Joe McDonagh, Laura Burke and Gerard O’Leary
Peter Finnegan and Muiris MacCarthaigh
Gerard Turley, Stephen McNena and Geraldine Robbins
This paper sets out to establish the extent of austerity in the Irish local government system during and after the Great Recession. Austerity is measured by the adjusted change in local government expenditure from peak to trough years, and is analysed by type of expenditure, service division and local authority. Stripping out the change in local government current spending that is due to expenditure reassignments reveals that the austerity-related reduction in local government operating expenditure is not as large as often portrayed. As for other findings, there are sizeable differences across the aforementioned classifications, with, most notably, capital expenditure cuts far exceeding cuts in current expenditure. The largest decreases in total spending were on roads and housing services, and small rural county councils endured the most austerity, as measured by the initial reductions in current expenditure. In terms of policy implications, the biggest concern is the large infrastructural deficit that needs to be tackled, arising from austerity cuts in capital expenditure imposed at both central and local government level. As the economy recovers from the Great Recession and the subsequent era of austerity, failure to address this problem will hinder Ireland’s international competitiveness, constrain the economy’s future growth rate and result in impoverishment of public services at local level.
The publication of a far-reaching public value framework for central government in the UK presents an opportunity to consider how this or a similar framework could be a useful tool for public management in Ireland and Northern Ireland. The concept of public value represents an evolution beyond some of the weaknesses of New Public Management, as it goes further to measure the holistic public benefit compared with pure monetary valuation. Examination of the current programmes for government in Ireland and Northern Ireland leads to the conclusion that a public value framework could be useful to advance their agendas. Lessons from social value legislation in England, Scotland and Wales indicate how a more comprehensive public value framework might be implemented in Northern Ireland and Ireland.
The adverse gender outcomes associated with post-conflict power-sharing arrangements contrast starkly with the socially transformative promise of the framework peace agreements which produce them. Scholarship that has sought to analyse the adverse gender outcomes which occur on imple - mentation has largely focused on the complexities of power-sharing institutional architecture and the role of elite political actors within it. This article makes the case for a new research direction. Parallel research in the field of post-conflict public administration indicates that the complexity of power-sharing institutional arrangements may provide increased opportunity structures for the use of bureaucratic discretion. While use of bureaucratic discretion among elite bureaucrats in Northern Ireland was found to be grounded in core public service values (O’Connor, 2015), feminist institutional analysis exposes those ostensibly benign values (neutrality, objectivity and impartiality) as distinctly gendered phenomena when mediated through the prism of gendered organisational culture (Chappell, 2002, 2006). This article considers the history and specificity of the Northern Ireland civil service and in particular its elite cohort of decision-makers - the senior civil service (SCS) - with a view to excavating the particular institutional legacies which may imbue SCS values and culture. In doing so it asks whether gendered institutional legacies have the potential to function as structural inhibitors to formal provisions for gender equality and socially transformative policy in Northern Ireland’s post-conflict dispensation.