Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson

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Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson
Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, September 2011 (cropped).jpeg
5th President of Iceland
In office
1 August 1996 1 August 2016
Prime Minister Davíð Oddsson
Halldór Ásgrímsson
Geir Haarde
Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir
Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson
Sigurður Ingi Jóhannsson
Preceded by Vigdís Finnbogadóttir
Succeeded by Guðni Th. Jóhannesson
Minister of Finance
In office
28 September 1988 30 April 1991
Prime Minister Steingrímur Hermannsson
Preceded by Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson
Succeeded by Friðrik Klemenz Sophusson
Personal details
Born (1943-05-14) 14 May 1943 (age 75)
Ísafjörður, Kingdom of Iceland
Political party
Alma mater University of Manchester
Signature Signature of Olafur Ragnar Grimsson.png

Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson (Icelandic:  [ˈouːlavʏr ˈraknar ˈkrimsɔn] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ); born 14 May 1943) is an Icelandic politician who was President of Iceland from 1996 to 2016. [1] He was first elected in 1996, and was elected unopposed for a second term in 2000. Ólafur was re-elected for a third term in 2004 (with opposition), for a fourth term in 2008 (unopposed), and for a record fifth and final term in 2012 (with opposition).

Iceland island republic in Northern Europe

Iceland is a Nordic island country in the North Atlantic, with a population of 357,050 and an area of 103,000 km2 (40,000 sq mi), making it the most sparsely populated country in Europe. The capital and largest city is Reykjavík, with Reykjavík and the surrounding areas in the southwest of the country being home to over two-thirds of the population. Iceland is volcanically and geologically active. The interior consists of a plateau characterised by sand and lava fields, mountains, and glaciers, and many glacial rivers flow to the sea through the lowlands. Iceland is warmed by the Gulf Stream and has a temperate climate, despite a high latitude just outside the Arctic Circle. Its high latitude and marine influence keep summers chilly, with most of the archipelago having a tundra climate.


Ólafur announced in his New Year's message on 1 January 2016, that he would be stepping down from the presidency at the end of his fifth term on 1 August 2016, after twenty years in office. [2] However, he announced in a press conference on 18 April 2016 that he would be running for re-election, in light of the political instability caused by the release of the Panama Papers two weeks earlier. [3] After Guðni Th. Jóhannesson and Davíð Oddsson announced their candidacies, he again changed his mind and on 9 May declared he would not run. [4]

Panama Papers Release of 11.5 million documents created by the Panamanian corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca

The Panama Papers are 11.5 million leaked documents that detail financial and attorney–client information for more than 214,488 offshore entities. The documents, some dating back to the 1970s, were created by, and taken from, Panamanian law firm and corporate service provider Mossack Fonseca, and were leaked in 2015 by an anonymous source.

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson Icelandic historian, 6th President of Iceland

Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson is an Icelandic politician serving as the 6th and current President of Iceland since 2016. He took office after receiving the largest number of votes in the 2016 election, 71,356 (39.1%). A historian, he was a docent at the University of Iceland until his election. His field of research is modern Icelandic history, and he has published a number of works on the Cod Wars, the 2008–2011 Icelandic financial crisis and the Icelandic presidency, among other topics.

Davíð Oddsson Icelandic politician

Davíð Oddsson is an Icelandic politician, and the longest-serving Prime Minister of Iceland, in office from 1991 to 2004. From 2004 to 2005 he served as Foreign Minister. Previously, he was Mayor of Reykjavík from 1982 to 1991, and he chaired the board of governors of the Central Bank of Iceland from 2005 to 2009. The collapse of Iceland's banking system led to vocal demands for his resignation, both from members of the Icelandic public and from the new Icelandic Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, which resulted in his being replaced as head of the Central Bank in March 2009. In September 2009 he was hired as the editor of Morgunblaðið, one of Iceland's largest newspapers, a decision that caused nationwide controversy and was followed by resignations and widespread terminated subscriptions. He contested the election for President of Iceland on 25 June 2016 but lost to Guðni Jóhannesson.

Since the end of his presidency, Ólafur has been serving as Chairman of the Arctic Circle, a non-profit organization [5] , and as Chairman of the International Renewable Energy Agency's Global Commission on the Geopolitics of Energy Transformation [6] .

Arctic Circle (organization)

The Arctic Circle is an organization founded by former President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, former Alaska Dispatch Publisher Alice Rogoff, former Premier of Greenland Kuupik Kleist and other partners. The organization's mission is to facilitate dialogue among political and business leaders, environmental experts, scientists, indigenous representatives, and other international stakeholders to address issues facing the Arctic as a result of climate change and melting sea ice. The Arctic Circle styles itself as an international organization with a Secretariat based in Reykjavik, Iceland.

International Renewable Energy Agency organization

The International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) is an intergovernmental organization to promote adoption and sustainable use of renewable energy. It was founded in 2009 and its statute entered into force on 8 July 2010. The agency is headquartered in Abu Dhabi. The Director-General of IRENA is Adnan Amin, a national of Kenya. IRENA is an official United Nations observer.

Early life

Ólafur was born in Ísafjörður, the son of hairdresser Grímur Kristgeirsson and housewife Svanhildur Ólafsdóttir Hjartar. He matriculated from Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík in 1962. From 1962 to 1970 he studied at the University of Manchester, obtaining a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and political science in 1965 and a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in political science in 1970, thus becoming the first Icelander to earn a PhD in this field. [7] He became a lecturer in political science at the University of Iceland in 1970, then a Professor of Political Science at the same university in 1973. He was the university's first Professor of Political Science. [1]

Ísafjörður Town in Northwest Constituency, Iceland

Ísafjörður is a town in the northwest of Iceland.

Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík

Menntaskólinn í Reykjavík is the oldest junior college in Reykjavík, Iceland.

University of Manchester public research university in Manchester, England

The University of Manchester is a public research university in Manchester, England, formed in 2004 by the merger of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology and the Victoria University of Manchester. The University of Manchester is a red brick university, a product of the civic university movement of the late 19th century.

Political career

As part of the left-wing People's Alliance, Ólafur was a Member of Althing for Reykjavík from 1978 to 1983. During this time, from 1980 to 1983, he was Chairman of the People's Alliance parliamentary group. Subsequently, he was Chairman of the People's Alliance executive committee from 1983 to 1987; additionally, from 1983 to 1985 he was editor of a newspaper, Þjóðviljinn. [1] From 1981 to 1984, he was also a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, serving again briefly from 1995 to 1996. [8] In 1984, with three other left-wing intellectuals, he took part in a debate with economist Milton Friedman, who was in Iceland to give a lecture on the "tyranny of the status quo" at the University of Iceland.

Left-wing politics supports social equality and egalitarianism, often in opposition to social hierarchy. It typically involves a concern for those in society whom its adherents perceive as disadvantaged relative to others (prioritarianism) as well as a belief that there are unjustified inequalities that need to be reduced or abolished. The term left-wing can also refer to "the radical, reforming, or socialist section of a political party or system".

Peoples Alliance (Iceland)

The People's Alliance was an electoral alliance in Iceland from 1956 to 1968 and a socialist political party from 1968 to 1998.

Althing unicameral parliament of Iceland

The Alþingi is the national parliament of Iceland. It is the oldest surviving parliament in the world, a claim shared by Tynwald. The Althing was founded in 930 at Þingvellir, situated approximately 45 kilometres (28 mi) east of what later became the country's capital, Reykjavík. Even after Iceland's union with Norway in 1262, the Althing still held its sessions at Þingvellir until 1800, when it was discontinued for 45 years. It was restored in 1844 and moved to Reykjavík, where it has resided ever since. The present parliament building, the Alþingishús, was built in 1881, made of hewn Icelandic stone.

Ólafur was Chairman and later President of Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) from 1984 to 1990, serving on their council until 1996. In 1986, he received the Indira Gandhi Prize on behalf of the PGA. [8] From 1987 to 1995, he was Leader of the People's Alliance. During this time, he served as Minister of Finance from 1988 to 1991. As Minister of Finance, he "was subjected to the idea that the rating agencies were the golden judges of financial health." [9] He was re-elected as a Member of Althing for Reykjanes from 1991 to 1996.

Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) is a non-profit, non-partisan international network of committed legislators, informs and mobilizes parliamentarians in all regions of the world to advocate for human rights and the rule of law, democracy, human security, non-discrimination, and gender equality. PGA Membership is open to individual legislators from elected parliaments. Currently it consists of approximately 1,300 members in 140+ parliaments. It was established circa 1978 as Parliamentarians for World Order engaged in a range of action-oriented initiatives that promote democracy, peace, justice and development throughout the world. The vision of PGA is "to contribute to the creation of a Rules-Based International Order for a more equitable, safe and democratic world".

The Indira Gandhi Prize or the Indira Gandhi Peace Prize or the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development is the prestigious award accorded annually by Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust to individuals or organisations in recognition of creative efforts toward promoting international peace, development and a new international economic order; ensuring that scientific discoveries are used for the larger good of humanity, and enlarging the scope of freedom. The prize carries a cash award of 2.5 million Indian rupees and a citation. A written work, in order to be eligible for consideration, should have been published. The panel constituted by the Indira Gandhi Memorial Trust consists of prominent national and international personalities including previous recipients. The recipients are chosen from a pool of national and international nominees.

Ministry of Finance (Iceland) Icelandic ministry

The Icelandic Ministry of Finance is responsible for overseeing the finances of the Icelandic government. The Minister for Finance and Economic Affairs is Bjarni Benediktsson.

President of Iceland

Olafur with President of Russia Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on 19 April 2002 Vladimir Putin 19 April 2002-2.jpg
Ólafur with President of Russia Vladimir Putin at the Kremlin on 19 April 2002

1996 election

In the 1996 presidential election, he was elected with 41.4% of the votes cast. [10]

Re-election 2004

In the 2004 presidential election, Ólafur was re-elected with 85.6% of the valid votes cast, but that election also saw a record number of empty/invalid ballots (21.2%) and an exceptionally low turnout of 62.9% (usually 80–90%), both of which have been interpreted as dissent with the president's decision not to sign a controversial media law. Since then, the issue of a constitutional amendment to revoke the veto power of the president has been raised by the Independence Party. Some have also wanted to rest that power with the people themselves, who could then force referendums to be held on laws by – for instance – collecting a certain number of signatures.

Re-election 2008

On 1 January 2008, in his new year's address, Ólafur announced his intention to seek a fourth term in office later in 2008. Because there was no challenger, he was automatically re-elected and sworn in for another term on 1 August 2008. [11]

Crisis of 2008 statements

In the aftermath of the 2008–2011 Icelandic financial crisis, Ólafur has criticized other countries for lack of help to Iceland.

In early November, the President attended a traditional informal lunch with all ambassadors to Iceland, held by the senior Danish ambassador. According to a confidential memo from the Norwegian embassy, quoted in the Norwegian newspaper Klassekampen, the President said: "The North Atlantic is important to Scandinavia, the US and Britain. This is a fact these countries now seem to ignore. Then, Iceland should rather get some new friends". He praised Norway and the Faroe Islands for their swift decision to grant major loans to Iceland. He also said Iceland should rather invite Russia to use the Keflavík Air Base. According to the memo, an "amazed and smiling" Russian ambassador said Russia did not have any need for this. Ólafur also criticised the International Monetary Fund for the system's flaws and for its mistreatment of Iceland. He said it was part of Icelandic political mentality to "fight alone" rather than being threatened into submission, and that he expected Iceland to overcome the crisis sooner than the US and Britain by showing initiative and international activity in new fields. The memo underlined that the President of Iceland has no political power and that no other government official had presented similar points of view "to the same degree". [12] [13] [14] The Danish ambassador to Iceland, Lasse Reimann, confirmed to the daily Politiken that the lunch had taken place, but declined to discuss on the President's comments. [15]

On 5 January 2010, the President of Iceland vetoed a measure of the Icelandic government to repay the governments of Britain and the Netherlands for their bailouts of customers of private Icelandic banks (no such bailout was required under Icelandic law, though on 26 May 2010 the EFTA found it was required by the terms of Iceland's membership of the EEA). [16] The President's veto was upheld by the people of Iceland when they voted upon the measure in March 2010. This dispute is known as Icesave dispute.

On 20 February 2011, the President of Iceland again vetoed an effort by the Icelandic government to repay (in installments over a period of years) the governments of Britain and the Netherlands. In a referendum held on 9 April 2011, Icelanders rejected for a second time a proposal to pay $5 billion to Britain and the Netherlands. [17] [18] Nearly 60% of Icelanders rejected the proposal put forward by the government. [19] The President's veto was thus upheld by the people.

Olafur during the WEF 2013 Olafur Ragnar Grimsson World Economic Forum 2013.jpg
Ólafur during the WEF 2013

2012 election

Ólafur Ragnar announced on 4 March 2012, that he would be seeking a fifth term as the President of Iceland in the 2012 presidential election. [20] Election took place on 30 June 2012 and Ólafur received 52.78% of votes cast.

2016 election and Panama Papers controversy

In a statement to the country on 1 January 2016, Ólafur Ragnar announced that he would not run in the 2016 presidential election, wanting "to transfer the responsibilities of the president onto other shoulders". [21] He later withdrew the statement and decided in April to run again, [3] citing political unrest after the fallout of the Panama Papers leak, which implicated Prime Minister Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson and forced the minister to resign after large anti-government protests. [22]

Reykjavik Grapevine and the news site Kjarninn revealed that Ólafur Ragnar's wife, Dorrit Moussaieff, had connections to an offshore company in the British Virgin Islands. Ólafur Ragnar had denied any personal or family ties to companies in tax havens. The company was owned by the parents of Dorrit. According to Kjarninn, the company, Lasca Finance, was in operation from 1999 to 2005. The financial statements of Moussaieff Jewelers Limited show it received almost £7 million (US$10.2 million or €9.1 million) in interest payments from Lasca in 2000–2005.

Views on current global issues

Ólafur has identified the 2009 financial crisis, the need for a green energy revolution, and climate change as the three most pressing issues in today's world. Declaring these three problems to be interconnected, he has said, "None of these three crises can be solved without solving the other." [23]

Ólafur has expressed concern that Saudi Arabian financing of a Reykjavík mosque will fuel radical Islam in Iceland, and said that he was, "shocked to the point of paralysis" when he learned the government of Saudi Arabia had decided to interfere in Icelandic religious life by donating one million US dollars for the mosque. [24]

Other achievements

Olafur Ragnar Grimsson during his visit to The Doon School in India, seen here with the school's headmaster Peter McLaughlin Olafur Grimsson with Peter McLaughlin, Doon School.jpg
Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson during his visit to The Doon School in India, seen here with the school's headmaster Peter McLaughlin

In recent years the President has been outspoken on the issues of renewable energy and global climate change. He initiated a Global Roundtable on Climate Change with the participation of a large group of companies and individual opinion leaders. Ólafur strongly advocates the use of geothermal energy, which is renewable, economically viable and reliable resource, as proven convincingly by the case of Iceland.

In relation to his efforts on these issues, Ólafur has participated in the Global Creative Leadership Summit, [25] organized by the Louise Blouin Foundation, [26] in 2007 and 2008. He was also awarded the Louise T Blouin Award for Creative and Cultural Achievement. In 2008, as a delegate at the Summit he delivered the Keynote Speech on Climate Change versus Globalization.

On 15 April 2013, at the National Press Club in Washington, he announced the formation of the Arctic Circle, an organization to facilitate dialogue among political and business leaders, environmental experts, scientists, indigenous representatives, and other international stakeholders to address issues facing the Arctic as a result of climate change and melting sea ice. [ citation needed ]


He married Guðrún Katrín Þorbergsdóttir in 1974, who gave birth to twin daughters the following year, Guðrún Tinna, a graduate in business studies, and Svanhildur Dalla, a graduate both in political science and law. [1] [27] Guðrún Katrín was a popular figure in Iceland, and was mourned nationwide when she died of leukaemia in 1998.

Ólafur's second marriage was to Israeli-born Dorrit Moussaieff, to whom he became engaged in May 2000. The wedding took place on his 60th birthday, 14 May 2003, in a private ceremony held at the presidential residence.


Ólafur was hospitalized in Reykjavík on 6 October 2008, for an angioplasty procedure. This was announced on 9 October, with his saying that he was "recovering and has resumed most activities". [28]


Related Research Articles

Politics of Iceland

The politics of Iceland take place in the framework of a parliamentary representative democratic republic, whereby the President is the head of state, while the Prime Minister of Iceland serves as the head of government in a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the parliament, the Althingi. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

President of Iceland

The President of Iceland is Iceland's elected head of state. The incumbent is Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, who is now in his first term as president, elected in 2016.

2004 Icelandic presidential election

A presidential election was held in Iceland on Saturday, 26 June 2004.

Guðrún Katrín Þorbergsdóttir was the First Lady of Iceland from 1996 to 1998. She was the first wife of Icelandic president Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson.

Dorrit Moussaieff First Lady of Iceland

Dorrit Moussaieff is an Israeli jewellery designer, editor, and businesswoman who was the First Lady of Iceland from 2003 to 2016. She became engaged to President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson in 2000 and they were married on Grímsson's 60th birthday in 2003. Born in Israel, she was raised in the United Kingdom from the age of 13.

2008 Icelandic presidential election

An election for the office of President of Iceland was planned to be held in Iceland on 28 June 2008. The incumbent Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, first elected in 1996, stated in his New Year's speech that he would contest the election for a fourth term. Ástþór Magnússon, who ran unsuccessfully in 1996 and 2004, ruled out a candidacy. No challenger to the incumbent president filed by the deadline to declare a candidacy on 24 May 2008, and so Ólafur Ragnar's fourth term was won uncontested. He was sworn in on 1 August 2008.

Greece–Iceland relations Diplomatic relations between the Hellenic Republic and the Republic of Iceland

Greek–Icelandic relations are foreign, economic and cultural relations between Greece and Iceland. Greece is represented in Iceland through its embassy in Oslo (Norway) and through an honorary consulate in Reykjavík. Iceland is represented in Greece through its embassy in Oslo (Norway) and through an honorary consulate in Athens. They have been firm allies for over 60 years, and have reaffirmed their ties recently at the highest levels of contacts.

Iceland–Mexico relations Diplomatic relations between the Republic of Iceland and the United Mexican States

Iceland–Mexico relations refer to bilateral relations between Iceland and Mexico. Both nations are mutual members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, United Nations and the World Trade Organization.

2010 Icelandic loan guarantees referendum

The Icelandic loan guarantees referendum, also known as the Icesave referendum, was held in Iceland on 6 March 2010.

Canada–Iceland relations Diplomatic relations between Canada and the Republic of Iceland

Canada – Iceland relations refer to international relations between Canada and Iceland. Both nations are members of the Arctic Council, NATO, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and the World Trade Organization.

2012 Icelandic presidential election

Presidential elections were held in Iceland on 30 June 2012. The result was a victory for the incumbent Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, who defeated his nearest rival Thóra Arnórsdóttir by nearly 20% of the vote, and went on to serve a record fifth term as president of Iceland.

The following lists events that happened in 2012 in Iceland.

The following lists events that happened in 2010 in Iceland.

2016 Icelandic presidential election

Presidential elections took place in Iceland on 25 June 2016. President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, elected in 1996, stepped down after serving five consecutive terms. Historian and lecturer Guðni Th. Jóhannesson was elected after receiving a plurality with 39.1% of the vote. He took office on 1 August, as the first new president of the Nordic country in twenty years.

The following lists events in the year 2016 in Iceland.

The 2016 Icelandic anti-government protests were a series of protests against the Icelandic government following the release of the Panama Papers.

Baldur Ágústsson is an Icelandic businessman, who ran for president of Iceland in 2004 and 2016.


  1. 1 2 3 4 L Official CV Archived 23 December 2014 at the Wayback Machine .
  2. "Iceland's long-serving president quits", AFP (Yahoo! news), 1 January 2016.
  3. 1 2 "Ólafur Ragnar to run for re-election". Iceland Monitor. Morgunblaðið. 18 April 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  4. http://www.mbl.is/frettir/innlent/2016/05/09/lafur_ragnar_haettur_vid_frambod/
  5. "About the Arctic Circle - Board". Arctic Circle. Retrieved 13 August 2016.
  6. http://irena.org/newsroom/pressreleases/2018/Apr/New-Geopolitics-Commission-on-the-Global-Consequences-of-Renewable-Energy-Transformation
  7. "Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson". President of Iceland. Archived from the original on 10 April 2016. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  8. 1 2 "President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson" (PDF). United Nations. Retrieved 22 April 2016.
  9. Reid, Stuart (February 2014). "Iceland's Saga: A Conversation With Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson". Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  10. "Úrslit í forsetakosningum" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 1 September 2012.
  11. "President of Iceland sworn in for fourth time", Xinhua (People's Daily Online), 3 August 2008.
  12. Alf Skjeseth: Inviterer Russland Archived 4 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine , Klassekampen, 12 November 2008 (in Norwegian)
  13. Iceland: Denmark has turned its back, Politiken, 12 November 2008
  14. Russia invited to Iceland's airbase Archived 7 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine , barentsobserver.com, 12 November 2008
  15. Michael Bech: Dansk ambassadør følte islandsk vrede, Politiken, 12 November 2008 (in Danish)
  16. Michael Bech: EFTA: Iceland must pay Icesave, IceNews, 27 May 2010
  17. Icelanders Again Reject Icesave Debt Deal, www.nytimes.com, 10 April 2011
  18. Iceland says Icesave dispute to be solved in court, Reuters, 10 April 2011
  19. Icesave Referendum: First Numbers, www.icelandreview.com, 9 April 2011
  20. Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson runs for a fifth term as President, , 4.Mar 2012
  21. "Iceland's president not seeking re-election after 20 years". The Washington Post . Associated Press. 1 January 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2016.
  22. "Panama Papers: Iceland PM Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson steps down". BBC News. 4 April 2016. Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  23. Iceland's president: Our most pressing problems are interlinked 2009 Global Creative Leadership Summit.
  24. "President of Iceland fears Saudi Arabian funding of Reykjavík Mosque will fuel Muslim extremism in Iceland". 24 November 2015.
  25. "Default Page | Global Creative Leadership Summit". Creativeleadershipsummit.org. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
  26. "Louise Blouin Foundation – Home". Ltbfoundation.org. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
  27. "Guðrún KatrÃn Îorbergsdóttir". English.forseti.is. Archived from the original on 4 June 2016. Retrieved 12 March 2011.
  28. "Iceland president briefly hospitalised for heart problem: office" Archived 7 February 2009 at the Wayback Machine , AFP, 9 October 2008.
  29. "Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson" . Retrieved 7 January 2016.
Political offices
Preceded by
Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson
Minister of Finance
Succeeded by
Friðrik Klemenz Sophusson
Preceded by
Vigdís Finnbogadóttir
President of Iceland
Succeeded by
Guðni Th. Jóhannesson
Party political offices
Preceded by
Svavar Gestsson
Leader of the People's Alliance
Succeeded by
Margrét Frímannsdóttir