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The Buchanan report and its aftermath: Implications for Irish regional planning

Abstract

The so-called Buchanan report, commissioned by the Irish government and published in May 1969, comprised a set of proposals for regional industrial development in Ireland over the period 1966–86. The main thrust of the report was the concentration of the great bulk of new industrial employment creation in Dublin and eight proposed ‘growth centres’. The plan provided for the creation of powerful planning authorities to oversee development in the regions. The government rejected these proposals and opted instead to continue with the existing policy of widespread dispersal of new industry. While meeting with initial success, this policy proved unsustainable in the long term. The paper reviews the implications of the Buchanan report experience for the regional planning process in Ireland, arguing that failure to learn from this experience served to undermine the National Spatial Strategy, with a similar fate likely for the forthcoming National Planning Framework.

Open access
Fifty years of urbanisation in Ireland: Structural and spatial evolution of the urban hierarchy since Buchanan

Abstract

In the fifty years since the publication of the Buchanan report, Regional Studies in Ireland, Ireland has transitioned from a rural to an urban society. Although a number of spatial plans have been introduced at regional and local levels, the growth of over 1.5 million people in the urban population has occurred in the absence of any strong national-level direction of spatial or settlement policy. This paper examines the nature of urbanisation in the half-century since 1966, by looking at the development of the urban hierarchy of cities and towns. Significant long-term changes in both the structure and the spatial expression of the urban hierarchy are identified, on the basis of which urbanisation is characterised as having been deconcentrated and decentralised. The paper identifies some implications of the observed shifts for contemporary policy concerns, and in particular the 2018 National Planning Framework.

Open access
Visions and plans for regional development in Ireland

Abstract

The evolution of spatial planning in Ireland, and more widely, has been a complex process in which many narratives have been explored at different times. In 2018 the government published the National Planning Framework (NPF) to guide and support the achievement of a challenging and potentially transformative development strategy for Ireland 2040. The NPF is grounded in a vision that sets out to be disruptive of what has become embedded as the status quo in political, administrative and planning decision-making. While it is a very innovative addition to the portfolio of government policies and strategies, it is not the first time that radical visions have been proposed. This paper reviews previous visions and plans for regional development that have been proposed over the last seventy-five years, and critically compares and contrasts the approaches represented by the National Spatial Strategy (2002–20) and the NPF (2018–40), including the subsequent draft regional spatial and economic strategies. The implications of the population projections and the proposed settlement patterns for the achievement of the NPF objective of effective regional development, which is expressed as a regional parity target, are closely examined.

Open access
Give credit to the market: The decision not to prohibit 100 per cent loan-to-value mortgages

Abstract

A decision not to prohibit or limit high-risk mortgage products in Ireland in 2005 reveals the extent to which three important factors – interests, institutions, ideology – impact on information processing by decision-makers, and reveals irrationality or otherwise in the process. This article summarises the events leading up to the bad decision on 100 per cent loan-to-value (LTV) mortgages in November 2005. This case reveals the nature of the interaction between government departments, regulators and banks at a critical time before the crash, and shows how a department’s interests can interact with institutional factors, and the ideological context, to prompt poor rational and irrational information processing, and lead to a bad decision. In particular, the dominance of a market ideology which raised the threshold for what information was necessary before intervention would be made, combined with the low institutional standing of the department seeking intervention, produced a suboptimal outcome. Finally, the case provides evidence of irrationality (e.g. groupthink, herding) within institutional actors, rather than between them.

Open access
A JobBridge to nowhere: The National Internship Scheme as fast policy leading to bad policy

Abstract

JobBridge, the Irish National Internship Scheme, was a labour activation measure launched in July 2011, during a period of extreme economic crisis, and was marketed as a chance for young people to gain career experience in quality work placements. Over 60 per cent of participants found employment after leaving the scheme but it suffered from high deadweight losses and was widely criticised as exploitative during its existence. This was quite predictable, which leaves the puzzle as to why JobBridge was designed without more regulations to protect the entry-level jobs market and the interests of the unemployed? This paper will trace the processes behind this suboptimal decision-making. First, it will show the institutional factors influencing poor policy decisions on labour activation. Then it will explain the main incentives behind an under-regulated programme, which were the need to develop a workable scheme as quickly as possible and to do this without significant funding. Finally, it will show how the decision-making process prioritised the interests of the Labour Party, government, business and the concerned parents of unemployed youth over the interests of the unemployed.

Open access
The liberalisation of taxi policy: Capture and recapture?

Abstract

This paper analyses the decision-making processes behind the reform of a policy that had caused significant controversy for over a decade. At 8 p.m. on 21 November 2000 the Minister of State for the Environment, Bobby Molloy, TD, signed S.I. No. 367/2000 – Road Traffic (Public Service Vehicles) (Amendment) (No. 3) into law. This statutory instrument provided ‘for the full resumption of taxi licensing’ and ‘the revocation of regulatory provisions involving quantitative restrictions on the licensing of taxis and hackneys’. With the stroke of a pen, Molloy had effectively ended the taxi licensees’ de facto 21-year control of public service vehicle licensing policy. The paper finds Molloy’s decision to have been a significant policy improvement as it brought about a substantially better taxi service. In addition, the paper shows that even with strong evidence of policy failure, its reform can take a considerable time. With regard to the four-factor framework of institutions, ideology, interests and irrationality, I find that the institutions of the state, while initially facilitating the regulatory capture of the policy by the taxi sector, eventually ensured that this was broken down due to the electoral system and the separation of powers. Up until the reform decision, the interests of the taxi licensees and their political supporters eclipsed the common good. Ideology played a significant role as a backdrop to the policy but ideology was not the primary reason the minister deregulated. Finally, I find that the collective irrationality of the taxi sector leads to an overestimation of their power due to an inability to process the relevant information and collectively agree a reasonable compromise. The key recommendations of the paper are that the means of policy setting should be radically and innovatively overhauled, and that it is imperative that regulators harness the vast information that taxi apps gather in order to improve regulatory outcomes.

Open access
The National Treatment Purchase Fund – A success for some patients yet a public policy failure?

Abstract

In 2002 the Irish Government announced the establishment of the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) as a means of addressing patients’ long wait times for public hospital treatment. A new health strategy published in December 2001 promised that ‘by the end of 2004 all public patients will be scheduled to commence treatment within a maximum of three months of referral from an outpatient department’. Qualitative methods, including documentary analysis and key informant interviews, were used to gain an understanding of this policy process. The findings were then analysed through the framework proposed for this special issue where ideas, institutions and politics interact. Using McConnell’s typology of policy failure, this research finds the NTPF to be an example of a policy failure because, even though tens of thousands of public patients have been treated under the NTPF, waiting times and numbers have persisted and escalated since the NTPF was established.

Open access