It is one of Ireland's premier learned societies and cultural institutions and currently has around 420 Members, elected in recognition of their academic achievements. The Academy was established in 1785 and granted royal charter in 1786.
Until the late 19th century it was also the owner of the main national collection of Irish antiquities. It presented its collection of archaeological artefacts and similar items, which included such famous pieces as the Tara Brooch, to what is now the National Museum of Ireland, but retains its very significant collection of manuscripts.
The President and Council are responsible for the Academy's general government and regulation. They are elected annually at the Stated Meeting on 16 March. The President normally serves a three-year term of office. The membership of Council is drawn from the Sciences and Humanities sections. Council formulates policies, develops and recommends candidates for membership.
The Executive Committee supports the Council in supervising the day-to-day business of the Academy. The members of the Executive Committee are the President, Senior Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer, Secretaries of Science and PL&A, Executive Secretary, Secretary for International Relations and a Staff Representative.
The Royal Irish Academy became a prescribed body under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 1997 and the Freedom of Information Act (Amendment) 2003, on 31 May 2006.