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Le Tigre celtique en question

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Catherine Maignant

The “Celtic Tiger”: Economic Modernization and its Social and Political Ramifications in Ireland

William Crotty (1999)

Résumé

Résumé : Les changements économiques ont des conséquences multiples, menant notamment à des ajustements politiques qui peuvent transformer une société. Les succès économiques de l’Irlande ont abouti à une restructuration fondamentale de son économie. Cet article, écrit en 1999, défend l’idée que le système économique irlandais a évolué de telle manière qu’il a contribué de façon significative à la mise en place d’une société plus ouverte et plus largement démocratique.

Abstract: Economic change has many consequences, forcing social and political adjustments that can transform a society. The change in Ireland’s economic fortunes has resulted in a fundamental restructuring of the Irish economy. This article written in 1999 argues that the Irish economic system has evolved in such a way as to make a substantial contribution to achieving a more open and broadly democratic society.

Texte intégral

1Economic change has many consequences, forcing social and political adjustments that can transform a society. It is the direction that such changes take and their ramifications for a democratic society that are of interest and provide the focal point for examining the political and structural implications economic restructuring has for the Irish nation.

  • 1 John H. Goldthorpe, Christopher T. Whelan (eds), The Development of Industrial Society in Ireland, (...)

2The change in Ireland’s economic fortunes – through a program of planned economic change and periodic structural adjustments, initiated and supervised by successive party governments over a period of four decades – has resulted in a fundamental restructuring of the Irish economy.1 It has also resulted in an economy that has grown faster than that of the United Kingdom since 1960 and the average for Western Europe since 1973. By the late 1990s, it was three times its 1960 size, contributing to an economic boom that is one of the contemporary era’s most impressive success stories.

A History of Economic Change

3In the immediate aftermath of Independence, Ireland focused on its agricultural sector. The reasons were many. There was a nationalistic emphasis to the approach; agriculture provided a clear continuity with the past; one-half of the work force was in agriculture; and agriculture appeared to represent the best chance for economic viability and individual and national economic independence. The rural values associated with agriculture were ones the state would choose to emphasize as traditionally Irish and enmeshed (in 1937) in its Constitution. Agriculture held the greatest promise of economic growth in the initial free-trade market approach.

4The free trade emphasis lasted a decade. In 1932, Fianna Fáil won office and in response to the Great Depression and collapsing global markets introduced a policy of protectionism meant to nurture and sustain Ireland’s fledgling industries and, as with agriculture, contribute directly to its economic self-sufficiency and decrease its dependence on foreign imports and other nations (primarily the UK). This emphasis marked the government’s approach to economic development up to the beginnings of the modern era. Anthony J. Leddin and Brendan M. Walsh write:

  • 2 Anthony J. Leddin, Brendan M. Walsh, The Macroeconomy of Ireland, 3rd ed., Dublin, Gill & Macmillan (...)

Foreign investment was virtually excluded and high tariffs were imposed on imports to protect anyone willing to manufacture products in Ireland. The level of protection of Irish industry remained extremely high for the next four decades. Even as late as 1966 the average rate of effective protection of Irish manufacturing industry was almost 80 per cent, one of the highest in the western world. In addition, measures were introduced to encourage the growth of native Irish industry, as well as a more labour-intensive pattern of farming.
Ireland was a largely rural and underdeveloped nation at this point, one of the poorest in Europe. Employment and living standards were down; emigration, always a concern, increased; and stagnation was rampant. The situation as described in a report by the government itself bordered on the desperate. According to the department of Finance report: “The mood of despondency was palpable. Something had to be done or the achievement of national independence would prove to have been a futility”.
2

5Strong words! The response, initiated by Thomas K. Whitaker, who wrote the report, was “to devote more resources on an orderly basis to productive investment”. The retirement from politics of Eamon De Valera, a champion of rural virtues in the early Republic, and the selection of Seán Lemass as Taoiseach (Prime Minister) offered the opportunity for a totally new approach to economic development, one seized on by Whitaker:

  • 3 Ibid.

[…] Over the winter and spring of 1957 -1958, a comprehensive survey of the economy, extending to its potentialities as well as to its deficiencies, was prepared in the Department of Finance. This was presented to the Government in May 1958 and was published under the title Economic Development in November of that year, simultaneously with the First Programme for Economic Expansion, which was based upon it.3

6This was to be the first of a series of government-sponsored, and implemented, economic plans that were to transform the nation’s economy. It was followed by a series of both major and less influential reports. Among the earliest were the Department of Finance’s Second Programme for Economic Expansion (1964) and Third Programme: Economic and Social Development, 1969-1972 (1968).

7The first government-sponsored economic plans (the Whitaker proposal of 1958) exceeded all expectations. It envisioned a growth rate for the economy of 2% per year. In fact, this projected rate was doubled with corresponding increases in other economic indicators (GNP, employment opportunities, imports and personal expenditures).

8Among the plans to follow the Third Programme were: National Development 1977-1980 (1977); The Way Forward (1982); Proposals for Plan 19841987 (1984), proposals closer in spirit to the First Programme of 1958; Building on Reality (1984); with an emphasis much like the related plan published the same year; Programme for National Recovery 1987-1990 (1987), primarily setting agreed-to wage increases, an agreement among businesses, trade unions and the government to restrict wage increases to 2.5% per year over the ensuing three years; Programme for Economic and Social Progress (1991), limiting wage increases for the years 1991-1994; Report of the Review Group on Industrial Policy (Culliton report) (1982), arguing against direct government “rent-seeking” policies of tax incentives and monetary grants to multinationals and other such initiatives in favor of developing an economic climate supportive of private enterprise; Programme for Competitiveness and Work (1994), setting wage policies for the period 1994-1997; and the National Development Plan: 1994-1999, targeting industry subsidies, training and job programs and infrastructure improvements.

9Ireland was to join the European Economic Community in 1972 and become in time a major player in, and beneficiary of, its association with the European Union. The EU opened new markets for the Irish economy; allowed multinationals to locate in a country with access to the European market. The EU also provided subsidies and transfer funds to spur development and help rebuild Ireland’s infrastructure.

10In general, it can be said that the economic programs of greatest influence had a number of dimensions in common and that these framed government policy:

  • an emphasis on an “open” economy;

  • subsidies and tax breaks to attract multinationals (a policy now facing change);

  • strong educational and training programs, proposals presently receiving renewed emphasis;

  • modernized infrastructure from roads and transportation to port facilities;

  • targeted public subsidies to promote favorable industry growth and trade (see Ireland, 1963, 1969, 1993).

11There is another factor of consequence also often forgotten or de emphasized when economists review these developments. A succession of governments under control of both of the political parties committed to the objectives of economic redevelopment, an open economy, international trade, public subsidies for selected industries and corporations, infrastructure improvement, educational training, and, more broadly, an alliance among business, trade unions, and the government to achieve common economic goals. The various governments also managed to bring the public and key groups along with them, as evident in the cooperative agreements of the last decade establishing agreed upon wage standards. Overall it is an impressive picture not only of economic growth and success but of what governments can do to achieve such objectives through informed planning and a sustained political will.

12To a degree, this all appears familiar now. It is worth remembering that change did not come easily. In one sense, Ireland was not well positioned for the economic restructuring advocated by the government. An earlier report (1952) by American consultants highlighted some of the difficulties to be faced. It referred to “the heavy hand of government control that tended to stifle business” and to a creed or belief system in Ireland that favored “an anti-materialist philosophy […], an asceticism that opposes material aspirations [as subordinate to] spiritual goals”. The report referred to “an undercurrent of pessimism” in achieving economic change and went on to say:

  • 4 Richard Finnegan, James Wiles, “The Invisible Hand or Hands Across the Water? American Consultants (...)

The talk is of economic expansion but the actions of government, business and labor alike is too often along the lines of consolidating present positions rather than accept the hazards inherent in changed practice upon which expansion depends. There are few evidences of boldness or assurance in economic behavior to give substance to expressed economic aims.4

  • 5 Cathal Guiomard, The Irish Disease and How to Cure It: Common-Sense Economics for a Competitive Wor (...)

13Yet despite occasional, and sometimes substantial setbacks, change did take place and with it a level of economic success difficult to imagine and even more difficult to associate with the economic conditions that prevailed in the 1950s when the process was initiated.5

14The present likelihood is that economic expansion and the prosperity associated with it are likely to be maintained for the foreseeable future. Government projections released in 1997 saw a continued growth in the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and the GNP (Gross National Product); a decline in unemployment, politically the most sensitive issue facing the country; increased consumer spending; a growth in fixed investments; a balance of payments surplus and a strong export market, especially for high technology industries, a staple of the new economy; low to moderate inflation (2%); and only a modest budgetary deficit (7% of the GDP). Overall, the projections indicate a continued strong performance with a continuity in trends well into the next century. Ireland’s rate of economic growth is impressive by any standard and if present trends continue as envisioned it may well continue to outperform its European partners.

  • 6 Chris Mahoney, “New Money in Old World”, Boston Business Journal, December 4-10, 1998, p. 1-56.

15Also of relevance, if estimates of a “Euroland” market open to Irish trade of 290 million people with a 19% share of the world’s GDP and a stock market capitalization of $2.2 trillion (projected to grow to $7 trillion – compared to the United States’ $6.8 trillion – by the year 2003) are close to being accurate, the Irish situation – with its informed political leadership and sensible economic planning – could do very well indeed6.

Irish Economic Growth over Time

16The dimensions of change that have taken place within the Irish economy and the success the nation has enjoyed in these regards can be illustrated through reference to some standard economic indicators. An examination of the growth in GNP and GNP per capita along with population growth for the entire period is impressive (table 1).

  • 7 Irish pounds at constant 1990 prices.
  • 8 1 IR£ = 1.269 euros; 1 euro = 0.78756 IR£. GNP in million euros (at current 1995 market prices): 55 (...)

Table 1 – GNP Growth in Ireland, selected years 1961-19967 (in IR£ millions)8

Table 1 – GNP Growth in Ireland, selected years 1961-19967 (in IR£ millions)8

Source: adapted from Paul Tansey, Ireland at Work: Economic Growth and the Labour Market, 1987-1997, Dublin, Oak Tree Press, 1998, table 1.1, p. 14; and references cited therein.

  • 9 Sources cited in “Data Appendix”, in Anthony J. Leddin, Brendan M. Walsh, The Macroeconomy of Irela (...)
  • 10 After reaching 6.2 % in 2000, it went down to 2.2 % in 2004. It was roughly 2.5 % in 2005. Source: (...)

17The GNP grew at an extraordinary 253% for the period, with a per capita GNP growth of 174% in a population that had increased by 800,000 (28.7%). Inflation varied during the period but from 1985 on average 5% or less9. It was 3.2% in 199810. The major problem area in an otherwise robust economy were the unemployment rates (see below), although employment grew at what Kieran Kennedy has referred to as a “remarkable rate” of just under 4% per year in the mid-1990s (1993-1997) (table 2).

Table 2 – GDP Growth in Ireland, selected years 1926-1997

Table 2 – GDP Growth in Ireland, selected years 1926-1997

Source: Kieran A. Kennedy, The Irish Economy Transformed”, Studies: an Irish Quaterly Review, 87, n° 345, 1998, p. 333-342; and sources cited therein.

18When the GDP is examined the figures are equally impressive (table 2). The GDP for the years 1960-1997 is 4.2%, significantly above that of the earlier periods (averaging 0.9% for 1926-1947, 2.3% for 1947-1960). The most significant growth occurred in the most recent period 1993-1997 (8.2% compared to an average of 3.5% for the years 1960-1993). The GDP rate per capita and per worker as well as the employment rate show the greatest increases also during the mid-1990s (table 2). When the GDP output and private consumption per capita are compared to the UK and EU averages the same pattern emerges: poor performance in the early 1960s; growth since then, although at times uneven, with the greatest increases in the 1990s. The increases in per capita output exceed the UK and EU averages in 1997 and in private consumption run about just under 90% of those in the UK and EU [compared, as examples, to 1960 per capita averages of 50% (output) and 61% (consumption) with the UK in 1960 and 60% (output) and 78% (consumption) with the EU in the same year] (table 2).

19Ireland does well, as would be expected, in its average GDP growth rate where compared with other nations (table 3). First, comparisons both in terms of total GDP and GDP per capita for the years 1960-1992 to the averages for the OECD nations, it begins below the others in the 1960s but its economy performs better on both indicators during the 1970s and 1980s and for the period as a whole. Matched with selected other countries (Britain, Germany, Spain, the United States) during much of the same period, a similar pattern emerges. During the 1960s it began behind each of the others (and well behind three of the four). Its performance improved and it narrowed the gap for the most part during the 1970s and 1980s. The greatest change came in the 1990s and by the mid-1990s Ireland was doing better in GDP per capita and in purchasing power than Britain and Spain and positioned itself not far behind Germany (although well behind the United States) (table 3).

20One problem identified in the first of the government’s economic planning reports was

  • 11 1958; quoted in John W. O’Hagan (ed.), The Economy of Ireland…, p. 219.

the insufficiency of […] current savings as a basis for national capital formation on the scale that would be necessary to enable us even to follow at some distance the rising standards in the rest of Europe.11

21This also appears to have improved significantly (table 4). Investment levels lagged behind the UK and the EU average during the 1960s, but exceeded them in both the 1970s and the 1980s (with the greatest distance evident between Ireland and the UK).

22Although all of the forces that have contributed to Ireland’s economic growth are not completely clear, the basic ones appear to be:

  • 12 Kieran A. Kennedy, “The Irish Economy Transformed”, p. 40.

23There is no difficulty in proposing likely explanatory factors: the firm and successful tackling of the public finance crisis from 1987; the sound anti-inflationary policies followed by successive governments since then; the moderate pay arrangements negotiated through the National Partnership agreements beginning in 1987; the huge inflow of high-tech multinationals; the sustained improvement in educational participation; and the large injection of EU structural Funds.12

Table 3 – Comparative GDP Growth Rate (in percent)

Table 3 – Comparative GDP Growth Rate (in percent)

Source: Anthony J. Leddin, Brendan M. Walsh, The Macroeconomy of Ireland, table 2.1, p. 19; and sources cited therein.

* Diluted by German unification
Source: Paul Tansey, Ireland at Work: Economic Growth and the Labour Market, 19871997, table 1.8, p. 31; and references cited therein. Figures from 1996: Eurostat, http://epp.eurostat.cec.eu.int/​portal. 2004 GDP per capita in PPS: 137.1 in Ireland; 108.7 in Germany; 116.3 in UK; 150.6 in USA.

Table 4 – Investment as Percent of GDP, 1960-1990 Ireland, the UK and EU (in percent)

Table 4 – Investment as Percent of GDP, 1960-1990 Ireland, the UK and EU (in percent)

Source: Cormac Ó Gráda, Kevin O’Rourke, Economic Growth: Performance and Explanations, in John W. O’Hagan (ed.), The Economy of Ireland…, table 7.2, p. 215; and sources cited therein.

  • 13 Ibid., p. 34.

24Ireland has done exceedingly well in the manner in which it directed and targeted its business and infrastructure investment; the economic policies its political leadership chose to pursue; its capitalizing on the market provided through entry to the EU and the use made of the structural funds and transfers gained from EU membership; its disciplining of domestic wage rises through cooperative trade union-private business-government agreements; its ability to achieve strong public support over time for sustaining the policies initiated; and for the general quality of the political decision-making in adopting and promoting the economic programs and then staying the course, with adjustments made as necessary. From the late 1960s on and even more in the 1990s, it was truly an “amazing” record of accomplishment as Kennedy has said.13

  • 14 Paul Tansey, Ireland at Work….
  • 15 Brian Nolan, Tim Callan (eds.), Poverty and Policy in Ireland, Dublin, Gill & Macmillan, 1994; Rich (...)

25There are problems of course. Unemployment may be a more intractable and long-run problem than the government realizes. A class bias is obvious in unemployment14. It is most pronounced among the less skilled, less highly educated and less well-off sectors of the working force. The Irish government has placed its major emphasis on high-tech service industry development, an area least receptive to an unskilled, undereducated work force.15

  • 16 John Coakley, “Society and Political Culture”, in John Coakley, Michael Gallagher (eds), Politics i (...)

26Ireland is also seeing a polarization in income between the younger upper middle class professionals whose life styles and skills are directly related to the economic modernization under way and the more traditional, less fortunate elements in the society who have gained little. This is an unpleasant development for a country whose cultural and social development has emphasized an equality of life stations.16

  • 17 Tony Fahey, “Progress or Decline? Demographic Change in Political Context”, in William Crotty, Davi (...)

27The state, in addition, is under pressure to cut its social welfare programming and its once encompassing social service networks17. A globalized economy and a free-market emphasis work to undermine extensive state intervention in economic matters and extensive social welfare protections, many of which were often taken as birth rights.

28Nonetheless, Ireland is prospering and in a relatively short period of time has emerged as a major player in Europe’s economic revival. Its economic restructuring has resulted in the emergence of a new social order, international in perspective, aggressive and self-confident in approach. The major question is will it last. Three answers to this question are presented. Two are measured, cautionary and to a degree, uncertain; the other considerably more enthusiastic. These serve to encompass the range of current opinions.

29First, taking a long-run perspective, the more restrained of the projections:

  • 18 Kieran A. Kennedy, Thomas Giblin, Deirdre McHugh, The Economic Development of Ireland in the Twenti (...)

[…] Ireland is […] structurally better adapted to develop economically in the future than it was in the 1920s. No longer is it dependent on one slowly growing market (the UK) and one slowly growing product (food). Instead, as an established member of the EEC/EU, it has free access to a vast market, and its export structure is heavily concentrated in modern manufactures with a good growth record and good growth prospects. Managerial and industrial skills have been improved and are more widely dispersed among the labour force. A much smaller proportion of the labour force is now located in activities subject to inevitable decline.18

  • 19 Cormac O’Grada, A Rocky Road: The Irish Economy since the 1920s, Manchester, Manchester University (...)

[…] It is Ireland’s fast economic growth that has captured the headlines… But are recent trends in the South simply compensation for all the spare capacity created by bad policy in the late 1970s? Are they the product of the fiscal medicine of the mid-1980s, or do they stem instead from EU structural funds and distortionary transfers to farmers and industrialists? Are they the fruit of three decades of commitment to outward-oriented economic policies, affecting both commodity and factor movements? Or do they mark the beginning of a new higher-growth steady state for the Southern economy? Only time can tell.19

30The third forecast is a considerably more bullish look at Ireland and its economic achievements:

  • 20 Paul Sweeney, The Celtic Tiger Ireland’s Economic Miracle Explained, Dublin, Oak Tree Press, 1998, (...)

The success of the Irish economy in the last decade has been unsurpassed in its history. The performance since the late 1980s has been superb and this is demonstrated by virtually every economic indicator. The boom has been evenly spread; it has lasted over ten years; there is no sign of overheating; and it is likely to continue. Economic growth (GNP) in the five years to 1998 is averaging 7.5 per cent a year – a stunning performance. Employment has grown by 216,000 additional jobs since 1987. Many of the new jobs are high-skill, high-wage, and are being filled by young educated people. […]The Irish miracle appears to have built a solid modern foundation on which a lasting edifice can be built. This foundation is good infrastructure, investment in that important capital – human beings – and a healthy demographic structure. This should leave the country far better placed than most for the foreseeable future. The new approach in many areas, including the new forms of work organisation, where more people are empowered at every level of the economy and society, has the potential to make Ireland one of the world’s leading economies.20

Social Change in a more Pluralistic Society

31Ireland’s economic resurgence has been accompanied by major changes in many areas of social values and some changes of significance in virtually all. The result is a country moving towards a more pluralistic, open, and accepting society. It is a nation moving away from an earlier and more sectarian base towards norms in close proximity to those dominant in Europe as a whole.

32Ireland remains more religious on most indicators than other European nations and more authoritarian in outlook, as measured in terms of respect for political institutions, government authority, status figures, and the police. On other indicators, the society has begun to show an openness and receptivity to values more characteristic of the Continent historically than they are of a nation whose 1937 Constitution, as an example, recognized “the special position of the Catholic Church” as “the guardian of the Faith professed by the great majority of the citizens”.

  • 21 Marguerite Corish, “Aspects of the Secularisation of Irish Society”, in Eoin G. Cassidy (ed.), Fait (...)

33In relation to religion, most Irish remain Catholic – over 90% of the population express an identification with the Church. However, the nature and quality of the identification is being recast21. The role of the Roman Catholic Church within the society, the impact of its policies and views on the leaders and politics of the state, and their relevance for the life of the citizen have come under challenge. The questioning of Church doctrine and of the Catholic Church’s social impact is a product of a number of sources: Vatican II; the accusations of sexual and official misconduct brought against clergy and others in the Church; and the nation’s changing social base and openness to new ideas and values have all had an impact. The Catholic Church appears less involved and less influential in politics and government and less authoritative in its teachings and its impact on the behavior of significant sectors in the society.

  • 22 Gemma Hussey, Ireland Today, London, Penguin Books, 1995, p. 395.

The Irish people are emerging from centuries of unquestioning loyalty to the Catholic Church to face a world full of uncertainties. [And] their dominant Church struggles to come to terms itself with a changing country and its changing people.22

  • 23 Michael P. Hornsby-Smith, Christopher Whelan, “Religious and Moral Values”, in Christopher Whelan ( (...)

34While the role of the Catholic Church is changing, the religious commitments of the Irish people remains strong. The 1990 European Values Survey compared the Irish State with Catholic practices in Northern Ireland and other European nations.23 Some findings: Irish Catholic religiosity is substantially more pronounced than that of Catholics in other European nations; Irish Catholics attend religious services with significant regularity and express a confidence in their church (although both also are in decline, dropping from 81% and 72% respectively in 1990 to levels of 67% and 66% by 1994); and they are more likely to accept the traditional religious teachings of the Church, from a belief in heaven and hell to the resurrection of the dead and life after death. The Catholic population of the other European nations do not approach the Irish in the intensity of these beliefs.

35In relation to the areas considered appropriate for the Catholic Church to exercise its influence, there is less conflict in the views that emerge as they relate to moral, family and spiritual concerns, but the Irish (even more so than European Catholics) draw the line on social problems. In a related question, an average of 75% of the Catholics in the Republic feel it is proper for the Church to speak out on issues ranging from Third World conditions and social and other forms of discrimination to homosexuality, but only 36% would extend this tolerance to government policy. This appears to be a particularly sensitive area for the Irish in general.

36Religious toleration and the acceptance of a diversity of positions, beliefs and practices of worship are not easy to come by. It does, however, appear to be evolving. Religious views are affected by demographic variables such as age, social class, occupation, education, gender and urban-rural residency with generally the younger, better educated and those of higher social status indicating a greater distancing from conventional Catholic teachings. Still, by these indices, the secularization of Irish society while slow is apparent among certain social groupings. Michael P. Hornsby-Smith and Christopher T. Whelan in summarizing these forces write:

  • 24 Michael P. Hornsby-Smith, Christopher Whelan, “Religious and Moral Values”, p. 43.

Church attendance in Ireland, adherence to traditional religious values and levels of religiosity remain remarkably high by Western European standard […] the Catholic Church can take satisfaction from the extent to which Irish society has remained insulated from secularisation influence […] confidence in its ability to provide solutions to problems in a variety of areas is relatively low and has declined over the past decade. At the same time there is clear majority support for the view that it is appropriate for the church to speak out on a wide range of social and moral issues. The evidence relating to the younger cohorts does suggest the possibility that, after a time lag of some decades, Irish Catholics will be seen to come significantly closer to western European norms.24

37In terms of social attitudes, the Irish tend to be more conservative and authoritarian on the average than their European cousins. They also take a greater pride in their country and their social institutions than those in other European countries. As examples, and calling on data from the 1990 European Values Survey and the 1994 “Living in Ireland” survey, as reported by Whelan and associates (1994) and Hardiman and Whelan (1998), 78% of the Irish are “very proud” of their nationality compared with a European average of 38%. They also have more confidence in their political and social institutions (excepting the legal system and the media) than the average European. An extraordinary 85% take pride in their police (as against a European average of 65%). Again, however, when the 1990 survey is compared with the 1994 survey, there is a modest drop-off in support for most institutions and a severe drop in the confidence expressed on behalf of the Dáil (from 50% to 24% of the respondents expressing support).

38Political and social views generally reinforce the picture of a more conservative, traditional and less cosmopolitan citizenry. The Irish are more conservative to moderate and significantly less leftish politically than their neighbors. In relation to ideological self-placement, a questioning of institutions of authority and sexual permissiveness, they score as substantially more conservative than other Europeans. Only on measures of economic liberalism do they approach the European norm. They give less support to free speech protections, have considerably greater respect for authority in general and are more likely to favor clear and absolute guidelines as to good and evil. And they are more likely to believe that political change is moving too rapidly, again all in comparison with the averages for European countries as a whole.

  • 25 Niamh Hardiman, Christopher Whelan, « Changing Values », in William Crotty, David Schmitt (eds), Ir (...)

39Various aspects of authoritarianism and its role in Irish society have been assessed by Michael MacGrieb, David E. Schmitt, and by others. Whatever its less democratically useful aspects, by working through the institution of the Church early in the nation’s evolution and given the Catholic Church’s support of nationalism it can be said to have had a positive impact in reinforcing an early acceptance of, and continued support for, the state. The Church also reinforced the early state by fulfilling many of its educational and social welfare responsibilities. In general, authoritarian attitudes do appear stronger in Ireland than in most other western democracies. As with the other measures and indicators of social values, there is a substantial difference in acceptance and support by social grouping, with age (younger cohorts) and education (those with more formal schooling) in particular predictors of less rigid attitudes.25

40In relation to gender issues, and particularly the role of women in society, an emphasis on traditional family structure and the role of woman as nurturer, mother and wife have historically been dominating themes in Irish cultural life. The Constitution of 1937 (Article 41) emphasized the woman’s role as mother and center piece of the family’s home life and a series of laws and church decrees discouraged or banned outright everything from divorce and contraception to recruiting women for the public service, provocative dress and close dancing.

  • 26 Yvonne Galligan, “The Changing Role of Women”, in William Crotty, David Schmitt (eds), Ireland and (...)

41Progress in many areas has been slow, but the situation is changing.26 Most dramatically, the election as President of the outspoken feminist and humanitarian, Mary Robinson, in 1990 and her successor, Mary McAleese, a professor of law from Northern Ireland (in itself, an example of changing times) and feminist as President of the Republic in 1997, provided a broad gauge of the changes in attitudes underway. The beginning of the women’s movement and the entrance into the European Union has meant a conformity to laws equalizing employment opportunities and pay and an emphasis on greater protection for the woman’s status in society. The feminist movement begun in the 1960s has drawn attention to issues long neglected or ignored of concern to women and, along with the more general trends in the secularization of the society, has resulted in advances.

  • 27 Michael Hornsby-Smith, Christopher Whelan, “Religious and Moral Values”; Yvonne Galligan,”The Chang (...)

42Social attitudes relevant to women and the family are, in themselves perhaps as good a gauge as is available to the pull of traditional views, the pressure to adapt to a modernizing society and the contradictions that exist. These concerns go to the heart of a traditional society in Ireland and its struggle to transform itself.27 Despite the most recent referendums on the subjects, Irish acceptance of divorce and abortion are well below levels for other European nations (ratios of one-half to one-third the support levels in the other countries). The Irish are much less sympathetic in allowing for conditions under which abortions can be performed, averaging a little over a 25 points difference between themselves and other Europeans in the scenarios presented. On the other hand, European and Irish attitudes are generally comparable related to women’s employment, with the highest discrepancies resulting over the effect a working mother has on children and the belief that being a housewife is as satisfying as participating in the work force. On both issues, the Irish support the more traditional position (by an average 15 percentage points). Christopher T. Whelan and Tony Fahey who conducted this particular analysis of data from the European Values Study report that overall

  • 28 Christopher Whelan, Tony Fahey, “Marriage and the Family”, in Christopher Whelan (ed.), Values and (...)

[…] while Irish attitudes are not significantly more traditional than European views, the pattern of results does point to the continuing influence of values that underpin sex role differentiation.28

  • 29 Niamh Hardiman, Christopher Whelan, “Changing Values”

43Still, while the employment of women outside the home may still fall below the levels in other advanced democratic nations, the greatest increase in female employment between 1961 and 1991 was among married women, increased by a factor of seven to where it essentially reaches the level for all women in the society (37% to 39%).29

44Gender – males of all ages tend to be more conservative on these issues, women more supportive – women’s employment, age (the younger are more in favor), and education (those with more formal education are more in favor) influence views. The polar extremes are represented by less educated males over 60 years of age and unemployed as against younger, highly educated, professional women who strongly favor women’s equality. The views held by the younger and better educated can be taken as an indication of the direction the society is heading in.

45In sum, the change in social attitudes has been uneven, impacting social groupings and traditional commitments differently. The role of the Catholic Church is in transition, its once formidable influence weakened. The Republic of Ireland remains heavily Catholic, it is a country with a long history of support for the Church, and one that continues to show a strong sense of religious commitment. The role of women is also in flux and, in broad perspective, social attitudes are supportive of a more tolerant, less rigid and more open society. This appears to be an indication of the future direction of the society, given the views of younger, more affluent and more professional groups as compared with those of the oldest cohorts in the society. Ireland, as in the economic sphere, is in the process of moving closer to the European norm on most issues, giving evidence of an increasingly secularized and pluralistic society.

 

46Ireland is a nation in transition, and arguably one changing faster and distancing itself more from its historical roots than any other long-established democracy. It appears the engine of change has been economic. The economic changes that have occurred – fueled by carefully considered and self-conscious government policies – have resulted in a society more affluent and more committed to its presence in a global economy than its rural, agricultural and protectionist past would have believed possible or desirable.

47Social values are also undergoing change – the societal role of the Roman Catholic Church, religious commitments more generally, the thinking on gender roles and adherence to democratic norms are approaching the standards for such broadly democratic practices and values in other European societies. The contribution of the economic modernization to the changing social structure and its commitments provides an argument as to the potentially critical role and contributions of economic performance to a democratic nation.

  • 30 Robert A. Dahl, A Preface to Economic Democracy, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1985, p. (...)

48In A Preface to Economic Democracy, Robert A. Dahl has argued that “because we wish to advance political equality, the democratic process, and primary political rights, we insist that our economic order must help to bring about these values, or at the very least not impair them”.30 The Irish experience has been fortunate in this regard. It would appear that the Irish economic system has met such criteria and, in the process, served to make a substantial contribution to achieving a more open and broadly democratic contemporary society.

Notes

1 John H. Goldthorpe, Christopher T. Whelan (eds), The Development of Industrial Society in Ireland, Oxford, Oxford University Press (Proceedings of the British Academy; 79), 1994; John W. O’Hagan (ed.), The Economy of Ireland: Policy and performance of a small European country, Dublin, Gill & Macmillan, 1995; John K. Jacobsen, Chasing Progress in the Irish Republic: Ideology, democracy, and dependent development, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1994; Ronaldo Munck, The Irish Economy: Results and Prospects, London, Pluto Press, 1993; Cormac Ó Gráda, Ireland: a New Economic History 1780-1939, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1995; Richard Breen et al., Understanding Contemporary Ireland: State, Class and Development in the Republic of Ireland, Dublin, Gill & Macmillan, 1990; Brian Girvin, “Political Culture, Political Independence and Economic Success in Ireland”, Irish Political Studies, XII, 1997, p. 48-77.

2 Anthony J. Leddin, Brendan M. Walsh, The Macroeconomy of Ireland, 3rd ed., Dublin, Gill & Macmillan, 1995 [1992], p. 27.

3 Ibid.

4 Richard Finnegan, James Wiles, “The Invisible Hand or Hands Across the Water? American Consultants and Irish Economic Policies”, Eire-Ireland – A Journal of Irish Studies, XXX, n° 2, 1995, p. 45.

5 Cathal Guiomard, The Irish Disease and How to Cure It: Common-Sense Economics for a Competitive World, Dublin, Oak Tree Press, 1995.

6 Chris Mahoney, “New Money in Old World”, Boston Business Journal, December 4-10, 1998, p. 1-56.

7 Irish pounds at constant 1990 prices.

8 1 IR£ = 1.269 euros; 1 euro = 0.78756 IR£. GNP in million euros (at current 1995 market prices): 55,073 in 1997 and 74,951 in 2002. Population in 2002: 3,917,303.

9 Sources cited in “Data Appendix”, in Anthony J. Leddin, Brendan M. Walsh, The Macroeconomy of Ireland, p. 16.

10 After reaching 6.2 % in 2000, it went down to 2.2 % in 2004. It was roughly 2.5 % in 2005. Source: Central Statistics Office.

11 1958; quoted in John W. O’Hagan (ed.), The Economy of Ireland…, p. 219.

12 Kieran A. Kennedy, “The Irish Economy Transformed”, p. 40.

13 Ibid., p. 34.

14 Paul Tansey, Ireland at Work….

15 Brian Nolan, Tim Callan (eds.), Poverty and Policy in Ireland, Dublin, Gill & Macmillan, 1994; Richard Breen, Christopher Whelan, Social Mobility and Social Class in Ireland, Dublin, Gill & Macmillan, 1996; Michael Hout, Following in Father’s Footsteps: Social Mobility in Ireland, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989; Richard Breen et al., Understanding Contemporary Ireland

16 John Coakley, “Society and Political Culture”, in John Coakley, Michael Gallagher (eds), Politics in the Republic of Ireland, 2nd ed., Dublin, Folens – PSAI Press, 1993 [1994].

17 Tony Fahey, “Progress or Decline? Demographic Change in Political Context”, in William Crotty, David Schmitt (eds), Ireland and the Politics of Change, London, Longman, 1998, p. 51-65; Tony Fahey, John FitzGerald, Welfare Implications of Demographic Trends, Dublin, Oak Tree Press, 1997.

18 Kieran A. Kennedy, Thomas Giblin, Deirdre McHugh, The Economic Development of Ireland in the Twentieth Century, London, Routledge, 1988, p. 265.

19 Cormac O’Grada, A Rocky Road: The Irish Economy since the 1920s, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 1997, p. 234.

20 Paul Sweeney, The Celtic Tiger Ireland’s Economic Miracle Explained, Dublin, Oak Tree Press, 1998, p. 14-15.

21 Marguerite Corish, “Aspects of the Secularisation of Irish Society”, in Eoin G. Cassidy (ed.), Faith and Culture in the Irish Context, Dublin, Veritas, 1996; Richard Breen et al., Understanding Contemporary Ireland…; Tom Inglis, Moral Monopoly: The Catholic Church in Modern Irish Society, Dublin, Gill & Macmillan, 1987; John H. Whyte, Church and State in Modern Ireland, 1923-1979, Dublin, Gill & Macmillan, 1980; Peter Berger, The Social Reality of Religion, London, Faber & Faber, 1969; Terence Brown, Ireland: a Social and Cultural History 1922-1985, London, Fontana Press – Harper Collins, 1985; Joseph Lee, Ireland 1912-1985: Politics and Society, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1995.

22 Gemma Hussey, Ireland Today, London, Penguin Books, 1995, p. 395.

23 Michael P. Hornsby-Smith, Christopher Whelan, “Religious and Moral Values”, in Christopher Whelan (ed.), Values and Social Change, Dublin, Gill & Macmillan, 1994, p. 7-44.

24 Michael P. Hornsby-Smith, Christopher Whelan, “Religious and Moral Values”, p. 43.

25 Niamh Hardiman, Christopher Whelan, « Changing Values », in William Crotty, David Schmitt (eds), Ireland and the Politics of Change, p. 66-85 ; Michael Hornsby-Smith, »Social and Religious Transformation in Ireland. A Case of Secularisation ? », in John Goldthorpe, Cristopher Whelan (eds), The Development of Industrial Society in Ireland, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1994, p. 265-290.

26 Yvonne Galligan, “The Changing Role of Women”, in William Crotty, David Schmitt (eds), Ireland and the Politics of Change, p. 107-121; Niamh Hardiman, Christopher Whelan, “Changing Values”.

27 Michael Hornsby-Smith, Christopher Whelan, “Religious and Moral Values”; Yvonne Galligan,”The Changing Role of Women”; from the same author, “Women in Irish Politics”, in John Coakley, Michael Gallagher (eds), Politics in the Republic of Ireland, p. 207-226.

28 Christopher Whelan, Tony Fahey, “Marriage and the Family”, in Christopher Whelan (ed.), Values and Social Change, p. 51-52.

29 Niamh Hardiman, Christopher Whelan, “Changing Values”

30 Robert A. Dahl, A Preface to Economic Democracy, Berkeley, University of California Press, 1985, p. 84.

Table des illustrations

Titre Table 1 – GNP Growth in Ireland, selected years 1961-19967 (in IR£ millions)8
Légende Source: adapted from Paul Tansey, Ireland at Work: Economic Growth and the Labour Market, 1987-1997, Dublin, Oak Tree Press, 1998, table 1.1, p. 14; and references cited therein.
URL http://books.openedition.org/puc/docannexe/image/641/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 144k
Titre Table 2 – GDP Growth in Ireland, selected years 1926-1997
Légende Source: Kieran A. Kennedy, The Irish Economy Transformed”, Studies: an Irish Quaterly Review, 87, n° 345, 1998, p. 333-342; and sources cited therein.
URL http://books.openedition.org/puc/docannexe/image/641/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 372k
Titre Table 3 – Comparative GDP Growth Rate (in percent)
Légende Source: Anthony J. Leddin, Brendan M. Walsh, The Macroeconomy of Ireland, table 2.1, p. 19; and sources cited therein.
URL http://books.openedition.org/puc/docannexe/image/641/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 108k
Légende * Diluted by German unificationSource: Paul Tansey, Ireland at Work: Economic Growth and the Labour Market, 19871997, table 1.8, p. 31; and references cited therein. Figures from 1996: Eurostat, http://epp.eurostat.cec.eu.int/​portal. 2004 GDP per capita in PPS: 137.1 in Ireland; 108.7 in Germany; 116.3 in UK; 150.6 in USA.
URL http://books.openedition.org/puc/docannexe/image/641/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 216k
Titre Table 4 – Investment as Percent of GDP, 1960-1990 Ireland, the UK and EU (in percent)
Légende Source: Cormac Ó Gráda, Kevin O’Rourke, Economic Growth: Performance and Explanations, in John W. O’Hagan (ed.), The Economy of Ireland…, table 7.2, p. 215; and sources cited therein.
URL http://books.openedition.org/puc/docannexe/image/641/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 51k

Auteur

Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Public Life, Director, O’Neill Center for the Study of Democracy (Northeastern University, Boston, USA)

© Presses universitaires de Caen, 2007

Conditions d’utilisation : http://www.openedition.org/6540