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The Presence and Absence of Protest in Austerity Ireland

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Late Neoliberalism and its Discontents in the Economic Crisis

Abstract

Ireland had long been put forward as a model of sensible governance to be emulated by other countries suffering during the economic crisis. The government assiduously applied the Troika’s economic dictates and the Irish population, reputedly, stoically accepted the ravaging of public services, wage cuts, huge unemployment and a return to mass emigration. However, after Ireland exited the Troika Memorandum in 2013, instead of society rejoicing in the fruits of its responsible behaviour, it began to take to the streets. This culminated in the largest protest campaign—against the imposition of water charges—the country has arguably ever witnessed. This chapter will analyse the reasons behind the inconsistency of protest in the early stages of austerity before addressing the explosion of dissent in 2014. It argues that Ireland’s specific protest patterns can be attributed to its prevailing consensual and relatively conservative political culture, as well as the institutional setting and practices of Social Partnership that undergirded it. The chapter traces the protest in three waves from 2008 to 2016 and finally considers the extent of Ireland’s macro-economic recovery and how it has affected social movement actors.

The author is grateful to all those who shared drafts of unpublished work with him and to Frank McNamara and Brian Kitt for feedback on earlier drafts of the chapter.

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O’Connor, F. (2017). The Presence and Absence of Protest in Austerity Ireland. In: Late Neoliberalism and its Discontents in the Economic Crisis. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-35080-6_3

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