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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence

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Irish Political Studies, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 577-598.


Here we argue that the relationship between the main Irish political parties and the trade unions, in the 1970s, was largely based upon political imperatives, with an economic subtext. The absence of strong ideological difference between the two largest Irish political parties meant they were willing to deal with the trade union moment in a somewhat similar fashion. At the start of the 1970s, the Fianna Fail government prodded the ICTU into a “voluntary” national wage agreement. This agreement was regarded as a means of stabilising the economy, attracting foreign investment, and improving Fianna Fail’s image with the electorate. While the governments throughout this period did adopt certain trade union policies as public policy, this was only done when it suited the administration. The objective was never to create a Scandinavian style corporatist state. All agreements with the ICTU, whether conducted under the auspices of the Fianna Fail, or coalition, government, had the same ultimate objective – economic progress to ensure political success. When this objective could no longer be satisfied the unions found themselves removed from the corridors of power.