Social Policy In Ireland

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The Evolution of Social Policy in Ireland from Mid 20th Century to Early 21st Century

The Evolution of Social Policy in Ireland from Mid 20th Century to Early 21st Century


Ireland is a rich case study in the subtle interplay between territorial politics and the welfare state. The combination of federal institutions, linguistic and cultural pluralism, and regional conflicts has important implications for the design of Ireland social programs (Galligan 1998, 107-121). The complexity of territorial pressures makes policy outcomes particularly dependent on the attributes of formal institutions of the state and on decision rules that vary from one sector of social policy to another. In some sectors, territorial politics and multitiered institutions have increased the opportunities enjoyed by reformist forces and facilitated the expansion of the state; in other sectors, complex decision rules have created joint-decision traps that deeply constrain change.

McCashin, A. in his book “Social Security In Ireland” stated that social policy agenda in Ireland has started new debates among scholars and politicians. (McCashin, 2004, 5-16) Ireland's experience also highlights the reciprocal nature of the relationship between the welfare state and territorial divisions by pointing to the potential of social policy to act as an instrument of national integration across regional and linguistic divisions (Breen, Hannan, Rottman & Whelan 1990, 14-27). National social programs developed in the mid 20th Century quickly emerged as important instruments of legitimation for a federal system facing serious regional challenges, and some of the most bitter battles in subsequent decades were fought over which level of government would control these levers of cultural definition. The issues surfaced again with a vengeance during the early 21st Century as the result of a renewed struggle over the Ireland constitution, a battle in which the continued existence of a single Ireland state seemed repeatedly at risk.

Thinking about social policy as an instrument of statecraft, to be employed in defining political communities and legitimating the structures of the state, broadens contemporary perspectives on the integrative role of welfare. This shift does nothing to deny the importance of social policy in mediating class conflicts in Western nations. It does insist, however, that state structures as well as economic systems require legitimation, and that the pervasive interactions between state and citizen implicit in modern social programs have important implications for both. Such a perspective is consistent with recent neoinstitutionalist literature, and it provides additional insights into the politics of social policy in multitiered systems, including the European Union, where an emergent supranational social policy is constrained by the massive legitimation of member states that comes from national systems of social security. (Bax 1970, 179-191)

Social Transformation

Pierson, C. in the book “Beyond the Welfare State?” explained that contemporary roles of the welfare state are changing due to the demand of industrialization as well as modernisation. (Pierson 2006, 12-24) Irelnad is a great example of modern state. The forces of internationalisation have been central to the Republic of Ireland's dramatic transformation during the past four ...
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