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About this book

Politics in Ireland is the first major text to provide an accessible and systematic analysis of the politics of Ireland: North as well as South.

With the development of a new Northern Irish political system and increasing links across the island, the authors argue that the time is ripe to study together the two polities, which share so much of a common history but which have had very different evolutions through the twentieth century.

Drawing upon an exceptionally wide range of sources and their own original research, the authors deploy a thematic approach to the study of political institutions, political behaviour and public policy in both the Republic and Northern Ireland in order to produce a detailed, but highly readable, assessment of governance and politics in both political systems. This approach enables them both to outline the differences and similarities between the polities and to explain how they relate to the wider world, in particular to the UK and to Europe.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Introduction

Abstract
Irish politics has been the subject of significant international attention in recent years, in terms of the Republic’s remarkable economic success and temporary status as the ‘Celtic Tiger’ and as a consequence of the Northern Ireland peace process. In both contexts, international attention has been drawn to the politics and policies of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, with a view to discovering the lessons that might be learned from political and economic developments. Ironically, however, those living in either state on the island of Ireland remain largely ignorant of the other. For some time, in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, this was the politically ‘correct’ or ‘appropriate’ disposition to hold towards the other. Many ordinary citizens in the Republic, appalled by the violence in Northern Ireland and seeking to disassociate themselves as far as was possible from it, were proud to claim to know nothing about the politics in (if not of) Northern Ireland. Many ordinary citizens in Northern Ireland, in their desire to accentuate their separateness from the Republic, were equally proud to claim to know nothing about the politics there. To many interested and impartial outside observers, however, the logic of looking at both seems inescapable. That two states with a common origin and many similar influences, yet with divergent political and economic approaches yielding quite different policy styles and stances, have not been considered obvious cases for comparison is indeed remarkable.
Maura Adshead, Jonathan Tonge

Political Institutions

Frontmatter

1. The Executive

Abstract
The Executive is the branch of government responsible for the implementation of laws and policies made by the legislature, the group of decision-makers who take overall responsibility for the direction and coordination of government policy. Executives are usually centred upon the leadership of one individual. This may be the Head of State (e.g. the President in the United States), or the Head of Government (Prime Minister in the UK), or, more occasionally, a combination of the two (such as the semi-presidentialism in France). As has long been noted, ‘because a parliamentary system links the legislature and the executive, the prime minister has greater potential influence upon the direction of government than a president subject to the checks and balances of an American-style constitution’ (Rose, 1991: 9). This potential, however, is generally circumscribed by a variety of formal institutional constraints, political circumstances and conventions, as well as the broader socioeconomic context within which the Prime Minister and government must operate.
Maura Adshead, Jonathan Tonge

2. The Legislature

Abstract
Legislatures are ubiquitous: most countries have them; those without them usually find their absence short-lived; and those countries that have never had them may be counted on one hand (Blondel, 1973: 10; Norton, 1990a: 2). In comparative politics, the range of institutional options for democratic states is limited: ‘with one exception (Switzerland), every existing democracy today is either presidential (as in the United States), parliamentary (as in most of western Europe), or a semi-presidential hybrid of the two (as in France and Portugal, where there is a directly elected president and a prime minister who must have a majority in the legislature’ (Stepan with Skach, 2001: 259). Whilst a presidential regime is characterized by a system of mutual independence (whereby the legislative power has a fixed electoral mandate that is its own source of legitimacy and the executive power has a fixed electoral mandate that is its own source of legitimacy), a parliamentary regime is characterized by a system of mutual dependence. In other words, the executive power must be supported by a majority in the Legislature and can fall if it receives a vote of no confidence. The executive power (normally in conjunction with the Head of State) has the capacity to dissolve the Legislature and call for elections.
Maura Adshead, Jonathan Tonge

3. The Bureaucracy

Abstract
Commenting on the development of the British civil service in the mid-1990s, Dowding (1995: 2) suggested that ‘twenty years ago, writing a book on the civil service was a comparatively easy task. The service had remained largely unchanged for almost a century, acquiring new tasks and departments, rearrangement here and there; but in the main historians of the civil service could stand on the shoulders of their predecessors’. The same could also be said of the Republic’s civil service where, according to one retired secretary, prior to the 1960s ‘the whole ethos of the civil service was against initiative. You did not stick your neck out’ (McNamara, 1990: 78). Zimmerman (1997: 537) noted that the Taoiseach, Sean Lemass, ‘was critical of the passive attitude of departments’ that sought ‘to avoid risks of experimentation and innovation and to confine themselves to vetting and improving proposals brought to them by private interests and individuals, rather than to generate new ideas themselves’ (Lemass, 1961: 5).
Maura Adshead, Jonathan Tonge

4. The Judiciary

Abstract
There are two general types of legal systems: the common-law tradition and the civil-law tradition. Most European states belong to the latter, which originated within the Continental tradition of ‘Roman’ law that has since been transformed into a comprehensive system of legal codes. Within Europe, only Britain, Ireland and Malta are classifiable as common-law systems. Gallagher et al. (1992: 60) notes that ‘the fundamental difference between the two is that common law systems rely much less on “laws”, seen as acts of parliament, and much more on “the law”, seen as the accumulated weight of precedent set by the decisions, definitions, and interpretations made by judges’. In common-law systems, then, judges do not only apply the law as it is set out by parliamentary legislation and other legal documents, they also play a part in making the law by virtue of the fact that their judgements and pronouncements may themselves later be used as precedents for other cases.
Maura Adshead, Jonathan Tonge

Political Behaviour

Frontmatter

5. Political Parties and the Party System

Abstract
‘Comparative political research has tended to overlook the Irish case because it seems that the Irish party system doesn’t fit into the more widely applicable models of party systems’ (Mair, 2003: 119). As Lipset and Rokkan’s (1967) ground-breaking work was applied to case studies throughout Europe, most studies were happy either to leave out the Republic of Ireland case, or to conclude that ‘the Irish party system does not appear to be easily explicable in terms of the cleavage analysis formulated by Lipset and Rokkan’ (1967), since in Ireland ‘electoral behaviour is exceptionally unstructured’ (Carty, 1976: 195). It was argued that ‘in many cases, Irish politics are maverick to Western Europe’ (Henig and Pinder, 1969: 503). Academics were happy to take the view that Ireland could be ‘disregarded because of its size and small industrial base or treated as a special case for historical reasons’ (Epstein, 1967: 138). Views about the uniqueness of the Irish case were typically accompanied by the opinion that Irish political parties were ‘more or less indistinguishable’ (Carty, 1976: 195) and it was even proposed that ‘in no other European polity does such a small number of programmatically indistinguishable parties, each commanding heterogeneous electoral support, constitute an entire party system’ (Carty, 1981: 85). For some time this remained the ‘conventional wisdom’, when, throughout the 1970s and 1980s, a small number of Irish academics began to question this assumption.
Maura Adshead, Jonathan Tonge

6. The Electoral System and Voting Behaviour

Abstract
The use of the single transferable vote (STV) system of proportional representation (PR) in Ireland — North and South — provides rare examples of regular deployment of the system. Whilst PR is very common in Europe, it is usually based upon electoral choices made from predetermined party lists. Within Europe, only Ireland (North and South) and Malta utilize PR-STV for their lower chambers (Mitchell and Gillespie, 1999). Although candidate-based PR-STV is thus associated with Ireland, it might be considered part of the British legacy there. Developed during the 1850s (simultaneously by Carl Andrae in Denmark and Thomas Hare in England), the STV system of PR was strongly advocated by contemporary electoral reform campaigners in Britain (Sinnott, 2005: 107). Moreover, given British concerns regarding the representation of minorities in the event of Home Rule for Ireland, the STV system of PR seemed particularly apposite (in 1912, an element of STV-PR was inserted into the abortive Home Rule bill). Perhaps not surprisingly, the views of contemporary Irish political reformers were ‘substantially influenced by the current thinking in Britain’ (ibid.). The founder of Sinn Féin, Arthur Griffiths, was also one of the founding members of the Proportional Representation Society of Ireland.
Maura Adshead, Jonathan Tonge

7. Civil Society, Interest Groups and Pressure Politics

Abstract
As the evolution of modern welfare states increased the scope and depth of government activities, there was a consequent impact upon political behaviour. Citizens became more politicized and governments became more dependent on an array of groups for cooperation and compliance (Kavanagh et al., 2006: 422). The study of groups and group behaviour became an important part of political science (Latham, 1952; Finer, 1958; Eckstein, 1963; Castles, 1967; Olson, 1971) and it was widely acknowledged that ‘civil society’ — that is the ‘space’ of organized activity that is not undertaken by either the Government or private business — is an important part of all healthy democracies (Putnam, 1993, 2000; Edwards, 2004). Although distinct definitions of civil society vary, they usually include formal and informal associations, such as philanthropic organizations; informal citizen groups and social movements; voluntary and community groups; trade unions; professional and business associations; faith-based organizations; and cooperatives and mutuals. Participation in or membership of such organizations is voluntary in nature. Taken together, these organizations are sometimes referred to as ‘the third sector’ (RIA, 2006; see also Acheson et al., 2004).
Maura Adshead, Jonathan Tonge

8. Political Culture

Abstract
The idea that the political orientations, beliefs and values prevailing among a population constitute a crucial determinant of the type of political system by which that population is governed is not new. The view that the social organization of a population may predispose it to one view of government over another, and that en masse these beliefs render some political systems acceptable or legitimate, was first proposed by Aristotle (1984 [c. 350 BC]) in his treatment of Greek city states; later by Montesquieu (1949 [1748]), when he argued that the nation might operate as a tyranny, a monarchy or a republic, depending on the prevalence of servile, honest or egalitarian dispositions; and later still by Tocqueville (1947 [18561), when he argued that democracy flourished in the United States because of the liberal, egalitarian and participatory orientations of the American people. Similarly, the belief that democracy thrives where the majority of the people share values and attitudes that support the operation of democracy has been put forward by a number of more contemporary authors such as Lasswell (1951), Lipset (1959), Almond and Verba (1963) and Eckstein (1966).
Maura Adshead, Jonathan Tonge

Public Policy

Frontmatter

9. Territorial Administration and Subnational Government

Abstract
The Irish Republic and the UK are states where the institutions and organization of local government are not constitutionally protected. Central government plays the most significant role in determining the form and structure of local government, whose powers are limited to those defined by central government statute. In the Republic, central government approaches to subnational government have been characterized by pragmatism. This is reflected most recently in the government policies of regionalization and decentralization as well as much longer established expediencies, such as the institution of the managerial system for local government and a range of responses to localized problems, evidenced in the massive growth of state-sponsored bodies and different organizations and agencies created by central government. Despite the proliferation of regional agencies, plus a little tinkering with the organization of local government, there has been no substantive reform of subnational government. Instead an ‘administrative jungle’ has grown and thrived as a result of central government’s relatively short-term approach to the organization of subnational government.
Maura Adshead, Jonathan Tonge

10. Economic Management

Abstract
Economic growth comes from a number of sources: natural factor endowments; human resources; investment; entrepreneurship; and astute political management of this mix. Measuring economic growth is not straightforward since there is no clear agreement about the most appropriate metric to use. Most measures tend to be divided into two rough categories, depending on whether they favour income or consumptionoriented statistics. Whatever the measure, most analysts agree that the Republic of Ireland’s performance throughout the post-independence period was poor. Lee (1989: 514) notes that between 1910 and 1970 Ireland recorded the slowest growth of per capita income out of any European country except the UK. For the Republic, every country ranked above Ireland in the early twentieth century pulled much further ahead, and those that were below either overtook or significantly narrowed the gap (ibid.; Haughton, 2000), with the result that ‘the Irish growth rate came at the bottom of the European table by a long way’ (Lee, 1989: 514).
Maura Adshead, Jonathan Tonge

11. Social Policy and the Welfare State

Abstract
For several decades, social policy varied markedly in the two parts of Ireland, following the introduction of the welfare state in Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the dominance of the anti-state-welfare Catholic Church in the Irish Republic. Until independence the only poverty relief measures that existed in Ireland were the application of a limited number of reforms adopted by the British Government and applied in Ireland (see: Burke, 1999: 19–24) These included, in 1908, the Children’s Act and the Old Age Pensions Act, and, in 1911, the National Insurance Act — the first act to provide an insured worker and his family the right to relief. Still, the advent of independence in 1922 did not see an upsurge in social legislation or provisions and it is notable that one of the first acts of the new Irish state was to reduce the rate of old age pension by 10 per cent (Kiely, 1999: 2). Moreover, given that the majority of Irish political institutions and its administrative bureaucracy, as well as such social policy as existed, were all inherited from Britain, it is notable that following independence the evolution of Irish welfare was markedly different to that of the UK (Daly and Yeates, 2003).
Maura Adshead, Jonathan Tonge

12. Ireland in the European Union and Beyond

Abstract
Ireland joined the European Union (EU) in January 1973, the Republic as a full member state and Northern Ireland as a region of the UK. For Northern Ireland, the fact that the region does not have full member status and that most negotiations with the EU are carried out on its behalf by the UK government, which has always been ‘lukewarm’ about Europe, has meant that Northern Irish politicians are not as firmly embedded into the EU system as their southern counterparts. For the Republic, integration with the EU has occurred to such an extent that on all major European issues there is a virtual political consensus across all political parties with the exception of Sinn Féin and the Greens, who are more critical of the EU. In Northern Ireland, the scepticism towards the EU elsewhere in the UK has been evident. In the 1975 referendum on whether the UK should remain within the European Community, only 52 per cent of Northern Ireland’s voters voted in favour of continuing membership, substantially below the overall UK vote in support of 67 per cent. Many Unionists questioned the value of EU membership, whilst Sinn Féin opposed EU membership until the late 1990s. Only the SDLP among the major northern parties has consistently been strongly supportive of the EU, even briefly advocating a role (during the early 1990s) for the EU Commission in the administration of Northern Ireland. All the other parties have overcome initial opposition to the EU and have become much greater backers, recognizing the financial benefits on offer.
Maura Adshead, Jonathan Tonge

Conclusion

Conclusion

Abstract
We have attempted to examine government and politics in Ireland across three dimensions, looking at political institutions, political behaviour and significant elements of public policy. In terms of political institutions, clear similarities exist between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland. Both have parliamentary structures that have evolved from the Westminster model. Members of representative institutions adopt constituency work as arguably more important than their legislative functions. The Irish Republic and Northern Ireland both utilize the PR-STV voting system and both polities operate under coalition government, within which interparty bargaining shapes policy outputs. Local government powers are low in both states, exceptionally so in Northern Ireland, where local councils are the weakest in Western Europe. The respective civil services operate on similar lines, shaped by the Whitehall model of permanency and neutrality, whilst both have been subject to managerial reforms designed to introduce a more innovative and dynamic culture. Since 1998, political actors in both states have opted for constitutional politics framed directly by the GFA and indirectly by a system of common law and legal jurisprudence common to both polities.
Maura Adshead, Jonathan Tonge
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