Social partnership, or 'the search for consensus on economic and social objectives between sectoral interests' (Walsh et aI., 1998) has gained increasing importance in Irish public policy in recent years. The Programme of Integrated Development in Disadvantaged Areas 1995-1999 (P.I.D.D.A), under the Local Development Programme, is one of several initiatives to stem from the Irish commitment to social partnership. The Programme represents a locally-based response to unemployment and disadvantage. Two of its principal objectives are as follows: • To improve the capacity of local communities 'to participate fully in local development and to counter social exclusion' (Ireland, 1995, p. 60). • To 'improve co-ordination and evaluation at local level of mainstream programmes and policies to ensure their effective delivery to the long-term unemployed and the socially excluded' (AD.M., 1995, p. 9). Both objectives are problematic, and recent research suggests that the P.I.D.D.A has experienced some difficulties in achieving them.

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