Parties and policy making in Ireland
in From Partition to Brexit
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This introductory chapter provides an overview of political parties and policy making in Ireland over the last century. It highlights the remarkable continuity of political institutions that survived the revolutionary tumult of 1916–1923. It also emphasises how government in Ireland, post-independence, has been extraordinarily centralised, to an extent rarely seen in a democracy. The chapter proceeds to examine how the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and cabinet dictate the content and schedule of the legislative agenda, a system ring-fenced by a weak legislature, largely ceremonial president and feeble local government.

The second part of the chapter provides a brief analysis of the Irish party system and explains why it bears little resemblance to its European counterparts. It concludes by examining political parties in Ireland, highlighting the differences between them and evaluating their contribution to Irish politics. Noting the traditional dominance of Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, the chapter explains how devising the Irish Government’s Northern Ireland policy has been the purview of remarkably few parties.


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