Professor Kathleen Lynch, Magill Summer School 2013 - 'Equality as Rhetoric: the Careless State of Ireland'
Equality as Rhetoric:
The Careless State of Ireland
Paper presented to the MacGill Summer School, Glenties, July 31st
Equality Studies Centre, UCD School of Social Justice
The legislature passed two significant pieces of equality legislation in 1998 (the Employment
Equality Act) and 2000 (the Equal Status Act). Within a very short period of time, there were
challenges to the legislation. Although both acts are definitely limited liberal pieces of equality
legislation (Walsh, 2012) focusing on promoting equality of opportunity rather than equalising
conditions of life, they were the focus of intense criticism almost as soon as they came into
force. Powerful lobby groups were allowed to exercise sufficient influence on government to
have the law changed. Why did this happen? Why was there so much resistance to equality,
even in terms of equalising opportunities? Why did the government pass legislation which it
then preceded to undermine, particularly, but not exclusively, in terms of how it impacted on
the most vulnerable of all groups in Irish society, namely Travellersi
When the financial crisis caused by the unscrupulous activities of Banks and their clients, hit the
Irish State, why did the government not protect many of its most vulnerable citizens, unlike
what happened in Iceland (Stuckler and Basu,2013)? Why is Ireland such a care-less, and at times,
I will attempt to answer these questions in this paper
Dismantling the Equality Infrastructure of the State
As soon as it became an effective and articulate voice for equality, the Equality Authority (EA)
was subjected to challenges from a variety of interest groups for whom equality was a
rhetorical rather than substantive principle of public policy. The media were among the
powerful and vociferous. On 11th
February, 2001, only three years after the passing of the
Employment Equality Act, Brendan O’Connor of the Sunday Independent derided the Equality
Tribunal decision penalising Ryanair for ageism in an employment advertisement. This view
was endorsed by Kevin Myers in the Irish Times on February 14th
2001 and by a variety of other
journalists and commentators in subsequent weeks.
The attacks on the work of the Equality Authority were not confined to the media. The licensed
vintners, and especially their chief executive, Tadg O’Sullivan, were particularly virulent in their
critique. O’Sullivan attacked what he termed the ‘equality industry’, due to their defence of the
rights of Travellers to access services in particular (Sunday Tribune, 7th
July 2002). The net
outcome was a win for the vintners as legislation was changed in 2003 precluding
discrimination cases being taken by the Equality Tribunal. On foot of this change, the number of
discrimination cases dropped dramatically (Crowley, 2010: 82).
Opposition was also evident among politicians. Niall Crowley, the CEO of the Equality Authority
from its foundation in 1999 was a powerful and articulate defender of equality. He was
outspoken and an excellent communicator of the equality message on the media. The Minister
for Justice, Michael McDowell, tried to remove Niall Crowley from his post as Chief Executive in
2004. This was not a public event at the time, but it signalled to civil and public servants what
government wanted from an Equality Authority. It was not expected to be an independent
voice for equality in Ireland. It was expected to behave as an arm of a politically compliant civil
But the attacks on the Equality Authority, culminating in its demise through cuts in 2008, and its
closure in 2013 must not be read in isolation from the historical context of Irish cultural and
political life. While it was the pre-eminent equality agency, it was not the only equality-oriented
agency closed down between 2001 and 2013: groups representing or supporting Travellers,
people with disabilities, women, children, those living in poverty, carers among others, were all
adversely affected by closures.
Closing Down the Equality Infrastructure in Ireland
Equality Authority (EA) – 2009 43% cut in budget; merged with HRC (2013)
Irish Human Rights Commission (HRC) – 2009 24% Budget; merged with EA (2013)
National Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI) _Closed
2009 (Established 1998)
Higher Education Equality Unit – UCC -Closed and merged into HEA 2003 (Established
National Committee on Education Disadvantage disbanded (set up Under the
Education Act 1998) Committee was appointed in 2001 – disbanded after 3 years in
operation in 2005
Combat Poverty Agency –closed 2008 (established in 1986)
Traveller Education cutbacks 2008-2013 higher than any other group: Interagency
activities 100%; Traveller education 86.6%; Traveller accommodation 85%; Equality
work 76.3%; National Traveller organisations 63.6%; FAS Special Initiative for Travellers
50%; National Traveller Partnership 32.1%; Traveller SPY youth projects -29.8%: (Source:
Pavee Point (Brian Harvey) Travelling With Austerity: Impact of Cuts on Travellers,
Traveller Projects and Services (2013:1)
People With Disabilities in Ireland's (PWDI) - closed end of 2011 (established in 2000)
Women’s Health Council – closed 2009 (Established in 1997)
Crisis Pregnancy Agency -closed and merged with HSE in 2009 (Established 2001) and is
now the Crisis Pregnancy Programme
Centre for Early Childhood Development and Education closed 2008 (established 2002)
National Council on Ageing and Older People closed 2009 (established 1997)
Gender Equality Unit – Department of Education – Closed early 2000s
Gender Equality desk at the Department (Ministry) of Justice, Equality and Law Reform
– Desk Closed 2009
National Women’s Council of Ireland -158 member organisations- budget cuts of 15% in
2008- 2011, and 35% in 2012
The closure of so many equality bodies throughout the 2000s reflected a growing
disenchantment with the language and principles of equality. Even those on the ‘left’ began to
speak in terms of fairnessii
rather than equality. To understand the opposition to the work of
the Equality Authority and the closure of equality agencies it is important to examine the
cultural and political contexts in which this occurred.
Charity not Rights
In his commentary on the events that led to the demise of the Equality Authority, Niall Crowley
makes an important observation about attitudes to rights and, by implication, to equality in
‘There is a perspective in parts of the government and of the statutory sector that suggests that
people should be grateful for the serviced provided. People have to be deserving, not
demanding, of public support – it cannot be a matter of rights.‘ (Crowley, 2010: 112).
In passing anti-discrimination legislation, the Irish State had conferred limited rights on those
who experienced discrimination in their usage of public (and private) services, and in
employment. Two cultures and sets of values came into conflict with this development, the
longstanding culture that defined access to public services as a form of charity given at the
goodwill of the State and its agents, and a culture that defined public services as rights to which
people had entitlements. With the new legislation, rights in accessing services and in
employment were underpinned by anti-discrimination laws that could be vindicated in the
courts. And in listing nine identities on the basis of which discrimination was prohibited, new
socio-political realities were created: the citizen was no longer an undifferentiated ‘universal’
person devoid of gender, ethnicity, age, sexuality, differences in abilities etc. The citizen was
recognised for her or his intersectional complexity.
Although the equality legislation was undeniably a limited liberal piece of legislation in terms of
supporting equality of opportunity rather than equality of conditioniii
, it nonetheless created
ruptures with the past that challenged the ordering of authority and power: on the one hand, it
challenged the charity model of service provision by reinforcing the rights-bearing view of the
citizen, and on the other, it challenged the concept of the universal citizeniv
by exposing the
ways in which particular identities can and do lead to discriminations in service delivery and in
employment. It created new terms of reference for public discussion and analysis about
equality and social justice. However, these were not terms of reference which were culturally
familiar or widely politically accepted.
Charity as Ideology - Challenges
The poorest 10% of Irish households experienced a drop of 26% in their disposable income
between 2009 and 2010, and the wealthiest 10% had an increase of 8% (CSO, 2012: 11)(see
Figure at the end of the paper). And ‘ there was an increase in income inequality between 2009
and 2010 as shown by the quintile share ratio. The ratio showed that the average income of
those in the highest income quintile was 5.5 times that of those in the lowest income quintile.
The ratio was 4.3 one year earlier’ (CSO, 2012: 6) and Table 1b, page 10).
Why has the country allowed income inequality to grow at a time of crisis, why has it allowed
deprivation to increase when countries like Iceland have worked hard to protect their most
vulnerable citizens during their financial crisis (Stuckler and Basu, 2013)?
The answer lies in part in the fact that Ireland has never had a deep-rooted commitment to
principles of equality, be it in feminism, socialism or even humanism. It has relied heavily on the
ideology of charity to address injustices. The roots of this ideology lie deep within religious
teaching but they are by no means exclusive to Ireland. They have a long historical trajectory
internationally, and the charity ideology finds different expression depending on cultural
contexts; it is both secular and religious in its origins (Soss, Fording and Schram, 2011). What
charity ideology has in common globally is that it is about managing the poor, it is not about
eliminating inequality and injustice This ideology is politically dangerous for a number of
reasons most especially as it perpetuates inequality and legitimates it, creating in the process a
truly ‘Careless State’.
Charity is an entirely voluntary act; it can be given and it can be taken away. It is a personal
choice, not a collectively binding agreement of solidarity. At the individual level, it is driven by
the desire for moral recognition on the part of those who give rather than recognition of the
rights of those who receive. It can and does service the guilt of the better off, rather than the
needs of the vulnerable to live with dignity and independence. Being in receipt of charity is
demeaning; it has to be sought through supplication (effectively by asking). One cannot assume
one has an entitlement.
Moreover, charity also leads to the moral judgement of those who in receipt of it, a framing of
the recipients as deserving or undeserving. It is politically dangerous in this respect as it creates
the public impression that those ‘offering charity’ (those doing their ‘good deeds’) are morally
superior to the needy as they are working out of virtue. Because charity is a gift offered by
those who decide to give, on the terms which they decide to provide it, those living on charity
are not assumed to have rights to the services or goods offered. This is not to say that those
who are entitled to services in Ireland cannot vindicate their rights, rather it is to speak of the
charity mentality that frames how those in receipt of welfare entitlements or who are defined
as the ‘undeserving poor’ (most recently lone parents) are perceived.
Finally, charity is premised on the institutionalisation of unequal and unjust economic
relationships. Only in such a structurally unequal system can those with resources be in a
position to ‘offer charity’ to others.
The pervasiveness of the charity mentality means those seeking welfare and public services are
often subject to scrutiny and surveillance on the terms defined by the those offering services
(including the State and its agents) who exercise power over them.
The charity mentality also means that people are very happy to ‘give on their own terms’
especially to the deserving in the ‘Third World’ or to other needy causes. They are far less
willing to pay their taxes so their poor neighbours’ children can have a fully-funded health care
system or do not have to wait for several years for surgery while they themselves ‘jump the
queue’ through the private health care system.
Responding to inequality by individual or collective acts of charity will not and cannot challenge
the generative causes of injustice. To say this is not to deny the valuable work done by charities
per se. Many charities speak out and some campaign on structural injustices; but even these
operate under restriction by Charities Act 2009 which states that…they cannot promote ‘a
political cause, unless the promotion of that cause relates directly to the advancement of the
charitable purposes of the body’. This means that structural inequalities have been defined by
law as secondary considerations in most charitable work, and this reinforces and exacerbates
injustice. It gives the false impression that ‘charity can fill the gap’ which is structurally
impossible given the scale of inequalities.
Equality in Cultural Context
Irish charity-based attitudes to equality are best understood in the context of its continued
conservative nationalism and anti-intellectualism in the socio-political sphere. From its
foundation in the 1920s, the Republic of Ireland never had a socialist government or even a
Labour-led government. In post-independent Ireland, communist, socialist, and even social
democratic politics were demonized as dangerous especially in the 1930s (Allen, 1997; Lee,
1989: 184). Feminism was so absent it did not even merit demonization for most of the 20th
century; it was an inadmissible political subject (Connolly, 2002). Policies for people with
disabilities were largely those of tolerance laced with charity (McDonnell, 2007), while those
who were lesbian or gay had to fight for their rights via the courts (Gilligan and Zappone, 2008;
Rose 1994). The absence of a critical left and feminist analysis of public policy over an extended
period of history was not unrelated to the fact that ‘...religious and socioeconomic
organizations such as trade unions, business, parts of the bureaucracy and the churches
defended their turf in ways that effectively preserved a status quo’ (Garvin, 2004:3).
A deep consensualism, and at times strongly anti-intellectual, approach was promoted in Irish
political and intellectual life that foreclosed intellectual dissent (Lee, 1989; Lynch, 1987; Whyte,
1984). This consensual approach found institutional expression in the late 20th
and early 21st
century in the social partnership system (Allen, 2000). Whether one agreed or not with the
merits of partnership, it did have real social consequences. It deskilled trade unionists and
community activists at local level, and created a widespread belief that conflicts of interest over
equality issues were less insubstantial than they actually were (Allen, 2010; Meade, 2005).
The consensus culture, promoted over so many years by a variety of political and civil society
interests created a political and intellectual void that was readily filled by a virulent, globally-
powered neoliberalism in the 1990s and 2000s (Kirby, 2002; Lynch, 2006; Phelan, 2007).
The Neglect of Critical Social Scientific Education
When a person writes a new novel in Ireland, particularly if they are reasonably well
established, the work is often reviewed in the Irish Times, discussed in Arts programmes on
radio and may even be the subject of interviews. It is an important cultural event and this is to
be welcomed. This is equally true of film productions and musical products. Moreover, there
are several prizes, national and international, for literary and cultural works, including those
supported by public bodies like RTE. However, if a scholar produces a critical work on issues of
sociological importance, it is generally ignored. I could take many books as examples but I will
take one by my UCD colleague in the School of Education, Immigration and Schooling in the
Republic of Ireland (2011) published by Manchester University Press. This book was based on
careful study of immigrant children’s experience of Irish schooling, a hugely important issue of
public interest. It demonstrated the depth of racism, often institutionalised, in Irish education.
This book was never reviewed or discussed on any media programme. It was never reviewed in
an Irish newspaper. Despite the fact that it holds a mirror up to the Irish attitudes to immigrant
children in schools, it was not treated as an important cultural event. The same holds true for
other books like Niall Hanlon’s study of Irish men and their attitudes to caring, Masculinities,
Care and Equality, 2012, Macmillan. This is surely an issue of public interest, given how much
debate there is about including men on discussions of gender. This book also never received
any public attention in the Irish media yet it highlights huge issues of public importance on how
boys’ and men’s identities are socially constructed in Ireland in a care-free manner.
Most of the excellent work, work that is both highly analytical and gives critical insight into Irish
society, into what could and should be done differently in policy terms, is often ignored.
Moreover, there is a miniscule amount of money available for critical social scientific research.
(Like many critical social scientists, most of the research funding I have got over a 30 year
period has come either directly or indirectly from the European Union or from philanthropic
bodies). Yes, there is some funding for the humanities and social sciences combined, but voices
of dissent are not welcome. Governments like ‘good news’ stories to boost their electoral
prospects; by definition critical social scientists do not provide that. If scholars in the field of
equality studies or critical social scientists are doing their job, they will maintain a critical
distance from institutions of power. They will be a thorn in their side.
But unlike more mature democracies that allow and fund social scientific dissent, Irish political
parties and state agencies fear it. It is allowed to find artistic expression but when it is
presented in the cold analysis of science, it is not welcome as it commands action and does not
appear as cultural entertainmentv
There is no forum for social scientific reviews in the public media like RTE or the major
newspapers. For example, there is a Science Editor but no correspondent for the Social Sciences
in the Irish Times. The indifference to critical sociological and philosophical research is a major
lacuna in Irish cultural life. It contributes greatly to the impoverishment of public debate on
socio-political issues, leading to debates that are often scientifically misinformed and downright
This indifference has a long history as Ireland has no substantive social science of philosophical
subjects taught in schools: there is no political theory, no sociology or no philosophy. We
cannot have new ideas in how to reorganise our society without investing in subjects and fields
of scholarship that allow us to think differently, to reconceptualise the world sociologically and
Neoliberalism, New Managerialism and the Recentralisation of Power
The hostility and indifference to dissenting intellectuals in Ireland is what has contributed in
part to the unrestrained allegiance to neoliberalism in Ireland, something that is unparalleled in
Western Europe with the exception of the UK.
The late 1980s and early 1990s saw the emergence of the new strident forms of neoliberalism
across the Western World (Harvey, 1995). Neoliberalism was more hostile to the realisation of
rights, particularly economic rights, than mainstream liberalism (ibid). It was founded on the
primacy of the market as a mechanism for service provision, and within this frame, rights were
increasingly contingent; they could not be assumed. While neoliberalism was particularly anti-
egalitarian in the economic sense, it heralded a mode of practice and thinking in public culture
and governance that was antithetical to equality in subtle organisational ways, especially
through the promotion of new managerialism (Lynch, Grummell and Devine, 2012).
New Managerialism (sometimes known as New Public Service Management) was the
organizational arm of neoliberalism and the Irish government embraced it as a mode of
governance from the 1990s onwards (Collins, 2007). It was institutionalised in the Strategic
Management Initiative (SMI) of 1994 and the Public Service Management Act (1997). Although
framed as an initiative to ‘modernise’ civil and public services, the goals of new managerialism
were distinctly political and driven by business values:
NPM [New Public Service Management …is based on an economic understanding of
governance in which the market – or approximations to it – is regarded as the ideal
mechanism for the allocation and delivery of public services. Central to this approach is
the perception of the citizens as customers (Collins, 2007: 31).
The new legislation also instituted a bifurcation of power that allowed control to remain
centralised while responsibilities were decentralised. It fostered managerial elite within the
machinery of the State that, while held accountable to the Minister and government, also had
considerable discretion and power organisationally under the new legislationvi
. As market
values were institutionalised in the civil and public services, senior executives within these were
also able to make financial gains as market principles were applied to the evaluation of their
own posts. The negotiation of performance-related-pay, and the benchmarking of private and
public sector salaries led to substantial awards to higher civil servants equating their status with
that of senior private sector executives (Cradden, 2007: 176-177).
Whereas in other countries politicians wrote the new managerial reforms, often in the face of
deep opposition from public servants, one powerful segment of the Irish public service were
willing allies in realising new managerial practices, namely senior civil servants (Gleeson and
O’Donnabháin, 2009: 29). The Strategic Management Initiative that heralded change in the
Irish civil and public service ‘...was neither imposed nor forced. It emerged from the concerns of
senior civil servants about the current performance of the system over why they presided and its
ability to meet the challenges of supporting an effective State for the twenty-first century’
(Collins, 2007: 36-37 citing John Murray, 2001: np – Reflections on the SMI Working Paper, The
Policy Institute, TCD Dublin).
When the Equality Authority was established in 1999, it was in a context where market values
were taking hold within government departments and support for equality was far from given.
Citizens were being redefined as customers rather than citizens with rights (however
contested), a practice that still persistsvii
. The market culture was not supportive of equality
values, not least because of its ambivalence, and at times, hostility to citizenship rights but also
because it’s managerial arm, which was traditionally deeply hierarchical, was now officially so
constituted. The deep-rooted resistance to equality of the past was being married to a new
form of ideological resistance to equality in neoliberalism. The conflation of these interests and
values was to prove fatal for the Equality Authority especially when it was allied to new political
The intellectual complacency that made the rise of neoliberalism possible is definitively related
to the anti-intellectualism in Irish public life, to the politics of consensus that is endorsed in the
academy and more widely, and to lack of education in critical social science subjects in schools
and colleges, and in accessible forms in the media.
Political Parties and Equality
One of the factors that gave neoliberalism and anti-egalitarians generally, power in Ireland was
that they had an explicit political voice in the Progressive Democrats (PDs); the latter was a
minority political party in political terms, winning less than 5% of the national vote from its
establishment in the late 1980s until its dissolution in 2009. However, it held the balance of
power in government for an extended period of time (from 1997 to 2009) and used this to
powerful effect in pushing forward pro-market policiesviii
. The views of its most outspoken and
best known Minister Michael McDowell (Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform 2002-
2007) were indicative of its overall position on equality. In an interview with the Irish Catholic
newspaper on May 27th
2004 he stated that: ‘..a dynamic liberal economy like ours demands
flexibility and inequality in some respects to function. It is the inequality that provides
incentives’. Inequality was regarded as a necessity to stimulate people to work.
It would be misleading to suggest that neoliberalism was the preserve of the PDs as there were
many in both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gaelix
who had little allegiance to equality principles and who
had no difficulty overseeing a society with persistent inequality. This was evident in the way the
economic and social policies promoted by these two large parties, had, over many decades,
actively promoted economic inequality in Ireland, on occasion with the compliance of the
Labour Party as a minority coalition partner (Allen, 1997; Kirby and Murphy, 2011).
The lack of party political commitment equality has persisted. In their political manifestos for
the 2011 election Fine Gael only make one passing reference to equality while Fianna Fáil did
not refer to equality per se at allx
.Although the Labour Party had many references to equality in
its 2011 Manifesto, its practices in government with Fine Gael belie its commitments to
anything but selective civil and political equality principles. It has supported cutbacks in basic
services, including equality services, for some of the most vulnerable people in Ireland,
including Travellers, carers and lone parents. Sinn Féin’s 2011 election manifesto (the 4th
party in 2011) is the most egalitarian in its policy statements. However, as it has not been in
government in the Republic of Ireland, its allegiance to these values has not been fully tested
Equality would appear to be a principle which is of largely rhetorical value to the most powerful
political parties in the State. Whether it is moving the Equality Authority to a relatively
inaccessible place (planned in 2003 and effected in 2007), succumbing to the demands of
powerful lobbyists like the Licensed Vintners by altering the Equal Status Act to their benefit
, or garnering the ‘racial vote’ by undermining Travellers’ rights to housing in
correspondence (as Minister Phil Hogan of Fine Gael did in 2012)xii
equality is a principle that is
politically dispensable. The failure to take equality seriously as a political principle has resulted
in persistent and pervasive discrimination against a variety of groups in Ireland, especially
Travellers, but also against other ethnic minorities, people with disabilities and women
The principles that have guided much of Irish welfare policy have been those of voluntarism
and/or subsidiarity, principles that have been strongly influenced by Catholic social teaching
(Inglis, 1998). These have been interpreted in a narrowly defined way to mean the absence of
State intervention even when such is necessary, including when it is essential to uphold the
equality laws of the State. Behind the voluntaristic approach to service provision lies a charity
ideology, where rights are seen as gifts given at the behest of a benevolent donor; they can be
given and taken away at the will of the powerful. While Social Justice Ireland represented a
rupture with the charity tradition in Irish Catholicism, formally challenging economic inequality
in particular (http://www.socialjustice.ie/content/about-us), the mainstream Church remains
deeply conservative on issues such as the protection of private property (and wealth), gender
relations and sexuality. Even in relation to economic inequality, it has encouraged private acts
of charity as a response to injustice in Ireland rather than public acts of organising and
resistance. Responding to inequality by acts of charity will not and cannot challenge the
generative causes of injusticexiii
When the charity ideology was married to the anti-intellectualism of Irish life, the consensus-
driven character of academia and politics, and, more recently, the over-riding power of global
neoliberal politics, it is not surprising that Ireland has not developed a deep political and moral
commitment to equality.xiv
Allen, Kieran (1997) Fianna Fáil and Irish Labour: 1926 to the Present. London: Pluto.
Allen, Kieran (2000). The Celtic Tiger: The Myth of Social Partnership in Ireland. Manchester:
Manchester University Press.
Allen, Kieran (2007) The Corporate Takeover of Ireland. Dublin: Irish Academic Press.
Allen, Kieran (2010) ‘The Trade unions: from Partnership to crisis’ Irish Journal of Sociology, 18
Baker, John, Lynch, Kathleen, Cantillon, Sara and Walsh, Judy (2009) Equality: From Theory to
Action. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Collins, Neil (2007) ‘The public service and regulatory reform’ in Collins, N., Cradden, T. and
Butler, P. (eds.) Modernising Irish Government: the politics of administrative reform.
Dublin: Gill & Macmillan.
Connolly, Linda (2002) The Irish Women’s Movement: From Revolution to Devolution
London: Palgrave Macmillan.
CSO (2012) SILC Survey of Income and Living Conditions Dublin: Government of Ireland.
Cradden, Terry (2007) People Management: HRM in the public service in Collins, N., Cradden, T.
and Butler, P. (eds.). Modernising Irish Government: the politics of administrative
reform, Gill & Macmillan.
Crowley, Niall (2010) Empty Promises: Bringing the Equality Authority to Heel. Dublin: Farmar.
Garvin, Tom (2004) Preventing the Future: why was Ireland so poor for so long? Dublin: Gill and
Gilligan, Ann Louise and Zappone, Katherine (2008) Our Lives out Loud: In Pursuit of Justice and
Equality. Dublin: O’Brien Press.
Gleeson, Jim & Donnabháin, Diarmaid (2009) Strategic planning and accountability in Irish
education. Irish Educational Studies, (28) 27-46.
Harvey, David (2005) A Brief History of Neoliberalism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Inglis, Tom (1998) Moral Monopoly: The Rise and Fall of the Catholic Church in Modern Ireland.
edition Dublin: University College Dublin Press.
Kirby, Peadar (2002) The Celtic Tiger in Distress: Growth with Inequality in Ireland. Basingstoke:
Lee, Joe J. (1989) Ireland, 1912-1985: Politics and Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Lynch, Kathleen (1987) Dominant ideologies in Irish educational thought: consensualism,
essentialism and meritocratic individualism. Economic and Social Review, 18: 101–122.
Lynch, Kathleen (2006) ‘Neo-Liberalism and Marketisation: the implications for higher education’,
European Educational Research Journal, Vol. 5 (1): 1-17.
Lynch, Kathleen, Grummell, Bernie and Devine, Dympna (2012) New Managerialism in
Education: Gender, Commercialisation and Carelessness. Basingstoke: Palgrave
Meade, Rosie (2005) ‘We hate it here, please let us stay! Irish social partnership and the
community/voluntary sector’s conflicted experiences of recognition’, Critical Social
Policy (25): 349-373.
Murphy, Mary and Kirby, Peadar (2011) Towards the Second Republic: Irish Capitalism in Crisis,
McDonnell, Patrick (2007) Disability and Society: ideological and historical dimensions. Dublin:
McGréil, Micheál (2011) Pluralism and Diversity in Ireland. Dublin: Columba Press.
Pavee Point (authored by Brian Harvey) Travelling With Austerity: Impact of Cuts on Travellers,
Traveller Projects and Services. Dublin: Pavee Point.
Phelan, Sean (2007) The discourses of neoliberal hegemony: the case of the Irish Republic.
Critical Discourse Studies (4): 29-48.
Rose, Kieran (1994) Diverse Communities: the evolution of Lesbian and Gay Politics in Ireland. Cork: Cork
Soss, R., Fording, R.C. and Schram, S. (2011) Disciplining the Poor: Neoliberal Paternalism and the
Persistent Power of Race. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
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Source of Fig. 1d CSO (2012) Survey of Income and Living Conditions 2010. CSO Dublin (page 11)
All Ireland Traveller Health Study (2010) School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Population Science, University
College Dublin. For a summary of the findings see http://www.dohc.ie/publications/traveller_health_study.html
Throughout the election campaign of 2011, all the major political parties including Labour called for a ‘fair’
society, not an equal society. The focus on fairness rather than equality was noticeable throughout the 2000s. ‘The
Fair Society’ was the title of Pat Rabbitte’s address to the Labour Party Conference on May 10
2007 when he was
party leader http://www.labour.ie/download/pdf/the_fair_society.pdf. The Justice Commission of the Conference
of Religious of Ireland was also talking about fairness as a desirable political objective in 2006:
While no one would doubt the value of fairness, in the original articulation of justice as fairness outlined by Rawls,
fairness was deeply attached to the principle of equality. There are number of problems in using it as a stand-
alone concept. First there is the problem of ambiguity; what is fair or unfair is generally defined by those whose
interests are being threatened, including those in power. Second, there is no mechanism for challenging the
definition or interpretation of ‘what is fair’ as the definition is the prerogative of those who set the terms of
interpretation. Third, fairness, in so far as it is used as a discrete concept (for example in economics) is about the
fair allocation of envy between individuals. The problem with such a concept is that it is not only highly
individualistic (as it does not address group differences), it is also unworkable; who knows what will make others
envious or not. In addition, it is also highly dependent on subjective preferences which may themselves be
founded on deep injustices. Very often those who own a lot of resources will be envious of others who own more;
but this is hardly a morally justifiable reason for granting those who are envious even more than they have
already! If the fair allocation-of-envy logic were followed, then all forms of envy would be equally valid so the very
well off or the very powerful or privileged would have equal claim on resources as those who are poor. What is
being suggested here is that language matters. Fairness is a dangerous concept when it is detached from principles
of equality as it is not clearly defined is built on dubious moral principles and will be generally interpreted by those
in power in their own interests
For a discussion of the difference between equality of opportunity and equality of condition, see Baker, Lynch,
Cantillon and Walsh (2009) Equality: From Theory to Action (Chapters 2 and 4)
Critics of the universal model of citizenship highlight the political relevance of difference (gender, social class,
language, dis/ability, race, etc.) in framing citizenship. They emphasise the pluralist character of contemporary
democratic states and the need to recognise same in laws and policies. For an analysis and critique of the idea of
the idea of the universal citizen see http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/citizenship/
I was once told that the problem with critical egalitarian and critical sociological analyses of Irish society is that
they do not sell Ireland as a tourist destination!
Public Service Management Act (1997) 4.—(1) Except as otherwise directed by the Government or provided by or
under any other Act, the Secretary General of a Department or Head of a Scheduled Office, as the case may be,
shall, subject to the determination of matters of policy by the Minister of the Government having charge of the
Department or Scheduled Office or by the Government, have the authority, responsibility and accountability for
carrying out the following duties in respect of the Department or Scheduled Office: A list of 9 functions follow
outlining the powers of the Heads of government departments which are considerable, including under Section 4
(h)… managing all matters pertaining to appointments, performance, discipline and dismissals of staff below the
grade of Principal or its equivalent in the Department or Scheduled Office;
This is a statement on Irish Language policy in the Department of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) 2013: ‘This
scheme builds on the principles of Quality Customer Service, and on the commitment in the Department's
Customer Charter to ensure that customers who wish to conduct their business through Irish can do so. - See more
This is the customer charter of the Department of Education and Skills, http://www.education.ie/en/The-
Department/Customer-Service/Customer-Charter/ accessed July 12
While it was not antithetical to certain rights particularly divorce and contraception, it was not liberal on all
sexual issues; for example, it did not support same-sex marriage.
Fine Gael and Fianna Fail are the two largest political parties in the State. Both are Centre Right parties in policy
terms; they are aligned with the Christian Democrats and the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Fine Gael’s Election Manifesto 2011 only makes a one policy reference to equality and this is to Public Bodies:
We will encourage all public bodies to take due note to equality and human rights in carrying out their functions. In
Summer 2013, they voted down a Private Member’s Bill in the Dáil that would enable this to happen. There are no
references to equality in Fianna Fáil’s 2011 Manifesto although there are references to the importance of having
gender balance on State Boards and on Election lists. While the 3
biggest political party in 2011, the Labour Party
has numerous references to equality in its 2011 manifesto, its actions in government with Fine Gael, cutting
benefits to lone parent (most female headed) families, to Travellers and the unemployed indicate that it has a very
weak liberal view of equality in economic terms and is more interested in enhancing certain civil and political rights
rather than social and economic rights. Sinn Féin’s 2011 manifesto (the 4
largest party in 2011) is the most
egalitarian; it makes specific reference to addressing economic inequality and to recognising Travellers as an ethnic
minority, neither of which are referred to by the other parties. It also introduced a Private Members’ Bill to the Dáil
to prohibit discrimination on new grounds (including social background in 2013). However, as it has not been in
power its commitments have not been fully tested.
The moving of the Equality Authority to Roscrea was part of a move by the Fianna Fáil/PD government to
decentralise the civil service to rural constituencies in the 2003 budget in advance of local authority elections. It
was widely seen as a way of increasing the party vote; repeated requests not to move the Authority to Roscrea
were ignored. The decision by Minister McDowell of the PD/Fianna Fáil Government (2003) to grant jurisdiction to
the District Courts rather than the Equality Tribunal to deal with allegations of discrimination resulted from
lobbying by Licensed Vintners in particular. It was easier for people who were poor and vulnerable to take cases
via the Tribunal rather than the District Court as it offered mediation, had an investigative function and did not
award costs. Moving jurisdiction to the court was a direct attempt to reduce the number of discrimination cases
being taken against licensed vintners and it did (Crowley, 2010: 82)
1.538865 (downloaded July 12th 2013)
Limited though the charity response to injustice has been, it did however give those who fought for equality a
moral standing in political life; they had a right to be heard even if their charitable responses to inequality were
often laissez faire, ad hoc or both. But even the charitable approaches to injustice were fractured with the
emergence of neoliberalism. Pursuing equality and social justice was less and less defined as a morally desirable
political objective. Promoting equality was deemed incidental and contingent at best, and at times undesirable.
Equal opportunities policies were seen as necessary, in so far as they facilitated market needs, and/or if they
promoted civil and political rights that did not have monetary costs.
While there has been a challenge to neoliberalism since the emergence of the financial crisis, in both academia
and in civil society, unfortunately the biggest political parties of the State show little allegiance to creating equality
of conditions in Ireland. Their interests are dictated by the powerful and vociferous groups that dictate their party