This paper will provide an overview of and engage with debates about thelabor migration to Ireland
which both resulted in response to, as wellfacilitated, unprecedented economic growth. The analysis will focus on waysthat labor unions have responded to the immigration and will argue thatunions, although they have made some positive developments in trying toinclude immigrants, their overall efforts remained marginal and inefficientbecause: a) business-state-unions power nexus called Social Partnershipcontributed to union depoliticization and establishment of ‘non-ideological’neoliberal space; b) lack of the grassroots organizing practices anddeployment of neoliberal governmentality in dealing with their membership;c) neoliberal union rationalities that avert both the analysis and adoption of innovative tactics that would be able to address the mobile migrantworkforce and the global economy. Therefore, despite the dominant viewsabout the (until recently) booming economy, social welfare state, andtolerant, pro-immigration society, Ireland can be analyzed as an experimentin which Social Partnership serves as central element to the emergence of neoliberal governmentality.
Why talk about Ireland? Because Ireland can serve as a space of particularity to reveal something quite universal about social, political, andeconomic developments that often are subsumed under the umbrella termof “neoliberalism.”
Ireland turned itself into a test site – a laboratory of neoliberal experimentation – and the results astounded critics andenthusiasts alike. Ireland is an interesting case-study because of the rapidpace of demographic and economic change. For example, while in 1994immigrant workers constituted 2% of the labor in 2006 it was 17%.
Throughout this paper “Ireland” will be used to refer to Republic of Ireland even if somepolitics, policies, and union sphere of influence extend to Northern Ireland.
While being aware of how the term has been overused and is increasingly becoming anabstraction, I still find a utility in using this term and hopefully throughout this paper it willbecome evident what are some of the specificities of Irish neoliberalism.
Thomas Turner, Daryl D'Art, and Christine Cross, “Polish Workers in Ireland: A ContentedProletariat?”
Labor Studies Journal, Mar 2009; vol. 34: pp. 112 – 126