Assessment Submission Name: James Connor Student ID no.

: 10320779 Course: PPES PO3630 Irish Politics Assignment 2 Lecturer: Prof. Michael Gallagher I have read and understand the plagiarism provisions contained in the general reglations of the university and in the department of political science handbook I declare that this assignment represents my own work and has not been taken from the work of others save where appropriately referenced in the body of the assignment James Connor 25/01/2013

Interest groups create a connection between elected representatives and society that endures throughout Dáil terms this ensures that policy makers keep their eyes and ears open throughout their term. who are also involved in the formulation and implementation of the policy. 2010). give some illustrative examples of interest groups clearly influencing political outcomes and discuss some of the negative consequences of interest group activity. Firstly. the passage through the legislature of the policy and/or the implementation of policy (Coakley and Gallagher. Throughout the course of this essay I hope to briefly define interest groups. As societies become more complex. so too does interest articulation and many of the societies of the western world have been marked by such increasing forms of interest representation. The one chosen is the one put forward by Chari and Kritzinger and is as follows: 'any group or set of actors. not only when their position is threatened at election time. interest groups do not come without their caveats. 1998). as the Irish public are well aware of. 1998). Naturally. Democracy is founded upon the representation and articulation of interests and the freedom to associate (Greenwood and Thomas. Interest groups exert their power by influencing the public policy process. 2010).Do interest groups have too much power in the policy-making process in Ireland? Can anything be done to control or monitor their activities? The relationship that exists between any state and society is central to the question of democracy. . this includes the creation of policy. Political Parties and individual members of the Oireachtas remain the primary target of interest groups seeking to influence policy because they are most closely involved in these processes of any actor. Other targets include Civil Servants. Clear distinctions must be made between interests that are self centred and those which represent the interests of Irish public. I would like to have a working definition of what an interest group is for the purposes of this essay. it is a suitable working definition. Ireland has not been exempt from these developments (Greenwood and Thomas. that has common interests and seeks to influence the policy-making process in such a way that their interests are reflected in public policy outcomes' (Coakley and Gallagher. Although the definition is given in the context of European Union politics. discuss Social Partnership and its role in allowing interest groups access to the policy making process. discuss some of the most powerful and influential Irish interest groups.

IBEC is considerably smaller in terms of its membership when compared to the IFA or ICTU.500 members but its affiliated members employ over 70% of the workforce in Irelands private sector.The form of proportional representation used when branches are voting on national farming issues encourages good participation of its members in local branches and they have little difficulty mobilising their members at election time. They divide up the major general interests of certain cohorts of the Irish population nicely.000 members and like many interest groups they were formed in conditions of economic difficulty in 1955. The group were one of the key groups in Social Partnership. Although large in size. It has just 7. ICTU and IBEC remain important players in Irish politics.000 members and as a proportion of the work force they represent around a third of the workforce in the Republic of Ireland. while the IFAs power may be diminishing somewhat due to a steady decrease in the importance of the farming sector to the Irish economy over recent years and a fall in their membership numbers. 2009). The group with the largest membership is ICTU and as of 2008 it had 55 affiliated unions operating both in Northern Ireland and in the Republic. In the referendum of 1972 on Ireland's membership of the European Economic Community they actively campaigned for a 'Yes' vote so that they could gain access to European markets.The largest and arguably most influential interest groups the currently operate in Ireland are formed along sectional lines. they claim to be an 'organisation whose record of delivery is the envy of many other representative bodies at home and in Europe' (Sean Breen. ICTU does not hold the same mobilising capacities of the IFA. Their ability to influence electoral outcomes is not to be underestimated. This however does not inhibit their capacity to boast of great power. It claims to represent the interests of the business community in Ireland and were involved in the Social Partnership process from the outset. They currently have 88. IBEC ( The Irish Business and Employers Confederation) and IFA (The Irish Farmers Association). In terms of membership it has has just over 600. They are : ICTU (The Irish Congress of Trade Unions). Like the IFA they also have representatives at EU level to protect their interests. .

No discussion on the power of Irish interest groups would be complete without an assessment of the role that Social Partnership has played in bridging the gap between political representatives and interest groups. While interest group lobbying doesn't tend to get exposure in the media and much of the negotiating done between policy makers is done behind closed doors. The media came down on the side of the elderly. While the proposed cut was from just €2.45m in 2012 to €1. various policies have fallen victim to interest group pressure. much of the literature precedes the economic dive which the country took between 2007 and 2008. However. unions and the government and while Social Partnership was created out of difficult economic times it became a means of manipulating supply side economics by wage determination in the labour market. there have been cases where interest groups have managed to publically cause a U-turn on certain issues. Most recently the government reversed cuts to the Personal Alarm Scheme for the elderly. The question arises whether or not these interest groups should have been given a role as influential as they had. When assessing Ireland’s economic issues the weak tax base became an issue of discussion and was labelled as an area that would cause great difficulty in fiscal adjustment. The three principal actors in the Social Partnership process were employers. surely interest groups in the Social Partnership process should've taken some blame. It is difficult to assess whether Social Partnership has been good for Ireland or not. Since 1987 there have been six further agreements and Social Partnership has been widely seen as a contributing factor to the sustained growth in the Irish economy which began in the late 1980s (Hardiman.15m in 2013 it drew a lot of public attention in the media. which had an empowering effect on the interest groups who were campaigning against the cut. 2002). It acts as a forum for discussion between various interest groups and the government on the direction social and economic change should take. Much of the academic work done on Social Partnership seems to view it in a very positive light because of the sustained growth that accompanied it. In this sense those interest groups that became involved in the Social Partnership process had an influential role in the selection of Irish economic policy that would shape the years of prosperity that were to follow. Pressure from a number of interest groups representing the elderly such as Age Action Ireland and the Carers' Association became involved and when they did they .

Unlike other interest groups the interests represented by these groups are universal . This begs questions as to whether or not strict regulation should be put into place to control the activities of interest groups. Groups like Barnardos and the Children's Rights Alliance were central in the referendum debate.most people intend living to an old age. There were numerous cases where certain businesspeople lobbied politicians and in exchange for policy decisions the politicians would receive payment. 2013). The Irish Times reported that an anonymous government source had informed them that the political damage that the proposed cut would have caused would have been far greater relative to the size of the cut (Kenny.were given good publicity. . The rate at which referenda are being held in Ireland is increasing as time goes on – the majority of Irish referenda have been held in the last twenty years. ran very quiet campaigns relative to the interest groups involved. Bertie Ahern comes to mind as the most obvious example. very accessible to the general public. Outside of the formal process of social partnership Ireland. that or the problem of corruption is much bigger than is clear and the recent exposure of politician's corruption is only the tip of an iceberg. It would seem that the logistics of an operation of strict control would cause difficulties because the policy makers and implementers are. all of whom were advocating a 'Yes' vote. The self centred interests of these businesspeople saw some decisions being made that were certainly not in the national interest. This would suggest that interest groups are playing an increasingly important role in political outcomes in Ireland. when their interests are at stake. While small in terms of membership the interest groups involved in this campaign punched well above their weight. because of the high level of public sympathy the elderly receive. This became apparent in the most recent 'Children's Referendum' where the major political parties. by nature. The main cause of corruption that these interests brought to Irish politics was probably a new political culture that was born out of years of prosperity. Interest groups in Ireland tend to be most vocal around referendum time. in recent history the general public were exposed to very negative aspect of interest group activity. This seems to be a characteristic of groups representing the interests of the elderly.

com/newspaper/breaking/2013/0114/breaking41. Regulation of interest groups would be a difficult task. Available online at http://www. C (1998).aspx. (2010). J and Thomas. 51 (4): 487-499. Hardiman. and may not necessarily solve the problems that are caused by interest group activity. N.(2002) 'From Conflict to Co-ordination: Economic Governance and Political Innovation in Ireland'. 1 — 24 Kenny. C. but as Ireland time goes by and interest groups diversify regulation should certainly be Parliamentary Affairs. J and GAllagher. S.To conclude I will say that Irish interest groups' involvement in the policy-making process has had both negative and positive consequences. Greenwood. M. . Available online at http://www. The level of power they hold does not seem to be excessive because they are only one of many different actors that can have influence over public policy. ‘Politics in the Republic of Ireland’. Bibliography Breen.irishtimes. (Accessed 18/01/2013) Coakley.html. ‘Regulating Lobbying in the Western World’. Oxon: PSAI Press. 25: 4. (2013) ‘Groups Welcome Alarm Grant Reversal’. (2009) ‘About Us’. West European Politics. (Accessed 20/01/2013).

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