The Entanglement and Disentanglement of Church and State in Irish Social Policy
This chapter examines the changing nature of the partnership of church and state amid shifting religious and secular currents in Irish society. It highlights recent significant changes in the religious landscape, including a sharp decline in Catholic affiliation and church participation and an increase in ethnic and religious minorities. These developments, coupled with the political and economic strains of a post-austerity state and cultural expectations of a more pluralistic and inclusive society, are shifting the public discourse on the deeply embedded relationship between church and state in education, health, and social welfare. Using case analyses, the chapter shows that the terms of this discourse are highly nuanced. The public arguments advanced vary depending on the specific issue, but in all cases expose the tensions in secular expectations of both the church and the state. The chapter concludes by drawing out the implications of cultural context for inter-institutional relations and definitions of the good or just society.