The draft Report outlines the strategic economic, geopolitical, social, environmental and technological risks facing Ireland, including in relation to cyber security, climate change and Ireland’s relationship, post-Brexit, with the UK.

Speaking on the launch of the consultation the Taoiseach, Micheál Martin T.D., said:

The past two years have very clearly shown the importance of risk management and preparedness.

This is never more that case than with the reality of a major risk coming to pass in the form of COVID-19 – which continues to have major and far reaching impacts not least on people’s lives and livelihoods.

As we begin to recover, it is important that we think about how the pandemic is impacting new and existing risks and the lessons that we are continuously learning. While our vaccination programme is going very well, none of us can be complacent with the Delta variant.

At the same time, we have to maintain focus on the range of other social, economic and environmental risks that can arise – and make sure our systems have the resilience and adaptability needed to deal with them. Socially, there is a need to help people recover from the challenges of COVID-19 and to ensure that social cohesion is maintained amidst employment and housing challenges and in an increasingly digitalised world where misinformation can easily spread.

The draft National Risk Assessment is an opportunity for everyone to contribute to this discussion and to make sure that we are considering the right issues. And I encourage members of the public to participate in this consultation and discussion.

The NRA was last published in 2019, and since that time the environment has changed dramatically with a number of major risks, most notably the pandemic, coming to pass. Brexit and the cyber-attack on Ireland’s health services are two other major risks that have materialised.

This draft includes some new risks, including digital exclusion, economic scarring and the sustainability of the public finances, as well as others that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

For example, geopolitically, COVID-19 has shown up the fragility of global interconnectedness and made many countries and trading blocs think about their dependence on and vulnerability to the external supply of vital resources and services. There is a risk that an open economy like Ireland’s would suffer if such changes resulted in greater restrictions or barriers to trade.

Economically, countries are struggling with the costs imposed on many sectors due to lockdowns and other restrictions. This has required significant Government intervention and the risk will lie in adjusting this level of support and returning to fiscal sustainability, as well as limiting permanent economic scarring. Other economic risks arise from changing international tax and trading patterns as well as energy security.

Environmentally, the challenge of climate change grows more urgent with its associated risks of biodiversity loss and extreme weather events. And while COVID-19 has demonstrated the risk of pandemics, the possible harms arising from food safety and antimicrobial resistance are others in this category.

From a technological perspective, the pandemic has brought home the importance of digital connectedness, elevating the importance of data-flows underpinning global connectivity which can be disrupted and the ever-increasing risk of cyber-attacks.

The experience of the past number of years has heightened the focus on risk management and structures nationally and internationally. The draft report notes some emerging international views on lessons for risk governance, as well as an emphasis at EU level on boosting resilience. There will be scope in the months ahead, as COVID-19 recedes, for further consideration of lessons for risk management.

The NRA is a collaborative exercise to identify and discuss significant risks facing the country and feeds into more detailed risk management processes by individual departments and agencies. The list of risks in this draft is now open for public consultation to ensure all stakeholders, including the public, can contribute. The Report will be finalised on foot of submissions received through this process, and will be published later in the year.

The draft Report and survey are available here. The public consultation will be open until Wednesday, 8 September 2021.

About the National Risk Assessment:

First published in 2014, the NRA provides a systematic approach to identify and debate strategic risks facing Ireland over the short, medium and long-term.

The NRA is a key element of the overall risk management process of the Government as it identifies areas where departments/agencies need to focus their individual risk management processes and mitigation policies. It does not replace the detailed risk management that is conducted within departments/agencies.

The NRA’s previous iterations have called attention to a number of strategic risks facing the country that subsequently became major issues, including Brexit, cyber security, housing supply, and pandemics.

The NRA has previously been an annual exercise however, due to the very significant impacts of the pandemic the decision was taken not to carry out the NRA in 2020. In undertaking this NRA for 2021/2022, consideration has been given to capturing the impacts of the pandemic and risks arising, while ensuring appropriate and balanced consideration of other major risks.

Developing the National Risk Assessment:

The NRA process is designed to ensure broad consideration of the risks that Ireland may face. There are several stages of consultation and discussion to ensure the process is comprehensive and inclusive of all viewpoints.

In line with previous years, the categories of risk are based on the approach used by the World Economic Forum in their ‘Global Risks Report’; geo-political, economic, social, environmental and technological. A full list of the risks identified in the Draft NRA is at Table 1 below.

At this stage of the process, the draft Report is being published for public consultation to invite feedback, ensure that the correct risks are identified and that there are no risks missing from the Report.

Table 1: Strategic risks for Ireland 2021/2022

Geopolitical risks  Rise of a multi-polar world

Future direction of the European Union

Ireland’s relationship, post-Brexit, with the United Kingdom

Armed conflict, terrorism and hybrid threats

Economic risks  Economic scarring of individuals and firms

Changes to the international tax and financial system

Sustainability of public finances

Labour shortages and capacity constraints

Vulnerabilities arising from Ireland’s enterprise mix

Changes to international trading relationships

Disruption to secure and sustainable energy supply

Social risks Social cohesion

Housing and sustainable development

Migration and integration

Demographic change

Digital exclusion

Environmental risks Climate change

Biodiversity loss

Extreme weather events and other natural disasters

Pandemics

Antimicrobial resistance

Food safety

Technological risks Data flows, storage and security

Disruptive technology

Cybersecurity

Nuclear contamination

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