Document Type



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



Publication Details

F. Barry and C.O’Mahony, ‘Regime Change in 1950s Ireland: The New Export-Oriented Foreign Investment Strategy’, Irish Economic and Social History, 44:1, (2017), 46-65.


The new export-oriented foreign direct investment (FDI) regime of the 1950s was an interparty government initiative that facilitated the later Whitaker and Lemass-led dismantling of protectionist trade barriers. The potential opposition of protectionist-era industry to the new regime was defused by confining the new tax relief to profits derived solely from exports, by allocating new industrial grants only to firms that ‘would not compete in the home market with existing firms’, and by retaining the Control of Manufactures Acts of the 1930s that imposed restrictions on foreign ownership. The fact that the US had overtaken the UK as the major global source of FDI made it easier to secure Fianna Fáil support. US firms were particularly interested in access to EEC markets however, which was not within Ireland’s gift. The export processing zone at Shannon, which might be seen as Lemass’s response to the inter-party initiatives, proved to be of immediate appeal to them. US firms would come to predominate in the non-Shannon region only after Ireland’s entry to the EEC.