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).
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