Objective: To describe macronutrient intakes and food sources of the adult population in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and to assess adherence of this population to current dietary recommendations. Design: A cross-sectional food consumption survey collected food intake data using a 7-day food diary. Setting: Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland between October 1997 and October 1999. Subjects: One thousand three hundred and seventy-nine adults aged 18-64 years (662 males and 717 females). Results: Mean daily energy intakes in men were 11 MJ per day, 15.5% was derived from protein, 34.8% from fat, 43.5% from carbohydrate and 5.9% from alcohol. Corresponding figures for women were 7.6 MJ per day, 15.6%, 35.6%, 45.1% and 3.5%. When alcohol energy was excluded the contribution of fat and carbohydrate to energy did not differ between men and women. When compared with existing dietary recommendations, 93% of men and 86% of women had protein intakes above the Population Reference Intake. Two approaches were used to assess adherence to the fat and carbohydrate dietary recommendations: (1) the proportion of individuals in the population attaining these dietary targets and (2) the proportion of the population that was included in a `compliers' group which had a group mean equal to these dietary targets. Thirty-three per cent of men and 34% of women met the target of 35% of food energy from fat and 78% of men and 80% of women comprised the `compliers' group having a group mean of 35% of food energy from fat. Twenty-three per cent of men and 27% of women met the target of 50% of food energy from carbohydrate and 56% of men and 62% of women made up the `compliers' group. Meat and meat products were the main source of fat (23%) and protein (37%), and bread and rolls (25%) were the main source of carbohydrate. Conclusion: A reduction in dietary fat intake remains an important public health issue in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. An increase in carbohydrate intake and attention to the rise in alcohol intake is also warranted.