Edited by Klaus Armingeon and Michelle Beyeler
Séamus Ó Cinnéide and Paul Ryan INSTITUTIONAL AND POLITICAL CONTEXT Ireland is a small (population 3.9 million) unitary state with a highly centralised administration. Over the past decade it has experienced a dramatic and unexpected economic boom which is at variance with its experience since becoming independent in 1922. Before independence Ireland shared with the rest of the United Kingdom the social policy provisions that provided the foundations of the welfare state in the two islands: a Poor Law system, including limited health services, universal primary education, means-tested old age pensions and a rudimentary social insurance system for low-income workers. The development of the Irish welfare state was delayed and has been slow. The resulting welfare state defies classification (O’Donnell 1999 reviews the vain efforts); for those who insist on ‘three worlds’ it can be said that Ireland combines some of the features of the ‘liberal’ and ‘corporatist’ regimes and accords least with the ‘social democratic’ regime. During the 1930s and 1940s various contingency-specific national incomemaintenance schemes were added to the British heritage, social insurance schemes for manual workers and other low-paid employees, and means-tested schemes for those not so covered. In 1944 universal Children’s Allowances (now Child Benefit) were introduced for families of three or more children, but Ireland had not the resources to emulate the British welfare state innovations of the post-war years. In 1952 the government consolidated social insurance legislation and administration, but retained flat-rate contributions and benefits. However, contributory old-age pensions were only introduced in...
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