Explaining the Irish Welfare State: An Historical, Comparative, and Political Analysis

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This book provides a comprehensive overview of the Irish welfare system in comparative perspective. It examines key issues which have shaped the development of the Irish welfare state including the impact of Ireland’s post-colonial position, the role of globalisation and Ireland’s integration into the world-economy, and the respective roles of Irish state and societal institutions. The book places the Irish welfare state in a comparative European context and examines the extent to which Ireland fits into existing welfare typologies. It looks at the key policy areas of welfare support for those of working age, pensioners and children. It outlines the development of welfare systems in each area, describes the current level of coverage in a comparative context and outlines key debates. It also examines key policy issues including public opinion on the Irish welfare state, proposals for a basic income and debates on the privatization of welfare. The book concludes by discussing the possible future directions of welfare policy in Ireland.


“The Irish welfare state first became the subject of scrutiny comparatively late ... Even after the modernisation of the nineteen sixties and the accession to the Common Market in 1973 Ireland’s woes continued or recurred ... It is against this extraordinary background that the authorhas undertaken his ambitious study of the Irish welfare state in a comparative context. He is to be commended on his boldness. With a background in law, as a political adviser and as a much sought after and influential consultant on social policy in Ireland and abroad he has already, in an impressive range of publications, set a headline for scholarly output for members of the academy ... A wide range of readers will be daunted and challenged by the results, and all of them will have reason to be grateful to him for new insights and new information as well as the commanding view he offers of a complex and ever-changing field.” – (from the Commendatory Preface) Séamus Ó Cinnéide, Jean Monnet Professor of European Social Policy, National University of Ireland, Maynooth

“This book is a valuable contribution to the research on the Irish welfare state on many different levels. Through a focus on Irish social welfare, where the author has considerable expertise, the book examines a wide variety of questions relating to current approaches to the study of welfare states ... The author’s expertise and depth of knowledge is clearly visible in many areas.… In general, this book is a constructive contribution to debates about the application of comparative theory to Ireland, both clarifying problematic aspects, suggesting ways of integrating established theoretical perspectives with Irish welfare development, and locating Ireland firmly in its global context. These sections are thought provoking and stimulating and should have wide appeal to scholars of the welfare state. This book is an extremely useful contribution to the scholarship on the Irish welfare state, and I would expect it to be widely read.” – Dr. Sophia Carey, Research Fellow, Trinity College Dublin

“ ... This book does a real service to both scholars and those interested in public policy more generally by teasing out how the Irish welfare state has been shaped by struggles over capital, class and gender. He situates these struggles in the context of Ireland’s role as an extremely open economy in the global trading system, but with a key role for the state and institutional structures. The book represents a substantial addition to the growing literature on welfare state trajectories.” – Professor Brian Nolan, The Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin

Table of Contents

List of tables
List of figures
1. Introduction: Ireland’s place in the worlds of welfare capitalism
2. Welfare theories & the Irish welfare state in a comparative context
3. Key Policy Areas
4. Key Policy Issues

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