This paper reflects on the various influences, especially from the 1980s, that shaped Ireland’s policy direction leading to the National Framework of Qualifications which was launched in 2003. The paper also provides a broad overview on Ireland’s economic development especially from the 1960s, citing the influence of higher education and training structures in this regard. Among the matters explored in the paper are: the policy-making process; the national, EU and international influences that shaped the policy direction: ‘policy-borrowing’ and policy networks; linkages between the political process, employer needs and education/training structures; and the Bologna process. The range of influences is highlighted in the flurry of policy initiatives during the 1990s.