Document Type



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


Economics, Business and Management., Political science, public administration, Social sciences, Interdisciplinary

Publication Details

O’Rourke, B. K., & Hogan, J. (2018). Ireland’s Austerity Addiction: Challenges & Opportunities. Presented at the AltAusterity Partnership Workshop 2018, Hamilton, Ontario: AltAusterity.


The current hold of austerity on Irish public policy provokes a comparison with addiction. Postliberalism, the form of austerity Ireland is hooked on, brought the country to its knees. It tied the millstone of bank bailouts around Ireland’s neck, slashed its education and health spending and meant its budgets were closely supervised by the Troika of the Europe Union (EU), the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank from 2010-2013. Unemployment spiked and there was an exodus, particularly of young people, from the country. This was a period of national humiliation as economic sovereignty evaporated in a deal described as being more akin to the Versailles Treaty than the Marshall Plan (O’Toole, 2010a). Yet, Ireland is once again on a postliberal high with centre-right parties topping the polls, the national economy being celebrated once more as a triumph of postliberalism (Zehorai, 2015) and soaring house prices being taken as a return of the good times. Rising homelessness, prohibitive rents, the precarious nature of Ireland’s competitive corporate tax position and the bubble in land prices on while discussed, are more rationalised away than rationally dealt with. At the same time local authorities administer austerity as they reduce property taxes (Power et al., 2018).

This pattern is not a new one to anyone familiar with Irish economic history (O’Rourke and Hogan, 2017). Neither is Ireland alone in its addiction, indeed its place in the network of austerity is one of its main dependencies. What are the impediments to escaping this addiction and what are the opportunities for both Ireland and the world to move this postliberal condition? To answer these questions requires a broader sweep than is possible in narrow academic papers. This paper therefore addresses all those with an interest in how we might jointly govern our societies in a way that goes beyond the austerity of vested interests and simplistic solutions. It draws on the work of social scientists that makes such experts a useful but not dominating contributor to the conversation. To do this , we firstly provide some of the general background to the postliberal condition we are now in, before giving a briefing some relevant details on Ireland’s situation. We then suggest three opportunities for Ireland and elsewhere to progress from where we are now. Our conclusions, we hope, are both realistic and enabling, but cry out for continuing the conversation.