The 1980s were dominated by the twin preoccupations of the economy and Northern Ireland. It was also a decade of frequent general elections and changes of government. Two men held the office of Taoiseach: Charles Haughey and Garret FitzGerald. This was also the time when the size and scope of the Department of the Taoiseach began to expand, particularly in the areas of the economy and Northern Ireland. There was a greater focus on government policy for the arts and culture, and a junior minister was appointed in the Taoiseach's department with responsibility for women's affairs.
The Anglo-Irish Agreement, signed by Garret FitzGerald and British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1985, gave Ireland an advisory role in the governance of Northern Ireland for the first time. Dermot Nally, secretary to the government from 1980 to 1993, played a key role in the years of negotiations that led up to the agreement and in the drafting of the document itself.