Contesting Politics: Women in Ireland, North and South

By Yvonne Galligan; Eilís Ward et al. | Go to book overview

5
The Republic of Ireland's Equality Contract: Women and Public Policy

EILEEN CONNOLLY

In the late 1950s the Republic of Ireland began to experience major social, political, and economic change leading to a twenty-year period of modernisation, increasing affluence, industrialisation, and the generation of a more diverse society ( Lee 1979). This period also saw a fundamental shift in the way women were treated in public policy, resulting in the creation, by 1978, of a new public policy paradigm that was radically different from that which had existed in the 1950s. This paradigm gave women formal legal equality both in family law and in employment law.

In this chapter I examine the evolution of this new policy paradigm in the Republic of Ireland from the end of the 1950s to the 1970s. I will briefly place these developments in the context of a European-wide pattern of change in the social role and status of women as defined in the public policy regimes of individual states. I then examine the experience of the Irish legislative state (the Oireachtas and the government departments) in the renegotiation of pubic policy, in the areas of employment law, family law, and the inclusion of "mothers" in the social welfare system. I conclude that the impact of the policy regime put in place in the 1970s still shapes many important aspects of public policy and attitudes to gender in Irish governance.


The European Experience

Kaplan ( 1992) study of European feminism outlines the postwar conditions in the democratic states of western Europe, where despite the diversity of women's experience, a dominant pattern emerged. Initially, post

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