Ireland has 11th lowest homicide rate in Europe – UN report

Organised crime was a motive for 19% of all murders recorded globally

Ireland has the 11th lowest homicide rate in Europe and the 23rd lowest in the world, according to a United Nations (UN) study.

The UN's Global Study on Homicide 2019 found Ireland had a homicide rate of 0.9 per 100,000 people. This is slightly under northern Europe average of one homicide per 100,000, and a third of the average for the continent of Europe, where it is three per 100,000.

The global murder rate was 6.1 per 100,000. The study is based on 2017 data which stated there were 41 homicides in Ireland. Many of them are related to the Hutch/Kinahan gang feud.

Despite the large number of feud-related murders in 2017, the study suggests Ireland was a safer country in terms of homicides than it was at the time of the last UN report in 2013, when the rate stood at 1.1 per 100,000.


Ireland’s homicide rate has fluctuated significantly over the years. In 1990, when the study first began, it was 0.5 per 100,000. The worst year was 2007 when it reached 1.8.

The UN classifies homicide as the intentional killing of another. It does not include figures for manslaughter or dangerous driving causing death.

Deaths by terrorism are included but deaths in armed conflicts, killings in self defence and legally sanctioned killings are not.

The UN found 464,000 people died by violent homicide globally in 2017, more than five times the number which died in armed conflicts.

This is an increase on the 400,000 homicides recorded in 1991 when the study first began. However, when global population growth is taken into account the rate has actually dropped, from 7.2 per 100,000 to 6.1.

El Salvador was the most dangerous country with a rate of 61.8. Japan and Singapore had the lowest homicide rate at 0.2 per 100,000. Most of the safest countries were in Asia, which had an overall homicide rate of 2.3 per 100,000.

Organised crime

The UN deployed a series of statistical models to predict the homicide rates in various countries. It found the Irish rate is broadly in line with that expected of a country with its level of economic development.

Other countries such as Lesotho, Honduras and South Africa had a much higher rate than predicted using economic models, suggesting other factors were driving the trend.

For example the high levels of murder in Central America and parts of Africa could be down to the relatively large size of the youth populations in those regions, the report stated.

Other countries such as Sierra Leone and Cameroon had much lower murder rates than predicted based on their economic status. Some of this could be explained by poor record keeping in some countries, the UN said.

Organised crime continued to be a massive driver of global homicide rates, the UN found. It was a motive for 19 per cent of all murders recorded in 2017.

Males were far more likely than females to be both the victims and perpetrators of homicides. Nine of out 10 murderers and eight out of 10 murder victims were male.

However women formed the vast majority of victims in family and intimate partner homicides.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times