Social Innovations, Institutional Change and Economic Performance
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Social Innovations, Institutional Change and Economic Performance

Making Sense of Structural Adjustment Processes in Industrial Sectors, Regions and Societies

Edited by Timo J. Hämäläinen and Risto Heiskala

This book examines the nature of social innovation processes which determine the economic and social performance of nations, regions, industrial sectors and organizations.
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Chapter 9: Social Innovation and Institutional Change in Ireland in the Late 20th Century: From ‘The Poorest of the Rich’ to ‘Europe’s Shining Light’?

Julia S. O’Connor


9. Social innovation and institutional change in Ireland in the late 20th century: From ‘the poorest of the rich’ to ‘Europe’s shining light’? Julia S. O’Connor INTRODUCTION Small countries and economies like Ireland do not often feature as the cover page of publications such as The Economist – Ireland did so twice over a decade. The first time was in the late 1980s when it was characterized as ‘The Poorest of the Rich’ over a photograph of a woman and child begging in the centre of Dublin; a decade later in 1997 it was portrayed as ‘Europe’s Shining Light’. Was The Economist right in its characterizations? If so, how did this transformation come about? Ireland, a small open economy operating in the context of increasing globalization, has achieved considerable economic success over the past decade. Competitiveness in internationally traded sectors has been a crucial element of this achievement. This has been underpinned by appropriate policy choices which were facilitated by significant innovation in the policy formation process. The Irish growth experience is not simply a story of globalization, of reducing the role of the state in the economy and the liberalization of markets. The state has been central to the entire process and the current success, reflected in exceptionally high growth rates from 1994, is the fruit not only of recent policy choices but of some dating back to the 1960s. In particular, policy choices made in relation to education in the 1960s and policies relating to the opening...

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