Subscriber OnlyBooksReview

Politics in the Republic of Ireland: Hearty fare for the political buff

Seventh edition explores society and political culture, Constitution and the judiciary, electoral system and more

Politics in the Republic of Ireland: Seventh Edition
Politics in the Republic of Ireland: Seventh Edition
Author: John Coakley, Michael Gallagher, Eoin O’Malley and Theresa Reidy (eds)
ISBN-13: 978-0415476713
Publisher: Routledge
Guideline Price: £36.99

As this is the seventh edition in a series beginning in 1992, what does it offer that’s new? Quite a lot, the editors say. “The many recent upheavals in the political-party system, voting behaviour, patterns of public-policy making, constitutional development and political culture” are analysed. There are two new editors and seven new contributors, and a newly added chapter examines the role of referendums and citizens’ assemblies in the political process.

Individual chapters explore society and political culture (the consensus of the past may be challenged by increasing diversity brought by immigration; a commitment to democratic values appears solidly rooted and secular attitudes and interest in global issues have grown); the Constitution and the judiciary (our Constitution is nearly 90 years old and the judiciary wields significant power although not democratically accountable but there’s little appetite for a new Constitution or significant revision); the electoral system (again, no apparent appetite for change despite criticism of “parish-pump politics”); and the party system (a more fragmented system has replaced the old two-and-a-half party dominance and if the younger cohort’s support for this change persists, we may see a new party system within a generation but it’s likely that parties will retain their importance).

Other issues covered are voting behaviour (fewer voters now display a party attachment; there’s no strong social basis to patterns of choice, and localism seems to play a big role); “direct and deliberative democracy”, ie referendums and citizens’ assemblies (these have achieved marked changes in Irish society); parliament (the way the Oireachtas operates has changed but it continues to perform multiple crucial roles, especially in an era of populism and mis- and diss- information), and women in politics (their representation in political life still ranks low in European terms and while the legislative gender quota is effecting change, further supportive measures are needed).

Under the “policy and administration” heading, the roles of government and taoiseach, the impact of interest groups (there has been increasing transparency in policymaking) and how the media interact with the political system (social media provide increasing opportunity for politicians and voters) are examined before a final section considers Ireland in relation to Northern Ireland and Britain and to the European Union. All in all, this is hearty fare for the political buff.