self-interest’ approaches to foreign affairs. We propose that an ‘enlightened self-interest’ paradigm would not only enhance Ireland’s capacity for the simultaneous pursuit of both diplomatic and development objectives, but also result in an ‘enlightened mutuality of interests’ benefiting both donors and recipients, in keeping with Ireland’s distinguished history in this regard. Using the ‘enlightened self-interest’ framework as a lens, we consider a range of contemporary themes related to the integration of development, diplomacy, trade and broader foreign affairs issues in the Irish context, such as security and international relations. These include (1) Ireland’s past implicit ‘diplomatic development’ achievements and leadership, which provide a historical and current context for the ‘global health diplomacy’ paradigm; (2) measures for making integration of different dimensions of foreign policy a more explicit and transparent endeavour; and (3) efforts to identify where in Ireland’s foreign affairs architecture such synergies may be found, developed and enhanced. Finally, (4) we consider those capacities required by governments, in Ireland and elsewhere, to operationalise ‘diplomatic development’ programmes.