The decade of the 1950s was a politically volatile one, with changes of government in 1951, 1954 and 1957. Irish voters were unhappy at poor economic prospects, stagnant living standards and high emigration. It was in the 1950s that the Department of the Taoiseach began to play a greater role in economic policy, starting with the appointment of Patrick Lynch, a future UCD professor of economics, as economic advisor to Taoiseach John A. Costello. Economic Development, written in 1958 under the direction of secretary of the Department of Finance T. K. Whitaker, with Charlie Murray, assistant secretary of the Department of the Taoiseach, as principal collaborator, played a key role in modernising the Irish economy.
When Seán Lemass succeeded de Valera as Taoiseach in 1959 he continued to take an active role in strategic issues such as economic policy, Ireland's campaign for membership of the EEC, and North-South relations.