Lemass’s economic expansion policy saved Ireland

Seán Lemass tapes: 1958 plan to reverse protectionism and open Ireland up to foreign investment had a galvanising effect on the economy

Taoiseach Seán Lemass setting off a charge in a pit face to mark the opening of Tynagh Mines, Co Galway, in November 1963. With him were David Fitzgerald (centre), mine superintendent, and PJ Hughes, chairman, Irish Base Metals Ltd. Photograph: Kevin McMahon

Taoiseach Seán Lemass setting off a charge in a pit face to mark the opening of Tynagh Mines, Co Galway, in November 1963. With him were David Fitzgerald (centre), mine superintendent, and PJ Hughes, chairman, Irish Base Metals Ltd. Photograph: Kevin McMahon

The 1950s was the darkest decade, marked by emigration of nearly 50,000 people a year. One of the great what-ifs of Irish history is what would have happened if Seán Lemass had become taoiseach earlier.

Would much of the stagnation of the 1950s have been avoided if the economic plan published by Lemass a year after he took over from Éamon de Valera had been introduced earlier?

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