keywords:Irish Politics Clientelism Urban Ireland information reputation brokerage Irish brokers clients influence corruption patrons county council administration government planning Dublin bribery county councillors TDs planning rezoning development plan illegal housing political local city
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Table of Contents
Existing studies of Irish politics presume a clientelist exchange between politician and voter: the politician uses personal influence to obtain state benefits for the constituent, and the constituent provides electoral support in return. This study investigates the accuracy of this assumption by tracing how people actually obtain the state resources they need, and examining the exchanges between voter, politician, and bureaucrat that revolve around public resources.
A number of issues are addressed. First, there is little data on how or why clientelism operates in urban Ireland, as most studies have examined only rural communties. Second, despite the clientelist rhetoric, the actual necessity for clientelist exhanges has not been demonstrated. Third, it is unclear which social and economic factors encourage voters to become clients, or what political benefits politicians receive by acting as patrons or brokers. Finally, the thesis investigates why clientelism should in fact exist in a homogeneous society which lacks politically salient ethnic, class, or regional divisions.
Research shows that clientelism exists in Dublin, but politicians do not control material resources, but rather information regarding state benefits and access to the bureaucrats who allocate benefits. Often, politicians ensure that voters obtain benefits which they are entitled to, but which they might not otherwise receive. Politicians do not obtain a direct return for this assistance, but their enhanced reputation in the community increased their overall electoral support. Brokerage exchanges are mot frequent among poorer segments of the community who are most dependent on state assistance. State officials help create the demand for information and access, while also helping politicians to satisfy those demands. Clientelism is both an urban and rural phenomenon; the control of information and access gives politicians considerable leverage over people who depend on state assistance.
This study is, by necessity, a snapshot in time; it is a study of micro-processes, set in the context of macro-structures. Such an emphasis should not be taken to suggest that macro-structures, or historical processes, are therefore unimportant. Such areas are beyond the scope of this study, but they are no less significant for that reason. The importance of cultural values, such as nationalism and party ideology, in Irish politics cannot be underestimated. One of the conclusions of this thesis is that clientelism is less central in the political system than electoral rhetoric would otherwise suggest. Clientelism exists within a broader cultural and social context which determines the form and content of clientelist exchanges, and must be understood in that context. However, micro-studies, distinguishing clientelist fact from clientelist myth, are a necessary precondition for broader investigations of Irish society.
Following a common anthropological convention, this study is written in the present tense. This should not, however, suggest an unchanging system at equilibrium. Indeed, there are good reasons to expect that the clientelism of the 1980's is markedly different from the clientelism observed from 1978 to 1980. There have been important changes in political and administrative structures which have altered the context of clientelist exchanges.
Anthropological research depends very much on personal rapport with informants. This is especially important in political clientelism, since research focuses on behaviors that are often defined by participants as "immoral", or, at the very least, dubious. The question of what is "really" going on is crucial, and different people, each with their own special motivation, will claim to know the "behind the scenes" truth. It is difficult, therefore, for the researcher to determine the accuracy of the information he receives. This is perhaps even more difficult in Irish politics; Irish politics is small scale, in that everyone knows everyone else, and will be interacting with them for many years. Information is both especially valuable (in the right hands), and especially dangerous (in the wrong hands). The factionalism which is endemic in party politics means than politicians have few permanent friends and many temporary allies, who are not given any more information than is necessary.
This must pose a problem for the researcher. The necessary personal contacts were difficult to create and maintain, since to be trusted by one politician was sufficient reason to be distrusted by others. Sufficient contacts were eventually made, across party lines, to collect information on most of the relevant issues. I had one advantage: being an outsider. There is a tradition of American academics doing research in Ireland, and then returning to the United States. The "American researcher" is a safe, although not well understood, role. People were slightly more willing to talk to me than they would have been to people they would expect to continue seeing for many years. In so far as I was "safe", I could be boasted to about matters which they could not tell others.
In addition, I spent longer in Dublin than most such foreign researchers; and certainly long enough to be no longer be "safe", and better able to distinguish boasting from reality. I first arrived in January 1978, and continue to reside in Dublin (as of December 1985). Although the bulk of research took place between 1978 and 1981, I kept in touch with various individuals in politics. As time passed, my own network of contacts developed, and I have sometimes been able to gain access, through the personalistic "back door", to events and institutions that would not have been accessible through the front door. Many individuals can no longer be classified as informants; they are friends.
This raises another methodological issue: anonymity. Ireland is sufficiently small that few case studies have been published in which the main characters were not immediately recognizable to many people throughout the country. Dublin may have a population of almost one million, but the political arena is very small, and so it is difficult to maintain the anonymity of informants that any researcher must, ethically, maintain. I have tried to do this by relating only those specific cases in which the participants could not easily be recognized. Even the two areas in which I spent much of my time while doing research have been disguised as much as possible, and rarely referred to directly. Most of the material I gathered through participant observation was, in any case, neither startling nor immoral. I suspect that I have been more concerned to maintain the anonymity of informants than the people actually involved would have been. It remains, never the less, an obligation which one owes to people who have extended their trust to an outsider.
Ireland is often described as a part of Europe's "Celtic fringe"; it is an isolated island behind Great Britain. To those on the European continent, Ireland is a place of mystery and mystique, linked with a primitive and pre-industrial consciousness. In the comparative context, it is often regarded as "unique" because it defies easy classification. It is part of Europe, yet its economy more nearly resembles the "developing" countries'. It lacks the class-based politics characteristic of most European countries (Whyte 1974; Garvin 1977), and yet lacks the tribal or ethnic divisions that often substitute for class politics elsewhere. It is a post-colonial state, yet politically stable and conservative. Its formal political and administrative structure follows the British model, yet its politics is distinctly non-British. No wonder, then, that writers say "Ireland occupies a singular place among the nations" (Peillon 1982:1).
This is a study of clientelist politics in Dublin, the urban center of Ireland. It examines the process by which individuals obtain access to scarce and valued resources controlled by the state. Involved in this process are individuals, politicians, and public officials: individuals who need the resources and are dependent on those who might assist them, politicians who may be able to facilitate access to the resources and who may gain personally by so doing, and public officials who control and allocate the resources. The focus is on the links between voters, politicians, and public officials in the context of power and dependency.
Personal contacts are direct, quick, and effective. In government and administration, they are often an attractive alternative to bureaucratic procedures, anonymous officials, and triplicated forms. In some societies, it is through personal exchanges that most scarce and valued state resources are allocated. Individuals whose demands or needs are denied or ignored by the formal system may become clients of powerful individuals, and so informally obtain state resources which would not otherwise be available. Clientelist exchanges are private rather than public, and they lack the permanence and public legitimacy that characterizes the formal authority structure. They are, none-the-less, often integral to understanding how people obtain the resources which they need. This study examines the extent to which client exchanges are employed in urban Irish politics.
Many Irish people are dependent on the state for direct or indirect financial support, and politicians are able to use this dependence to their own advantage in the election process. The state is rarely seen as impartial or impersonal; special contacts and influence are believed to be more relevant than need or qualifications in obtaining state benefits. Voters believe that the assistance of politicians is the best guarantee for receiving state benefits, and surveys show that people remember this when voting (Sinnott 1978:46-47, 61-62). Election rhetoric revolves around special influence and past favors as politicians compete to help the voters. The stereotype of Irish politics -- the personal exchange between politician and voter in which the politician uses his influence to obtain state benefits for the constituent, and the constituent provides electoral support in return -- is a justly deserved one. Politicians are thought to spend much of their time using their actual (or reputed) influence over the allocation of state benefits to build up personal followings.
Similar political patterns have been observed in Africa, Asia, South America, and the circum-Mediterranean (see Powell 1977:149; Eisenstadt and Roniger 1984). In these countries, linkages between citizens and elites are found which exhibit common characteristics: they are voluntary, they are between people of unequal socio-economic status, they are personal and face-to-face, and they persist over time (for a sample of various definitions, see Powell 1977:147-148; Clapham 1982:4-7; Scott 1977:125-128; and Graziano 1975:5-7). Pitt-Rivers' (1961:140) characterization of them as "lop-sided friendships" evokes a mixture of economic transaction and moral value which seems to separate such relations from simple economic domination and exploitation on one hand, and egalitarian aspirations of reciprocity on the other. to be informal, voluntary, asymetrical, and dyadic. The links are vital for citizens, as it is only through these links that they obtain scarce resources controlled by the state. Citizens obtain access to resources and support those who provide the access in return. This pattern of political activity has been termed "political clientelism", and it provides a model of politics throughout the world.
Ireland seems, on first glance, to fit into such a model. Ireland parallels other post-colonial states, and descriptions of Irish politics and administration support a picture of Ireland as "clientelist". Yet, while political clientelism provides a model of Irish politics, does the reality of politician-voter interchanges actually fit the model? Existing studies of Irish politics are largely drawn from rural communities. There is very little information on urban politics, yet one-half of the population of Ireland lives in towns with populations in excess of ten thousand people. One-third of the entire population of Ireland lives in the greater Dublin area. Conclusions about Irish politics drawn largely from rural studies are incomplete without complementary urban material.
The goals of this thesis are to examine how people actually obtain the resources they need, especially those resources distributed via state agencies, and to trace the exchanges between voter, politician, and bureaucrat that revolve around public needs. The results show that the rhetoric of politics is clientelist, but the actual allocation of resources more closely follows the impersonal practices of the bureaucracy. In other words, the ideology of personalism and influence may mirror folk beliefs more accurately than it describes actual practice. While the system of allocation operates on non-clientelist criteria, it does encourage clientelist rhetoric by politicians. Politicians use their monopoly over information to meet expectations they do not actually have the power to fulfill. The Irish case thus brings into question the utility of political clientelism as a way of describing and analyzing politics.
Anthropological studies of clientelism originated with studies of peasant communities (e.g., Mintz and Wolf 1950; Pitt-Rivers 1954; Wolf 1956). In addition to kinship relations, these studies also described voluntary links between non-kin. The voluntary links were often integral parts of the communities, although they had not previously received much attention. In looking at dyadic exchanges, Foster (1961) distinguished between horizontal links which were between "equals" and vertical links which were between "unequals". The horizontal exchanges involved goods and services to which both parties had access, such as labor or farm tools, and like was exchanged for like. In vertical exchanges, each party provided different resources and resources to which the other party had no access. When vertical exchanges were the basis of long-lasting personal bonds between the parties, they were called patron-client relations.
The patron provides necessary services with are otherwise unavailable and the recipient becomes the patron's "client". In the patron-client exchanges of peasant communities, landowners provide land to farm, crisis insurance, physical security or protection and, in return, receive crops, labor, military service, and gratitude (Scott and Kerkvliet 1977:443-444). The recipient of patronage benefits acknowledges his dependence, and stands ready to assist the patrons in whatever way the patron desires. Symbolic acts of deference or subservience are the client's acknowledgement of his debt, and the fulfillment of the patron's requests is only a partial repayment of a recurring debt. Vertical exchanges are often enveloped or enshrined with special moral values, suggesting a non-economic bond between the parties. Fictive kinship, or "godfatherhood" gives an added moral dimension to the personal relationship, which serves to disguise the inequality which creates the need for such exchanges.
Patronage studies were originally community oriented, and demonstrated the social cohesion and integration which was a counterpoint to economic and social inequality. However, it was clear that the patron's superior position could not be explained solely in terms of the local community; his power often derived from his position in the broader society. There was often a "gap" between the local and national systems, and locals needed assistance in dealing with the broader system. Some individuals, due to their social, economic, or political position, were able to bridge this gap, and so linked the two systems. Such link-men served community needs, by enabling "the peasant to cope with the impersonal, unfair, and often hostile demands emanating from national and regional centers to the rural hinterland" (Galt 1974:182). Thus, the links between local and national systems began to receive attention.
Local notables derive power from two kinds of resources: either the direct control of scarce and valued resources, or access to others who control them. One who provides valued goods because he controls them himself is a patron; the resources are in his "giving". One who does not directly control the resources, but has special influence over, or contact with, those who do, is a broker. The resource which a broker provides is his special influence or contact (Boissevain 1974; Paine 1971). While the same person might control both kinds of resources, the resources can be separated analytically. In both cases, the element of monopoly is crucial. It is a broker's or patron's exclusive access to valued resources which makes clients depend on them and which permits brokers and patrons to "charge" for their services (cf. Silverman 1965).
It has been suggested that, over time, brokerage supplants patronage; patron-client links tend to become broker-client links as the national system intrudes into the local community (Silverman 1965). As state intervention increases, local power begins to depend on access to external resources. Those whose special control over local resources made them patrons will probably also have special access to state resources, but there is an increased chance for others to become brokers. Landowners may find themselves competing with local teachers or priests, whose literacy enables them to provide an alternative access to state resources, and at a lower "cost" to the client. If too many individuals have access to the state, then the monopoly is lost and there would remain little power or profit for the broker.
Early clientelism studies tended to make theoretical assumptions; they presumed a functionalist consensus in which political and economic inequalities were of secondary importance to overall integration. Power, domination, and conflict were underplayed, and brokerage and patronage were the arrangements that maintained social order. Theoretical concerns have changed, however, and anthropological theories have become more sensitive to power and conflict, and must therefore pay attention to the negotiation and manipulation to which social exchanges are subject (e.g, Asad's 1972 critique of Barth, as well as Kapferer 1976). Clientelist exchanges are voluntary transactions between individuals, but the patron/broker's monopoly over resources on which clients depend gives him the power to define the terms of the exchange (Paine 1971:15). Clientelist exchanges depend on, and derive from, both inequality and monopoly. Recent studies of patronage and brokerage are now more concerned with the way client relationships create and maintain patterns of domination and inequality (see Gilsenan 1977; Silverman 1977; Weingrod 1977b; Paine 1974).
Many anthropological studies of clientelism have focused on the dyadic link itself, and the way individuals obtain and maintain power over the scarce and valued resources which others need. Equally important, but less focused upon, are the consequences of clientelism to the state. As already noted, clientelism is firmly rooted in the broader society; there are social pre-conditions for clientelism, and clientelism takes different forms, depending on external factors. Causation is not unidirectional, as clientelism also affects the society in which it exists. Therefore, clientelism must be viewed from a macro, as well as micro, perspective, and the relation between clientelist exchanges and the society in which they take place is relevant.
For example, appeals for electoral and political support tend to be personal in places where clientelism is pervasive. This contrasts to places where class or ethnic ties are pervasive. In Europe, class formation preceded universal suffrage, and people of similar social and economic categories partly organized into political groups sharing similar ideological aims. In these cases, political support is based on common goals. Elsewhere, ethnicity, and not class, has been salient as the basis for post-independence political alignments. In these cases, members of a political party share a common ethnic identity as well as common goals. Clientelism contrasts with both class and ethnic politics in its emphasis on dyadic bonds between individuals rather than the shared membership of a group. The client's bond is a personal loyalty to the politician, and the party or larger goals which the politician represents is irrelevant for the client's support. In short, electoral support must be based on individualistic appeals rather than on appeals of shared interest or collective identity.
Clientelist links build on one another and can extend throughout the state, creating an inter-locking pyramid of personal exchanges. When public resources are allocated via client links, the system differs from the Weberian bureaucratic ideal where people interact with the state apparatus on an impersonal basis. In a bureaucratic apparatus, people claim state services as their legitimate entitlements and benefits are allocated on the basis of public and objective criteria. By contrast, in clientelist systems, formal channels are irrelevant to the process by which individuals obtain state administered resources:
. . . there is an almost complete dependency on face-to-face relationships in the building and maintenance of the system. Impersonal communications between persons low and high in the system hierarchy are as ineffective as they are rare. A low-status participant [normally] depends on a series of linkages with intermediate brokers. (Powell 1977:157)
Furthermore, people are not seen as occupying roles (such as bureaucrat or elected official) which carry specific obligations; they are individuals who can decide whatever they wish. In client systems, obtaining state benefits is thus a series of personal negotiations, in which individuals with power can be persuaded to do what their clients request.
Given the differences in clientelist and bureaucratic systems, political science studies of clientelism have often looked to its "underside", examining "how political party leaders seek to turn public institutions and public resources to their own ends, and how favors of various kinds are exchanged for votes" (Weingrod 1977a:379). Such activities are possible because, as Powell (1977:157) reasons, "the patron-client pattern occurs in the realm of private accountability, the modern pattern in the realm of public accountability". This "behind the scenes" character of clientelism permits individuals to further their own interests, without being bound by a public commitment to impersonal and objective decisions.
Clientelist politics has obvious implications for development. The allocation of public goods and services are the "spoils" of the decision-makers, so there is little incentive to make decisions for the common good rather than for sectional interests. Long-term projects are inevitably less rewarding than short-term projects since there are fewer benefits for specific individuals (cf. Olsen 1968). As Graziano (1975:43-44) notes, politicians and bureaucrats,
by nourishing expectations of immediate and individual reward, . . . make it impossible for society to carry out social investments which are as essential for political development as accumulation of material resources is for economic development.
Although Graziano overstates the case,1 clientelism can thus hinder development strategies of the state.
Clientelism flourishes in countries which had been under colonial domination. Clientelism often incorporates diverse ethnic groups into an overall political structure, and also bridges center-periphery and mass-elite gaps. All of these functions may be vital to the maintenance of social cohesion and political integration, but clientelist strategies will not necessarily become obsolete or ineffective as the overall system becomes less fragile and vulnerable. As state intervention increases or the economy is transformed through development, the nature of what constitutes "scarce resources" will change. However, as long as some individuals retain a monopoly over access to scarce resources and others remain dependent on those resources, clientelism will remain salient (Lemarchand 1977:116-118). A key question must be how clientelist exchanges alter as the society in which they take place changes.
Some studies have suggested that economic development and social change tend to reduce clients' dependence and, by strengthening the clients' bargaining position, tend to also weaken clientelist bonds. For example, the broker's monopoly over access to state resources may be broken, as alternative "middle-men" (such as teachers, priests, trade union activists) proliferate. The client may learn to deal directly with the state apparatus, or, owing to changes in the bureaucracy, such direct approaches may become effective. The client's dependence on assistance may decrease if economic wealth diffuses through the society or if class politics begins to emerge. Scott (1977:138) suggests that "patron-client ties have tended to become more instrumental, less comprehensive, and hence less resilient". He also suggests that the duration of the link shortens, and begins to resemble market exchanges. In his view, the overall structures which support and encourage clientelism crumble, and so clientelism decays.
Elections add a new dimension to clientelist exchanges, and electoral clientelism provides examples of both decay and transformation in clientelism. Elections improve the client's bargaining position. When elections become relevant (e.g., after political independence), the patron/broker usually seeks the power and authority of elective office, and so becomes dependent on the votes of clients. Political rivalries are articulated in the electoral arena as new political figures create rival bases of electoral support. The vote is, potentially, a valuable resource for the client: it costs very little (he has it simply by virtue of citizenship), and he can "sell" it for his own benefit. Elections would thus seem to weaken clientelism, but this actually depends on external conditions. Clients in a marginal economic position remain vulnerable; politicians "buy" votes cheaply, and the client is little better off than before. In other cases, electoral choice may be illusory; either there is little difference between the candidates, or the client is obligated, on the basis of economic, religious, or kinship ties, to vote for a particular candidate. While elections alter clientelist politics, they do not necessarily bring about its demise.
The examination of electoral clientelism is interesting because it is becoming an important mode for clientelist exchanges throughout the world. State intervention in economic life is increasing everywhere, and the exchange of votes for state benefits is a common currency for clientelist politics. Usually, however, this exchange is mediated by other factors; in most polities, traditional loyalties and mass-elite, as well as center-periphery, gaps still dominate elections. The voter thus has less choice at elections, and his bargaining power as a client is lessened. Such constraints on voter choice may weaken in the future; if so, how would exchanges between voter and politician operate in their absence? It is often difficult to distinguish electoral exchanges from all the other exchanges the same individuals may be involved in; these multiplex and over-lapping roles contribute to the strength of political clientelism, but it is therefore difficult to isolate the voter-politician aspect of the exchange for purposes of analysis. This difficulty has been emphasized by studies which have confused native folk models of exchange with actual practices of exchange; the folk model has been accepted as a valid description (see Silverman 1977; Gilsenan 1977 on this problem). Studies of "pure" electoral clientelism would provide a useful yardstick by which other more diffuse and multiplex exchanges could be measured. With only a few exceptions (such as Chubb, J., 1982), studies of actual voter-politician exchanges are lacking. Yet, electoral clientelism is an important mode for clientelist exchange, and merits examination in its own right.
Ireland is one example of a society in which electoral exchanges are relatively free from other clientelist exchanges. Ireland exhibits clientelist politics, and yet lacks many of the social and cultural attributes which color electoral clientelism elsewhere. In most European polities, class politics dominate elections. In peripheral areas of Western Europe (e.g., southern Italy and Greece), clientelist exchanges are more relevant than class politics, but in many of these areas the electoral exchange is mediated by traditional loyalties. In Ireland, electoral exchanges are not submerged or camouflaged in the same way, and so it provides a useful example of the "pure" exchange of votes for state benefits.
Ireland is rarely referred to in discusions of Western European politics; although geographically a part of Western Europe, Ireland does not have Western European-style politics. In contrast to most Western European states, differences in occupation, social class, region, or religion are neither salient political issues nor the basis of party cleavages (see Chubb 1982:104; Whyte 1974). Political parties do not split along ideological lines, and personalities, rather than policies, dominate electoral contests. In so far as Ireland is mentioned in the European context, it is as a marginal case which is puzzling, but easier to ignore than explain.
Some studies have suggested that Ireland does not fit into other European political models because it is a post-colonial state (Garvin 1977). As an unwilling part of Great Britain, it was economically exploited and socially as well as culturally subjugated until independence, and is still dominated by its industrialized neighbor. Ireland was forced to remain an under-developed rural society for centuries, and the transition to an urban and industrial economy only began in the past thirty years. Agriculture and tourism remain dominant national concerns. Unlike other European citizens, the Irish gained universal suffrage prior to industrial development. This delayed the development of class divisions, and post-independence political factions did not align themselves along class lines. Southern Italy, Greece, and Spain exhibit similar characteristics; like Ireland, these areas are peripheral and under-developed vis-a-vis the European core.
Ireland has been profoundly affected by its long period of domination. It was partially conquered by English forces in the twelfth century; and in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the English monarchy consolidated its conquest. Independence came in 1922, after three hundred years of foreign domination. The British left Ireland an agrarian society with no indigenous industrial base, but with a well established and centralized administrative apparatus. Independent Ireland was culturally homogeneous, as the largely Protestant (and industrialized) North-East remained part of the United Kingdom. While Irish politicians and citizens were strongly committed to political independence, there was little support for other political or social changes. The structure of Irish society changed little until industrial development accelerated in the 1960's.
Ireland's emergent political parties were based on loyalties created during ten years of post-independence factional conflict. Although Ireland's formal political structure is based on the British model, Irish politics differs from British politics considerably. Unlike British parties, Irish parties are not centralized organizations with clear policies articulated by a head office which exercises full control over all party activities. Irish parties resemble coalitions of local fiefdoms, and there is little centralized control over local branches. Party support also differs; differences in occupation, class, or region are less salient than factional alignments in internal conflicts. Party loyalty has a hereditary character, and few individuals vote against the party that their family belongs to. In other societies, this base of solid electoral support would benefit the politician who was able to control the party machine. However, the Irish electoral system (proportional representation with a single transferable vote, hereafter referred to as PR-STV) forces politicians to compete with other politicians from their own party for the votes of loyal party supporters. Politicians are rivals for the personal support of loyal party supporters.
In order to obtain votes, many politicians claim personal loyalty on the basis of past services. In a modernizing and industrializing Ireland, as in other Western states, resources are, increasingly, distributed via the institutional structures of government. Medical assistance, unemployment assistance, job retraining, education grants, building grants, housing, telephones, sewers, parks, transportation are only a small portion of the services provided through the public sector in Ireland. As state intervention has increased, an ever higher number of people are dependent on the state for an ever increasing percentage of their income, and politicians often claim to have influence and special contacts in order to attract voters.
Descriptions of Irish politics fit into the clientelist model: politicians "privatize" state benefits by claiming credit for providing citizens with their legal entitlements, and personal connections and influence are widely regarded as a crucial determinant of access to state benefits. Politicians spend their time building up clienteles among the voters to assure themselves of electoral success, while also protecting themselves from the encroachment of rival politicians. A report on the Irish civil service by the Public Services Organisation Review Group (hereafter abbreviated as PSORG) suggested that politicians' activity "helps perpetuate the misconception that everything can be "fixed'" (PSORG 1969:448). Decisions regarding public expenditure seem the result of personal interventions, and economic viability seems less pressing a criterion than the publicity afforded by providing jobs for a local area. Numerous projects (including airports, oil refineries, and factories) are maintained because the partisan political benefit outweighes the economic loss to the state.
Although Irish history and contemporary politics both suggest clientelist politics, Ireland is not simply a European version of the non-Western developing, post-colonial state. Ireland differs from newly emergent states in significant ways. These differences strike at some of the fundamental assumptions regarding the conditions for clientelism; the fact that clientelism exists in Ireland despite these differences makes the Irish case of particular interest.
A major difference is Ireland's long period of intensive foreign domination. Ireland was culturally colonized so effectively that, had the British not over-reacted to an extremist minority in 1916, Ireland might have become loosely incorporated into the United Kingdom. Even while British rule was contested, the underlying values of British politics and society were never questioned. As will be seen, Irish independence more closely resembled a change in regime than a revolution.
One legacy of this period in Irish history was a well developed administrative apparatus. The British structure of local administration was retained relatively unchanged, and, since the colonial civil service was largely staffed by Irish personnel, the civil service personnel were also unchanged. The civil service was well entrenched, and retained its immunity from political interference even after independence.
Ireland also lacked the sharp divide between elite and masses that often existed in new states elsewhere. The decades preceding independence saw a relaxation of Catholic exclusion laws, and the tentative emergence of a native middle class. Economic power was diffuse rather than centralized, and was never under the control of the state. There was no flight of capital after independence, and until the late 1950's, the state avoided intervention in the country's economic life (with the exception of tariff barriers in the 1930's). In other countries, economic power was often concentrated in the hands of an elite, and the state became the focus for all economic activities.
Independent Ireland also lacked the ethnic and cultural diversity which has been a common consequence of the artificial states created by colonial administration. A division between native Irish and immigrant British was avoided because the province most completely colonized by immigrants remained part of the United Kingdom. The remainder of Ireland was homogeneous, and there was little of the fragility of social consensus which typified former colonies elsewhere. The only divisions to emerge as politically salient in Ireland were based on the factional conflicts which developed after independence.
In summary, Ireland is part of Western Europe, and yet lacks Western European-style politics. Like many non-European states, it obtained independence after years of foreign rule, yet it lacks many of the characteristics commonly found in such states. Ireland is neither modern nor traditional, neither European or "third world"; it partakes of all of these, without fitting into any one of them. Ireland is clearly a singular society; as such, it offers an intriguing case study. It exhibits clientelist politics, and yet lacks many of the structural conditions which gave rise to, and continue to support, clientelism elsewhere. As such, a study of Irish clientelism provides useful information about the general phenomenon of clientelism.
Clientelism became widely accepted as a model of Irish politics after Chubb (1963) described politicians as local men who looked after their constituent's interests by "going about persecuting civil servants". Up to this point, there had been very few studies of Irish politics and little interest in Ireland either as an independent state or as a peripheral section of a larger social and economic system. Chubb suggested that the Irish politician's primary task was to mediate between his local constituents and the state's administrative apparatus. Voters wanted state services, and politicians helped or appeared to help people obtain those services. Voters believed, incorrectly, that the "intervention or good offices of a "man in the know'" (Chubb 1963:273) was needed to obtain state services, and politicians exaggerated their influence to make themselves appear more instrumental or crucial than they actually were.
Chubb's (1963, 1970, 1982) work was firmly in the "cohesion" tradition: the political system was an integrated unit, and brokerage served to link the traditional hinterlands with the modernizing core (cf. Almond and Powell 1966). Brokerage was the mechanism by which cohesion and integration was achieved, and would, presumably, disappear as modernizing influences spread throughout the country. Within this general framework, the fullest descriptions of local politics came from Cork (Bax 1976), and Donegal (Sacks 1976). These studies emphasized the personal contacts of politicians and their manipulation of clients during factional conflicts, as well as the diffuse economic and moral bonds between politician and voter.
The Cork study pointed out that the electoral system encouraged, and even required, intra-party competition, and that party rivals, bound by the same policies and ideology, competed by "building up a greater reputation as a worker for the electorate" (Bax 1975:12). Politicians had numerous ways to influence local and national bureaucrats, and were always using such contacts to build up clienteles among voters. Everyone had a vote, and would use it to reward those politicians who "had pull". "Machine politics" in Donegal was similar: "The countryman, coming out of a small community, places a strong value upon face-to-face relations with people, and [the politician is] the countryman's personal emissary to an anonymous state" (Sacks 1976:50-51). Unlike Bax, Sacks (1976:7) considered politician's claims to be imaginary patronage because "the parties' real control over the distributive institution is quite limited".
The picture that emerges from these studies is of an entire community involved in clientelism. All voters are actually, or potentially, some politician's clients, and are bound, morally or instrumentally, to act on the politician's behalf. The local community is linked to the national system through political brokers. The politicians use their access to state benefits as a way of building up groups of supporters or clienteles. These clienteles are used to secure re-election, to weaken rivals, and to gain respect and reward from superiors. Politics is seen as a pyramid of dyadic links, with rivalries between "big men" at every level of the ascending hierarchy of power and influence.
The previous descriptions of Irish politics fit, almost too neatly, the general models of clientelism and transactional exchange. Such a "neat fit" is possible only because the studies have ignored important issues. They have concentrated on rural communities and have tended to see clientelism as a consequence of peasant values. This does not account for the existence of clientelism in urban areas, and there is little data on why it exists in urban areas or how it operates. Without an urban complement to rural studies, accounts of Irish clientelism remain incomplete. In addition, studies have contradicted each other regarding the amount of influence which politicians really exercise over state benefits. This ambiguity is inevitable because types of client exchanges have not yet been identified; clients differ both in the benefits they need from the state and the return they can offer in exchange for those benefits. One must first specify which resources are in demand and which clients need the resources before one can discuss how much influence politicians actually have over the allocation of state resources. These gaps demand further exploration.
In Ireland, political folklore abounds with cautionary tales about the fate of politicians who don't look after constituents, and surveys agree that voters believe that politicians can help obtain services and vote accordingly (e.g., Sinnott 1978). Most Irish studies have linked these beliefs with rural values, locally oriented and rooted in face-to-face contacts (e.g., Chubb 1982; Sacks 1976). As O'Connell (1982) has pointed out, such studies depend on the dichotomous image of urban-modern-British versus rural-traditional-Irish. Brokerage is presumed to coincide with a rural world-view out of step with the modern state. Into the gap between peasant culture and modern bureaucracy steps the political broker; brokerage is explained as a by-product of modernization, which will disappear when modernization reaches the hinterlands.
In such a model, urban clientelism can only result from in-migration from the hinterland. Clientelism in Dublin exists, in such a view, because rural migrants have brought it with them. Although Dublin has grown rapidly in the last twenty years, and now constitutes over one-third the entire population of Ireland, relatively little of that growth has resulted from in-migration. In contrast to a common belief that Dublin is composed of first generation rural migrants, many of the middle-class office workers actually come from urban areas, and the working-class population is, by and large, native to Dublin (see Hutchinson 1969; Rottman and O'Connell 1982). Peasant values, then, are not the cause of clientelism in Dublin; one must look elsewhere for an explanation.
This study thus addresses issues in Irish political clientelism which are either unexplored or insufficiently evidenced. First, the models used to explain rural Irish clientelism cannot also explain urban clientelism; an urban study is necessary so that distinctions can be drawn between urban and rural clientelism, and within Irish clientelism itself.
A second issue requiring examination concerns the actual influence which politicians possess. Existing studies of Irish politics are unclear whether the state is actually corrupt, or whether voters merely believe, and are encouraged to continue believing, it to be corrupt. If, as Bax (1976) suggests, special treatment is possible, then the client's search for an effective and influential patron is common sense, and substantive benefits accrue to clients. However, this view has been not been supported by other researchers (Sacks 1976; Garvin n.d.; Higgins, personal communication, 1983). Indeed, the issue of actual versus illusory influence cannot be settled without first specifying the kinds of resources over which influence is exercised, and the clients to which it is directed. So far, this kind of detail has not been provided. Rather, studies have tended to treat all clients as an amorphous aggregate, whereas clients clearly differ in the resources which they need and the resources they can offer in exchange. Socio-economic status, position in the community, and political participation all distinguish one client from another. In southern Italy, for example, politicians' exchanges with working-class voters are quite different from their exchanges with middle-class voters; the clients' needs differ, and so do the benefits which they offer in return (Chubb, J., 1982). Similar variations would be expected in Ireland, and must be examined.
Studies have also under-emphasized the variety of politician-bureaucrat interactions. Some civil service departments are more vulnerable to political pressure than others, some state benefits are less costly to deliver than others, and some politicians are able to exert greater pressure than others. The amount of actual influence which a politician can exercise over the allocation of state resources is likely to vary, depending on all these factors. An examination of Irish clientelism therefore must focus on the actual exchanges between politicians and bureaucrats.
The first chapters of this study provide a general description of Ireland. In Chapter Two, Ireland's history, economy and social structure are discussed, since the structure of contemporary politics and clientelism are shaped by these broader forces. The relevant issues are the pattern of colonial domination and indigenous resistance, the period immediately following independence when future patterns of administration and politics were set, and, finally, the rapid social and cultural changes of the last thirty years which accompanied a radical change in national economic policy. These events have determined the vocabulary of political competition and the resources which are used clientelist exchanges.
Chapter Three describes government administration, focusing on the provision of public services and benefits. Ireland's centralized government is described, and the two tier system of elected office and three tier system of administration is outlined.
Chapter Four describes the background of party politics, electoral competition, and voter support. Party politics is shown to be clientelist and factionalized. Intra-party rivalries dominate Irish politics, as politicians manipulate the party structure to maintain their own position. They plant personal followers in local branches and keep ambitious rivals from being nominated for elections. In these rivalries, the local activists provide the politician with verifiable assistance, and have a personal relationship in which mutual loyalty is expected. Each party is a pyramid of patron-client ties, in which benefits flow down (or across) in exchange for support. At all levels, party activists are clients of rivals, and so themselves are rivals.
Political rivalry is intra-party, and rarely extends across party lines. The Irish electoral system encourages this intra-party rivalry; politicians of the same party are forced to compete for the votes of loyal party voters at every election. Although voters identify strongly with the party with which their family has been associated, politicians must also attract support for themselves as individuals. Politicians must provide whatever the voters want; usually, voters want assistance in obtaining state benefits. Politicians thus emphasize brokerage to attract floating party voters.
Chapter Five focuses on Dublin and so provides a case study for an analysis of urban clientelism. Dublin is divided along social, economic, and geographical lines, with different areas making different, and sometimes conflicting, particularistic and collective demands on politicians. These demands are the currency for clientelist exchanges between voter, party activist, and politician.
As noted, politicians respond to voters' expectations, and Chapter Six examines these expectations. In addition to general surveys, a 1970 survey of Dubliners' attitudes provides a statistical complement to field observation. Although attitudes vary in Dublin, the overall perception of Dublin voters is that personal advocates are necessary, and that politicians are well suited for the task.
Chapter Seven examines the way in which politicians developed close contacts with community organizations and individual constituents. Politicians were active in the community, and so became the obvious mediators between people and the state. They constantly emphasized their efficacy as advocates and "fixers", but only rarely did politicians actually gain long-term clients by virtue of brokerage activities. Although the rhetoric of Dublin politics emphasized dependence and personalism, the clientelist rhetoric did not mirror the actual exchanges. Large constituencies, and geographically and socially mobile voters, undermined politicians' efforts to nurture face-to-face contacts. The exchange was likely to focus on the specific benefit in question, and likely to lapse once the constituent was satisfied. Generally, these exchanges more closely resembled the short-term, instrumental exchanges of "modern" clientelism described by Scott (1977) in Southeast Asia. The politician benefited by improving his reputation in the community; indeed, his re-election might depend on it.
Chapter Eight explores the various state services which are brokerage commodities (e.g., housing, medical assistance, social welfare). Political intervention is shown to ensure the provision of state services which the citizen may be entitled to, but which bureaucratic secrecy and complexity may deny him. Political interventions are useful insurance policies; they guarantee that the voter receives all possible benefits. Voters have little to lose, and, potentially, quite a lot to gain, by going to a politician. Although most state services are allocated on the basis of merit and qualification, people are given no evidence of this. Politicians are able to make exaggerated claims which cannot be disproven. Using their monopolies on information about state services and access to bureaucrats, politicians are able to minimize their "costs" by providing the appearance, though rarely the substance, of special influence.
Chapter Nine explores the extent to which politicians can actually provide public services as undeserved and illegal political "prizes". Each of the various state services are again examined, to determine the extent to which political influence can be used to alter bureaucrats' decisions. In many cases, politicians' activities are potentially improper but still legal; politicians are able to achieve results where the efforts of private citizens would fail. On occasion, politicians achieve illegal results. This scarce resource of actual patronage is rarely wasted on the broad mass of citizens, but is rather reserved for personal supporters and party activists.
Political brokerage requires at least the tacit consent of the government bureaucracy. Chapter Ten explores the rewards which bureaucrats receive for their participation in this system. To a great extent, bureaucrats assist politicians because they gain more by permitting politicians' activities than by preventing them. In exchange for responding to politicians' representations, bureaucrats are able to retain their independence on substantive matters of policy and administration.
The final Chapter reviews Dublin clientelism. Clientelism often promotes a "steady state" which legitimizes pre-existing inequalities; until recently, there had been little pressure to alter structures of politics and administration which encouraged clientelism in Ireland. Now, however, the equilibrium is being disturbed. The number of people dependent on state assistance has increased dramatically, and so the number of people needing brokerage assistance is increasing. Politicians and bureaucrats are unable to cope with the large increase in demand for state services and consequent increased need for brokerage. At the same time, political rivalries have increased, with increasingly exaggerated claims of service and influence leading to widespread public disillusionment. The "currency" of clientelist exchange is suffering from inflation, and potential devaluation. Brokerage "succeeds" because it mitigates, but does not totally remove, the vulnerability of clients (Clapham 1982:8). Increasingly, individuals' vulnerabilities are not mitigated, and some radical change in Irish politics is likely in the near future.
History dominates much of contemporary Irish politics; it both sets the agenda for political discussion and provides the vocabulary for that discussion. Events of previous decades, generations, and even centuries "explain" current situations and justify individuals' actions. Personal loyalties, party memberships, and political rhetoric are all set within, and determined by, historical associations and events. This chapter will, in a brief survey of Irish history, examine themes which remain salient in contemporary politics. Some of these themes are an ideological contrast between "pre-colonial" and "colonial" Ireland, the link between Catholicism and Irish nationalism, the regard for private land ownership, and the conflict between modern and traditional values in Ireland.
In addition, this chapter will examine the economic and social changes which have taken place in the past thirty years. The state has recently taken an active role in directing economic development, after maintaining a non-interventionist policy for many years. Although Ireland remains underdeveloped within the broader European context, an economic and social transformation has taken place. The social and economic changes have not only led to political changes, but the rapid rate of change has, itself, created problems.
Political rhetoric often simplifies pre-independence Irish history into two contrasting periods: Ireland prior to British rule and Ireland under British rule. These two historical periods represent, in political ideology and symbolism, two different types of Ireland: one symbolizing "pure" Irish culture and the other symbolizing the contamination of colonial domination.
The actual history of Ireland is more complicated, with numerous waves of foreign peoples arriving and settling in Ireland. Ireland was settled as early as 6,000 B.C., but the arrival of the Celts during the second century B.C. marked the beginning of an important period in Irish history. It is not clear how many individuals arrived in Ireland, but there is clear evidence of changes in material culture and technology. The conversion of Ireland to Christianity in the fifth century brought with it literacy, and thus written records of Christian and pre-Christian society. Using archeological and historical material, there is evidence of tribal and chiefly levels of political organization, and a sophisticated social structure (Binchy 1954,1970). Viking incursions began in 795, and lasted about two hundred years. Although they initially caused much destruction, by the latter part of the ninth century, Vikings began to establish settlements, and intermixed with the native inhabitants. Many of the contemporary cities of Ireland first began as Viking settlements, including Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Waterford.
This period of Irish history often represents, in contemporary politics, a pre-colonial non-Anglic and "pure" Irish culture. Irish "culture", involving social life, ceremonies, and oral traditions, is traced back to Celtic origins, and thus legitimized as a national heritage. After political independence, most nationalists expected a re-emergence of this Irish "culture", based on a romanticized vision of a non-British Ireland. This vision had existed since the Gaelic revival of the late nineteenth century, and encompassed specific Irish sports, music, drama, and, especially, the Irish language. The Irish language is part of the family of Celtic languages which includes Scots Gaelic, Welsh, Breton, Cornish, and Manx, and many people in Ireland see a strong link between Ireland and other "Celtic fringe" areas. Thus, a noted historian can discuss "the finest flowering of Gaelic culture" (Thornley 1970:5), and so evoke the image of a golden age which preceded British domination, as distinct from the "foreign British" culture which was imposed during centuries of colonial domination. As a symbolic opposition to "colonial Ireland", the Celtic period is a crucial theme in political ideology.
In the twelfth century, Irish history became intertwined with British history. A century after the Norman invasion of England, the Normans were invited to Ireland by a local ruler. By 1250, eighty years after the first "invasion", three quarters of Ireland had been overrun. English domination depended on local lords to rule on the King's behalf, so conquest involved little more than the Gaelic aristocracy being replaced by a Norman aristocracy.
The next few centuries saw a continual ebb and flow between Gaelic and Norman control, and the Normans were assimilated by the Irish. Such "contamination" (from the English perspective) made all parts of Ireland outside the center of English administration and settlement in Dublin (known as the "Pale") suspect. Irish loyalty was suspect because most local lords remained Catholic after Henry VIII's split with Rome, and their religious commitment was interpreted in London as political disaffection. In the mid-sixteenth century, British rulers began to dispense with intermediaries and impose direct rule; the country was brought under the control of a central administration by the beginning of the seventeenth century.
The North-east of Ireland (Ulster) had been difficult to subjugate; political domination was ensured by displacing local Irish settlers, and bringing in Scottish Presbyterian settlers. The settlers brought different farming techniques, different settlement patterns, and a different religion; in short, they brought a different culture. The two groups lived in distinct and separate locales, and little cultural diffusion took place. The two groups remain separate and antagonistic to this day.
In the rest of Ireland, those who were English by descent but Catholic by religion were distrusted; they were potential supporters of foreign powers. They owned much of the country's land, but measures were taken to reduce their dominance. During this period, Catholic landownership dipped from three-fifths to about one-fifth (Simms 1967:205). In 1690, James II was deposed by William of Orange. Irish Catholics had supported their fellow Catholic James II in the hope of enhancing their position, and major battles were fought in Ireland between Catholic supporters of James and Protestant supporters of William. The conflict demonstrated the support which Irish "rebels" would give to England's enemy, France. At the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Parliament passed Penal Laws safeguarding Britain's "back door". Catholics (and Presbyterians and Non-Conformists as well) were forbidden to practice their religion, and were debarred from any effective participation in Irish society and politics.
Throughout the late eighteenth century, efforts were made to obtain greater political power for Catholics. Progress was slow, and only in the nineteenth century did Catholics obtain more influence in the Irish Parliament, which had previously been dominated by Protestants. The British responded by abolishing the Irish Parliament; through the Act of Union of 1800, the Irish Parliament was absorbed into the British Parliament. Irish M.P.s became M.P.s in Westminster, where they were outnumbered, and the Irish administrative system was, partially, absorbed into the British civil service.
This period of Irish/British history created the link of religion, nationalism, and economic inequality that still dominates Irish political rhetoric. After Henry VIII severed his link with Rome in the 1530's, he was determined to safeguard himself by making Irish religious practice conform with the new English practices. The political conquest of Ireland was paralleled by an attack on the economic interests of Irish Catholics. Political, economic, and religious domination overlapped: "the old religion . . . soon disclosed itself as a force making for Irish unity, and for resistance to England" (Hayes-McCoy 1967:181). Economic exploitation had an ethnic (and latently nationalist) dimension because it was expressed through religious discrimination. This link between religion and nationalism is a theme that continues to be relevant in modern Ireland.
In the late eighteenth century, land was largely owned by English landlords and worked by Irish tenants. At this time, tillage was very profitable; tenants' dependents could afford to marry and have children at a younger age because they were able to support themselves on smaller amounts of land. The population expanded (one estimate is about 17 percent per decade) to 6.8 million in 1821 and over 8 million in 1841 (Lyons 1973:37-38). The land was often sub-let and sub-divided, and an increasing population survived with an ever more precarious security. In the early part of the nineteenth century, the price for Irish agricultural products decreased and so the ability of tenants to support themselves on small pieces of land also decreased. At the same time, the price of dairy products rose, and farmers could no longer afford to buy them. The potato was introduced to Ireland in the eighteenth century, and dependence on the potato as a single crop increased the peasant's vulnerability, as occasional failures of the potato crop illustrated. In 1847, the potato crop failed badly, and, worse still, it continued to fail in subsequent years as well. Peasants had to chose between paying the rent on their land with their other crops (and possibly starving), or eating their rent and being liable to eviction. Pasturage had become more profitable than tillage, and the Famine provided many landlords with the excuse to change to a more profitable type of farming by clearing the land of tenants. Tenants were forced to either emigrate or starve.
The British goverment first ignored the Famine; eventually, some work was provided to permit people to earn enough to buy food, and food prices were kept down by the threat of selling government stockpiles. However, relief efforts were patchy, and not enough work was available. The population of Ireland was estimated to be about 8.5 million in 1847 on the eve of the Famine. By 1851, the population was down to 6.5 million, and, by 1861, it had dropped to 5.8 million (Chubb 1982:341). Many had died from starvation; those who emigrated, and those who survived in Ireland, remembered the inadequate and uncaring response of Britain. More than any other single event in Irish history, the Famine came to epitomize, for many Irish people, the quintessential example of British attitudes to its neighbor.
Another result of the Famine was to imprint on Irish minds the consequences of not owning one's own land. There had always been political agitation to achieve this goal, but it increased and became more organized in post-Famine Ireland. By the 1880's, Irish peasants had largely achieved their goals of "fair rent, fixity of tenure, and free sale". Especially significant was the Land Act of 1881 which provided government loans to tenants for three quarters of the cost of buying the tenant's holding. By 1909, 60 percent of cultivated land had been purchased by tenant farmers. As Thornley said: "the insecure tenant of the 1850's became the peasant proprietor of the twentieth century", and the result was to "convert the great bulk of the Irish peasantry from social revolution to social conservatism" (1970:23).
The right of private property approaches the nature of a sacred and unalterable principle in Irish society; it is enshrined as such in the 1937 Constitution:
The State acknowledges that man . . . has the natural right . . . to private ownership of external goods. The State accordingly guarantees to pass no law attempting to abolish the right of private ownership or the general right to transfer, bequeath, and inherit property. (Article 43.1)
Private ownership has become an unquestioned goal for many Irish families, to the exent that efficiency of land use has often become secondary to the accumulation of land. The effects are felt in the contemporary urban context as well. People are determined to own rather than rent, and to own a house with some land around it rather than an apartment in a block of flats. Ireland has the highest percentage of private house owners of any European country (Curry 1980:245, see also NESC 1977a) and the demand rarely meets the supply. Dublin politics is often the politics of land and housing.
By the end of the nineteenth century, both the religious and land issues had been largely settled. Political agitation, and the general extension of the franchise to a greater proportion of people, had forced a great measure of religious freedom. Most tenant farmers had been aided in buying their land and were no longer dependent on landlords. There still remained, however, the national issue.
Irish national identity remained an issue for many people. At the very least, people felt that decisions affecting Ireland should be made in Ireland, and by Irish people. In the wake of a general revival of interest in things Irish (including the Irish language and Irish sports) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, Irish nationalist feelings grew. It had not always been easy to weld Irish M.P.'s together into a coherent political unit, but by the end of the nineteenth century Irish M.P.'s, led by Parnell, were pledged to work for "Home Rule". A "home rule" bill was actually passed in 1912, but the advent of World War I postponed its implementation. When it was finally passed in 1920, it applied only to Northern Ireland. In the south, constitutional politics had, by this time, succumbed to revolutionary politics.
Although constitutional methods gave Irish citizens more political power than they previously had, such methods seemed unable to achieve independence. The Protestant-dominated industrial north-east had no desire to sever its links with the United Kingdom, and feared becoming a minority in a Catholic Ireland. The Ulster Volunteer Force had organized armed resistance to Home Rule, and the British Army in Ireland had shown itself unwilling to disarm them. The British Parliament did not have the will or ability to deal with Ulster's defiance, and, as this became more obvious, public support for constitutional parties began to wane. The final blow to constitutional politics was the Easter uprising of 1916. A small number of revolutionaries occupied various government offices and other buildings, and had to be dislodged by force. Although the rebels had little public support at the time, the British government punished the revolutionaries severely, executing seventeen of them under conditions of extreme secrecy. Such actions created a public sympathy for the revolutionaries which had been previously lacking, and constitutional politics was discredited by the impotence of the Irish M.P.'s. Irish disenchantment with British administration was further heightened by the introduction of conscription in Northern Ireland; the specter of being forced to fight for a British cause was not popular.
As the British continued to over-react in attempting to stamp out any acts of rebellion, more and more people were pushed into supporting the nationalist cause. This was expressed, electorally, by support for political parties which refused to recognize the British government. Conflict between British and Irish forces escalated, and the War of Independence began in 1919. Guerilla fighting lasted three years, until a truce was arranged on July 9th, 1921. Then followed negotiations which, on December 6th 1921, led to a Treaty providing for Irish independence, with certain conditions. These conditions subsequently created far more problems and difficulties than the conflict which had preceded the Treaty.
The Anglo-Irish Treaty fell short of nationalist aspirations on two counts. Firstly, Ireland remained a part of the British Empire, although it had substantial local autonomy. Secondly, the six counties of north-east Ireland (Ulster) remained part of the United Kingdom, although there was a vague provision for a re-drawing of boundaries. One faction felt that the Treaty represented the most that could then be achieved. Another faction felt that the Treaty was inadequate. The pro-Treaty faction was, marginally, in the majority and the Treaty was accepted; the anti-Treaty faction rejected both the Treaty and the Irish Provisional government which the Treaty established. The pro-Treaty faction became the government of the Irish Free State, and set about enforcing its legitimacy. The conflict over the Treaty spread throughout the country and became violent and sometimes vicious. A civil war followed, and the conflict continued until 1923 when the the anti-Treaty forces stopped their armed resistance but, significantly, did not turn in their arms; future resistance was not ruled out.
The civil war period created two opposing political factions, which became the basis for the country's two major political parties. Resistance to the Treaty had been organized around the Irish Republican Army and its political wing (Sinn Fein). By 1925, de Valera and others in the political wing of Sinn Fein had broken with the Irish Republican Army over the issue of continued armed resistance. However, they still refused to participate in parliamentary politics and continued to fight elections as abstentionists. Public support for a political party without a parliamentary voice began to wane. In 1927, the Government passed a law which made abstentionist politics impossible, and de Valera, who was the leader of Sinn Fein, had to either return to the I.R.A. or enter constitutional politics. He chose to contest future elections on the basis of participating in parliamentary politics; candidates would occupy any seats which his newly founded Fianna Fail party won. After the 1932 election, Fianna Fail obtained a majority in Parliament, and formed the government. The existing government became, gracefully, the opposition and so constitutional politics overtook revolution. The two groups created during the civil war became the two major political parties of independent Ireland.
There had been little demand for total independence on the part of most Irish; increased local autonomy within a British framework would have satisfied most people. It is thus not surprising that Irish independence was not accompanied by major social or economic transformations; although some of the leaders wanted such change, there was no support from the public at large. The new state carried on in much the same way as the previous British administration; what had changed was the rhetoric. Ireland remained a conservative region on the periphery of the United Kingdom, sharing with it common social, economic, and political values and structures.
This period of time not only set the pattern for future Irish politics; it also demonstrated the post-independence continuity of pre-independence values and structures. The anti-treaty faction might have remained committed to armed resistance and denied the legitimacy of the Free State government; most chose instead to challenge the government through the electoral process. The Free State faction could have retained its control over the government apparatus, originally obtained by its military superiority. Instead, it forced the anti-Treaty forces to contest elections. The government's subsequent electoral defeat was foreseen by all, but the government was willing to pay this price in order to encourage the anti-Treaty forces to commit themselves to constitutional, rather than armed, opposition. De Valera's new government could have purged the bureaucracy of all "Free Staters" and given jobs to their own supporters. Instead, most officials were retained, and so the administration of government remained separate from politics. These were all crucial junctures; Irish politics remained conservative, stable, and constitutional as a result.
Political independence did not change the economic relationship between Ireland and the United Kingdom. Over ninety percent of exports were still destined for the British or Northern Ireland market: "The Irish Free State remained part of an economic complex of which the United Kingdom was, as before, the predominate partner" (Lyons 1973:600). The prospects for a decreased dependence on trade with the United Kingdom were limited: agricultural products, sold to Britain were the basis of the Irish economy, and tariffs to encourage industrialization could cause retaliation against Irish exports.
Irish dependence on the British market was clearly demonstrated when de Valera and his Fianna Fail party won the 1932 election, and the "economic war" began. Tenants who had bought their land before independence owed payments to the British government, since the British government had advanced the necessary loans. Under the terms of the Treaty, the new Irish government was to continue payment of land annuities, on behalf of the new landholders. To Fianna Fail, such payments were part of the continued political domination by Britain. De Valera immediately fulfilled his campaign promise of suspending payments to Britain, and Britain retaliated by introducing a levy on Irish imports. Since de Valera believed that Irish independence required economic self-sufficiency, economic barriers would, in his view, force Irish society to meet its own needs and forego whatever goods could not be produced at home. The "war" continued until a settlement was reached in the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1938. The trade dispute had crippled Irish agriculture and decimated the internal market for Irish-based industrial development. The Irish economy remained dependent on agricultural exports and industrial imports.
During this period, Ireland exported not only agricultural products, but also labor. Unemployment was high in Ireland and the result was high emigration, usually to Britain. Some went only for a short stay, but many settled in Britain, often sending money "home" to maintain the family farm. Despite a rising birthrate, the population of Ireland continued to decline until 1961, when the population reached a low of 2.8 million.
Despite political sovereignty, Ireland remained an under-developed region within the broader British economic sphere. The Irish economy continued to have "many features of a "less developed country" [including] a high dependence on agriculture for output and employment, high unemployment and emigration and a low standard of living" (Blackwell 1982:43). Agriculture was the primary productive sector, and manufacturing and commerce were encouraged only in-so-far as they assisted agricultural production. Yet, although rural farmholds were prized as an ideal, the farms could not support those living on it. Despite assistance from the government and relations abroad, unemployment was high and emigration a necessity.
Ireland, during this period, has been characterized as stagnant and conservative. The idealized vision of Ireland was, according to de Valera, to be one of frugal comfort. This was to be an Ireland independent of the outside world, and not contaminated by it. It was an inward looking society, prizing the purity of its Irishness and Catholicism. Censorship boards were established to examine foreign books and films; no suspect secular ideas were to be allowed. Those dissatisfied with the prevailing values were the most likely to emigrate, leaving behind them an aging population. People married at a very advanced age, and many never married at all.
By the 1950's, many began to wonder if Ireland was a viable independent entity. It appeared that political independence was going to lead only to social and economic disaster. Drastic measures were necessary, and de Valera's retirement from active politics in 1959 provided the opportunity. The new leader of Fianna Fail (which, at the time, formed the government), was Sean Lemass. Although a long-time associate of de Valera's, he preferred economic pragmatism to ideological rhetoric, and a new era was ushered in. After 1957, the government became directly involved in economic development. Although there was a complete reversal of former policies, there was little political discussion or criticism. It appeared that everyone was glad to have any plan that might lead Ireland out of its decline.
Import substitution was to be abandoned; instead of supporting industries whose products competed with foreign imports, the government would support export-oriented industries. Foreign investment was encouraged in the hope of developing export-oriented manufacturing (see Whitaker 1958). Increased agricultural efficiency would encourage exports to markets in Europe rather than just the United Kingdom. Ireland's entrance into the European Economic Community in 1973 affirmed, and accelerated, the disengagement from the British economy. Ireland traded economic dependence on the British market for economic dependence on the European and world-wide market. In 1958, 77% of Irish exports went to the U.K., while 56% of imports came from Britain. By 1983, only 36.9% of all Irish exports were destined for the British market, and only 45.4% of Irish imports still came from Britain (Chubb 1982:346; Institute of Public Administration 1984:351).
The period since 1958 has seen great economic and consequent social change in Ireland. The social restructuring that followed this economic transformation has been startling. In 1957, 38% of total employment was in agriculture; by 1980, agricultural employment was 19% (Blackwell 1982:47). This is partly due to increased efficiency and mechanization in agriculture (leading to fewer jobs available), and partly due to increased industrial and service employment. The development of wage labor has not been evenly spread among all types of workers; the expansion of the service sector has especially increased white collar employment. Within the wage sector, employment in white collar and skilled manual labor increased from 29.6%, in 1951, to 54% in 1979 (Rottman and O'Connell 1982:70). Even agriculture, which provides an important export, has become monetarized as small family farms are slowly being replaced by large mechanized farms. The transformation from rural, agricultural, family-based business to urban, white-collar, wage employment is apparent. As recent studies have pointed out, careers now depend on the skills needed for wage employment, rather than family-based economic resources (see Rottman and O'Connell 1982).
State intervention also became necessary for those who were the casualties of the economic transformation. Those with private resources were able to equip their off-spring for wage employment by providing the educational credentials required. However, many kinds of livelihood, such as agricultural labor, virtually disappeared; other types, such as un-skilled and semi-skilled labor, decreased in number. Such families found traditional employment gone and did not have the qualifications to take advantage of new opportunities developing in other sectors of the economy. In the wake of such a change, an increasing percentage of the population has become increasingly dependent of state assistance. State provision of social services accounted for the equivalent of 14% of GNP in 1961; by 1980 it had risen to 29% (Rottman and O'Connell 1982:82). Up to one third of Irish households are now dependent on state assistance, compared with only 18.6% in 1966 (NESC 1977a:143).
Thus, there have been at least three parallel economic transformations since the 1950's. Firstly, the Irish economy has become a wage economy and the transfer of social advantage is less through family resources and more through superior advantages in a market economy. Secondly, those unable to adapt successfully to the fluctuations of the market economy must now look to the state for financial assistance. State support is vital for an increasing number of households. Thirdly, economic development has been oriented towards clerical and white-collar skills. Coupled with a growing government bureaucracy, a larger number of white collar workers are in secure state employment, while manual workers are increasingly at risk.
Economic development in Ireland has not erased the differences between Ireland and the rest of Europe. Despite the growth in Ireland's Gross National Product (GNP) in the 1960's and 70's, the difference between the Irish GNP and other EEC countries' GNP increased (i.e., Irish GNP did not grow as quickly as other countries'), and average European living standards were between twice and three times the Irish average (Blackwell 1982:44). Table 2.1 suggests parallels between the structure of the Irish economy and the economies of other peripheral regions of Europe, as of 1982.
Civilian Employment by Economic Sector
SOURCE: Eurostat 1983
Ireland parallels Spain, Greece, and Italy in other ways as well. One useful indicator is the depenency ratio: the number of workers as a percentage of total population. This shows how many people each worker must support. Table 2.2 shows that Ireland's dependency ratio parallels that of other peripheral regions; there is also a parallel in its low number of female workers as a percentage of the total workforce.
Ratio of Dependency and Percentage of Female Workers
|Dependency Ratio||Percentage of
SOURCE: Eurostat 1983
Comparisons such as those in the previous tables suggest that the peripheral areas of Europe, e.g., Greece, Portugal, Spain, and southern Italy, most resemble Ireland economically (see also Foley and Walbridge 1981).2 For example, a 1983 EEC report on development in peripheral regions showed that only the Calabria region in Italy and the island of Sardinia ranked lower than Ireland as whole (Irish Times, 10 March 1983). Ireland, despite the rapid changes of the past twenty years, remains a poor relation to most of Western Europe and shares many of the difficulties which modernizing states experience in other parts of the world.
There have been relatively few ethnographies of Irish communities. The study of rural community life by Arensberg and Kimball (1968), carried out in County Clare during the 1930's, remains the "base-line" for Irish ethnography. In their study, a system of prestige based on economic resources and profession was apparent. They isolated six social types, linked with specific occupations. At the bottom was the laborer, and then the tradesman. Above both was the white-collar worker, and shopkeepers, and then the professionals, who were the sons of farmers or shopkeepers (1968:326). The pre-eminent local figure was the priest:
the priest still commands greatest respect and reverence and, in many cases, the love of his parishioners. He is still the local court of appeal and the arbiter of local custom. . . . His parishioners are jealous lest he over-step his sphere of authority, particularly in politics, yet they concur in granting him obedience in everything else. (1968:271)
One feature of community life was a strong awareness of social position. The inhabitants of the town were "for the most part keenly aware of social standing, position, and class. . . [A] man knows the "station" that is his. Ordinarily, it is much the same as the one his father had, and in both town and country it is fixed "in the blood'" (pp 322-3). Humphreys' (1966) study of some Dublin families shows that the types suggested by Arensberg and Kimball in the 1930's remain important determinants of status. In urban areas, non-manual labor is preferred over manual labor, and a white collar job in one of the safe and secure organizations (such as the civil service or the banks) has long been proof of success. Access to education, and thus such preferred areas of employment, is clearly related to the family's economic status. Although Humphreys believed that class divisions were becoming slightly more permeable, the statistical evidence shows that there remains little social mobility (Hutchinson 1969:31-33; see also Whelan and Whelan 1984).
University education is strikingly the preserve of the middle-class professional and prosperous farmer (Clancy and Benson 1979), and children of urban working class families are likely to remain in working class occupations (Whelan and Whelan 1984:32-44). Those destined to become the country's doctors, lawyers, civil servants, and (increasingly) politicians, will have met at University and are likely to remain friendly as they proceed through different careers. The elite will have developed close personal ties during third level (and sometimes even second level) education and can depend on their personal network, their wife's personal network, and their family's personal networks to gain access to all areas of social, economic, and political life.
Despite the national investment in the rural economy, migration out of the less developed counties in the west continues to exist (for descriptions of rural depopulation, see Brody 1974 and Healy 1968). But Dublin, though a center of economic and administrative expansion, has not drawn large numbers of these rural migrants (as have urban centers in other developing countries). Those without skills emigrate abroad; only those with marketable skills (e.g., an educational qualification) go to Dublin or some other urban center. Thus, while Dublin suffers a certain housing shortage, there are none of the shanty towns or squatter's settlements so common in South America or Africa.
There is emigration out of rural towns and villages, but there is very little migration into them. Most of those working and living in the area will have grown up and married there as well. Aside from the managerial stratum, those who work in the small towns and villages grew up there. The self-employed, such as doctors, lawyers, and dentists, may have grown up in the area and, after going to University, returned to it and used family and personal connections to set up business. Jobs such as primary or secondary teacher are most likely to be given to a local who might be working elsewhere but who has always wanted to return.
Loyalty based on family and personal connections permeate Irish society. As an informant told Humphreys (1966:181), "A man who would use his influence to secure job for a friend in preference to a relative, even though the latter were less qualified, would suffer the great resentment of all his kin . . ." In the 1960's, a prominent Fianna Fail politician commented that
there is hardly anyone without a direct personal link with someone, be he Minister, TD, clergyman, county or borough councillor or trade union official, who will interest himself in helping a citizen to have a grievance examined and, if possible, remedied. (Chubb 1982:316)
The speech was intended to explain why Ireland did not require a formal complaints procedure regarding administrative decisions, but its social implications are as important as its political ones. It evokes a picture of Ireland as a small community where, if you don't personally know someone, at least you can find someone else who does. With a population of just over three million, Ireland remains a small scale society with limited social mobility, and pub gossip is often as important a source of information as newspapers. Urban workers retain their rural connections; many go "home" every weekend and their social life is at home during the weekend, not where they live during the week. Although Ireland can be divided up into various occupational sectors, personal networks based on common educational experience, common geographical origin, and especially kinship permeate and cross-cut such sectors.
There are two Irelands; the modern reality of Irish economy and society and the idealized view of traditional Ireland. The traditional vision of Ireland was epitomized by Eamon de Valera, who dominated Irish politics from independence until his retirement from active politics in 1959. In a famous radio broadcast on St Patrick's Day 1943, he told both the Irish abroad and at home that Ireland would be a land
whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contests of athletic youths and the laughter of comely maidens, whose firesides would be forums for the wisdom of old age. (Moynihan 1980:466)
Although this speech was intended to evoke romantic memories from Irish emigrants, it none-the-less expresses a common vision of Ireland in which urbanism and industrial development were, at best, necessary evils.
The economic and social changes which began in the 1960's have created an alternative vision of Ireland, in which urban and industrial development are positive rather than negative. Economic development has meant more contact with foreign markets, the return of some Irish people who had emigrated, and an increase in family income. Irish television broadcasting began in 1961; although state controlled, it was still a source of new ideas, both native and foreign. The rapid spread of television meant that large numbers of people, especially in Dublin, were also able to receive British television programs. The desire for European and international markets, as well as the enticement of foreign industry into Ireland, meant travel and exposure to other societies. The advent of the E.E.C. made travel to the Continent, for business or pleasure, even easier. At the same time, restrictive attitudes by the Catholic Church altered, and censorship practices became difficult to defend, much less implement. The traditional escape valve, by which internal pressure for change was bled off, was emigration. Increased job opportunities in Ireland and, since the late 1970's, decreased opportunities abroad, have led to a decline in emigration; dissent is no longer exported. Ireland did not become the secular, consumer society that de Valera feared, but, since the 1960's, there has developed a tension between those who welcome the introduction of "foreign elements" and those who abhor it.
These contrasting views of Irish culture have a distinct spatial and demographic expression. The British administration had been centered in Dublin, and Dublin has been perceived as representing British culture ever since. Colonial influence diminished the further away one got from Dublin. The western parts of Ireland were less suited to agriculture, so there was less penetration of the area with networks of trade and communication. These areas are seen to have been less contaminated by British culture.
Ireland has become divided between the West and the East, and the Shannon river is popularly seen as the divide. West of the Shannon, the land is poorer and economic development slower; east of the Shannon, the land is more fertile for both tillage and pasturage, and both agriculture and industry are better developed. The population density is less in the west, and, with few indigenous economic opportunities, emigration is highest. While the decline in population in Ireland as a whole was arrested in 1961, the decline in many western counties continued until at least 1971.
The division is ideological, as well as economic and demographic. The West is least contaminated by British or European culture. There is a higher percentage of Irish speakers in western parts of Ireland and nationalist attitudes are held with greater fervor. A clear link has developed: the Irish language, Irish nationalism, rural living, and the West of Ireland. The fact that the Dublin region is well served by British as well as Irish television is an accident of geography, but it also exemplifies the popular distinction between West/Irish and East/British. The West of Ireland has become a reservoir of "Irishness".
Irish history has always had a religious dimension. Catholicism has been linked, historically, with nationalism and "Irishness". Catholic priests had a common cause with Irish people against the religious oppression by the United Kingdom. Priests often provided local leadership for agitation movements, although the Catholic hierarchy gained considerable religious autonomy by supporting the British rulers, and often viewed revolutionaries with distrust (Thornley 1970:17). Those whose interests demanded a continued link with Britain tended to be economically and socially privileged, and located in the north-east of Ireland (Ulster). They were also Protestant. The remaining twenty-six counties which came to constitute the Irish Free State were almost 93 percent Roman Catholic. In a continuation of Irish/British history since the Tudor conquests, to be Irish has been to be Catholic.
When Independence came, the Catholic Church's influence over government decisions was immense. The Catholic hierarchy supported the establishment of the Free State, and the social legislation of the 1920's echoed church morality. In 1923, a film censor was established, with the power to edit or ban films as "subversive of public morality". Divorce was banned in 1925, and a censorship board for suspect books was established in 1925 as well. At the same time, it was made an offence to circulate literature advocating birth control. The Church had excommunicated de Valera and his anti-Treaty supporters and was worried when he, and his party, entered the Dail in 1927 and then formed the government in 1932. Church suspicion quickly faded as legislation continued to reflect a Catholic ethos. In 1933, the government introduced a tax on imported daily newspapers which was intended to limit the circulation for British newspapers.
The Irish Constitution of 1937 was largely de Valera's creation and its social provisions were clearly Catholic. It proclaimed the special position of the Catholic Church as "the guardian of the Faith professed by the great majority of the citizens" (Article 44.1.2). The Constitution's statements about family, marriage, and social responsibility reflected Church teachings in 1937. For example, the "state recognizes the family as the natural primary and fundamental unit group of society" (Article 41.1.1); any legislation permitting divorce was explicitly prohibited. A woman's primary responsibility was to home and family, and the Constitution proposed that no legislation forcing women to abdicate this responsibility should be permitted (Article 41.2). A Constitutional referendum removed the Catholic Church's special position in 1972, in an attempt to assuage Northern Irish anxiety that the Irish Republic was sectarian. Nonetheless, other provisions, reflecting Catholic teaching, remain in force.
In the political arena, politicians have been free to act as they choose, as long as they do not infringe on Church teachings or prerogatives. In the 1950's, any government legislation on social welfare was seen as undue intervention. When the government proposed state assistance, the Church acted, and the government fell (see Whyte 1980 on the "Mother and Child" scheme). Successive Irish governments have been very slow to depart from official Church teaching. Whether politicians actually accept Catholic moral teaching, or simply fear electoral disapproval, Irish politics has clearly been circumscribed by the acceptance, by both people and politicians, of the Catholic Hierarchy's authority in social and personal matters. Unlike some European countries, there has never been any significant anti-clerical movement in Ireland, and no popular political party would dare oppose the Church directly.
The Church dominates community as well as political life. Increased state-support for education and social welfare has in the last ten to twenty years has been used to support existing local parish organizations rather than create parallel state organizations. Thus, state funded schools are run by local clergy; although the school syllabus must be approved by the state, the local clergy have considerable power over school management (including staff recruitment). The schools are expected to inculcate moral beliefs as well as teach academic subjects, so the local clergy hire only those teachers who can be "trusted". Primary teachers, for example, are often asked about their religious beliefs and must be perceived to be "good Catholics" in order to be hired or promoted. The Church has retained its rigid control over education, and, in the 1970's, over 95 percent of all primary and secondary schools were under Catholic management (Chubb 1982:126). The Church supports and encourages local voluntary social services, and religious figures (priests, nuns, and brothers) are often pivotal. Most social welfare services in local communities have been initially organized by religious groups.
It should be emphasized that this control is not imposed on an unwilling population; in general, there is little public demand for, or support of, secular rather than religious education for children. On the contrary, Church participation in education and community life is seen as necessary. Church organizations are respected and powerful, and provide the structure of most local community activity.
In the last ten to twenty years, there was been an increasing secularization in Irish society. Many people, but especially the young, support moral positions which are quite antithetical to official Church teaching. This is best illustrated by surveys on the question of divorce and contraception; both are forbidden by the Catholic Church, yet an increasing number of people are in favor of changes in the civil law on both matters. Irish Marketing Surveys asked respondents whether they felt divorce should be permitted in some circumstances. As Table 2.3 shows, the change over recent years has been dramatic.
Views on Divorce Legislation, 1971-80
SOURCE: Chubb 1982:30
Irish people are becoming increasingly less guided by Church teachings on moral matters.
These polls show distinct regional, age, and class variations. In 1980, while 51% of all respondents favored divorce in some circumstances, 60% of Dublin respondents, 56% of 18-34 year old respondents, and 64% of middle-class respondents favored it. The urban, the middle-class, and the young population all exhibit "secular" values, which contrasts with the "traditional" (non-secular) values exhibited by rural residents, the elderly, and the poor.
The general trend is probably irreversible, but there is resistance to change. The 1983 debate over an amendment to the Irish Constitution to prohibit abortion exemplifies this division between modern/secular and traditional/religious. Proponents of the amendment saw increasing secularization as a moral threat to be strongly resisted, while opponents saw the amendment as a threat to the newly emerging plural society which tolerated dissent. The Catholic hierarchy's support for such an amendment became clear and overt as the debates have continued, and so it also became a test of religious authority.
The division of opinion illustrates the split between the two Irelands. A poll taken by the Market Research Bureau of Ireland one week prior to the referendum on the amendment showed 69% in favor and 31% opposed (after excluding the 23% either undecided or not voting). As Table 2.4 indicates, there were significant disparities of up to 20%, depending on region, age, and class:
Percent in Favor of Constitutional Amendment Prohibiting Abortion, 1983
|Rest of Leinster||79%||25-34||58%|
|urban areas||61%||working class||70%|
|rural areas||78%||middle class||8%|
SOURCE: Irish Times, 5 September 1983
The survey shows trend to a division between traditional/rural/religious/work class versus modern/urban/secular/middle class in Irish society. Urban dwellers in general (and Dubliners in particular), better paid professionals, and those 25 to 34 years old are distinguishable from the elderly, rural inhabitants, and farmers. When the vote was counted, tally-men watching individual ballot boxes (each containing 150 to 500 votes) reported similar differences in the actual voting patterns.3 Although the amendment was approved by the electorate, people's deference to the church's religious authority is clearly less than in previous years. Most recently (1985), the government was able to pass legislation legalizing contraception for adults, despite the opposition of the Catholic church. In previous years, such legislation would never have been proposed, much less passed.
Thus, there are a number of themes which emerge in a review of Irish history. These themes have become the basis for a generally perceived view of Ireland, which can be diagrammed as
These oppositional pairs are often fused together, to form two distinct, but competing, symbolic "packages". Although crudely stereotyped and value-laden, they are widely accepted as an accurate paradigm of the social, demographic, and economic divisions which now exist in Ireland. The dichotomous themes which make up this scheme provides the ideational framework for political competition in Ireland.
Social changes in Ireland over recent decades, often characterized as a move from traditional to modern society, have implications for political clientelism in Ireland. Traditional forms of political clientelism have been associated with agrarian economies, rural communities, and traditional values. That is to say, Ireland as it was in the 1930's and 40's. However the Ireland of the 1970's and 80's is very different, and political clientelism in contemporary Ireland differs as well. The state is much more central, as it now provides all manner of resources for both individuals and groups. Access to state services is now a more important clientelist resource. In addition, the state's intrusion into social welfare as been very rapid, and the demand for state assistance has often outstripped the bureaucracy's ability to respond to the increased workload. The resulting delays has made even access to those who allocate state resources an important clientelist commodity. Political clientelism in Ireland is now largely centered around the state and its bureaucratic agencies, and politicians are the ones who monopolize access to the scarce resources of the state.
This chapter outlines the formal structure of government and administration in Ireland. Ireland had been subject to British rule for many centuries and, since 1800, had been an administrative part of Great Britain. It is not surprising, then, that the new Irish state maintained the British structure of government and administration. As one writer commented, Ireland's "political values -- as well as its political structures -- were not merely modern but were articulated in a distinctively British way" (Farrell 1971a:xv). Although political power shifted from London to Dublin after independence, nationalist groups maintained their commitment to the pre-independence structures of government. There was very little alteration made by Irish politicians or desired by Irish citizens. These structures define the context within which political clientelism exists; they are structural "givens" which constrain individuals' actions, and are resources used in clientelist and factional exchanges.
Ireland is a parliamentary democracy; the executive is selected by, and accountable to, the legislature. The Oireachtas (parliament) consists of two houses: Dail Eireann and Seanad Eireann. The executive consists of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister), those Ministers whom he appoints (up to 15), and up to 15 junior Ministers. In addition, the President is the ceremonial Head of State, and is elected directly by the people.
The Seanad (Senate) plays only a minor role in legislation; at best, it can only delay the passage of Dail bills. It was designed to provide a forum for various interest groups and be a counter balance to the partisan politics of the Dail. For this reason, elections to the Senate involve a complicated process. Six senators are elected by Irish graduates of national universities. Forty-three are elected by members of parliament and local government representatives (themselves elected by popular vote); the candidates are nominated by bodies representing five groups of interests (education and culture, agriculture, industry and commerce, labor, and public administration and social services) as well as by parliament. Finally, eleven are nominated by the Taoiseach (Prime Minister), partly to ensure that the government of the day has a majority in the Senate.
In theory, Senators represent different interest groups instead of different political parties, and are able to examine legislative proposals from a broader perspective. In practice, the Senate is dominated completely by party politics, since the local councillors who vote on Senate candidates are themselves party politicians. Election to the Senate is either a stepping stone to a Dail seat for ambitious politicians, or as a sinecure for retired or defeated ones. It plays no part in selecting the government.
The other house of parliament (the Dail) is the more powerful body. After a general election, the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) is elected by the Dail, who then nominates other members of the Government, who are also approved by the Dail. Members of the Government are usually (although not necessarily) assigned responsibilities for particular government departments. Members of the Cabinet are thus usually members of the Government and also Ministers responsible for particular departments. As members of the Government, they are collectively responsible for government decisions; but as Ministers, they are accountable to the Dail for the operations of their Department. Members of the Dail (Teachtai Dala, commonly abbreviated as TD) can ask Ministers to account for any department decisions.
In addition to Ministers, the Taoiseach can also appoint up to fifteen junior Ministers, to be attached to various departments. Originally called Parliamentary Secretaries, their title was changed, in 1977, to Ministers of State, and their number increased from ten to fifteen. Each assist the Minister in carrying out his duties, by standing in for him in the Dail or at public functions. A Minister of State has many of the trappings of political office (such as a State car), which bolsters the TD's position vis-a-vis other rivals in his constituency. Such appointments are thus a useful patronage resource for the Taoiseach, who may want to reward faithful supporters.
Although the Dail is more powerful than the Senate, it is still relatively uninvolved in formulating policy. Party loyalty ensures the inevitable passage of Government legislation; the Government dictates to the Dail and the Dail acquiesses. Until recently, there were no committees to examine particular aspects of government activity, and, even now, only a few committees exist. TDs must accept, by and large, whatever Ministers say; they do not have the independent expertise to question government explanations.
Earlier, TDs were expected to be part-time rather than full-time politicians; they were not paid enough to exist on a their salary alone. Until recently, there was one secretary for about seven TDs, which forced the TD to do much secretarial and constituency work himself, leaving little time for policy discussions. Pay, working conditions, and support facilities have all improved in the last few years; many TDs are now full-time politicians with their own secretary. They remain, none-the-less, in the same subordinate position to the Government. It is accepted, by both TDs and voters, that TDs are not in the Dail to legislate or make policy decisions. TDs spend most of their time keeping the local voters happy and the local political machine under firm control. As far as most TDs are concerned, government can make policy, as long as it would not hinder the TD's re-election chances.
The Constitution requires that the total number of Teachtai Dala (members of the Dail) "shall not be fixed at less than one for each thirty thousand of the population, or at more than one member for each twenty thousand of the population" (Article 16.2.2). In practice, the number of TDs has always been about one per 20,000 (Chubb 1982:145). Governments have always opted for as many TDs as constitutionally possible, and Ireland would seem to suffer from political over-representation. The constitution requires that representation, numerically, "shall so far as it is practicable, be the same throughout the country" (Article 16.2.3). For a time, this was rather loosely interpreted, especially by Fianna Fail governments; they prefered to over-represent the West, where population was declining but Fianna Fail party support was high. A court case forced the government to reallocate seats, and it is now accepted that after every census, the number of Dail seats and their allocation to constituencies should be recalculated.
Ireland has multi-seat, rather than single-seat, constituencies. A constituency may elect from three to five TDs, as determined by the size of the constituency. Multi-seat constituencies were to ensure that minority parties would be represented in the Dail; parties that would be unlikely to have majority support in any one constituency could still, in a multi-seat election, obtain enough votes to win one seat out of four or five. This was to reassure the Protestant minority that they would not be swamped by the Catholic majority. In practice, this provision has had a keen impact on the nature of intra-party rivalries, as will be shown later.
General elections are held at least once every five years, or if the President dissolves the Dail on the advice of the Taoiseach. In the past, it has been rare for the Government to lose a vote and go out of office unwillingly; a strong party whip ensures that all members of the government party vote with the party. When the government comes near the end of its five year term, it will call a new election, at a time most advantageous to itself. In recent years, however, large parties have been in government only through the support of independent or fringe politicians, and have lost important Dail votes through the defection of such supporters. In these cases, it was impossible to form a new government, and a new election was necessary. Of the three elections in the two years 1982 and 1983, two were caused by such defections. It is quite unusual, however, for a government to be dependent on fringe TDs in this way; stability has been the norm.
Voting is on the basis of proportional representation, using a single transferable vote; citizens rank order their vote, indicating first preference, second preference, and so on. If the voter's first preference candidate does not obtain enough votes to be elected, the vote is transfered to the voter's second preference candidate, and, if that candidate is not elected, on to the third preference, and so on.4 For a full description of the Irish voting system, see Chubb (1982:350-53). A party many nominate as many candidates as it wishes; careful calculation is required to obtain the maximum vote. Usually, the main parties nominate nearly as many candidates as there are seats (e.g., four candidates in a five-seat constituency). Each candidate will be from a different part of the constituency and will, hopefully, pull in local votes that will then transfer back to the main party contenders. Although each candidate runs as an individual, rather than as a nominee of the party,5 nomination is, in practice, by political parties, and is decided by local party branches. The system has, in Ireland, created intra-party conflict as party candidates battle over first and second preference votes from loyal party voters.
In addition to a national government, Ireland also has a local government tier. Local councils are elected every five years, also using proportional representation in multi-seat constituencies. The local election constituencies are usually wards within the national constituencies. Councillors receive expenses but no salary, and little secretarial support; councillors must not only have income from another source (whether full-time employment or pension), they must often use that income to pay for their political activities.
An individual may be a TD and an elected member of a County Council simultaneously, and many politicians hold both national and local office. For many politicians, access to national office was through previous service as a local councillor. In 1977, 77 percent of TDs and 53 percent of Senators had been local councillors (Chubb 1982:223, see also Garvin 1972; Farrell 1971b; Nealon 1974, 1977). Local office gives politicians a chance to build up a power base, and eventually challenge the TD at an election. With a good local base, the challenger may receive more first preference votes and so unseat the incumbent. Not surprisingly, national politicians often remain on local councils in order to service their constituency and also to stop potential rivals from developing a power base.
There is no rule as to the number of councillors for a particular area, and wide variation is possible. Urban areas tend to have fewer councillors than rural ones; the ratio in County Dublin was, in 1980, 1:7,151 voters and in Dublin City 1:8,088 voters. At the same time, there was a ratio of 1:942 in Leitrim and 1:1,875 in Clare (Roche, D., 1982:312-320). This means there is closer contact between councillors and voters in rural areas. In urban areas, politicians are less likely to have social, economic, or kinship contacts with voters; exchanges between voters and politicians are likely to be less diffuse and multiplex than in rural areas. The relationship between councillors and TDs also varies from rural to urban settings. Rural counties have a large number of councillors relative to TDs while urban ones have a small number. In 1980, there were 806 city and county councillors and 166 TDs, or a ratio of 4.86:1; yet, in the Greater Dublin area the ratio was less than 1.7:1. Since most TDs remain councillors, urban rivals of TDs can be denied the stepping stone of local elected office. The nature of urban political competition inevitably differs from rural competition where the TD must tolerate councillors who are simultaneously his helpers and also potential rivals.
The Irish administrative system is based on a division between central government and local government. Central government is responsible to parliament through ministers, each controlling departments staffed by professional civil servants. Local government is a subordinate system; although administered by locally elected councils, councils are under central government control and have limited autonomy. This model had been introduced during British rule, and while the new Irish government rationalized the various departments, it retained the double-tiered administration.
After Independence, existing civil service personnel were encouraged to stay on and 21,000 of the 28,000 previously employed did so (Chubb 1982:249). Inevitably, British attitudes concerning the role of the civil service and the role of government in general were carried over into the new Irish civil service. The size of the new Irish civil service stayed relatively static for decades, so the existing civil service, with its old attitudes, remained undiluted by new personnel during the crucial early years.
The new state quickly made the civil service independent of any direct Ministerial control. A Civil Service Commission was created in 1923, followed shortly thereafter by a Revenue Commission and a Local Appointments Commission. Staffing and procedures for most local and national bureaucracies, including those concerned with taxation, were quickly made immune from political pressure, and continuity with pre-independence practices was maintained. The Final Report on the Commission of Inquiry into the Civil Service 1932-35 was able to conclude that, in the post-1922 civil service, "the same main tasks of administration continued to be performed by the same staffs on the same general line of organisation and procedure" (from Dooney 1976:1).
In many post-colonial states, the civil service can become politicized, as bureaucratic decisions and staffing become targets of political influence. The Irish administration clearly pre-dated the political system in both structure and personnel, and remained isolated from politics. If anything, the history of Irish administration suggests increasing bureaucratic autonomy rather than politicization. By European standards, the Irish administration is very centralized (PSORG 1969:48; Barrington 1980:39-49), and there is little scope for local decisions. The power of local elected politicians and local authorities in general has continuously decreased as central government takes responsibility for ever more local decisions.
Although the authority of central government has increased, there has not been a corresponding increase in the influence of national politicians. Central government decisions are rarely examined by the Dail in any meaningful way; party politics always prevails. In addition, increased central government activity has also led to increased bureaucratic buffers between politician and decision maker. One example is the semi-state body. Semi-state bodies act like private companies, although the state is the major shareholder and Ministerial nominees sit on the Board of Directors. They are only indirectly accountable to politicians however, as they are not actually government departments.
The isolation of the civil service from political pressures has led to an isolation of the civil service from society. Politicians, at least, are forced to change as the social views of voters change; the civil service can remain immune from social pressures and untouched by social changes. This isolation is increased by civil service recruitment policies. The pre-independence civil service had been dominated by those whose families had been able to afford private schools and Universities (Chubb 1982:264); the post-independence civil service was recruited directly from secondary school. With the exception of poorer rural families (who could not afford the fees for secondary school), this meant that a civil service career was open to anyone whose school training enabled them to pass the civil service exams. Many civil servants were products of Christian Brothers schools, a Catholic order set up to provide education for all, but especially the poor. It has been suggested that while Christian Brothers schools emphasized academic subjects, they neglected everything outside the narrow confines of an examination oriented education. Although the civil service thus created was relatively classless, it may have encouraged an unimaginative, conservative, and narrowly practical approach to administration and policy (Chubb 1982:265-267).
Until very recently, those who went to University were, by the time of graduation, effectively disbarred from a civil service career. Although there is now a special entry level for University graduates, and civil servants are encouraged to pursue advanced degrees through in-house schemes, many civil service personnel are still recruited out of secondary school. The result, as one study noted, was that "top jobs were not only open to people recruited at secondary-school level but largely filled by them" (Chubb 1982:262). Although society may have changed by the time a civil servant reaches senior or even intermediate levels, his attitudes may remain as they were when he entered the civil service twenty to forty years ago, and he will have no colleagues with more recent experience outside the civil service.6 Attempts to recruit personnel for top level appointments from outside the civil service have never proven successful.
A study of the Irish civil service by the Public Services Organisation Review Group (hereafter referred to as PSORG, and sometimes known as the Devlin Report, after its chairman) noted the lack of interchange of personnel between the civil service and other sectors. In addition, civil service promotions are usually from within, and only rarely do outsiders enter the civil service at intermediate or higher levels (PSORG 1969:65, 85-98, 141). Outsiders would face resistance and resentment from those who saw their own promotional chances threatened. Even the appointment of political advisors to Ministers has met with resistance from civil service unions for this reason. Furthermore, civil servants tend to stay within the same department for their entire career; each department is a self-contained unit, with promotion largely an internal matter. There is little horizontal mobility between departments, and little interchange of ideas. Departments tend to regard themselves as autonomous, and resist any attempts to make them accountable to politicians or citizens.7
With no motive for change from without or within, the civil service has long appeared old-fashioned and archaic in its attitudes and procedures. This was perceived to be a problem when, especially after 1957, the state began to intervene to provide services which were too costly or unprofitable for private enterprise. The civil service was seen as unsuited to "risk taking" and unable to adjust to changing circumstances. In order to emulate the flexibility and adaptability of private enterprise, semi-state bodies were set up to achieve specific government economic objectives. Although the state was the main shareholder, employees of the semi-state bodies were free of civil service restrictions. The negative consequence was the employee's loss of civil service job security, but the semi-state bodies seemed to represent the adjustment to modern conditions which the civil service was not able to make.
The civil service is accountable to TDs via a Minister. As members of the Government, Ministers are collectively responsible for government policy; but as Ministers, they are accountable to the Dail for the operations of their individual Departments. Although civil servants make all but the most sensitive of the decisions, they are doing so, legally, in the name of the Minister. As Minister, a person is responsible for all the decisions made in his department. Politicians are able, during Question Time, to ask the Minister to explain and justify both policy and individual decisions made, under the Minister's authority, by civil servants. Therefore, above all, a civil servant's decisions should not cause Ministerial embarrassment. TDs go through the process of asking Ministers about particular decisions, partly to correct wrong decisions but, largely, hoping to embarrass the Minister. Civil servants, in making their decisions and then providing explanations for Ministers to use in response to TD's questions, are aware that any decision could, potentially, attract unwelcome publicity and embarrass the Minister in the Dail.
Not only can a civil servant not be sure what decision might cause problems, he cannot even be sure what policy guidelines can be used to defend his action in the event of problems. Ministers change, and even the same Minister may change policy depending on various political changes in the wind. The result is inefficiency:
Paperwork is to a large extent the consequence of responsibility to the Dail. The observance of this consistency of treatment impedes the expeditious clearance of work. This derives largely from the direct appeal to Parliament, even on matters of small importance. (PSORG:125)
The report went on to remark on the "large expenditure of the time of higher staff in going over relatively minor pieces of executive work done by juniors" (PSORG:128). In order to decrease the chances of Ministerial displeasure, civil servants take the safe, bureaucratically defensible option whenever possible. Often, this means doing nothing innovative, unless it is approved by one's superiors (who are also not anxious to take risks and harm their career). Small wonder that the introduction of semi-state bodies, with clearly spelled out priorities, were an improvement. Clear priorities can be used to justify decisions and thus protect bureaucrats against political backlash.
Central government departments are responsible for a variety of functions. From the beginning, there have been separate Ministries for finance, foreign affairs, defence, local government and public health, industry and commerce, and agriculture. In addition, many local services are administered and operated centrally. For instance, education has also always been a national, rather than local, concern. Although each school is operated by local management, educational guidelines and specific course requirements are determined by central government. The examinations which determine entrance to University courses and scholarships are set and corrected by the Department of Education; local flexibility is thus quite limited.
The police have also been organized on a national rather than local basis. An unarmed police force was set up after Independence, consciously different in style from the Royal Irish Constabulary which had been the para-military arm of British occupation. Although police are well integrated into local communities, staffing, promotions, work conditions, and so forth are still centrally determined. Promotions are under the control of the police hierarchy, except at the higher levels where the Minister, after advice from his officials, makes the final decisions.
A number of services are operated by the semi-state bodies, and these are also operated as national rather than local organizations. Trains and buses are operated by C.I.E., electricity is provided by the Electrical Supply Board (E.S.B.), and medical services are provided by Health Boards. The regional Health Boards have a provision for local council representation, as this was a local authority function until the Boards were set up in 1970. The other agencies, providing important local services (including unemployment assistance and job training schemes), have no provision for input from local councils regarding local problems. Each agency operates independently, under the general over-sight of some central government department.
More and more services have been transferred to central government. For each service, there is usually no parallel local elected council for the local units which administer the service. Given the number of activities which are organized on a national basis, one might wonder what is left for local councils to do. "Less and less", is the answer which many would give. Local authorities were originally intended to operate as local governments; that is, they were to have the scope and autonomy of a government, but as applied to a local area. Local representatives had the discretion to make their own decisions and spend local revenues as desired. However, even those services still provided by local authorities are subject to the scrutiny and control of central government; the Public Services Organisation Review Group commented that the "striking feature of the Irish system of local government . . . is the degree and extent of the controls exercised over it" (PSORG 1969:48).
Until 1977, local services were funded by local taxes; each council thus had some discretion as to how much money it raised, as well as how the money was allocated. Then, the tax on residential property was abolished; although the tax was still calculated, it was paid by central government directly to each council. Prior to this, rates constituted about forty percent of local authority revenue, and central government grants about forty-three percent. Since then, rates has dropped to twenty-one percent, and central government grants has increased to sixty-one percent (Chubb 1982:298).
It was not long before central government was determining what rate of tax the local councils could set, and thus could limit the amount to be paid to local councils. Now, local government finance is largely provided by central government; there is little discretion regarding the amount of money provided or how the money will be allocated. In addition, funds for capital investment programs are obtained by borrowing; borrowing has to be approved by central government and most borrowing is from a special central government fund anyway. As the PSORG noted, regarding engineering, construction and planning schemes, supervision by central government is very close:
There is extremely close financial and technical control . . . through inspection and financial sanction. Although overall approval is obtained . . . for the annual programme of schemes, each individual scheme requires separate approval at various stages. Financial sanction for each project must be obtained from the relevant Department. The amount of reference back involved in considerable. . . . There is considerable duplication and delay. (PSORG 1969:271)
Local authorities are responsible for such services as water, sewage, roads, libraries, and housing. Under the 1963 Planning and Development Act, they are also responsible for overall planning policy in their area, although their decisions may be appealed. Since major financial decisions are made by central government, local councils have little power even over the services which they administer. Their decisions largely pertain to administrative detail: who will get the construction contract, who will get the state funded house, what area will receive traffic lights. Although central government provides specific criteria by which decisions will be made, the the local authority inevitably has influence over the specific decisions.
The local authority is divided between elected representatives and local officials. At first, the elected representatives (County or County Borough Councillors) had substantial power over administrative decisions. However, under the County Management Act, 1940, the functions of local authorities were divided into reserved and executive functions. The reserved functions were performed directly by elected members of the local authority, while all other functions were executive functions and were performed by the County Manager. Policy and financial decisions (such as local taxation policy, and borrowing money) were left to the councillors, while everything else (including day to day administration, collection of taxes, and employment of staff) were allocated to the County Manager. This took many decisions out of the hands of local politicians and so reduced the politician's patronage resources. The local politician's patronage extended to relatively few jobs, such as road worker or rent collector, but, in times of scarce economic resources, the provision of any small measure of assistance provided great electoral advantage. It was precisely to remove such local patronage that the County Manager, as an independent official, was introduced. As one specialist on Irish local government law recently remarked,
it was recognized that entrusting the elected representatives with responsibilities now exercised by managers would have encouraged the bringing to bear of pressures of every kind of councillors. (Keane, R., 1982:x)
The implication of his remarks are that councillors could not be trusted to be impartial; if they had too much power, the people that elected them would expect them to make decisions on a partisan basis. By giving power to local officials, the councillors were saved from having to resist temptation. Whether local politicians desired to be saved from being the subject of such pressures is another matter; it certainly reduced the amount of patronage at their disposal.
Staffing of local authorities has long been in the hands of an independent Local Appointments Commission. It advertises vacant posts, and then selects an interview panel to rank the short-listed applicants. Only those posts not covered by the Commission (such as casual laborers and, until recently, rates collectors) are appointed by local Councils. 8 One study of rural Irish politics (Bax 1976:74-76) suggested that these "impartial" interview boards are commonly "fixed" by politicians. However, the accuracy of this study has been criticized, and there seems little empirical support for the claim.9 Political influence over personnel hiring and promotion is a crucial patronage resource for clientelist exchanges, and it will be examined in further detail in a later chapter.
The structure of Irish government has inevitable implications for political clientelism. Politicians have little impact on policy at either local or national levels; major decisions are made by senior politicians and senior civil servants. Administration is centralized and bureaucratized, so there is little scope for elected officials to secure patronage at local levels. Therefore, politicians have few resources to offer interest groups in exchange for their support. In so far as politicians need personal support from outside their own party, they must look to individuals within their constituency, and they have relatively few resources at their disposal to attract them. Consequently, local-level politicians are more likely to be brokers rather than patrons. Administration is isolated from politics, and it is difficult for politicians to contact directly, much less influence, the civil servants who actually allocate most state resources. If politicians want to assist an individual to obtain a state benefit, the matter must first ascend the political hierarchy of councillor, TD, Minister and then cross over and descend the administrative hierarchy. Access to civil servants must be through the Minister who is responsible for the government department.
Another implication concerns rural/urban differences. Although administrative structures are uniform throughout the country, there exist significant differences in the local elected councils. In rural areas, there are more local councillors per head of population than in urban areas; urban councillors are thus more distant from voters. On the other hand, since the number of national politicians per head of population remains constant, it also means that there are also fewer councillors per TD in urban areas. An urban challenger is less likely to be able to build up a local power base through the county council because there are fewer county councillors in urban areas. Urban and rural political rivalries reflect these structural differences.
Irish government and administration reflects Ireland's history of British domination; it is a continuation of British administrative structures. The formal structure of government is, of course, only part of the political system; complementary to it is the party system. It is in the party system that differences between Irish politics and British politics appear, and clientelism emerges as an important facet of politics.
Although the structure of government and administration is based on the British Westminster model, Irish politics cannot be understood in British terms. The superficial similarities in government and administration conceal crucial differences. The nature of party support, combined with a different electoral system (proportional representation with a single transferable vote, hereafter refered to as PR-STV), produces a type of party politics which is quite unlike British politics. It is in this realm of party politics in which one sees patronage and clientelist politics operating.
Irish politics is best understood by using a distinction which Paine (1974:11-13, 17-18; 1976) has drawn between incorporate versus transactional exchanges, based partly on Barth's work (1966:23-24). Exchanges of the incorporative nature emphasize shared purpose for the common good, based on intrinsic values, whereas transactional exchanges emphasize the calculation of individual advantage and the pursuit of strategies to obtain it. Exchanges in the transactional mode tend to be voluntary contracts between individuals, while incorporative exchanges emphasize collective obligations within a group. Irish politics involves exchanges of both the incorporative and transactional nature. Party membership is corporate in nature, and yet exchanges amongst party activists are transactional. Not only are both elements present in Irish politics, but both are often expressed simultaneously at elections. The electoral of system of PR-STV, combined with Irish party loyalty, encourages factionalism and clientelism. To disentangle the complexity of corporate loyalty and transactional exchanges, one must examine the basis of a party's electoral support, describe party organization, and then look at how party factionalism encourages patron-client exchanges within political parties.
Irish politics has often been described as "tribal". In addition, one politician recently described people's allegiance and support for his party as "religious". Such comments offer an insight into the fervor and commitment which Irish party politics engenders. Both labels emphasize the unquestioned loyalty that transcends rational discussion and assumes the status of a moral imperative. Allegiance to a political party is based on more than economic self-interest or habit; it is based on moral commitment. Often, party allegiance is just one strand of a many stranded or multiplex social network, and loyalty to the group thus created is often seen as an extension of family loyalty. People are born into a party, and could not conceive of voting for any other party.
Loyalty to the party does not, however, translate automatically into loyalty to individual politicians. Voters choose amongst various politicians, all of whom still represent the same political party. Individual politicians cannot count on party loyalty, therefore, to generate personal support. A politician's following amongst both party supporters, who participate in politics only by voting at elections, and party activists, who participate in party politics regularly, must be created and maintained. Supporters and activists choose which politician to support, and transfer support from one politician to another. Individual politicians are especially dependent on the support of party activists, and "behind the scenes" clientelist exchanges permeate party politics. Politicians take over local party branches and transform them into personal followings. Party politics revolves around the manipulation of party structures, as individual politicians and their supporters battle with one another both before and during elections. Patron-client relations are the crucial feature of party politics.
There are two main political parties in Ireland and one minor one (see Manning 1972; 1978). The largest political party is Fianna Fail ("Soldiers of Destiny"). It developed out of the anti-Treaty faction, led by de Valera, and became a political party when de Valera split with the more militant nationalists. Its development as an underground party, in opposition to the constitutional parties of the Irish Free State, has been instrumental to its electoral success. As a grassroots party, it is organized from the bottom up; it has always been the best organized political party and lays special emphasis on electoral expertise. As one cynical Fianna Fail politician commented, "the party works out which side of an issue will win electorally, and that's the side it will always be on: the winning side" (Irish Times, 5 Sept 1983). It commands enormous electoral support, and has been in government for most of the Irish state's existence.
The second largest party is Fine Gael ("Tribe of the Gaels"), and was formed in 1933 by the merger of a number of smaller parties. Fine Gael tended to be a party of notables, rather than a mass party, and did not have the party organization or electoral expertise of Fianna Fail. It has never had sufficient electoral strength to form a government on its own. Fine Gael has had to join forces with the Irish Labour Party on the few times when Fianna Fail was ousted from government. Its voting strength has varied from twenty to thirty five percent (in contrast to Fianna Fail's forty to fifty percent), but has been expanding in the last decade. In a departure from tradition, it began in the late 1970's to emphasize party organization and electoral tactics. This was a result of a change in party leadership after a drastic fall in votes; it has expanded its electoral base and now threatens Fianna Fail's dominance of Irish politics.
The third party is the Irish Labour Party. It is an explicitly ideological party, with specific policy goals. It has never enjoyed great support and has only been a minority partner in government with Fine Gael. Its support has never been extensive enough to permit the local coverage which Fianna Fail has always had and which Fine Gael has lately developed. Its very existence seems threatened from time to time, as it loses support both to Fianna Fail and fringe parties (usually ephemeral) more radical than itself.
The Constitution makes no explicit mention of political parties. Since elections were to be based on proportional representation in multi-seat constituencies, there was every reason to expect the emergence of a large number of small parties. With no one party having a clear majority, the Dail could not become the rubber stamp for Cabinet decisions. However, large parties did emerge, and the selection of the Taoiseach and other members of Government is now the inevitable consequence of either a Fianna Fail or a Fine Gael/Labour coalition majority in the Dail. Party politics prevails, and the Dail acceptance of government decisions is usually a formality.
Party discipline takes precedence over all other matters, and a strong party whip limits the range of individual politicians' actions. Individual TDs are "lobby fodder"; they are there to vote for or against the government on particular issues, as their party, rather than their own opinion, dictates. Free votes are rare, and have taken place only on a few occasions in the entire history of the Dail. When questions are raised in the Dail about particular government decisions, the actual merits of the case are irrelevant. Any individual case is merely another opportunity for opposition politicians to embarrass the government. Decisions are thus routinely supported by government politicians and routinely attacked by opposition politicians.
Irish political parties are "catch-all" parties; they attract a wide variety of support, and neither their electoral support nor party policy reflects particular special interests. While parties collaborate with interest groups or community organizations on specific issues, these are temporary alliances, used to achieve different goals. The interest group wants to alter government policy on the specific issue, and the opposition party wants to embarrass the government if at all possible. Attempts to identify particular social or economic bases for party support have failed, and most observers have concluded that it "is not possible to explain Irish partisanship satisfactorily by social characteristics such as occupation, class, religion, or region, as can be done for many Western countries" (Chubb 1982:104).
Although there are no equivalents of the British Labour and Conservative parties, such a social split almost emerged. In the early stages of post-independence politics, some economic and regional interests became articulated through political parties. The support for the Irish Free State tended to be strongest amongst the middle class and large farmers; their interests were well served by an end to conflict and violence. When the new Fianna Fail party sought electoral support, it looked to the rural hinterlands. Not only did Fianna Fail attract nationalist anti-Treaty support, it also attracted the small farmer. Small farms tended not to be economically viable, and many farmers depended on the financial support of emigrated children. Fianna Fail was committed to maintaining people on the land; the 1926 founding charter proclaimed its goal of maintaining the greatest number of "Irish families rooted in the soil of Ireland". State assistance to non-viable farms was a small price to pay for capturing the West, stronghold of both nationalism and also small farms. The "economic war" which Fianna Fail waged against Britain in the 1930's threatened to solidify the pattern of regional and economic polarization. Fianna Fail's protectionist policy harmed large farmers (who depended on cattle sales to Britain), as well as the numerous businesses which imported goods; such policies drove many into Fine Gael, while strengthening Fianna Fail's nationalist and populist vote.
Soon, however, Fianna Fail began to attract the support of conservative voters who now saw Fianna Fail as a stable rather than radical influence. Fianna Fail's protectionist policy also helped some businesses thrive by letting them over-charge the Irish consumer. At the same time, Fianna Fail engaged in a housing building program for the urban poor. The 132,000 houses built between 1932 and 1942 (Ranelagh 1983:242) gained Fianna Fail the working class vote. While such policies attracted new voters, they also cost Fianna Fail support in its traditional strongholds. While Fianna Fail moved out of its strong-hold in the West and spread out to include the urban East, Fine Gael, in its turn, broadened its support beyond the conservative middle class. Although Fianna Fail remains especially strong in the West, and Fine Gael strong amongst large farmers and the middle class, the economic/regional divide has long been blurred.
Surveys of voter attitudes and party support show that neither region nor class predict voter alignments (Garvin 1974; Whyte 1974). Most attempts to classify voter allegiance using class attributes have simply reaffirmed its political irrelevance. The Irish Labour Party argues that it represents working class interests, but manages to obtain only about ten to fifteen percent of the vote and unsuccessfully competes with Fianna Fail for working class votes.
The lack of class politics may be a consequence of Ireland's post-independence situation. It is argued that the social cleavages salient at the time of mass enfranchisement remain crucial political divisions (Lipset and Rokkan 1967). Once everyone has the vote, party allegiances are frozen, and new voters are socialized into the existing divisions. Economic or social divisions which later emerge do not become the basis for political divisions, since all parties, to maintain their position, respond similarly to any developing social or economic discontent. Thus, only those issues salient at the time of mass mobilization divide the parties. The crucial divide in Ireland at the time of mass mobilization was pro-Treaty versus anti-Treaty, and this became the salient division between Fianna Fail and Fine Gael (Garvin 1977). As new economic and social issues have developed, both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have responded in similar fashions, and few policy differences have emerged. People's stand on the nationalist issue takes precedence over any social or economic divisions, and unites people who would otherwise have conflicting economic interests.
With no overt class politics, there is little political demand for structural change in Irish society. The lack of organized political pressure from the poorer sections of the community does not mean that economic equality prevails. It simply means that there are only demands by individuals for their own individualized state assistance. Housing is a clear example of a scarce resource which, in other countries, could become the subject of collective social action. Public housing is sought after by the many people who live in over-crowded and substandard accommodation, and cannot afford to buy a house in the private sector. Yet, the housing shortage is rarely on the political agenda. Only in the late 1960's did housing shortages in Dublin provoke concerted community action (involving sit-ins and demonstrations). A massive house building program resulted, but once public activism abated, so did the money for housing. Individuals remain largely concerned with obtaining a house for themselves, not with forcing political parties to make more housing available for everyone. Years of activity by various fringe political parties have not altered this basic individualistic approach to state assistance. Citizens, especially disadvantaged ones, focus on individual rather than structural inequalities, and economic and social inequalities have never become serious political issues.
Abner Cohen (1974:65-89) has noted that any group requires some sense of "distinctiveness" to maintain cohesion and discipline. When that distinctiveness is supplied by economic, social, cultural, regional, or religious divisions, then group identity is created and maintained by shared interests. Ireland does not possess the ethnic or religious diversity that might give rise to parties based on cultural attachments; the partition of Ireland into North and South pre-empted such a development. Fianna Fail originally had strong support in the West of Ireland, but has long since spread beyond the West. Although association with a particular region (such as County Clare or County Kerry) is strongly felt, regionalism has not become the basis for party membership. While there is a certain urban/rural tension over economic policy, no farmers' or and urbanites' parties have emerged (except as short-lived protest parties).10
Given the political irrelevance of economic and regional cleavages, what common identity or beliefs maintains cohesion in Irish political parties? It has been suggested already that the factionalism of the civil war polarized Irish society. Beliefs regarding Ireland and Britain became the basis for party cleavages, and so the key to Irish political parties is the beliefs, rather than common interests, of its supporters. What, then, are the beliefs, in a collective or corporate sense, of Fianna Fail and Fine Gael?
Fianna Fail is linked, historically, with nationalist aspirations and independence, and has long been able to tap these symbolic resources. To support Fianna Fail is to support Ireland against outsiders (especially the British). To abandon one's commitment of fellow members of Fianna Fail is to become a traitor to one's country. In Fianna Fail ideology, the opposition party (Fine Gael) is linked with British interests (e.g., Fine Gael supporters are often described as "West Brits"). Supporting Fine Gael, according to Fianna Fail rhetoric, is tantamount to asking the British to come back into Ireland.
Elections are times to assert such an ideology in efforts to unify party supporters. In an election in November, 1982, the leader of Fianna Fail constantly linked Fine Gael with anti-nationalist and pro-British interests:
We arranged [the British] departure from our country 60 years ago and we don't want them coming backing in 1982. We in Fianna Fail want a resounding victory as an indication of your support for the freedom and independence of Ireland as a whole. (Irish Times, 12 Nov 1982)
a week later, at the other end of the country,
We made arrangements for the departure of these people 60 years ago and we don't want them back in 1982. (Irish Times, 20 Nov 1982)
The point was made more explicit by others:
A vote for Garret and Fine Gael is a vote for Maggie Thatcher [Prime Minister of Great Britain], and a vote for Charlie Haughey and Fianna Fail is a vote for a 32-county Republic. (Irish Times, 20 Nov 1982).
These sentiments would not have been echoed by all Irish voters, but they did appeal to loyal Fianna Fail supporters.
Fianna Fail's strategic monopoly on nationalism is all the more interesting because past actions do not match the verbal rhetoric. Its actions in government have always maintained the status quo of partition. In the past, Fianna Fail has been responsible for imprisonment of IRA nationalists, as well as legislation designed to curtail their activities. Despite such actions, Fianna Fail remains the "Republican" party.
In the early years of Fine Gael, civil war antipathies were sufficient to ensure loyalty to local notables. Recently, however, Fine Gael has been developing as a party with mass support. Deprived, in large measure, of nationalism and the Irish language as symbolic resources, Fine Gael portrays itself as morally superior to Fianna Fail. Fianna Fail's political opportunism is contrasted with the financial rectitude of Fine Gael. In Fine Gael ideology, Fianna Fail is composed of opportunistic scoundrels, while Fine Gael is composed of morally upright citizens.
A clue to party ideology is found not only in electoral propaganda, but also in the conflicts among party activists. Disagreements amongst party activists would not normally create party divisions; in Ireland, party loyalty is more important than policy disagreements. Yet, both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael have, in recent years, exhibited public conflict on important policy issues; in each case, however, the issue was quite different. The splits offer an insight into the collective beliefs of each party.
In Fianna Fail, party policy is widely regarded to be whatever is most likely to be popular with voters or embarrassing to the opposition. The most vital principle in Fianna Fail has been that members should never disagree in public. Any conflicts should remain private, with a public facade of harmony. Yet, there have been factional struggles in Fianna Fail which have, in recent years, split the party. In the early 1970's, violence in Northern Ireland had erupted after decades of relative quiet. While all Fianna Fail supporters wanted to assist the Catholic minority in the North, only a small number felt that armed support should be provided if necessary. This minority, which included some Ministers, took the view that the partition of Ireland was illegal and temporary anyway, and they would not abandon Fianna Fail's nationalist aspirations. Fianna Fail Government Ministers conspired to import arms into Northern Ireland, and were sacked from the government. Many left the party as a result, and those who didn't were in disgrace.11 The same issue continued to split the party in the 1980's. One faction sees the consent of all parties as crucial (including that of Northern Unionists); the other argues that unification should proceed, even if consent is not forthcoming. Predictably, much of this conflict is actually over control of the party, but the ideological division is real and not just rhetoric. Attitudes towards Northern Ireland took precedence over party unity, and people were prepared to divide the party over the issue. In a party that prized its self-image of political expediency, such public disagreements have been startling.
Fine Gael supporters may disagree amongst themselves regarding Northern Ireland, but do not feel strongly enough to divide the party. Yet, Fine Gael's turn came in 1983. During a close election campaign, a pressure group forced the political parties to commit themselves to holding a Constitutional referendum. The referendum, if passed, would explictly prevent abortion legislation ever being introduced. Since Fine Gael won the election, it fell to them, rather than Fianna Fail, to live up to its campaign promise. Divergent views within Fine Gael threatened party unity, and a substantial minority of the party were in open conflict with the party leader. Fine Gael split between those who followed conservative "official" church policy and those who took a more liberal view. This tension between the "old guard" and the "young tigers" emerges on other social issues, such as divorce, contraception, and religious control over education, as well. Interestingly, while there are similar tensions within Fianna Fail, disagreement does not take precedence over party unity. Divergent views would not be publicly aired. On the referendum, Fianna Fail remained silent, while Fine Gael tore itself apart publicly.
Thus, nationalism and Northern Ireland are issues which define Fianna Fail ideology and which can, therefore, also divide party activists. Morality and church teaching is a more profound issue for Fine Gael, and it, too, can divide party activists.
Individuals inherit membership in an Irish political party as, in other societies, they inherit their tribal or ethnic identity. A 1971 survey showed that "people with pro-Treaty relations or connections in the past were very likely to have voted Fine Gael in 1969; those with anti-Treaty relations or connections, Fianna Fail" (Chubb 1982:108). Just as a person born a Catholic can only become a "lapsed" Catholic rather than a non-Catholic, so someone born into a Fine Gael or Fianna Fail family is unlikely to ever "leave" the party. He either votes for his party or not at all, but he is unlikely to actually become an active member of another party. Membership carries with it automatic rights and duties vis-a-vis other members. A fellow member can be trusted to "do the right thing" and help the other person. No matter what else, loyalty to the party is first and foremost. Decisions on any issue are seen to be tests of personal loyalty and commitment; a disinterested decision, based on principle, is impossible.
It is not surprising that journalists have described Irish political parties as "moral communities". The concept has often been applied to small communities (cf. Bailey 1971) to describe how outsiders are treated differently from community members. Special moral values apply to community members; outsiders deserve no special treatment and can be exploited with moral impunity. The same distinction exists in Irish political parties. To members of the same party, one owes loyalty and commitment, regardless of the issue. The merits of a particular action or issue are never sufficient to justify abandoning one's heritage. Thus, few people ever vote against their own party and few politicians ever ignore the party whip. It is virtually unheard of that a politician should leave his party, or that he would then be accepted by another party. Politicians who ignore the party whip, for whatever reason, are not forgotten or forgiven; politicians who prize party loyalty above all other virtues are rewarded.
These closed memberships exist because party membership is not a public matter. Individuals are vouched for by others in the "know", and are then accepted on that basis (at least provisionally). Little overt mention is made of party affiliation, yet it exists behind the scenes always. This "behind the scenes" characteristic of party politics is a cultural, rather than political, phenomenon. Party affiliation is a private affair in Ireland, and it would be a breach of etiquette to inquire "what party do you support?" Most people would not admit their party affiliation; a few would say who they voted for in a recent election, but most would avoid a direct response to a direct, but impolite, question. Even fewer would volunteer such information.
The entire language of political rhetoric emphasizes blood and heritage. An ambitious politician validates his claim for support by emphasizing his family background, and the possession of illustrious ancestors is crucial to politicians in all parties. In their campaign literature, candidates stress their traceable family link with a party. It will be said he is of "good" Fianna Fail stock, for example, because his father was active in the party, or his uncle always helped in election campaigns. The personalized recommendation becomes important in constituency politics; if someone can vouch for one's family background, then a person will be accepted. If activists move from one part of Ireland to another, such credentials are important if one is to be accepted into the face-to-face small community that characterizes local constituency politics.
In a pluralist society, party loyalty is often reinforced by a communal "ethnic" or "tribal" identity, based on historical, cultural, linguistic, or geographical divisions. Ireland, however, is strikingly homogeneous; the only basis of common identity is the factionalism surrounding independence. Despite what seems a fragile basis for shared identity, there is a strong sense of "moral community" which enables political parties to mobilize hundreds of thousands of votes. Fianna Fail regularly receives forty percent of the votes and it is the "moral community" par excellence. How can such a moral imperative be maintained, when the individuals involved are spread over the entire country and have divergent economic and social interests? The intense loyalties generated by the civil war only account for the creation of this strong moral commitment; it is the party organization which maintains this particularistic moral community, even within the context of an open, universalistic society.
Elections are won by mobilizing voters. The local party organization, composed of volunteer activists, is crucial. Nationalism or Catholic ethos may be sufficient to maintain voter's support, but is it also sufficient to maintain the far higher commitment required by party activists? The small Irish Labour Party has distinct policy goals, and Labour party activists are members because they consider these goals intrinsically worthwhile. The policies of the two larger parties are much vaguer, and of little relevance to the political activist. A survey of Dublin political activists found that only members of the Labour Party cared about party policy; members of the other two parties had not joined, and did not remain active, in order to pursue specific policy goals. Rather, they were more concerned with the social benefits: "the fun, the night out in the pub, friends and comradeship" (Garvin 1976:378). Since the support of party activists does not depend on party policy, party leaders are free to advocate whatever policy suits them electorally. The only limits are those imposed by party ideology (e.g., nationalism and reunification for Fianna Fail, proper Catholic ethics for Fine Gael).
The structure of all three parties are broadly similar; they use a three tier system of branch, constituency, and national groupings. Branches are aggregated into a single constituency unit for purposes of local and general election campaigns. The branches are supposed to meet about once a month (though not all do), and have to elect officers once a year at the annual general meeting. The constituency organization also meets once a month, and the member branches elect constituency officers once a year. At the same time, they also elect a constituency delegate to the national organization.
In Fianna Fail, each branch selects delegates (usually three) who then vote for the various constituency offices. Each branch nominates the same number of delegates, and has only limited control over how the delegate votes. Elections are by secret ballot, so the personal loyalties of individual delegates are important. When a general or local election takes place, candidates are decided by a selection convention, to which each branch nominates delegates. The constituency officers also have a vote, as does the constituency delegate. These four extra votes can often make an important difference, when the total number of votes at a selection convention is only about forty.
The pattern in Fine Gael and Labour is roughly similar, although there are some variations. In Fine Gael, each branch nominates six delegates instead of three. This lessens the possibility of well established politicians controlling the nominating process, since they are less likely to have six loyal supporters in each branch who can become delegates. In all parties, the national executive can determine the number of candidates permitted in each constituency, and then impose additional candidates if desired. Sometimes candidates are not selected and, because they would be popular electorally or have strong support from the party hierarchy, they are imposed. Usually the person imposed is already known in the area; it is very rare that someone without a local reputation of activity is brought in. Irish voters are well known to prefer someone who knows the local area.
To the extent that numbers permit, a constituency is split into areas and each branch is responsible for a specific electoral area. Members of the branch are able to keep politicians informed about local opinion and concerns, and propagandize neighbors on the party's behalf. At election time, they are able to use neighborhood loyalties to mobilize the local vote on the party's behalf. They know who is eligible to vote and can persuade them to come out to vote. Political success often depends on these local contacts.
The national party council consists of the parliamentary party (composed of TDs and Senators) and constituency delegates. There is usually a national executive which meets (in the case of Fianna Fail) twice monthly; it is composed of constituency delegates, delegates from the parliamentary party, and party officers and delegates elected at the national conference. The national executive concerns itself with party organization and tactics; party policy is left to senior members of the parliamentary party. Since members of the national executive have access to politicians throughout the country, aspiring activists often use this as a base for entrance into politics (thus by-passing the rival elected politician).
The leader of the parliamentary party is also the leader of the party; thus, the leader of the party must be an elected politician. In Fianna Fail, only TDs are eligible to select the party leader; thus, only those who are already electorally successful and dominant in their local area can determine party leadership. The same is true for Labour, but, in Fine Gael, Senators also vote for party leader. As in the case of branch delegates, this effectively decreases the power of well established local politicians. Both of these practices are recent changes in Fine Gael policy, and parallel the transformation of the party into a mass party; in effect, both undercut the power of traditional local figures who are being supplanted.
Each party has a national conference once a year, ostensibly to discuss party policy. In the case of Labour, the parliamentary party is often forced to follow conference policy; it must, for example, have a special conference before the parliamentary party is permitted to enter into a coalition with Fine Gael to form a government. Fine Gael is less bound by the decisions of party conferences, and Fianna Fail least of all. In these cases, the conference is largely an annual social event where the party faithful meet one another. The majority of people attending the conference are concerned only with socializing and reliving past events; it is a crucial ceremony which maintains the sense of moral fellowship. It lasts about two or three days, with social events each night and a speech by the party leader (preceded and followed by a standing ovation). Some serious politics also takes place, as politicians, political aspirants, and local organizers exchange notes on party organization and tactics, and make informal alliances. Some will be working hard to obtain the support of influential politicians who will act as patrons, perhaps by helping them obtain a local nomination.
There are important differences in political organization in rural versus urban constituencies. Polling stations are allocated on the basis of geography and population to make sure that all voters have relatively easy access to a local station. In rural areas, this means that there must be polling stations spread throughout the countryside, otherwise voters would have to travel too far to vote. Each polling station will have be covered on election day, but the rural ones have a smaller catchment area and so more branches are required to cover them. In 1979, Fianna Fail had about 50-150 branches per rural constituency, and 20-30 branches per city constituency (Chubb 1982:112).
There is generally greater social involvement in politics in a rural setting: one Fianna Fail activist estimated that a rural cumain (branch) would have 100 members to the urban branch's 15, with the same catchment area (in terms of voting population). However, as another activist added, that 100 members would probably include entire families, where the 15 urban members would have left their families at home. In a rural area, there would be an individual known to be "the Fianna Fail [or Fine Gael] man"; he might be a pub owner, insurance salesman, social welfare officer, or some other local figure. Such notables will see, in the normal course of their work, the party members in the area. Formal branch meetings may not be necessary and, according to one activist, even the annual general meetings might be dispensed with.
In the rural community, an activist is prominent in several social and economic domains simultaneously. In effect, politics in rural areas remains integrated into the social and economic fabric of the community. In urban areas, politics is becoming separate. Urban activists might not see one another in the normal course of community life, and so formal branch meetings are necessary to sort out problems and discuss tactics. Party activists in Dublin emphasized again and again how isolated they are from the community, as contrasted with their rural counterparts. It is possible for an influential activist to be unknown outside of local party meetings. A person prominent in the party organization might have little standing or reputation in the community at large, and if, through manipulation of party branches, he got a nomination, he would receive few votes. It would be unlikely that such a person would receive a nomination in a rural constituency, as all other activists would be well aware of each person's public profile. Only in urban politics is it possible for party activists to be "out of touch" with the community. By and large, only elected politicians, or those with such ambitions, have a public profile.
This urban/rural variation in party organization matches the variation in councillor/voter ratios. Rural areas have more politicians and more political activists per head of population; overall, rural political activity is more firmly embedded in the community. This has obvious consequences for clientelism, as it is far easier to create personal networks of support in a rural area. In urban areas, the number of voters whose support must be maintained is higher and the number of political activists who can serve as intermediaries is lower. A politician at once has fewer rivals, as they find it difficult to create a rival power base, but also has more difficulty penetrating the constituency, as there are fewer kinship, and social, networks whose loyalty he can tap.
Although the relationship of party supporter to party is corporate and "tribal" in character, there are still transactional exchanges, especially amongst political activists. The Irish electoral system of PR-STV differs from other electoral systems in two ways. In some countries (e.g., the United States and Great Britain), the voter casts one vote, and the candidate with the largest number of voters (not necessarily, however, a majority of votes cast) is elected. Instead of just voting for one individual (or one party), the Irish voter rank orders individual preferences, even amongst different candidates from the same party. If his first choice does not obtain sufficient votes to be elected, then his vote will be transfered to his second choice. Secondly, there are a number of seats to be filled in each constituency; rather than only one seat per electoral area, there may be from three to five seats. Such a system was designed to overcome the inbuilt bias against small parties present in other electoral systems.12 Under the Irish system, in theory, marginal parties should be able to achieve political representation, while, in other electoral systems, a small party cannot obtain a large enough following in individual constituencies to obtain seats. In practice, however, the Irish party system is dominated by large parties, and small parties are unable to break into the system.
The effect of PR-STV on the rules of political competition has been profound, and not necessarily beneficial. Voters are able to simultaneously demonstrate corporate loyalty to their party and engage in transactional exchanges with individual politicians. Voters decide amongst several individual politicians within one party, without diminishing their party allegiance. In elections using a list system, it is the party which decides how electoral preferences will be allocated amongst competing party politicians. A politician who controls the party structure is confident of re-election; only a significant electoral swing against his party could threaten his position. In Ireland, control over the party structure provides only marginal assurance of re-election. It is the voters who decide which party candidate will receive the highest preferences. Voters can thus engage in transactional exchanges with individual politicians knowing that any politician they choose will still remain loyal to the party. It is a measure of the strength of party loyalty that the two main parties continue to exist, despite an electoral system designed to facilitate factionalism. In fact, PR-STV does encourage factionalism, but it is intra-party factionalism within large parties, rather than inter-party factionalism amongst numerous small parties.
Since a politician's main challenge comes from others in his own party, neither party allegiance nor party policy can be used to ensure an individual politician's electoral success (except for marginal seats). Against members of the same party, politicians must compete using non-party resources. Politicians must attract support, using whatever resources they have available, offering whatever the voters want (or whatever they can convince the voters that the voters want). The generally accepted medium through which party politicians compete for votes is "personal service". As Bax (1975:12) commented, politicians compete by "building up a greater reputation as a worker for the electorate". This is the dominant image of Irish politics: the political broker who intervenes on behalf of constituents to help them obtain government benefits, and who, in return, is rewarded by people's votes.
There is probably no more powerful or central image in Irish politics than the "parish-pump" politician (e.g., Keane, J., 1967). Many argue that electoral contests are decided on the basis of personal contacts and claims of influence. As one journalist commented, with regard to Fianna Fail especially,
the quid pro quo is clear, almost stark. Fianna Fail will look after the punter and the punter will look after Fianna Fail at election time. Dole payments, grants, planning permission will be reciprocated with first preferences on election day. (Irish Times, 18 July 1976)
Politicians claim influence over government services, and so make voters indebted to them.
To some extent, this emphasis of personal assistance may be an unforseen consequence of the electoral system. Voters everywhere would like politicians to look after their individual interests (Mezey 1976); Ireland's electoral system merely gives voters the power to force politicians to fulfill that desire. The crucial point is that voters" decisions to support a particular politician takes place within the context of strong party loyalties. If the provision of individual benefits dominates the electoral contest, it is only because politicians and voters take party loyalty for granted. Since the electoral system does not require that voters chose between personalism and party loyalty, it is difficult to deduce, from electoral data, how important "personalism" is. Politicians have sometimes discovered, too late, that their electoral support depended on the umbrella of voter party loyalty. In the early 1970's, a number of politicians left Fianna Fail due to conflict over party policy regarding Northern Ireland, and contested future elections as Independents or as members of newly founded nationalist parties. Most of the politicians were quickly rejected by the voters.13 Individual appeals to voters are important, but largely within the context of appealing to loyal party voters.
PR-STV increases politician's electoral vulnerability. They must fulfill voter expectations in order to maintain their personal share of the party vote. If the voters want brokerage, then the politician must try to deliver. If he does not deliver, he will not be re-elected. The electoral and party system forces politicians to provide constituency services which the politicians might not otherwise provide; it is in the politician's interest to provide that service at the least cost to himself. The actual efficacy of politicians' interventions is a side issue; the politician's goal is simply that people prefer him over his party rivals.
The ability of voters to demonstrate their support for a party and yet still choose amongst various politicians means that an individual politician's rivals come from his own party rather than from any opposition parties. Given the high level of party commitment by voters, it also means that fellow politicians are competing for a finite number of votes -- the votes of loyal party supporters. This is a true "zero-sum game"; if one politician gets votes, then, by definition, his fellow party candidates must get less.
It is not surprising that factional conflict is endemic in local party politics, and it usually surfaces during elections. Although all candidates are supposed to work together to increase the party vote as a whole, candidates often work independently to increase their own vote (inevitably to the detriment of the rivals' party vote). The most serious violation of campaign rules is to ask for a "personal" vote for yourself, rather than asking people to vote for the party candidates, in whatever order of preferences they want to. However, everyone knows that such personal campaigning goes on, and one can only try to keep the rivalry in check as much as possible.14
Politicians do not simply try to increase their own vote; often they actually try to take voters away from party rivals. The strategies used to win votes away vary. A time honored strategy is for Mr. Y to spread the rumor that Mr. X has a safe seat, while Mr. Y is in real danger of losing his seat. In order to secure Mr. Y's seat, everyone will give Mr. Y their first preference vote, and Mr. X may lose his so-called safe seat. Rumors are also spread to discredit rival candidates. In a recent election, anonymous letters were put into houses, accusing a candidate of forcing residents to accept "itinerants" in the area.15 This had been a very sensitive and emotional issue in previous months, and the letter was an attempt to smear a local candidate. Though the letter was unsigned, it later transpired that a rival party candidate was responsible.
The most extreme example of party conflict was during a by-election campaign. By-elections provide useful publicity for aspiring politicians; each party puts forward one candidate, since only one seat is vacant, and all the party's publicity is focused on the one candidate. Their high public profile often increases the particular candidate's vote in future elections, to the dismay of party rivals. In this case, Mr. F (a fellow party member) was a rival of the party's candidate (Mr. L). Mr. F kept Mr. O, an opposition party candidate, informed of all of Mr. L's movements during the campaign. In this way, Mr. O could counter Mr. L's activities. From Mr. F's perspective, it was better that the seat be lost to another party than that a party rival should obtain a seat.
Although control over party branches offers the politician only limited protection from the electorate, it offers some insurance. Candidates for election are chosen by party branches, with each branch having equal votes. The best protection against a rival who might obtain more first preference votes is to deny him the nomination in the first place; local politicians with a strong hold on their area make sure that only weak candidates are nominated alongside them. To safeguard one's position, one must be able to control enough branches to control nominations. If a rival candidate is well known and also from the same community, he may get more first preference votes and actually supplant the politician. There is always the danger that voters may give higher preferences to someone else, and even well established politicians can find their support shifting to relative newcomers. In one Dublin constituency, an established politician supported a relative unknown to prevent a rival from being nominated. The unknown managed to get elected, and the established politician lost his seat and has never recovered his power.
Politicians maneuver to keep control of the local party structure and keep out potential rivals. The conflict within the local party arena goes on all the time and is the reason why politicians are always attending party branch meetings; they want to keep things under control. The basic question of constituency politics is "whose man are you?" and it is impossible not to be somebody's man. There is no way to avoid local factional conflicts; one must be aligned to someone. Local branch politics do not permit a person to be neutral; if he tried to be, he would simply be trusted by no one.
Constituency meetings are complex; beneath the surface of conviviality and commitment to party ideals, there exist plots and counter-plots. Participants spend most of their time trying to deduce the significance of every minor event: does it imply that someone's support was shifting? will that action somehow enhance councillor "L's" position? For example, at one meeting, the constituency secretary placed a local councillor in the front row of the meeting, while a local TD and also a visiting party dignitary (a TD from another constituency) were at the table facing the audience. This was an exception to the normal practice of seating all elected politicians at the head table. The TD thus received more public attention than the councillor. The councillor felt he could not make a fuss, as this would appear mean-minded, but he was annoyed and also worried: had the secretary done this deliberately (thus aligning himself with the TD whose position was increasingly threatened by the councillor)? Since no direct question could be asked to settle the matter, the councillor could only resolve to not let himself lose the limelight again and also watch the secretary more closely in the future.
All this conflict takes place beneath the surface; many of those attending such meetings would accept the superficial interpretation of harmony and shared goals. Indeed, such shared goals are often used as a weapon in party rivalries. In one case, an aspiring activist tried to obtain a nomination and supplant the established councillor. Although the aspirant had more votes, the established councillor was able to paint a convincing picture of factionalism and divided loyalties. For the sake of party unity, he said, they should ask the national executive to permit both to run as candidates. If the aspirant had fought this, he would have seemed concerned only with personal ambition (in contrast with the other's concern for the party). He had no choice but to agree; the established politician was easily able to use his national contacts to influence the national executive. They decided to permit only one candidate, which was naturally the established politician himself.
Politicians divide up their constituency into individual territories, and, through manipulation of party branches, prevent local rivals from being nominated (Sacks 1976:164-170; Carty 1981:117-134). A politician's major concern is to monopolize the party vote in his local area and ensure that candidates come from some other part of the constituency. He must also make sure his area is not encroached upon, and, if possible, expand his sphere of operations. The wider the area in which he is active, the greater the share of the party vote he will obtain.
Well established politicians manipulate the party structure to prevent strong near-by candidates from getting nominated. The most effective way to deal with a rival is to stop him from being nominated at all. Politicians agreed that they had far more difficulty getting nominated by the local party than they had getting elected by the community. In many cases, it took years of continual effort to break the stranglehold which a rival had over the party branches. If there are fifteen branches in a constituency, politicians will often be able to say that five of them are Deputy Smyth's, three of them are Senator Byrne's, three are Councillor Malone's, and three are uncommitted. Politicians must obtain the support of local branches and also make alliances with other politicians to obtain the support of their branches. A politician can only gain support at the expense of another rival politician, so suspicion is always rife that any action has the covert aim of consolidating one's support among branches or undercutting a rival's support.
Politicians control branches in three ways. The most common method is to woo existing members and so create personal links with existing party activists. For this reason, politicians are always attentive to branch members's problems and complaints. Politicians are always available to assist party members with their individual problems. One Dublin TD said that he spent over one year cementing the support of the six branches in his local area; he did this by flattering individuals, appealing to their interests, following up any of their complaints, and, basically, putting himself at their disposal. Even if he did not make them personally loyal, he at least made them sympathetic.
In addition, politicians will recruit their own friends. By introducing personally loyal people in branches, the politician can eventually take over the branch, or at least the important positions within the branch. Through simple endurance, the politician's friends can outlast those whose commitment is less strong and eventually the branch will simply become the politician's. Although each branch covers a specific electoral area, branch members do not have to be living in that specific area. In one case, three members of the same family belonged to three different branches; there was no reason to waste loyal support by concentrating them all in one branch! It is common to find the sister or brother-in-law of a TD as head of a local branch or secretary of the constituency organization. Such overt control is a certain sign of personal strength. In the Labour Party, new members have to be accepted by the branch; but in Fianna Fail and Fine Gael, new members cannot be rejected. This has some obvious advantages; a prominent Fianna Fail politician re-established control of a rebel branch by overwhelming the branch with new members personally loyal to him.
A third strategy would be to create new branches. One can upset the existing balance of power by adding new branches, each with its own votes at nominating conventions. Branches are allocated specific geographic territories, so there is justification for a new branch only in rapidly growing areas. In many parts of County Dublin, rapid population growth has created a need for branches, but the approval for such branches is always slow to be given. Often, the new branch will be created by splitting an existing branch whose territory is now too large. This is an opportunity for one faction to take control of a new branch, and rivals may try to prevent it. The creation of a new branch in the rapidly growing western suburbs of Dublin was held up for years simply because the local TD knew that the newly created branch was going to be composed of people loyal to someone else. He had sufficient support at the national level to delay approval.
In effect, politicians seek to transform party supporters into personal supporters, and leave the formal party structure a hollow shell. The crucial figures are those branch delegates; they elect constituency officers and nominate local and general election candidates. One doesn't have to take over an entire branch if one can simply convert or supplant the prominent branch figures who are active in constituency politics. In constituencies dominated by a strong politician, all important local positions are held by the politician's friends. There is no danger that branch activists might defect to the other side; the branch, to all intents and purposes, ceases to exist. Such branches are known as "paper" branches because they only exist on paper, to maintain appearances for party headquarters. The branches function only during elections, to nominate whoever the politician wants.
Such personal followings are not in the best interests of the national party. Those concerned with the party as a whole rightly view this as subversion; party support is replaced by personal support. The entire party machine becomes dependent on one person; if he dies or leaves politics, the party has no local organization left. In one Dublin constituency, the Labour Party TD slowly took over all the branches and discouraged outsiders from joining the party. He used the Labour Party rule that new members must be approved by the existing branch to reject all potential branch members. He had a large vote in every election, but it was a personal one and not based on the votes of party supporters. Once he was gone, there was no actual local structure remaining: it was all on paper. A new Labour candidate had to start from scratch to develop the manpower necessary to canvass voters in an election.
A local politician is not concerned with increasing the number of party seats in a constituency, since other office holders are merely threats. The party vote might actually slip, because the TD is only working to get enough votes for himself. The party, on the other hand, needs as many seats as possible, in order to have a majority in the Dail. Sometimes, the national party organization attempts to purge a local constituency of paper branches. Such moves are usually met with open or covert resistance from local political figures. In 1983, for example, Fianna Fail attempted to reorganize an inner city constituency (Dublin South Central), in order to increase its share of votes at election time. Party headquarters wanted to reduce the 39 existing branches to 19; the move was resisted by elected politicians and 30 of the existing branches (many of which were either "paper" branches or controlled by personal friends of elected politicians). The politicians rightly regard the move as a threat to their power base, and an attempt to open up the constituency to newcomers.
If the national organization succeeds in undermining a local fiefdom, conflict between party rivals is intensified. Surprisingly, the party as a whole actually benefits from intra-constituency rivalries. As long as the rivalries stay within bounds (which they often don't), the competition will help maximize the party vote. Each candidate will try to obtain as many votes as possible from his own area; if not sufficient for election, the votes will then transfer to help elect a fellow party politician. Every possible party vote will be obtained by individuals seeking to maximize their advantage vis-a-vis party rivals; the party thus harnesses individual ambition for party benefit. The conflict between the goals of the party and the local politician is inevitable. The unfortunate by-product is factionalism, as one politician tries to become dominant; the party tries to contain such conflict as much as possible, while not suppressing it altogether.
One way to maximize the party vote (thus enhancing one's position within the party) while not assisting rivals is to nominate a trusted assistant as a running mate. Once a politician is elected, the surplus votes transfer to the voters' second choices. A popular politician can get enough votes to elect himself and, on the strength of his surplus votes, also bring in someone else. The politician who manages to get himself and his "henchman" elected has thus demonstrated his electoral support. Politicians measure their strength by their vote. The number of votes needed for election is the quota, and is determined by the number of valid votes divided by the number of seats plus one. Thus, in a three seat constituency with 20,000 valid votes, the quota would be 20,000 divided by four (three plus one): 5,000 votes. The strength of the politician is measured by the number of votes relative to the quota for his constituency. If the politician in the three seat constituency obtained 8,000 votes, he would have 3,000 over the quota (which could then transfer to help elect someone else). His electoral support would be 1.6 of a quota (8,000 divided by 5,000). Usually, the most powerful politicians have a strong local base. In the 1977 election, the top three vote getters were Jack Lynch (2.34 quotas), Charles Haughey (1.47 quotas), and Liam Cosgrave (1.45 quotas) (Nealon 1977:133). It is no accident that one was leader of Fianna Fail, another was leader of Fine Gael, and the third was soon to become leader of Fianna Fail.
Alliances and clientelist exchanges exist above the local party organization. Senior politicians are concerned with potential threats and recruiting allies and clients, as well. Senior members of the party often control patronage positions which can be used to buttress a local politician's position. In exchange, a local politician will become the "client" of a more senior figure, helping him in his conflicts with other senior figures.
A senior politician's patronage can help in numerous ways. If the local client is only a councillor, he can be helped in becoming a Senator, a position which offers privileges that often make it a stepping stone to a Dail seat. He can also be helped to become a member of the national executive, which would give him access to national politicians and enable him to by-pass local figures trying to block him. Such contacts and patronage have enabled aspirants to be "imposed" on the ticket, and so by-pass a local figure who controls the party branches. If the client is a TD, he can be made a Minister of State or, if the party is out of government, an opposition spokesman. Such positions provide publicity and prestige, which help solidify local support. To become someone's client has the disadvantage of becoming the enemy of the patron's enemy; if the patron loses, the client might find his career blocked.
The client's support can be useful in party rivalries. If the client is a TD, his vote in the parliamentary party would be useful. The most crucial vote is the vote for party leader, but there are often other votes, when one person is trying to gain a tactical advantage over the other. Even if the client is not a TD, then his vote as a Senator, or member of the national executive, or councillor, or even constituency secretary can still be useful. Often, the senior politician helps a client simply to undercut a local TD or councillor who is allied to some other senior politician. An Irish political party is a pyramid of patron-client links and quite reminiscent of the transactional maneuvers described by Bailey (1969) and Barth (1965). At each level (branch, constituency, national), individual politicians compete with others on the same level, use the support of their clients in that competition, and are, therefore, the clients of higher level patrons.
Party politics is dominated by clientelist exchanges, and politicians must secure the personal support of loyal party voters. Party politics seems similar in both rural and urban settings; research in Dublin showed the same factional conflict and patron-client exchanges which have been described in rural studies (e.g., Bax 1976; Carty 1981; Sacks 1976). However, important differences emerge between urban and rural politics in the way politicians relate to voters. In rural Ireland, politics remains closely integrated into the community, whereas in urban politics, the party is not well integrated into the community. Party activist and party supporter are little different in rural communities, but urban party politics does not overlap urban community politics as completely; the two constitute distinct arenas. Therefore the relationship between politicians and voters must be investigated as a separate issue from the relationship between politicians and activists. In addition, the relationship between the party as a whole and the community must be investigated.
This chapter shows that politicians must create personal links with voters as much as with activists, but party organization alone does not indicate the nature of those links. One must move out of the party arena, and look once more at the broader society to see what demands are made on politicians by voters. Determining the "currency" of clientelist exchange is a prerequisite to then determining the "rate of exchange".
Dublin occupies a special position in Ireland. Dublin has been the link between Ireland and the rest of the world, and it seems to overshadow and dominate provincial Ireland. There are often complaints that politicians, civil servants, the mass media, and academics devote too much time to Dublin and not enough to the rest of Ireland. Ireland's industrialization and modernization over the past twenty years has been felt most strongly in Dublin and the city has grown more rapidly than anywhere else in Ireland. This growth has exacerbated administrative problems which exist elsewhere in Ireland, and also has created problems unique to Dublin. This chapter will examine Dublin's development as Ireland's primary urban center, and will then discuss the economic and social pressures which have actually created two distinct Dublins. Each Dublin has its own social needs and political priorities, and it is these needs and priorities which determine the commodities of clientelist exchanges.
The city of Dublin predates the Viking incursions of the ninth century, but growth and expansion did not accelerate until the mid-seventeenth century. The population of the city was estimated at 9,000 in 1659, but had increased to 80,000 by 1700 (NESC 1981:42). This growth reflected Dublin's position as the administrative center of British occupation. British influence was felt most strongly in Dublin; outside Dublin was "beyond the pale".16 Thus, the rural perception of a Dublin turned east rather than west is not new.
Up to the mid-nineteenth century, the built-up area of Dublin was small and compact. It was largely confined to the area enclosed by the Royal and Grand canals. Although Dublin was compact, geographical distinctions between rich and poor existed. In the eighteenth century, Dublin affluence was concentrated in Mountjoy and Merrion squares, while the Liberties was overcrowded with poor families living in terrible conditions (NESC 1981:62). The introduction of the railways, omnibus services, and the construction of the harbors at Howth and Dun Laoghaire opened up the city for expansion, especially towards the south. The middle-class moved outside the canal, seeking the amenities and space that could now be combined with access to the city center. When the wealthier families moved southwards and eastwards into Ballsbridge, Ranelagh, and Rathmines, the poor expanded into the newly available residences. With insufficient resources for upkeep, the dwellings soon fell into disrepair. The introduction of electrified trams in 1896 enhanced this spread of population, but the geographical expression of social distinctions remained stark. In 1885 (NESC 1981:64), it was reported that of 54,000 families, 32,000 lived in single rooms in only one quarter of the city's houses.17
Attempts to plan Dublin's development in the early twentieth century were based on British models, with new blocks of flats in the city center and new houses on the periphery (Marino, Glasnevin, and Crumlin) for poorer families (NESC 1981:66). Urban rather than suburban residences for the poor predominated, however, until after the 1940's, and the social/geographical distinctions remain to this day, even if somewhat blurred.
One of the striking things about Dublin is the rapid population growth which has taken place in the twentieth century. In 1926, the population of Dublin was 419,000 and was growing at the rate of about 7,000 per year. Since 1961, the growth of Dublin has accelerated, from 665,556 to 735,000 in 1966 (13,900 per year); 852,000 in 1971 (23,400 per year) to the current (1981 census) population of over one million. Dublin in the 1950's was a stagnant, almost decaying, city; since then, Dublin has grown dramatically. This growth is striking because it takes place in the context of a stable national population of about three million.
Why should Dublin have grown at such a rate, especially in the last decades? In some measure, this growth has been paralleled by the growth of all urban areas. The growth rate for Ireland's twenty largest urban centers has been proportionate to that of Dublin, and, as Table 5.1 shows, there has been a steady increase in the urban, at the expense of rural areas.
Changes in Urban and Rural Population
SOURCE:CSO 1982, derived from Table D.
NOTE: urban areas are defined as having a population over 1,500.
Dublin's share (including hinterlands) of the national population has increased from 17% in 1926 to 29% in 1981, almost double the 1926 figure (CSO 1982, derived from Table 6). This growth also includes Counties which adjoin Dublin (Meath, Kildare, and Wicklow). It is worrisome since it seems that the Eastern region of the country is acting as a magnet, draining the rest of the country of the industry, services, and skilled workforce that can improve conditions elsewhere.
This general urban growth, as well as the Dublin area growth, was a by-product of the government policy of promoting industrial development. It was not foreseen, however, that it would lead to a concentration of resources in Dublin. The industrial initiatives of the 1950's had quite different goals. Industrialization was to provide jobs in rural areas; as agriculture became more capital intensive, it was hoped that there would be enough industrial jobs to absorb the excess labor. Instead, industrial development enhanced Dublin's dominant position as Ireland's commercial and administrative center.
There are a number of reasons why growth has been more rapid in Dublin than elsewhere in Ireland. Despite electrification and tax-incentives, there were (and are) many disadvantages for any firm setting up outside Dublin; the government's commitment to industrial development did not extent to a commitment to infrastructural development. Transport and communication remains poor, with little money invested in roads or telecommunications.18 For many organizations, the physical proximity to clients, suppliers, and competitors that Dublin offers is crucial, and company headquarters remain in Dublin. In addition, the huge growth in the "business" of government has led in a growth in administrative jobs in Dublin. Thus,
the Dublin region (Counties Dublin, Meath, Kildare and Wicklow) contains fifty-nine percent of the 170,000 office jobs in the State and an even higher percentage of professional and managerial office jobs. Dublin, in which are located the head offices of farming organizations, the control and decision functions of major industry, the financial centre of the State, all the Government departments and all commercial and most other State sponsored bodies, owes much of its recent growth to the expansion of the office industry and the consequent generation of employment in office activities (Bannon 1978:98).
The same researcher has argued that the recent growth of Dublin is a consequence of growth in office-type employment, which requires contacts and exchange of knowledge between both individuals and groups:
The growth of information-based occupations within all economic sectors . . . is a major cause of large scale urban expansion. . . . A 34.8 percent growth in office-type employment during the 1961-71 period goes a long way towards explaining the expansion of employment in the Dublin region and underlies much of the recent growth of the metropolitan area (Bannon 1979:258-9).
Dublin businessmen seem to agree, since Bannon found that very few of them would in interested in relocating outside Dublin, regardless of incentives (Bannon 1973:72-76). Projections suggest that the importance of office-type employment in Dublin is going to continue to increase in the future (Dublin Corporation Planning Department 1975a, 1975b, 1976).
Successive governments have never fully committed themselves to decentralization, and have never invested enough to make other centers attractive "counter-magnets". Hence, Dublin is the urban focus of Ireland; with a population of over one million, almost thirty percent of the population of Ireland lives in the Dublin area. It continues to expand at a faster rate than any other urban center (due largely to its young population), and the next largest city (Cork) has a population of only one-sixth of Dublin's (cf. Bannon 1983). It is not surprising that Dublin seems a world on its own, separate from the rest of Ireland.
Dublin's rapid growth in recent decades has created new problems and exacerbated existing ones. Although the administration of government services is uniform throughout Ireland, rapid growth and increased density create special problems in Dublin. Many problems are heightened precisely by the uniformity of administration; services in Dublin are allocated according to principles more suited to rural communities and small towns. Dublin lacks the autonomy necessary to adapt practices to changing circumstances, and many people are unable to obtain services which they need.
Social welfare is one example of the problems created simply by growth. There was a fifty percent increase in the number of people receiving state assistance in Ireland from 1966 to 1975 (NESC 1977a:139). In the same period, the number of people receiving state assistance increased more rapidly in Dublin than anywhere else. The administrative machinery has not been able to cope with the increased demand, resulting in delays and dissatisfaction. Assistance in obtaining social welfare is one "commodity" therefore that can be used in clientelist exchanges.
Employment prospects are even more affected by Dublin's growth. Although Dublin employment has increased, the increase has been in white-collar jobs, which is no help for blue-collar workers in inner Dublin. With insufficient training facilities, they cannot learn the necessary skills, and the jobs go to skilled workers from outside Dublin. Efforts to encourage appropriate industries in inner city areas have begun, but much effort will be needed to overcome previous neglect. If future Dublin growth derives from the "information industry" (as seems likely), blue-collar employment will continue to be scarce. Scarcity of jobs is a clientelist commodity throughout Ireland, but especially so in working class Dublin.
There is one scarcity that affects all residents, and profoundly alters the very structure of Dublin. This is housing. If asked what the most frequent complaint or problem is, politicians would reply without hesitation: housing. Both poor and "comfortable" suffer the same shortage, although in different ways. For the poor, the scarcity means a long wait for a house from the local authority. For wealthier couples, it means saving enough for a house deposit, finding a house that can be afforded, and then hoping that the newly created housing estate is actually completed according to developer's promises. Housing represents one of the heaviest demands on a family's income if they own a house, and one of the greatest causes of social deprivation if they are unable to afford a house.
Social scarcities result from the combination of a number of factors. The rapid population growth, due to both in-migration and natural increase, creates a concentrated demand for all services, and the administrative structures are unequal to the demand. The high fertility rate of families in Dublin, compared with the rest of Ireland and all of Europe, has led to inaccurate population projections and inadequate provision of services. The most significant factor causing the housing shortage is, however, cultural: home ownership is highly valued, and the consequent demand for land puts great strain on the local authorities' ability to keep pace with urban sprawl. The housing scarcity is particularly relevant as it is the key to understanding the social and geographical divisions of Dublin have been created and maintained. Each of these factors will be examined in turn.
Dublin's growth has been rapid, especially by European standards. In many parts of the world, such rapid urban growth has led to squatter's settlements on the outskirts of urban areas. This has not happened in Dublin; instead, there has simply been an insatiable demand for houses. Popular myth is that shortages result from the influx of people from outside Dublin looking for work. Thus, one newspaper can report that "the masses are still pouring in from the provinces looking for work and houses in the Dublin region" (Irish Times, 7 March 1979). The myth has some basis in fact, since in-migration has sometimes been quite significant. Between 1970-71, there were 11,400 newcomers to Dublin and 15,000 to the greater Dublin region. However, the average population increase from in-migration is usually only between 1,000 to 2,000 per year (NESC 1981:54). Since 1966, only 14,000 of the 154,000 population increase has been due to in-migration (NESC 1979:38). Since in-migration is not the cause of much recent growth, this partly explains the lack of squatter's settlements. Dublin's population growth is largely the result of natural increase, which means that new individuals are largely children, who are absorbed by the existing population. Between 1970 and 1975, the Eastern region accounted for 48.5% of the total natural increase in Ireland, two-thirds higher than that of the rest of Ireland (15.3 per 1,000 as compared with 9.1 per 1,000) (NESC 1979:38). Consequently, the rapid growth of Dublin has resulted from the large number of new families formed and the greater fertility of these families.
Not only is the Dublin birth rate high, but so is the birth rate of Ireland as compared with Europe. This seems surprising, since Ireland has had a stable adult population since the turn of the century. The cause of such stability has not been a low birth rate, but rather a very high emigration rate which has provided an "escape valve" for the large numbers of young who could not find employment in Ireland. Despite the zero population growth, Ireland actually has the highest fertility rate of any European country. In a recent discussion of demographic trends, it was noted that:
in Ireland the total fertility rate is 3.5 [in 1975]. The next highest is Spain at 2.7. Apart from Italy at 2.1, this rate is below 2 in all other EEC countries, Scandinavia, Austria, and Switzerland. Turning to birth and death rates, which are sensitive to population age structures, we see that whereas Ireland now has an excess of births over deaths equal to over 1 percent, both East and West Germany, Austria, Belgium, and Luxembourgh now record more deaths than births. This will soon be the case in Britain, Sweden, and before too long, in France and even Italy (Keating 1977:144).
Dublin, moreover, has the highest fertility rate in Ireland.
There is now less emigration from Ireland. Partly, this results from diminished demand for cheap labor in the traditional markets of the United Kingdom and the United States. In addition, there are now increased Employment opportunities for white-collar workers in Dublin; the 15-29 year old age group which was previously most likely to leave (Keating 1977:116) is now more heavily represented in Dublin than elsewhere in the country. It is this age group which makes the greatest demands on housing, schools, and community amenities. Keating writes:
as is obvious from our population age pyramid, we will face other problems, thrown up by the enormous bulge representing the age groups in which emigration ceases to take a major proportion of each cohort. . . . The individuals in this bulge are going to face congestion and fierce competition throughout their lives: in schools, at the point of entry to the job market, in trying to get promotion, in trying to buy houses. They face higher unemployment rates and lower growth rates of real earnings than their elders now aged 30-50 did. Coping with the problems created by this abnormal population age structure is going to transform Irish society to the core (Keating 1977:144).
No wonder that the local authority is strained to provide proper services; closing the "escape valve" of emigration has meant unexpected and unplanned for growth. For example, in 1964, the national housing projection was 8,000 houses needed per year. Yet, by 1969, the projected need was 15,000 to 17,000, and by 1976 it had risen to between 21,000 and 25,000. With such a fertile population and little out-migration (at least not out of the Dublin area), Dublin's growth will not slacken in the foreseeable future. This has caused housing shortages, and insufficient supply of many other government services, all of which, again, have become clientelist exchange commodities.
One reason for current shortages has been a lack of planning. There was insufficient investment in infrastructure and inadequate attempts to plan for future demands. Thus, the housing shortage has, partly, been a shortage of serviced land (that is, with a water supply, sewerage, and so on) on which houses could be built (NIEC 1969:16-17). Since the 1970's, there has been a more concerted effort to plan for future growth.
One obstacle to providing the necessary infrastructure in urban areas has been the primacy accorded to the right of private property. This is a holdover from the tenants' rights agitation prior to independence (see Chapter Two) and the right of private property as enshrined in the 1937 Constitution. The Constitution states that "The State . . . guarantees to pass no law attempting to abolish the right of private ownership or the general right to transfer, bequeath, and inherit property" (Article 43.1.2). This provision has serious consequences for urban planning. Any land to be used for community purposes, whether for roads, schools, or public housing, must be purchased at market value or obtained via compulsory purchase. To obtain land via compulsory purchase takes years, and market value must still be paid in the end. Due to demand for land for public and private housing, the price of non-agricultural land has soared in the Dublin area. A recent report showed that while agricultural land had risen in value by 150% from 1974 to 1978, private housing land had risen about 500% in the same period. This increase is not evenly distributed, but is higher in areas where availability of suitable sites is limited and demand is high. Thus, there is only a 150% increase in the new town areas to the west of Dublin, but a 300% increase in the north suburbs and over a 600% increase in the south suburbs (Jennings 1980:25).
The problems caused by land speculation are well known; merely zoning land as residential, increases its value many fold. Yet zoning land for residential use is only the first step. The local authority must provide services (drainage, water) for the site, before house construction can begin. The cost of providing services is largely born by the community, even though the land speculator has made an enormous profit from the fact that services inevitability will be provided. Rezoning land from agricultural to housing or industrial use increases the land's value from 3,000 to 20,000 pounds per acre, according to local Labour party politicians (Irish Times, 9 March 1982). Various solutions to the high cost of obtaining land have been suggested (Committee on the Price of Building Land 1974 [Kenny Report]), but none has yet been acted upon by any government.
The housing scarcity is not caused by a lack of land, but by the lack of serviced land on which houses can be built. In 1946, Dublin's land area was 7,000 hectares. By 1973, Dublin land use had expanded to 16,000 hectares and was expanding at a rate of 1,000 hectares per year (NESC 1981:46; see also Bannon 1979) The demand for land has outstripped the local authority's ability to keep pace. The shortage is aggravated by people's desire to own their own homes, rather than live in apartments or rent houses. Low density housing requires enormous tracts of land, which must serviced by water, electricity, and sewerage, and this requires large expenditures.
This emphasis on private home ownership is by no means universal. In Europe and the U.S.A., apartment rental is an important part of the housing market. In Ireland, however, home ownership is highly valued, and families invest substantial time and money in their quest for homes. Individuals reside at home, or in small rented apartments, until they can afford to buy a house, and marriage is still closely linked with house purchase (see Baker and O'Brien 1979:144-148). Many couples, when asked when they plan to marry, respond that they "expect to have the house deposit in a year". All understand that marriage must wait until the house is purchased, but that marriage will follow once the house is owned. Like the regard for private property, the desire for ownership is seen as the consequence of long years of tenancy and exploitation. Government policy recognizes that the aim of families is to own their own house, and thus the state's intervention in housing is to assist this process through
(1) the direct provision of publicly owned housing which is provided at subsidised rents to lower income groups and, in many cases, sold eventually to sitting tenants at subsidised prices, and (2) the provision of a range of financial aids to encourage private home ownership by middle and higher income groups. (Joyce and McCashin 1981:111)
The people and the state assume that the creation of a family and the creation of a private household should be as nearly simultaneous as possible.
Given the amount of time and money devoted to home ownership, it is not surprising that Ireland has the highest percentage of owner-occupation of any European country. In 1970, 69% were owner-occupiers; Luxembourg was the next closest with 57%, and the EEC average was 46% (from Curry 1981:245). By 1979, the Irish figure had increased to 76.1% (Institute of Public Administration 1984:341). While other cities conserve land through increased housing density, Dublin must provide enough land for the low density private houses. Government taxation policies actually worsen this situation, as substantial tax savings are available to anyone who buys a house. People who would not normally need a house consider it a good financial investment, especially since they see themselves as eventually needing one. Suburban Dublin is filled with single men and women who have bought a house simply for tax reasons.
There are also financial pressures which make rental an uneconomic strategy. While some apartments are rent-controlled, there are many rental properties for which rent is determined by market conditions. Tenants in uncontrolled private rentals receive no subsidies from the state. Studies have shown that these private renters pay a higher proportion of their income for housing than anyone else (Joyce and McCashin 1981:106).
It should be emphasized that private homes are not considered merely a middle-class luxury. Apartment rental is not deemed viable for lower-income public housing either. There was one attempt to provide high density public housing in Dublin in the 1960's by building large apartment blocks (Ballymun), but it was considered a social disaster by the Corporation and the residents. In a recent survey, 50% of those living in Ballymun apartments were trying to transfer to public housing elsewhere (NESC 1981:217). The local authorities now attempt only low-rise dwellings.
The demand for private houses can only be met with new houses. There is not sufficient existing housing to cater for Dublin's population increases, and much of inner Dublin's older housing is being torn down and replaced by office blocks. Various external pressures actually make it difficult for families to buy second-hand housing. In order to support the construction industry and so provide jobs, the government provides grants to new house buyers, but none to second-hand house buyers. Building societies are more likely to provide a mortgage for a new house, and will loan a higher percentage of the house purchase price if the house is new. The public sector suffers from similar difficulties, since the demand for land in the inner Dublin area makes public housing in this area an expensive luxury. A Dublin housing official remarked that the Corporation "could build two houses on the periphery for the cost of one in the inner city [because] acquisition costs were high in the city" (Irish Times, 11 Dec 1981). Local authorities cannot afford to pay market prices for land, and so must build where land is cheap: in the suburbs.
In summary, Dublin is a city in which the population is expanding, but without the infrastructure necessary to support its growth. This has made the provision of state services more difficult, and has created a demand for housing. Housing shortages exist for cultural, as well as economic and demographic, reasons. The scarcity of both public and private housing creates problems, and the provision of housing often creates new problems because the amenities needed to support newly created communities are not provided.
Housing is a key to understanding Dublin because the process of obtaining housing creates two different communities. Academic studies point up something that most Dubliners know intuitively: Dublin is socially divided into distinct housing areas (NESC 1981:75-115; Hourihan 1978:314; Brady and Parker 1975). The provision of housing acts a sieve, and social categories are constituted as distinct communities. There are, for example, the newly built private housing estates on the edge of the city. These houses have, largely, been built since 1960 and are owned by young middle-class families. Then there are the Corporation estates, housing areas built by the local authority outside the inner city to provide housing for those unable to afford private housing. There is the inner city area, where urban blight and unemployment creates social trauma, and there are the older residential areas that are well established and inhabited by well-to-do families.
The most recent regional planning analysis, funded by the government, isolated six social areas, on the basis of computer analysis of the 1971 census. It examined material on social, economic, housing, and family situations, and suggested the following areas---
(1) Inner City: concentrations of unemployed, unskilled, and aged.
(2) Twilight: 1900-1949 housing, separating the inner city from the outer areas.
(3) Flatland: dominated by furnished flats; young,single, transient.
(4) Older middle-class: high status residential area; professional workers, car owners, home owners.
(5) Corporation estates: post-war municipal housing estates.
(6) New suburbs: newly built housing; privately owned, large family, fastest growing population. (NESC 1981:91-103)
The kinds of houses and the social backgrounds of the occupants in these areas are different, and so also are the issues which become attached to the clientelist system. Let us look in more detail at the different housing areas.
One of the clearest social/geographical types consists of the private housing estates that have sprung up at the edge of the city since the 1960's. These areas include Howth, Sutton, Raheny, Baldoyle, Clontarf, and Castleknock on the Northside, while Dundrum, Stillorgan, Rathfarnham, Terenure, Clonskea, Drimnagh, Tallaght, Ballybrack, Dalkey, and Killiney are examples on the Southside. These areas have the fastest growing population (both in numbers and relative age) and it is here that community and commercial services are strained to keep pace with housing developments.
The history of private housing estates is roughly similar throughout Dublin, and can be followed from the perspective of both developer and house purchaser. From the developer's perspective, land must be bought which is serviced and zoned for residential use. Planning permission must then be sought from the local authority. If permission is granted, then construction can begin. Construction is usually on a phased basis; in this way, services can be provided only as needed and houses can be sold to generate capital for future construction. In addition to building the houses, the developer also takes responsibility for providing streets, street lights, sewerage, and open spaces. All of these will be maintained by the local authority, but only when they "take over" the estate (which they will do only when satisfied with the services they must now maintain).
The size of the development varies a great deal; some developers build only a few houses, others may develop a huge estate numbering thousands of houses (e.g., Kilnamanagh). Profit for the developer depends on a number of factors, including the labor and material costs. If he can get the land cheaply (before it is zoned for residential use or before it is serviced), he can profit from the land's increased value and avoid a costly purchase. The quicker he can sell the houses, the sooner he realizes his profit. If he can increase the housing density above the level approved by the local authority, he is decreasing the amount he has spent, per house, for the land. Finally, the longer he puts off installing street lights, roads, and open spaces, the longer he has use of his scarce capital.
All of these sources of potential profit for the developer put him in conflict with the house purchasers. The owner-to-be, while the developer is building, has been saving money for a deposit with the building society that will provide the mortgage. The house is purchased before it is completed, and, from this point on, the owner is trying to get the developers to finish off their work. They may still have to finish some minor work on the house, or they may still have to pave the road outside the house. Often, the last thing to be done is to landscape the open space as a park; for years, that open space may be the developer's garbage dump. The owner also has to watch the new houses being built around him to make sure that the developer is only putting in as many houses as applied for. Is the promised open space going to remain one large area that can be used as a park, or is it going to be divided into small and unusable plots scattered around the estate? The owner can never be sure whether he has bought his house from a "good" developer who will keep his promises, or a "bad" one who will build a poor quality house and leave the estate unfinished.
An issue that arises in developer/owner conflicts is the position of the local authority. Because the developer has lodged a planning permission with the local authority, the developer has a legal obligation to fulfil the terms of the permission. If he doesn't, the local authority can take him to court and, if necessary, the developer will forfeit the bond he has given the local authority. In the past, however, the bond was not sufficient deterrent, given the large profits possible. Also, the developers always seemed able to hold up law proceedings for years; this benefited the developer simply because it meant he could use the money committed to open spaces for other projects. In recent years, the legal and financial sanctions available to local authorities have improved, but politicians still find themselves dealing with complaints about developers.
Once the owners have sorted out whatever difficulties they might have with developers, they find that other problems remain. These are usually problems associated with social and community services. The bus service might not have been extended to get to the new estate; there may be no sign of telephones being installed; there may be no shops in the area; or the local school has not yet been built. Both politicians and administrators in the local authority come under community pressure to provide, or force others to provide, the necessary community and commercial services. Since the local authority is the planning agency, residents consider it responsible for all services in the community.
The planning authority, however, has a major problem; while it may have allotted space for shops, churches, schools, and so forth, it cannot force or compel construction. It cannot dictate when a store will be built. As previously noted, private land ownership carries privileges which the planning authority cannot easily infringe upon:
Because of the primacy accorded to ownership rights, planning is in practice of a passive rather than an active nature. It indicates to owners what they may do with their land and it tells them what they may not do. It does not attempt to instruct them what they must do. (Baker and O'Brien 1979:153)
Commercial concerns can wait until the profit potential is great enough to justify construction, and the planning authorities are relatively helpless.19 Further, they can not force other government agencies to install the schools, community centers, street lights, or bus services that are needed and planned for. Each of these services is provided by a different organization, each with its own internal priorities. Services are provided piecemeal, and the local authority is thus expected to achieve results beyond their power or authority.
The social fabric of these estates is as different from other parts of Dublin as the physical fabric. The housing estates are composed of white-collar workers who are all recently married and with young families. It is the large family size and the preponderance of young children which puts such great pressure on specialized facilities such as schools, community centers, and parks. There will be some skilled working-class families, but not many. It is not likely there will be public housing in the immediate vicinity; the purchase price of the house would have diminished if there had been.
In contrast, residents of Corporation estates find themselves dealing with politicians long before they actually have a house. Anyone who resides in the local authority area and cannot afford to buy a house can apply to the local authority to be housed. If he qualifies, he is eligible for a house as one becomes available. He will pay very little rent (calculated on the basis of his income), and has the option of eventually buying the house from the local authority if he wishes. Like the private housing estates, the post-1940's Corporation estates tend to be clustered together, on the fringes of the 1940 urban boundary: Ballyfermot, Cabra, Finglas, Crumlin, Coolock, and Kimmage are examples. There is a preponderance of skilled and semi-skilled workers (especially factory workers, NESC 1981:222), and a lack of professional and commercial workers. This is partially due to the stigma which attaches to living in public housing. In some countries (e.g., Sweden and Denmark) public housing is sought by all; it carries no social stigma. Public housing in Ireland is only for those who cannot afford any other option. It is an admission of economic and social inadequacy.20
Corporation renters have the option to buy out their house and so eventually own it; many of the families have been exercising that option. A recent survey found that 39.3% of Corporation renters had bought out their tenancy (NESC 1981:230).21 The Corporation housing estates, in conjunction with the new private housing estates, account for most of the post-1966 growth areas.
A principal problem facing most people living in Corporation areas is resolved simply by their presence on the estate -- the long wait to get a house. In 1979, the waiting list was over 7,000 families, and new families are added on as quickly as families on the list are housed. Some of the families on the waiting list come from Corporation estates; these are second generation residents, seeking a house of their own. But applicants can come from anywhere in the city. A recent survey of inner city residents showed that 31% of the private renters had applied for a Corporation house, and 31% of the inner city Corporation tenants had applied for transfers to Corporation housing elsewhere (NESC 1981:158). Overcrowding accounts for much of the need for transfers (NESC 1981:209). Assistance in obtaining public housing is a crucial brokerage commodity in these areas, and no other single problem is more frequently raised with politicians.
Once in the Corporation estates, there are a number of problems which may emerge, due to the social and economic deprivation which they, like inner city residents, may suffer. A higher percentage of Corporation estate occupants need jobs, for example, since they are less likely to have the necessary skills to get white-collar or technologically sophisticated jobs. They are also more likely to need social welfare assistance and free medical assistance. They also need repairs on their Corporation house from time to time. People's dependence on state assistance is great, and the bureaucracy's failure to keep pace with increased demand for assistance is keenly felt in these areas.
All the problems of piecemeal delivery of services discussed for the private estates also apply to Corporation estates. They, like the private estates, find that shops, churches, schools, and other amenities and services are very slow to arrive. The effects are likely to be far worse in these estates however, due to economic deprivation. They are not able to get into their car to drive to a shopping center elsewhere, nor are they able to use the office phone for personal purposes. These Corporation estates are often quite dismal places. The houses are similar and the layout of the estate is visually dull. Even now, there are housing estates that still suffer social deprivation from lack of community amenities, although current housing estates are being built in a far more integrated fashion with services and amenities arriving closer to the time the residents themselves arrive (e.g., Darndale in north Dublin).
In addition to private and Corporation housing estates, there is one other distinctive social area. Dublin, like so many cities, has an inner city area which is socially and economically deprived. Many of the jobs in the inner city have been lost as mechanization has decreased jobs in the docks and factories. New employment is usually white collar and thus unavailable to the inner city unemployed. Those who can afford to move to the suburbs have already moved, leaving the elderly and low income families within the canal ring. Numerous studies have emphasized the educational, economic, housing, and employment deprivation of the inner city area (see Joyce and McCashin 1981:88-89). Those that remain in the inner city are either waiting to get out, or being forced out by the encroaching office blocks. The scarcity and cost of land in the inner city means that decent public housing can only be obtained by moving to distant suburbs.
Some redevelopment has taken place in the inner city in the last few years. This is low density public housing and, while the new schemes have been popular, only a small amount of the housing need can be met. In addition, there has been some movement back into the inner city by middle-class home owners. Although "gentrification" has been patchy, it has halted some inner city decline. Much of inner Dublin, however, remains office blocks and derelict housing.
The inner city shares with "flatland" (just inside and outside the canal ring in NESC area three) the rental population of Dublin. Some flat renters either do not wish to own a house yet or they live in rent controlled apartments that are inexpensive. Often, those who have recently come to Dublin to take white-collar jobs in the civil service, banks, or other large organization live in rental accommodation. They are renting for only a few years; soon they get married or decide to invest in a house. They have few contacts with others in the community, and place few demands on politicians or the state. As a transient population, they are largely ignored.
However, there are others who live in flats because they have little choice. Many people can neither buy a house privately nor rent a house from the local authority simply because access to the "housing sectors" in based on different criteria. Access to the private housing sector is dependent on getting a mortgage from a building society, and this involves financial criteria (yearly income, job security, and so forth). Access to the public housing sector is dependent on the priority given one's application, and this involves social criteria (size of family, condition of dwelling, overcrowding, medical condition, and so forth). It is possible not to have the money for a private house, but also not meet the local authority criteria for public housing. Single individuals, and families with few or no children are often excluded on both sides. They have little choice but to rent or live with family. Since there is no state assistance for private renters, they pay more for their rented flat than others pay for public or privately owned housing. This naturally makes it more difficult to save enough money to get a mortgage from a building society and escape the rental trap.
Those who rent privately because of an inability to obtain other housing, and those in public housing in the inner city area, form a social group not unlike those in public housing in Corporation housing areas. A major concern is obtaining public housing, as well as jobs and social welfare assistance. They thus make the same kinds of demands on politicians, and, if anything, their deprivation is greater.
The implication of previous descriptions is that social class is linked with both residential area and also housing situation. The blunt statement that working class families live in public housing in Corporation housing estates, and and middle class families own their own house and live, separately, in private housing estates, is, broadly speaking, accurate. In a recent study, sixty-eight to eighty-six percent of various middle-class families owned their own houses (outright or mortgaged), while only fifty-four to fifty-nine percent of working-class families owned houses (Rottman, et. al. 1982:94).22 While it is difficult for poorer families to afford a house, there are also strong institutional pressures which segregate the two groups. When building societies use income to determine the amount they loan, they also take into consideration future income stability. Manual workers often do not have the guaranteed salary growth of non-manual workers, and a significant amount of their income may be derived from over-time, which the building society ignores in their calculation of yearly income (Joyce and McCashin 1981:61). The disparity between the two groups is emphasized and perpetuated, rather than minimized and overcome.
Thus, it begins to become clear how social area, social class, and housing condition overlap one another. As one author noted,
the barriers against access to owner-occupation and the practice of building separate estates of public and private housing leads to a definite pattern of social class segregation by areas. The major cities are clearly segregated into social class categories with large-scale municipal housing differentiated from other housing, and containing low income households and concentrations of unemployment, poverty and other forms of deprivation. (Joyce and McCashin 1981:61)
Housing pressures dictate that social distinctions find a geographical expression. Those who must depend on public housing are from specific social backgrounds and find themselves living in specific geographical areas. Similarly, those who can afford private housing come from quite different backgrounds and live in quite different areas.
The two groups also interact with the state in different ways. This is clear even with regard to obtaining housing. State policy attempts to assist people to buy their own house if at all possible. The family exercises their own choice about where and what kind of house is bought, and state intervention is in the form of tax relief and subsidies. People who cannot afford to buy a house on their own will be provided with subsidised housing. Here, however, individuals' choices become restricted as they become dependent on bureaucratic procedures. The local authority makes a house available, eventually, but the individual has little choice about where that house is, what it looks like, or even how many rooms it has. For the middle class purchasers of private houses, state intervention maximizes individual choice; for working class public renters, state intervention diminishes individual choice and increases dependency. The two groups have very different interactions with the state, and one would presume, different perceptions of the state.
Thus, Dublin's growth in the past twenty years has created new scarcities and exaggerated existing ones. The provision of various state services are clientelist commodities everywhere in Ireland, but especially in Dublin, where population growth has outstripped the bureaucracy's ability to supply services. One aspect of Dublin's growth has been a housing scarcity, which has served to create two Dublins. These two Dublins are geographically distinct, and each has their own social and economic needs. In middle-class Dublin, people are concerned with planning disputes, unfinished housing estates, and the provision of community amenities. In working-class Dublin, people are concerned with the provision of public housing, social welfare assistance, and jobs. The pattern of state intervention also varies in the two different communities, so it might also be expected that attitudes regarding how state assistance is best obtained also vary.
Previous chapters have shown that politicians must obtain the personal support of voters. They must satisfy, or seem to satisfy, voter's expectations in order to obtain more votes than their fellow party candidates. If people want politicians' help in obtaining government services, then the politicians must provide it. The types of services which people need varies according to their social and economic circumstances; in Dublin, these differences find geographical expression in different housing areas. If middle-class and working-class Dublin suffer different scarcities, do they also vary in their perceptions of how politicians can help them obtain these scarcities?
Insight into the relevance of socio-economic, demographic, and regional variations in clientelist beliefs comes from survey data. Surveys have limited explanatory power; they elicit people's beliefs but cannot explain the presence of those beliefs or the actions which then follow from those beliefs. Nonetheless, they provide an overview and can suggest general patterns. In this chapter, a number of surveys are examined, in terms of their relevance to political clientelism in Ireland. Some of these surveys examine political attitudes throughout Ireland; one survey, however, looks at the Dublin region in some detail, and so provides information on the different residential and socio-economic areas of Dublin. The surveys do not explain why clientelist beliefs exist, but they do show amongst which groups beliefs in the efficacy of clientelism are most prevalent: peripheral rural areas and the urban working class -- precisely those groups with the greatest economic need.
Political surveys are usually carried out around election time, and are funded by political parties, newspapers, or television stations. They are concerned with voting intentions and topical political issues, but peoples' perceptions of politicians, the state, and government services are also revealed. Accepted wisdom, in both academic and political circles, is that the Irish people view politicians as brokers. Politicians obtain, from civil servants, the scarce goods and services which individuals cannot obtain directly themselves, and, in exchange for the politician's intervention, the voter gives support. Pre-election surveys have tended to confirm this view of people's expectations of politicians. They indicate that people would go to politicians to be certain of obtaining government services, and that people consider a politician's record of constituency service an important factor when voting.
Voters believe that one should approach politicians in order to obtain government services. When asked in a 1977 survey who they would go to in order to be sure of obtaining governments services, only 36% of respondents said they would contact either a national or local civil servant (see Table 6.1). Instead, 48% would prefer to contact a politician and most people would prefer to contact a TD. Social class was of little significance in showing attitude variations, but area of residence was. While only 40% of Dublin residents would go to a politician, 53% of rural residents would do so. Urban working class respondents also preferred to go to politicians, while middle class respondents did not.
People vote for politicians who will provide constituency service. When asked, in 1977, on what basis they would decide for whom to vote (see Table 6.2a), forty-six percent of respondents indicated that they would chose a candidate who would look after the constituency ("service"). Again, contrasts between urban and rural, middle class and working class emerged in this survey: 50% of rural respondents chose service, as compared with 41% of all urban respondents, and 51% of working class respondents chose service, as compared with 29% of middle class respondents.23
Similar patterns have continued to emerge in later polls. In June 1981 (see Table 6.2b), only 34% of urban respondents chose "service", while 47% of town and rural respondents chose it. In addition, 31% of middle class respondents chose "service", while 47% of working class respondents did.
It is dangerous to attach too much significance to these results. The survey questions were subject to varying interpretations, and the responses are thus ambiguous. For example, the latter surveys (Tables 6.2a and 6.2b) forced people to chose between constituency service and more general issues of party policy. Yet, it has been made clear that the Irish electoral system permits people to vote for both a political party and also, amongst party candidates, a politician who will look after the constituency. The survey thus asked them to make a choice that they don't actually make when voting: the choice between party loyalty and personal service. Since people take party loyalty for granted, choosing Taoiseach, Cabinet or party policy are not salient issues. Once committed to a particular party, local service is as good a criteria as any for deciding amongst rival party candidates. Their responses to the question may well have exaggerated the significance of local service vis-a-vis other issues.
Similarly, the first survey (Table 6.1) shows that people would go to a politician in order to be sure of obtaining a service, but does this mean that a politician is seen as a first choice, or a "court of last resort'? Do people think that politicians have special influence, or are politicians preferred because they are known personally and are easily available? These are all matters for further investigation.
None-the-less, it does appear that voters believe political brokers are necessary, and will vote for politicians who mediate between the state and individual voters. There is a strong emphasis on local service in rural areas and among urban working class residents. Thus, regional and socio-economic factors seem relevant in the distribution of beliefs in the usefulness of political brokers throughout Ireland.
Political brokerage is believed to be important by the poorer residents of Dublin, as well as those those who have come to Dublin from rural areas. However, class and region are not the only determinants of brokerage beliefs. Detailed information on the relationship between Dublin residents and their politicians and administrators is provided by another survey, undertaken by the Institute of Public Administration (IPA) in 1972. Its aim was to to elicit material on civic attitudes and political knowledge among Dubliners. The survey examined the Dublin Corporation area comprising central Dublin and some suburban areas.24
The IPA survey showed the same link between socio-economic status and geographical area that the NESC (1981) study suggested (see Table 6.3a). The inner city and Corporation estate residents are largely working-class, while residents of suburban areas are largely middle class. This distinction between working-class and middle class is also reflected in local electoral wards (see 6.3b). Each area has its own priorities regarding different community services. In the survey, inner-city residents (Areas 1 and 2) were concerned about housing; Corporation estate residents who, of course, already had houses (Area 5) were less so; and the private home owners and would-be owners (Areas 3,4 and 6) were least concerned. Privately owned housing estate residents were largely concerned about infrastructure (such as refuse, water, sewerage, and town planning), emphasizing the problems in providing services to new estates (6.3c).25 Most importantly, these areas exhibited different attitudes towards politicians and brokerage.
People feel that brokering is the most important role for politicians to assume. When asked in the IPA survey what they expected of politicians, 60 percent of 463 respondents indicated brokerage, while only 40 percent indicated policy-making.26 The survey also showed that people prefer politicians over civil servants as brokers: 37 percent of the respondents would select a national-level politician and 20 percent would select a local politician, for a total of 57 percent, while 43 percent would go to a local or national bureaucrat.27
The overall dependence on the TD as preferred broker is startling. He or she is not only an important first option in obtaining help, but he is also a crucial second option. Forty-two percent of those first going to an official, and 57 percent of those who first went to a local politician would, as their second choice, then pick a TD. The dependence on the TD is higher in Corporation estates (Area 5). Here, 51% would first go to a TD, whereas only 28% of those in the other areas would follow that strategy. Of those going to a TD in a Corporation estate, 31% would go nowhere else if dissatisfied, as compared with only 9% of those going to a TD in the other areas. Thus, not only would most voters in Corporation estates go to a TD, they wouldn't go anywhere else.
Three factors are closely related with peoples' preference for politicians as brokers: occupation, area of residence, and housing conditions. As indicated, these three factors combine to create and reinforce the two cultures of Dublin which are based on social (class and occupation) and geographic (place of residence and housing) differences. The differences are highlighted in the IPA survey which shows that 67% of the heads of households in working-class Dublin want politicians to be brokers, as compared with 51% of heads of household in middle-class areas. Similarly, 46% of working-class household heads would go to a TD for information as compared with only 23% of household heads in middle-class areas. The areas in which people want brokers are likely to be those areas where individuals most need state assistance. They are also most likely to go to a national politician rather than a civil servant, even for local problems.
Socio-economic class is linked with brokerage expectations, but on the basis of class origin rather than current class status. One finds little variation amongst respondents when they are classified according to present occupation (see Table 6.4a). However, when respondents are classified by class origin (as measured by father's occupation), greater variations emerge (6.4b). Socialization has a lasting influence on beliefs regarding politicians' roles as brokers, which is not altered by subsequent changes in socio-economic circumstances. The distinction between current status and origin is especially relevant in Dublin, due to the influx of rural workers into the city. Most farmers' offspring who have come to Dublin are middle class: 86% have white-collar jobs, 77% live in newly built suburbs, and 86% rent or own housing in the private sector.
On the other hand, current class status, rather than class origin, determines brokerage strategies. People were asked who they would contact if they needed help or wanted to complain; father's occupation was less relevant than respondent's occupation in this matter (see Tables 6.5a and 6.5b). Only 30% of working class respondents would go to a civil servant, while 51% of middle class respondents would go to a civil servant. Almost half of working class respondents would to go a TD, Senator, or Minister (usually TD), as compared with a quarter of the middle class respondents. Social background lessens these distinctions, which suggests that those who came from working-class or rural backgrounds and now have middle class occupations have contradictory views: they expect politicians to be brokers, and yet will actually go to civil servants rather than politicians when they need assistance.
Occupation is not the sole determinant of brokerage expectations or strategies. Housing status is independently linked with variations in political perceptions, and those who live in public housing tend to view politicians as brokers. Thus, while only 51% of home owners want politicians to be brokers, 69% of Corporation renters want brokers. If one excludes owners who live in Corporation estates (assuming this represents Corporation renters who have bought out their tenancy), the percentage of home owners who want brokers drops to 45%. Housing operates independently of occupational status: 58% of those few middle class respondents in public housing still expect brokerage, while only 48% of working-class respondents in private housing want brokerage.
Generally, in the inner city and the Corporation estates, most residents are likely to feel that politicians should be brokers (see Table 6.4c). It is more complicated in middle-class areas. While most residents of middle-class areas do not expect brokerage services, those who rent (whether privately or from the Corporation) do.28 No such ambiguity exists regarding strategies for obtaining services; area of residence is the dominant factor in both working-class and middle-class areas. Inner city and Corporation estate residents choose to go to politicians, while suburban residents approach bureaucrats (see Table 6.5c).
The common thread of all these social and economic factors is dependency: the greater the need for state services, the greater the dependence on politicians as brokers. To put it quite simply, if one is poor, renting a Corporation house, or living in the inner city or Corporation estates, one is more likely to expect politicians to be brokers, and to go to politicians rather than bureaucrats.
Brokerage beliefs influence politicians in terms of electoral areas. Dublin's electoral areas (called Borough Electoral Areas, or BEAs) can be classified as suburban or inner city (including areas dominated by Corporation housing). About 45% of voters in suburban areas want brokerage, as compared with about 68% in inner city and public housing electoral areas (see Table 6.4d). The same variations exist in strategies for obtaining services; in the deprived areas only 26% would go to an official, while 57% would go to an official in the private housing areas (Table 6.5d).
The surveys show that people prefer politicians to bureaucrats, but this may say more about dissatisfaction with bureaucrats than preference for politicians. People distrust politicians' motives, and people may prefer politicians to bureaucrats only as a lesser evil, and not as a positive preference for politicians. In the IPA survey, after people indicated what local politicians should do, they were then asked what politicians actually did. Only 53% chose brokerage or policy; 25% thought local politicians were actually just trying to make a name for themselves, and 22% thought politicians were just trying to get things for themselves and their friends.
Those who are most likely to want politicians to be brokers are also most likely to distrust politicians' motives. For example, 39% of semiskilled and unskilled workers (category DE) think that politicians are just getting themselves publicity. People renting houses from the Corporation are also distrustful: 33% think politicians only try to make a name for themselves. Both the inner canal area and the Corporation area feel the same (35% and 31%, respectively).
The preceding surveys only permitted respondents to chose between politicians and officials. Many people might chose other brokers, if they were able to do so. When respondents are permitted to choose amongst a wider field of possible brokers, the apparent dependence on politicians decreases. Another survey, carried out in the early 1970's, was designed to compare Irish "civic culture" with other countries civic culture, as studied by Almond and Verba (1965), and was jointly carried out by the Economic and Social Research Institute and Stein Larsen of the Institute of Sociology at the University of Bergen (Raven and Whelan 1976). It generally investigated how much effect individuals believed they could have on policy making, and how they would try to solve political problems.
People were asked if there was a particular person they would go to see if they had problems with the authorities. Those that indicated they did have someone in mind were then asked to name the person's occupation. In rural areas, sixty percent of those who did have someone in mind (n=508) chose a politician. After that, lawyer, farmer, and priest each received six to seven percent. Also chosen were businessmen (three percent), and then teachers, shopkeepers, police, auctioneers, engineers, and publicans (each one to two percent). Only four percent chose a local or national official. In rural Ireland, shopkeepers, priests, pub owners, teachers, policemen (gardai) have knowledge of the outside world, and are also known personally by locals. They are obvious mediators between individual and the state. Still, the overwhelming choice for brokerage was the local politician.
Urban residents are less dependent on politicians. Only 42% (n=311) chose a politician. Lawyers and priests were still important (eleven and nine percent), followed by guards, businessmen, shopkeepers, residents' association leaders, printers, teachers, farmers, and publicans (about one to three percent each).29
The drop from sixty percent in rural areas to forty percent in urban areas in those choosing politicians parallels similar urban-rural splits shown in previous surveys. Also interesting is the tendency of urban dwellers to indicate a wider variety of occupations than the rural respondents. There was less dependence on politicians, but also less dependence on other community figures such as priests, lawyers, police, or teachers. Thus, in urban areas, there is less of a monopoly on access to the state.
Like the other surveys, this one also requires some care in interpretation. Politicians and political activists constitute a large percentage of the rural population and are well integrated into community life; small wonder that a larger percentage of rural dwellers knew a politician who they would go to see if they needed assistance. The survey does not reveal whether that politician is known because he of his political activities or due to activities in other social and economic spheres. He might be a publican, auctioneer, doctor, or some other professional which brings him into contact with a wide variety of people. In the more differentiated and mobile urban community, politicians are more remote; as previous chapters showed, there are fewer politicians per head of population in urban areas such as Dublin.
The surveys provide a useful overview of brokerage beliefs and expectations. Although the belief that politicians should be brokers, and that brokers are necessary, is widespread, there are significant variations along a rural-urban continuum and along a class continuum. In rural areas, there is a clear expectation of political brokerage, and people who have grown up in rural areas continue to expect politicians to be brokers, even if they now live in urban middle-class housing estates. Rural dwellers are more likely to trust politicians, and are less likely to go to other community figures.
In urban areas, brokerage beliefs and expectations vary in terms of socio-economic categories. Those who are most dependent on state assistance are most likely to see politicians as brokers, but are less likely to trust politicians' motives. The social division of Dublin is also a clientelist division: brokerage beliefs are prevalent in the inner city and Corporation estates, and markedly less prevalent in the private housing estates of suburban Dublin. Attitudes among rural residents and urban working-class residents are similar, and both contrast with attitudes of urban middle class respondents.
The surveys have suggested which kinds of individuals believe brokerage is necessary, but they cannot explain the variations that exist within Ireland and Dublin. They also cannot say what actions follow from such beliefs. A belief in the necessity of politicians' brokerage activities is widespread, and politicians must respond to these beliefs by providing the brokerage that is believed to be necessary. Why people believe political brokerage is necessary and how politicians manage to fulfill, or appear to fulfill, these expectations is something that only in-depth, rather than survey, research can answer.
TABLE 6.1 Who to Contact for Services
In 1977 a Radio Telefis Eireann (RTE) Survey asked respondents who they would contact for services. The question was as follows:
if someone is applying for something from the Government - for example a housing grant, or some social welfare or health benefit - which of the following do you think he or she would be best advised to contact, in order to be sure of getting what they are entitled to?
The choices given respondents were as follows:
1. Governinent or Local Authority department concerned
2. A social worker
3. a TD
4. A Home Assistance Officer
5. A member of the local County Council or Corporation
6. Depends on what type of thing he wants
7. Don't Know
|Dublin||County Boroughs||Other Urban||All Urban||Rural|
SOURCE: Radio Telefis Eireann (1976)
NOTE. Respondents were categorized in terms of social class and area of residence. Social class divisions were standard occupational classifications, aggregated into 'middle class'(AB). 'lower middle class' (Cl), 'skilled working class' (C2), 'other working class' (DE) [meaning semi-skilled and unskilled working class], and farmers with more or less than 50 acres (F50+, F50-). Areas of residence included the Dublin region, all County Boroughs (including Cork, Limerick, Galway), smaller urban areas, all urban areas together, and rural areas. The responses have been collapsed into three main categories: Officials (numbers 1,2, and 4), TD (number 3), and councillor (number 5), in addition to "Depends" and "Don't Know".
TABLES 6.2a,b VOTING ISSUES
A series of Irish Times surveys asked the following question:
Which of these will be most important in making up your mind how to vote?
1) Choosing the Taoiseach
2) Choosing the Ministers to form the government
3) Choosing between the Party Policies
4) Choosing a candidate to look after your constituency ['service']
5) Don't Know
TABLE 6.2a Voting Issue, 1977
SOURCE: Irish Times/NOP Election Surveys. June 1977 (third survey)
TABLE 6.2b Voting Issue, 1981 (n=1050)
SOURCE: Irish Tlacs/lrish Marketing Surveys Election Surveys, June 1981 (third survey).
TABLE 6.3a Socio-economic Class and Area Of Residence (n=435)
SOURCE. derived by author from 1972 IPA survey.
NOTE. Social areas are based on the NESC (1981:91-103) survey. Areas 1 and 2 are inner city, Area 3 is outside the canal ring and composed of rented flats; Area 4 is older middle-class private housing outside the canal ring; Area 5 is recently built public housing and Area 6 is newly built and privately owned suburbs. The city is considered to be 1,2. and 5, while the suburbs are considered to be Areas 3,4,6.
TABLE 6.3b Socio-economic class and electoral area (n=435)
SOURCE. derived by author from 1972 IPA survey.
NOTE: In 1970, the boundaries of the Borough Electoral Areas were revised, and their number reduced from 12 to 9.
TABLE 6.3c Community Issues, by Area (n-468)
SOURCE. derived by author from 1972 IPA Survey.
NOTE: Respondents were asked to choose the most important service provided by the local authority. Refuse collection, water supply, sewerage and drainage, town planning. and road making are grouped together under 'services'. Street lighting and street cleaning are grouped together as 'Streets'. Vocational education, recreational facilities, public libraries, and the fire brigade are included under 'other'.
TABLE 6.3d Commnunity Issues, by Borough Electoral Area (BEA) (n=468)
SOURCE. derived by author from 1972 IPA survey.
TABLE 6.3e Community Issues, variations within selected BEAs
|BEA No 1.|
|BEA No 3.|
|BEA No 4.|
|BEA No 9:|
SOURCE. derived by author from 1972 IPA survey.
The IPA Survey asked the following question:
Here are some descriptions people gave of the councillors job: which do you think comes nearest to your view of what a councillor should have done?
--To intercede with the corporation for the people, to get them housing, planning
permission, etc. ["brokerage"]
--To run the city according to some overall policy which the people approved at election time. ["policy"]
--To get a name for themselves.
--To get into power so as they could fix 'things" for themselves and their friends.
Most respondents chose one of the first two responses, which are labeled as "brokerage" and "policy".
TABLE 6.4a Brokerage Expectations, by social class (n=278)
Social Class (Household Head)
SOURCE. derived by author from 1972 IPA survey.
TABLE 6.4b Brokerage Expectations, by class origin (n=233)
SOURCE. derived by author from 1972 IPA survey.
NOTE: "Agri" Includes all agricultural occupations, regardless of farm size.
TABLE 6.4c Brokerage Expectations, by area of residence (n=314)
NESC Social Areas
SOURCE: derived by author from 1972 IPA survey.
NOTE: The city comprises Areas 1, 2, and 5; the suburbs comprise Areas 3. 4, and 6. Totals may not add up to 100% due to roundlng.
TABLE 6.4d Brokerage Expectations. by electoral area (n=314)
SOURCE: derived by author from 1972 IPA survey.
NOTE. In 1970, the boundaries of the Borough Electoral Areas were revised, and their number reduced from 12 to 9.
TABLES 6.5a,b,c,d BROKERAGE STRATEGES
Suppose you wanted to make an inquiry or complain about any service provided by the corporation to whom would you have gone before the council was dissolved?
--A government department (Local Government, Health or other)
--A government minister
--Other (Please specify)
[Categories were collapsed to official (including government department), councillor, and TD (including government minister).]
TABLE 6.5a Brokerage Strategies, by social class (n=239)
Social Class (Household Head)
SOURCE: derived by author from 1972 IPA survey.
NOTE: Totals may not add up to 100% due to rounding.
TABLE 6.5b Brokerage Strategies, by class origin (n=239)
SOURCE: derived by author from 1972 IPA survey.
NOTE: Totals may not add up to 100% due to rounding.
TABLE 6.5c Brokerage Strategies, by area of residence (n=270)
NESC Social Areas
SOURCE: derived by author from 1972 IPA survey.
NOTE: Totals may not add up to 100% due to rounding.
TABLE 6.5d Brokerage Strategies, by electoral area (n=270)
SOURCE: derived by author from 1972 IPA survey.
Surveys demonstrate that voters believe political brokers are necessary, and the Irish party and electoral system force politicians to compete with each other in providing it. Any citizen feels that he has a claim on a politician's services, and voters expect close personal contact with their politicians. The crucial task of a politician is to be available to provide services, and to be seen as available. He or she hopes, through such activities, to obtain the electoral support needed to stay ahead of party rivals. He also hopes, in the process, to create personal loyalties, which can be useful in both the party and community arenas.
This chapter investigates the process by which Dublin politicians use brokerage activities to build electoral support. Research was carried out in two areas of Dublin, and involved interviews with politicians, political activists, state officials, and community figures, in addition to participation in community life. One area is "Ballynadini", a working-class area composed of Corporation housing; it is classified as Area 5 in the NESC scheme (see Chapter Five). The other, "Ballinahushla", is a mixed housing area, dominated largely by private housing estates; it is classified as Area 6 in the NESC scheme.30
Brokerage commodities differ in the two areas, but politicians' activities are broadly similar. Politicians are "pivots" around which community activities revolve. At any well publicized local meeting, one finds politicians, and indeed, at all community events, one finds politicians. At the opening of a new church or new community hall, one finds most of the local politicians. If a community benefit is taking place, politicians are somehow associated with the proceedings. Community groups and residents' groups expect politicians to attend their meetings and respond to their problems. In addition, politicians often hold "clinics" one to three times a week. These are well publicized in local papers and via information sheets put into houses and posted in community centers. Anyone in the area can consult about their problems or difficulties. Even at home politicians receive phone calls, letters, and personal visits regarding constituents' cases. As individuals, rather than party representatives, they are always publicly available for consultation.
Politicians assist individuals and groups throughout their constituency in dealings with the state, but always with the objective of creating personal support. Politicians develop contacts with local community groups, and create personal networks throughout their area. Politicians are trying to create clients who, at the very least, will vote for them in preference over other politicians on election day. If possible, they hope to create a more enduring personal commitment which will extend beyond a vote once every four or five years. Politicians need people who can act on their behalf to obtain votes of others, and such personal supporters are as important between elections as during elections. Usually, however, politicians have to be satisfied with a more tenuous and fragile exchange, and can only hope that their efforts will be rewarded at the ballot box.
There are various sources for electoral support and personal loyalty. Kinsmen provide their own votes and sometimes are able to provide votes of others, and a well-known family often commands the loyalty of people who have no direct contact with the politician. Occupational and social contacts can sometimes be transformed into personal loyalties. In addition, brokerage activities with community groups creates general, though amorphous and anonymous, electoral support, and provide an opportunity to develop personal links.
In their search for non-party support, politicians' family background is often important. At the least, it provides a large number of votes, as people vote for the kinsman of a friend (or the friend of a kinsman). This is one reason for the large number of "family" seats, in which political office is virtually inherited. In the 1977 election, for example, 32 out of 148 elected TDs were related to previously serving TDs: 24 sons, 1 daughter, 3 widows, and 4 nephews (Nealon 1977:134). In the 1973 election, 37 out of 144 elected TDs were related to previous TDs: 31 sons, 1 daughter, 3 nephews, and 2 sons-in-law (Nealon 1974:119). Like party membership, family name commands voting loyalty.
In a stable community, networks of family, kinsmen, and in-laws mobilize hundreds of votes. In many rural areas, the kinship network ensures a personal electoral base that is independent of the political party. In urban areas, social and residential mobility undermines such widespread networks of kinship and friendship, but it is still a factor. In Dublin, a good family name commands votes (e.g., Ryan, Lemass, Briscoe, Brady, Cosgrave, and Burke, to name a few), even from people who had no personal link with the politician. Sometimes, it also helps provide a personal network as well. In the case of Gerard Brady, he not only inherited his father's seat, he also benefited from having brothers. They deliver the votes of their friends and relations, and also votes derived from business contacts. Each brother went into a different profession, so the personal networks created by each brother tap different domains. In his case, the networks provided by the family are as vital as the family name, and the same is true of other Dublin politicians.
Most Dublin politicians, however, cannot depend on kinship networks. Neither voter nor politician have the deep roots in the area which is common in rural communities. Politicians must create their own links with organizations and voters, and create their own personal supporters. For them, there is rarely an existing network that is inherited.
Often, the politician's previous (or current) occupation helps provide positive links. Some occupations conflict with the requirements of political life, but others contribute to political success. It is crucial to have a job with flexible hours if one is to honor political commitments. Politics requires a lot of time; in a government sponsored survey of TDs, 74% said that they spent over 30 hours per week outside the Dail on political business, and 37% said they spent over 50 hours per week (Review Body on Higher Remuneration 1972:211). Others have recently suggested that a TD puts in, on average, a 75 hour week, when the Dail is in session (Roche, R., 1982:100). Not all jobs can be combined with a heavy workload; especially since political commitments cannot easily be scheduled in advance. People with nine-to-five jobs tend to be excluded, and those who are self-employed or can arrange their own flexible hours are favored.
In the l973-1977 Dail, 19 out of 144 TDs were full or part-time auctioneers (real estate dealers), 12 were full or part-time publicans (pub owners), 23 farmers, 19 teachers, 13 lawyers, and 9 shopkeepers (Nealon 1977:120-21). Thus, in their normal occupations, these people are in contact with various segments of the community, which they use to political advantage.
A number of politicians prefer to retain their jobs, even if the income is not necessary. They feel the job keeps them in touch with the area; indeed, they are able to cover the same ground that they need to cover as a politician, or visa versa. A rent collector or a salesman, for example, visits people he would want to see in his political capacity, so he is paid for doing what he would have to do anyway. More importantly, the job is a useful political resource. A shopkeeper or publican, for example, is able to transform economic and social contacts into political contacts. One Dublin politician was a doctor prior to entering politics; his years of practice in the area means loyal patients (and their friends and relations) who have become loyal voters. Teachers similarly transform students' parents into loyal voters. One teacher-politician pinpoints two areas of consistent electoral support in his constituency; one where he is most active as a councillor, and the other where his students' parents live.
Politicians are also able, of course, to use their political office for occupational advantage. Auctioneers acquire clients by virtue of free political publicity. They sometimes use their knowledge of government decisions to make private profit. A number of Dublin politicians are commonly thought to have used their position to make money from real estate dealings in the 1970's. Publicans also profit from political meetings held in their pub, and shopkeepers find that people buy from them in hopes of obtaining political favors.
Politicians also develop special contacts with, and become identified with, local businesses and factories. In a constituency in Western Ireland, one politician is known to have been instrumental in bringing a large electronics plant into the area. His close dealings with the plant personnel give him an advantage which he uses to get people jobs with the company. Another politician has been involved in the local trade union problems of a semi-state body and has developed contacts in the organization. People now go to him when they have problems regarding services provided by that semi-state body. Such contacts help the politician assist individuals, and so enhance his electoral support. The politician also helps the organization in its dealings with government or local bodies, and, in return, the organization uses its resources to help the politician. In this way, the politician is able to "get" people jobs, or provide other assistance. The more important the politician is nationally, the more helpful he can be to large organizations. There is a snowball effect. The bigger he is, the more he can help various groups which, in turn, permits him to help individuals in their dealings with those groups. This, then, increases his popularity and reputation and thus his vote, which further increases his national and party importance.
In Ireland, there is about one national politician (TD or Senator) per 16,000 inhabitants (as compared with one national politician per 88,000 in the United Kingdom, see Chubb 1982:316, 333-336), and and one local politician per 2,200 inhabitants. People expect personal contact with politicians, but this is difficult in urban areas, where occupational and kinship links are less pervasive than in rural areas. Therefore, in order to maintain the expected level of personal contact, political life becomes an endless series of meetings. Politicians attend local authority meetings, Dail meetings, committee meetings, public meetings, community meetings, party branch meetings, resident's group meetings, school meetings, and protest meetings. Meetings are a "cheap", more efficient, and more far-reaching substitute than the direct personal contact that requires an equal amount of time and effort. It is easy for politicians to have three "must" meetings an evening: a local authority or national government meeting, a community meeting, and a party branch meeting. For differing reasons, these meetings cannot be ignored.
Many a politician leaves a council meeting in order to attend a community or residents meeting, and the information he provides at residents meetings is often based on material obtained from the previous council meeting. After the residents meeting, he might have a party branch meeting where he wants to have a drink and chat with branch activists to ensure their continued support. His goal is not to be a full participant at any of the meetings, but to be seen there. It is impossible to achieve much more, with such a schedule.
Most community groups in Dublin contact one or more politicians when trying to obtain government assistance. Any local group, whether it is a sports club, residents association, or social club, which wants local authority or central government support finds it useful to work through politicians. A close working relationship often develops between the leaders of community groups and politicians, with each benefiting from mutual assistance. The politician receives publicity and the community activists receive a new social center, employment scheme, and so forth.
Local priests, teachers, representatives of the voluntary (i.e. non-statutory) community council and residents' group leaders are active in community issues on a voluntary basis. Their interests often conflict with the interests of politicians, despite their co-operation. Community activists, concerned with long-term problems, see politicians as opportunists. Problems which existed for a long time are ignored by politicians until the threat of unfavorable publicity (or the promise of favorable publicity) jolts them into action. The politicians' solutions are often cosmetic ones which, in the short term, provide favorable publicity for the politician. Little is solved in the long-term, but, by the time this is apparent, politicians have turned their attention elsewhere in the constituency. Community figures do not refuse political assistance, but they are very cynical about the long-term benefit resulting from politicians' "assistance". Although most politicians are viewed as, basically, gad-flies, community workers tolerate them, on the principle that the politicians rarely do any great harm and might provide welcome publicity.
From the politicians' side of the exchange, there are many reasons why they benefit from personal links with individuals in community groups. Politicians receive information about local conditions and are able to appear concerned and informed. They are also able to claim credit for obtaining any community services provided by the state. Politicians' services to community groups become explicit during elections, when campaign literature reminds voters of past benefits provided by the politicians.
Community groups resist becoming identified with particular politicians. They prefer to remained unaligned, and force politicians to compete with one another for their support. Resident's groups typify the relationship between politicians and voluntary community groups. Politicians are consciously excluded, in an effort to keep the group non-political and concerned only with community problems. Party politics would contaminate a group whose sole and primary concern should be the local community, and any party activists who belong to the group are expected to remain non-partisan. Neighborhood groups believe that a neutral stance makes politicians more attentive and responsive to residents' demands.
The distinction between non-political community activity and partisan party activity is difficult to maintain in practice. Community activists often have their own political sympathies, and are more friendly with some parties or politicians than others. Overt or obvious partisan political activity by community activists is not acceptable in the community groups, but it is possible to covertly advance one's own political interests. Since other activists behave similarly, the activities of party activists balance each other out.31 While party activists can covertly act on behalf of elected politicians, they cannot be seen as advancing their own personal political ambitions. Individuals who try to use their community organization membership as a base for a political career can lose the support of the group -- members may feel that the individual had fooled them by pretending a commitment to the organization which did not exist.
The politician develops personal contacts through community activities, but his community involvement also creates a personal identification with the locality. People, of whatever party affiliation, tend to vote for politicians from their local neighborhood. Partly, they feel they will get better service if they have a politician from "their own area" representing them. Thus, a Labour councillor residing in a Fine Gael housing estate received a substantial local vote because people wanted a local representative. When the trees on the estate were pruned by the local authority, many neighbors thanked the councillor, mentioning how useful it was to have someone from the estate in the Council.32 This is especially pertinent in new housing estates where residents have frequent dealings with the local authority about deficiencies in the area. Another factor is simply loyalty to one's own; one should vote for someone from one's own area.
At election time, candidates are chosen to maximize the local vote in various parts of the constituency; it is hoped that voters will first vote for their local person and then vote for others in the same party. However, the "local" vote often cuts across party loyalties. In the November 1982 general election, a prominent Fianna Fail TD was in danger of losing his seat to a party rival. The party rival received more first preference votes, and, as candidates were slowly eliminated (and their votes transferred), it looked as though the prominent TD would be eliminated. In the end, he was elected, but as a result of people who gave their first preference vote to the Fine Gael candidate from the same town and their lower preference vote to the Fianna Fail TD. When the Fine Gael TD was elected, enough surplus votes transferred to the Fianna Fail TD to elect him. The Fine Gael voters gave their first preference vote to the party candidate, but then gave their lower preference votes to a different party candidate from the same area.
Some of a candidate's votes come from people who are loyal to the candidate personally, and who have no particular party affiliation. Such voters are fully committed to the candidate as a person, rather than as a party representative. Such personal support is easily evidenced when votes are counted. Lower preference votes scatter to candidates from other parties, and do not remain within the party (as do the votes of committed party supporters). Candidates are supposed to encourage personally loyal voters to give their lower preference votes to other candidates from the same party, but such control is not always possible. In any event, candidates often do not want their party rivals to get elected, so candidates are often suspected of encouraging personal supporters to give their lower preference votes to candidates from other parties. The counting of votes after the election is always an occasion for barely suppressed accusations of disloyalty. A candidate is suspected of asking loyal followers to give their lower preference votes to non-party candidates, while the candidate protests that he cannot control how the people voted.
A local image provides some non-party votes from the immediate area, so politicians are active in neighborhood groups to assert their local affiliation. The local voluntary groups cannot be overtly political (e.g., sports clubs are acceptable, where a high profile in a residents' group would not be), but the politician's connection to the group often provides a number of votes. Shared identification, due to common membership, is a strong factor in voting decisions. People vote for politicians who are members of the same sports club or church group, and even if the voter was not actually a member, the knowledge of membership further cements the politician's local identification. 33
The politician also creates a local identification by responding to brokerage requests from local groups. Politicians never ignore neighborhood residents groups, even through they might ignore groups at the other end of their constituency. Politicians are discouraged from "poaching" by becoming too active outside their own immediate neighborhoods, and intense rivalries develop if a politician is over-stepping himself.
The constituency of Dublin North provides an example of local connections which a politician creates, and depends on, for recognition. Thomas Wright was an aspiring Fianna Fail candidate in the 1982 election. In addition to owning a fish and poultry business in the center of Malahide, he was Malahide "Community Personality" for 1981. He was chairman of Malahide Festival for the previous six years, a current member of Bord Iascaigh Mhara (the National Fisheries Board), Portmarnock Community Centre, Malahide Chamber of Commerce, and the Malahide Tennis and Cricket Club. He further advertised that he was the coach of the Irish schoolgirl's international basketball team, as well as member and former player in the local Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) club and remained active in GAA affairs.
His Fine Gael rival for the marginal seat was Nora Owens. She had been elected to both the County Council and the Dail. She had previously been editor of the local newsletter, as well as having been involved with resident's associations, community councils, school boards, the Old Malahide Society, and the Tidy Towns Committee.34 She was also grand-niece of Michael Collins, a Fine Gael hero who was assassinated during the Civil War, and whose name commanded loyalty.
Both candidates hoped that people associated with any of the mentioned organizations would tend to vote for a fellow member. The candidates also hoped to demonstrate that they were concerned with the community and knew what people in the area needed.35
Various surveys have tried to estimate the amount of time which politicians must spend on local community matters. In a review of government salaries, the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector (1972:211) surveyed national politicians. Among other questions, the TDs were asked how much time was spent on political business other than attending the Dail. Forty-four percent said 31-50 hours a week, and thirty-seven percent said over 50 hours. In addition, the TDs were asked to list the kinds of expenses they incurred. This partial list illustrates the cost of maintaining a social presence: subscriptions to organizations (mentioned by 52% of TDs), travel in constituency (52%), entertainment (46%), telephone (18%), attending clinics (17%), funeral offerings (7%), maintaining constituency office (7%), telegrams (5%), and wedding presents (4%). Politicians are always being asked to contribute to "worthy causes", usually when they are in pubs or public meetings. Rare is the politician who does not contribute automatically, just as it is a rare politician who does not buy drinks for companions and supporters, even if he himself does not drink. It is accepted as a necessary part of political life.
It should be noted that not all politicians have depended on their local reputation. The first generation of post-independence politicians found that their stature as freedom fighters was sufficient to ensure support from party faithfuls (cf. Cohan 1974). Even those with no revolutionary experience were sometimes able to trade on their national stature. For example, one Minister of Health in the early 1950's introduced a scheme which led to a rapid decline in tuberculosis. The general climate of good will which this created meant that even when he moved to a different constituency, there were still a large number of people who were grateful for his previous work and so voted for him.
In recent times, politicians have found that a national reputation can complement a "local service" or "brokerage" reputation. At present, this is a phenomenon of suburban constituencies, where it has been an alternative means of creating a constituency reputation. In the constituency of Dublin South, different politicians have gained media exposure through their expertise on issues of particular relevance to middle-class voters: education, human rights in third world countries, family law, and women's rights. In at least one case, it was used to by-pass party rivals who were gaining ground through diligent constituency work.36 Community reputation via media exposure is becoming increasingly important, but it has not replaced local service.
It is the rare politician who does not return from a public meeting with his pockets full of pieces of paper. Each paper represents a voter who took him aside and asked for assistance: "would you ever look after something for me?" The more prominent the politician, the more requests he receives. Ministers, coming into their office after a weekend in the constituency, pile little slips of paper on their assistant's desks. Each slip is a "problem" to be looked after and replied to. If a constituent does not see his TD or Councillor at some gathering, he just phones or drops in. If the politician is not there, his wife entertains the caller and takes the details of the problem.
Politicians make various claims about the number of representations which they see to. Deputy Seamus Brennan, for example, claimed he had handled 3,000 representations in the seven months since he had been elected (averaging out to 100 per week). Another TD claimed, in interview, about 2,000 per year (or an average of 40 per week). In a television interview, John O'Leary (a rural Fianna Fail Deputy) estimated he dealt with 400 queries a week (RTE, Ireland's Eye, 8 Dec 1982). Richard Roche (1982:99) suggests an average of 140 representations a week in 1981. He also notes that this would mean about one million representations per year, for a population of just over three million. This would seem, even by Irish standards, an over-estimation, and perhaps further emphasizes that it is in a politician's interest to claim a high number of representations. Such a claim not only makes him appear active and the center of the community, it also, and more importantly, makes him appear effective.
One feature of Irish politics is the formalization of personal access to politicians. In addition to receiving requests at public meetings or privately at home, most politicians also run clinics. Like doctor's surgeries, clinics are held at regular times and places and are well publicized. People are seen individually and confidentially, the details of their problem are seen to, and they either receive a postal response or they call back to see if the problem has been sorted out. Sometimes a politician's assistant is present to help secure the details, sometimes an assistant is there without the politician. Usually, however, the politician is the person the constituent wants to see. He is the one they know or voted for, he is the only one to whom they will reveal personal details, and he is the only one they trust to follow through on a case.
The clinic is a crucial means by which politicians are accessible to local constituents. Here, the politician is publicly available on a regular basis for consultation. Competition amongst politicians in an area sometimes leads to an escalation in the number of clinics being held. In Dublin South Central, for example, the Fine Gael seat was sufficiently marginal that there was fierce competition between the two deputies elected in the 1981 election. Despite their long service in the Dail, both made sure that the public remained aware of them. Each was running six clinics a week in the constituency, and were members of the Dublin City Council, mainly in order to deal with local matters.37
The number of clinics which politicians operate varies. Few hold no clinics, but ordinarily they range from two a month to eight a week. Most politicians hold at least one or two a week, and a hard working TD can easily hold three or four a week in different parts of his constituency. Clinics are held in a wide variety of locations. One twice a month Sunday clinic is a betting office during the rest of the week. People sit on the benchs that betters usually sat on while watching horseraces on television, and people are interviewed in the betting office. Another politician uses the manager's office in a local shopping center in one area, and a friendly doctor's office in another. Pubs, community halls, anywhere that a politician can find a cheap and private location, can become a clinic.
The range of problems that are brought to a politician is astonishing. He might help one person get housing, the next person to get a job, the next to get medical assistance, the next to get counselling for an alcoholic husband, and the next to get a deserted husband to contribute to the family. Often there is no one single problem, but a combination of problems, only some of which have anything to do with the politician's formal responsibilities. There is often little the politician can do to remedy the problem, which might well be beyond the politician's abilities to solve. Politicians often work for months at particular cases and still see no result.
Politicians often feel that, like a priest or a doctor, they are visited when people feel unable to cope or are uncertain where to turn. Often, people need, more than anything else, to feel that someone cares and is listening. Politicians believe that sympathizing and listening is as important as actually solving the problem. This view is epitomized by the woman who visited a TD in "Ballynadini" week after week with various problems: she couldn't get a widow's pension, she couldn't get her neighbors to help her, she couldn't get medical assistance. Finally, one week she came in, bringing a flask and two cups. The TD asked what the current problem was, and the woman replied that she had no particular problem. She just thought she would come in for a chat and a cup of tea! This time, as other times, the TD was the only person who would listen sympathetically.
This is not to say that most people come into clinics only wanting to talk. Often, their problems are quite serious. The most common problem is lack of housing; in "Ballynadini", this accounts for forty to eighty percent of the cases in clinics. Medical assistance and jobs are also commonly needed. When a politician responds sympathetically to such cases, he or she has a self-serving motive. The politician conveys the idea that he or she is making a special effort on behalf of the person, because the politician has a special regard for the client. Underlying the exchange is the politician's attempt to create the aura of a special personal relationship; if possible, the politician's action engenders a sense of moral obligation on the part of the voter, who will reciprocate at election day, or before. Rare is the politician who says that a case is impossible; he or she will always at least promise to "look into the matter" and have officials "review the case".
How many people actually have any contact with politicians? If representations are a crucial strategy by which state resources are obtained, the number of people who have contacted politicians should be high. It is in the politician's interest to claim a large number of representations, but the actuality is quite different. Over-all, only 16.8% of respondents in the IPA survey (n=495) had ever contacted a politician. Given the prevalence of brokerage beliefs demonstrated in Chapter Six, such a small percentage seems surprising. If only one in six have, even once, dealt with a politician, then the number of voters engaging in recurrent exchanges must be small indeed.
The frequency of brokerage contacts is higher among working-class than middle class Dublin residents (see Table 7.1a). However, class variation is not the crucial factor; while the frequency of contacts is high amongst semi-skilled and unskilled workers, it is relatively low among skilled workers. Even more confusing, it is relatively high among some middle class respondents. In actual fact, socio-economic class is less significant than housing status and area of residence. Twice as many people renting public housing had contacted politicians as had private owners and renters (Table 7.1b), and there were twice as many contacts in the inner city (Area 1) and Corporation estates (Area 5) as anywhere else (see Table 7.1c). This concentration of brokerage contacts reflects the demand for public housing, and politicians in such areas report that most of their representations deal with public housing. In the inner city and Corporation estates, the number of people who have contacted politicians rises to one person in four, as compared with one person in nine in suburban and middle class Dublin. Politicians in Corporation estates and the inner city claim more representations than politicians elsewhere in Dublin, and even politicians in constituencies with a small percentage of Corporation housing report that Corporation housing accounts for the bulk of their cases.
Brokerage contacts are not confined to the deprived who need housing. As Table 7.1c shows, contacts are also common in the newly built middle class suburbs (Area 6). This is especially interesting since these were not people who expected politicians to be brokers (compare with Table 6.4c). The high frequency of contacts in newly built suburban estates reflects the pressure on politicians to provide community services or force builders to finish estates (see Chapter Five).
Irish politics appears dominated by the "privatization" of public goods: politicians provide (or appear to provide) government services to voters who, in exchange, become their clients. In some countries, political clientelism involves clients who, as personal supporters, render whatever assistance the patron-broker requires. In Dublin, politicians have such personal supporters, who help the politician in both the local community and political arenas. However, as applied to electoral clientelism, this would suggest a stable bloc of electoral supporters, on which politicians depend for re-election. Does the frequency, and character, of politicians' brokerage activities create such a bloc in Dublin?
It is often said in rural constituencies, that political activists can account for virtually every vote after an election. One prominent Fianna Fail politician in a rural constituency told an acquaintance, after the 1977 election, that he knew where all his votes came from with the exception of two. Others report great debates among local activists, after an election, as to where particular votes in support of fringe groups came from. Such reports are doubtless exaggerated, to make people believe that disloyalty will be discovered and future benefits withheld; yet there is also a grain of truth to the reports. In rural villages of 200-300, local men can, over time, develop good guesses about people's voting preferences. Often, an individual voting box contains from 150-300 votes,38 and local tally men watch the ballot papers carefully. The system of counting votes permits accurate deductions about voting patterns. Each voting box is counted separately, and tally men from the various political parties are often able to see the distribution of votes from each local area. A TD with key men in villages throughout his area can put together a good picture of his support. A knowledge of the people in the area combined with a knowledge of the order of voting preferences gives an accurate reading of individual as well as party support. The secrecy of the ballot box can be breached, and so a voter's repayment of a brokerage debt can be verified.
Such knowledge necessitates knowing the area well, and during a number of elections. This is easily done in rural areas, with a stable population spread out over a large area, but urban constituencies are a different proposition. In urban areas, polling stations are allocated a larger catchment area (due to easier transport and greater density of population). Where a rural polling station might have boxes containing only two to three hundred votes, urban stations can contain five to seven hundred votes. In addition, the social and geographical mobility of urban voters curtails the amount of detailed personal knowledge of individual families that can be accumulated. Few party activists can look at a Dublin ballot box with six hundred votes, and trace individual votes. A vast network of supporters is needed to penetrate large and fluid Dublin constituencies and assemble sufficient information to monitor the votes of individuals and families, and this is beyond most politicians' resources. Dublin politicians are thus unable to verify a voter's repayment for brokerage services; the "debt" can remain unpaid, and the exchange of state services for votes thus unenforceable. While the election canvass produces numerous people who remember past "favors" and promise to vote accordingly, a politician depends on the voter's sense of moral obligation. He does what he can to make the voter feel indebted, but knows better than to rely on such a feeling at election time.
Politicians do not believe that brokerage contacts translate directly into electoral support. People who are helped in clinics, or who visit the politician at home, do not necessarily vote for the politician. Politicians are perfectly aware that voters' support is not dependable, and each has his own story about voters who supported other candidates, despite all the politician's efforts on the voters' behalf. Corporation estates and inner city areas, with the heaviest brokerage demands, are often politically apathetic. One "Ballynadini" political activist described them as ungrateful: "they expect every bit of help and give nothing in return". It must also be remembered that even in areas with a high level of brokerage contacts, three out of four respondents have never contacted a politician.
Furthermore, in most politicians' experience, clinics rarely form the basis for long-term formal relationships of a patron-client nature. Politicians expect that many of their clients make the rounds of all politicians and try to play one off against the other. If the "client" does not get the help he wants, he might actually vote against a politician at election time. Even if the client does profess gratitude, this does not ensure that he will vote for the politician, or even that he will vote at all. Politicians are not able to create stable voting blocs, and voter-politician exchanges are often instrumental and ephemeral.
Rather than cementing support, clinic work can even count against politicians. In housing, for example, a person who benefits from a politician's assistance will get a house. However, there are few building sites available in the Dublin Corporation area, so the Corporation buys land and build houses in the County Council area. Therefore, most new housing is outside the politician's constituency. If the politician gets a client a house, his success actually loses him the family's vote since they have now left. In addition, they will not be around to give their recommendations to others. Worse still, those who do not get a house remain; unsatisfied and disappointed, they will hardly vote for the politician and their complaints to others may cost the politician a number of votes. Is it any wonder, then, that politicians rarely say "No, it is impossible", but rather always promise to "look into the matter" and "see what can be done"?
Since the time invested in constituents' problems might provide no return, the politician does what he can, but rarely exerts himself. He sends the letter or contacts the official, and sees if it has any beneficial result. Often, such action produces a result which impresses the voter, and costs the politician very little time or trouble. If the action produces no response, the politician probably does not pursue the matter. The alternative is to put in too much time on activities that provide too little return. Politicians with a heavy load of representations acknowledge that they probably put in too much time and should reduce their commitments.
Politicians' activities when making representations on behalf of individuals or groups are not intended to create specific voting support. Their activities are intended to create a reputation in the community. Clinics have only a minor effect on voting behavior, and provide, at best, only a safety margin. Yet, politicians give clinics from two to six or more hours a week of their precious resource: time. Similarly, at community and residents meetings, there is little that the politician can gain. Many voters are already committed to a different party or a particular politician. They might, at best, give the politician a fifth or sixth preference, which is unlikely to affect an electoral outcome. Yet most politicians make the rounds to all meetings in their area. While clinics do not get someone elected, not holding them might be sufficient to lose the politician his seat. In a culture that emphasizes personal contacts as the basis for political support, clinics are good public relations. Many politicians say that word of mouth reputation is crucial. Especially in more settled (and largely working class) areas, if you do something, or get something, for someone, they will tell others: "word gets around". The potential loss of support from not attending residents' group meetings is sufficient threat to induce politicians' attendance at meetings.
Similarly, politicians are often asked to fill out applications for grants or other state assistance which the applicant could have filled out himself. Why do politicians perform such time wasting tasks? To some extent, politicians have little choice. Voters expect politicians to do errands for them, however menial. The often quoted comment is: "Isn't that what he was elected for?"
Dublin politics revolves on two goals. The first is the creation of personal supporters. Politicians are always trying to obtain personal supporters, but there is a limited number of people whose support the politician can obtain and also maintain. It is not enough to ensure a solid electoral base. Therefore, politicians are simultaneously pursuing a second goal of creating and maintaining a community reputation. This is, more than anything else, a marketing exercise. All politicians are equally able to assist voters, but competition requires that each looks better than the rest. As in advertising, the key is making a product seem better than the other three or four similar products. The politician's personal supporters are marketing agents, promoting the reputation of their politician. Among their own acquaintances and neighbors, they suggest going to Deputy "x" or Councillor "y" as he is able to get things done, and is always looking after the community. Indeed, one clue to a disaffected supporter is if he starts saying to people: "Deputy Reilly is really no good at all, and actually does nothing".
Voters expect easy personal access to politicians at all times, but are especially demanding at election time. Politicians are forced to visit as many houses as possible and virtually beg for votes. They know that voters choose on the basis of who has personally visited their house. A visit by a supporter helps, and even a card left in the mailbox can make a difference. When politicians are canvassing houses looking for support, it is important to be accompanied by someone known in the area. Often, a local branch member (preferably one personally loyal to the politician) will serve; a non-party personal friend of the politician is even more effective. The local figure introduces the politician at each door, obviously sponsoring the politician. The local figure may only be well known on the street, but it is sufficient to create a personalized link between voter and politician. The politician who has recruited supporters to act as intermediaries on the canvass will be successful on election day. Community involvement enables him to develop personal contacts with people whose personal support will help link the politician with local voters.
Although personal attention remains the key to electoral success, new techniques permit the illusion of personal concern. One politician complained about a rival: "Techniques such as using a telephone service and writing 2,000 to 3,000 personal letters at enormous expense could not be matched by me". The same candidate, new in the constituency, also brought a new organizational expertise to bear. He organized his campaign through a pyramid of personal contacts. Tapping people who had moved to Dublin from his home county in the West, and who he knew through friends or his school, he asked some to organize small meetings and he asked others to name ten friends who might help him. He held numerous "coffee mornings" where he met small groups of housewives. Thus, he literally organized "friends of friends" to quickly penetrate the constituency. The result in the election was that he was first person to reach the election quota.
Voters often complain that they only see politicians at election time. When an election is called, suddenly there are politicians and activists from all parties at the door. They are attentive, ask what the voter's problems are and suggest they will help. Voters are not simply visited by the major parties in turn; often they are visited by all the candidates within the same party, each hoping for a high preference vote. To some voters, this attention contrasts markedly with non-election periods, when no one calls at the door asking for opinions or offering assistance. All the promises and solicitude seem to disappear once the election results are known.
Election campaigns are occasions for claiming influence and reiterating previous claims. Politicians emphasize their personal service; as a election pamphlet from November 1982, illustrates:
The next time you meet this man, you could have a problem on your hands. . . . and he'll probably solve it for you.
The pamphlet goes on to say that
Fergus holds regular clinics throughout the constituency. There he meets face to face the people he represents, and their problems. They come to him because they know he has their good at heart and in most cases can help them with sound advice or actual practical ideas. . . . People have found that he is a man who gets things done. . . a man who carries weight in the right places.
and in another part of the pamphlet,
someone like Fergus is in an extremely strong position to put forward local complaints and have something done about them.
Politicians claim that schools were provided, extra police detailed, jobs saved, or housing provided by virtue of their conscientious and continual activity. Sometimes more than one politician claims to have been instrumental in providing some service; it is significant that there is no way to "prove" conflicting claims. Rarely is any concrete evidence provided (or demanded) which demonstrates claimed influence. Voters believe which ever politician they choose to believe, on the basis of who is most eloquent or who they are already disposed to believe.
Access to publicity, whether through media or community word of mouth, helps determine whose claims of influence will be most widely known and believed. Those whose position helps them claim influence are most likely to convince the electorate. Political office provides a high public profile and easy access to media publicity. The facilities available to those in high positions (free postage, word processors, free secretarial services) also gives the incumbent an advantage. High political position often also means inside information about government decisions which benefit the community; with such advance knowledge, it is easier to claim credit for having been instrumental in providing the service. Politicians with a well established local machine have close contacts within the community to disseminate information; it is up to one's rivals to discredit any claims made.
A great advantage of Ministerial office is that government money is used to provide extensive constituency service. One government Minister was reported as employing 17 civil servants in his personal office at a cost of 170,000 pounds per year. They processed all his constituency work, and one was even required to scan death notices in the daily newspapers and send condolence telegrams to the families in his constituency (Irish Times, 11 Nov 1982). In another case, a TD charged that two Ministers were abusing their Ministerial powers because each used a government word processor simply for constituency work (Irish Times, 18 Nov 1982). This gave the Ministers an unfair advantage over other politicians in the area, and went beyond the legitimate use of Ministerial office, the TD charged. Ministers provide the appearance of personal service on a far greater scale than most other politicians can afford to. As a consequence, incumbent government Ministers usually receive a large vote.
In Dublin, family, occupation, and community contacts are used to create political bonds between politicians and voters. The personal loyalties created by politicians are useful in their attempts to maintain their standing in both the local party organization and the community at large. In the party arena, such supporters ensure re-nomination, help keep out rivals, and help maintain a community presence. In the community arena, personal supporters also help the politician maintain his reputation for access and concern (sometimes by providing premises on which to hold clinics, or passing local problems on to him). At election time, such supporters also help canvass for votes, often by introducing the politician to the supporter's friends and neighbors, and some supporters provide material assistance, such as money or cars, during the election campaign as well.39 In all these cases, the supporter's repayment is verifiable. Politicians often go to great lengths to create such personal bonds, knowing that the exchange will be reciprocal. Such exchanges are similar to classic clientelist exchanges, in which long-term, diffuse, and personal bonds permeate a community. This is especially true in the party arena, which exists as a "community" apart from the larger community.
Personalistic bonds between supporter and politician are important, but they are not sufficient to ensure the politician's re-election. In addition, the politician depends on the votes of people with whom he has only instrumental and ephemeral exchanges. Most voters are not involved, through individual links, with politicians. Even when a voter goes to a politician, it is impossible to ensure a quid pro quo of votes for services in Dublin politics; the population is too large and mobile and the politician's personal network too limited to ensure repayment. A politician instead tries to create a moral obligation by appearing to provide special personal attention.
Thus, in addition to the votes of personal supporters, the politician depends on creating a reputation in the community. By helping and being available, the politician hopes to create a climate of support that will, on election day, give him enough votes to stay ahead of his party rivals. Thus, politicians, through their brokerage activities, sometimes obtain the direct benefit of creating a personal following, and also obtain the indirect benefit of enhancing their community reputation.
FREQUENCY OF BROKERAGE CONTACTS
Have you ever been in touch with an official or any other of the following persons
after a complaint or inquiry?
a) a Councillor
b) An official
c) An ex-councillor
d) a T.D.
e) a Senator
f) A government Department
g) A government minister
i) Never been in touch
The responses were then categorized as politician (answers a,c,d,e, or g), official (answers b and f), or none (answer i). Those answering other were excluded, and those who had contacted both politicians and officials were included under politician.
"Brokerage Contacts, by occupation"
SOURCE: Derived by author from 1972 IPA survey.
"Brokerage Contacts, by housing status"
SOURCE: Derived by author from 1972 IPA survey.
"Brokerage Contacts, by social area"
|NESC Social Areas|
SOURCE: derived by author from 1972 IPA survey.
NOTE: Area 1 is inner city, Area 2 is "twilight", Area 3 is Flatland, Area 4 is older private housing, Area 5 is public (Corporation) housing, Area 6 is new (post-1966) private housing (NESC 1981:91-103).
In the previous chapter, brokerage activities were examined from the politician's perspective. In this chapter and the next, brokerage is examined from the voter's perspective; specifically, the reasons why voters demand brokerage. The high frequency of brokerage interactions in poorer areas of Dublin has often been linked, by politicians and bureaucrats, with inadequate education; people who are unable to cope on their own need politicians assistance. During research, both politicians and bureaucrats often provided numerous stories about individuals who didn't know how to fill out a form, or were afraid of talking with strangers about personal business. According to this folk explanation, people look for brokers because they do not understand the modern state and the bureaucratic procedures associated with it. As "urban peasants", they are unable to cope with the modern world, and must look to politicians for assistance.
Researchers, as well as politicians and bureaucrats, take refuge in the folk explanation. Sacks (1976:7-8, 50-52) talks of "imaginary patronage", in which the politician creates support and loyalty by claiming influence which he does not possess. Other writers (such as Chubb 1982:14-17) presume that politicians' claims to influence are accepted because people are predisposed to believe that government allocations are made on the basis of influence and personal contacts rather than on objective criteria. Attitudes, in this view, are based on a perceived need for influential benefactors.
The folk explanation legitimizes politicians' brokerage activities by underplaying the extent to which they manipulate people's beliefs. Politicians use brokerage to build electoral support and they exaggerate their influence over state services in order to make a greater moral claim on voters' support. Politicians encourage voters' dependency, and make little attempt to disabuse them of their beliefs in the efficacy of brokerage.
In addition, the folk explanation is deficient factually. While brokerage is most prevalent in inner city and Corporation estate areas in Dublin, it exists in suburban Dublin as well. It is not only working-class voters who prefer to deal with politicians rather than bureaucrats, middle-class voters also work through politicians in certain circumstances. Any explanation for brokerage must account for why it is used by some people rather than others, and why it is used to obtain some services and not others; explanations which depend on voters' "traditional", "peasant", or "uneducated" beliefs do not account for either.
Brokerage exists because it works, in certain situations, and thus is a rational strategy for voters to pursue. The poor are most likely to use brokerage strategies because they are most economically dependent on state assistance; their strategies result from accurate, rather than inaccurate, perceptions of how best to obtain state assistance. In addition, the state assistance which the poor need is the most vulnerable to political brokerage. It is the structure of the state bureaucracy, and the way public services are administered within that structure, that determines the circumstances in which brokerage becomes an effective strategy for voters.
The administrative system operates to restrict information to a very few people, and Irish politicians have access, information, and influence which voters do not possess. Politicians control information about state services, have access to the bureaucrats who allocate state services, and are sometimes able to influence bureaucrats' allocations of state resources. The politicians' control over these resources of access, information, and influence gives them the monopoly necessary for political brokerage to flourish. In this chapter, the brokerage resource of information will be discussed. In the next chapter, the other resources of access and influence will be explored.
The politicians' monopoly over information both makes voters dependent on political assistance and also permits politicians to make exaggerated claims of influence. Voters are dependent in so far as they do not know that they are entitled to a benefit, or how to go about claiming it, without going to the politicians. Politicians can provide the illusion, and often not the substance, of special influence because voters do not know how the system operates. Politicians can make exaggerated claims in so far as the voters lack any independent means of assessing such claims; voters do not have enough information about procedures and entitlements to know when a politician's actions achieve nothing.
State services are provided by different administrative structures: central government departments, semi-state bodies under the overall authority of government departments, or local authorities. Social welfare assistance is provided by the Department of Social Welfare, medical assistance is provided by the semi-autonomous regional Health Boards (under the overall authority of the Department of Health); and public housing is provided by the local authority. The administrative structures differ not only in their internal organization, but also in the way they interact with both politicians and voters; the Health Boards, for example, tend to provide information to everyone, while the government departments tend to ignore voters and provide little information to anyone.
State benefits vary by virtue of their qualifying criteria. Some state services are available to anyone who qualifies for them. To obtain medical cards, social welfare, housing grants, and unemployment assistance, once one qualifies the service is automatically available. This is quite different from other services in which the initial qualification is only the first hurdle. There are numerous people who "deserve" housing or telephones, but who have neither. They meet the criteria, but the state does not provide enough resources to satisfy the existing need. In those cases, there must be a system for ranking individuals in the queue, and determining priority. In each case, the brokerage potential varies by virtue of the way in which the service is provided.
The extent to which politicians can monopolize information depends on the service in question, and varies according to the bureaucratic organization administering it and the type of service it is. The easiest way to explain this is to discuss the structure of a number of state services and indicate the brokerage potential inherent in each.
Many government benefits are administered by the central government through the Department of Social Welfare. Some of the various schemes include unemployment assistance, non-contributory old age pensions, special non-contributory pensions for widows and orphans pensions, allowances for deserted wives, allowances for prisoners' wives, allowances for single women aged 58 and over, and blind person's pensions (Curry 1980:30-31). In all of these schemes, eligibility is based on need and is determined by a means test. Other schemes, in which eligibility is not only, or primarily, means tested include children's allowance, prescribed relative allowance, free travel, free electricity allowance, free television licence, cheap fuel scheme, footwear scheme, school meals and supplementary welfare allowance.
Clearly, there are a large number of different schemes and the criteria for each are slightly different; who else besides social welfare specialists could be expected to even know what the various schemes are, much less how to qualify for them? The degree of state assistance for individuals has increased, with unfortunate consequences:
The services provided by the government and public agencies have been increasing in complexity as well as in quantity, in particular the schemes operated by the Department of Social Welfare. Ironically, an increase in the number of laws, regulations and schemes designed to benefit the population or sections of it, results in a more complicated system where claimants have greater difficulty in interpreting the schemes which exist for their benefit. Furthermore, those most in need of income maintenance are frequently the people who are most disadvantaged in terms of education and knowledge and thus, in gaining access to information concerning benefits available to them. (Curry 1980:47)
If the individual is not to be confronted by a mystifying and confusing maze, the administrative system must make a positive effort to present itself in a simplified and encouraging way. There is little evidence of this; rather, it sometimes seems that positive efforts are made to create confusion and mystification.
Even if a person is able to discover what particular benefit he may qualify for, he still has to surmount the application procedure. When someone applies for a benefit, he often receives very little information about how eligibility is determined. He must simply provide whatever personal information the form requests, and accept whatever decision he receives. He has little opportunity to challenge the decision, especially since he does not know the basis on which the decision was made. Many of the government procedures are outmoded, and there is also a lack of staff to deal with the number of applicants; inevitably, an application takes a long time to process and there are many opportunities for it to be mislaid or even lost. The applicant has little control over any of this process.
A good (or bad) example of this is the Supplementary Welfare Allowance Scheme. This Scheme is designed to provide support for those who do not otherwise qualify for assistance. About 17,000 individuals per week claim it; the allowances are largely used to make single payments to those in need.
The first hurdle for a potential applicant is to find an office where one can apply and then get attention:
A broken muddy footpath leads from the Labour Exchange in Werburgh Street to the health centre in Bride Street. Having pased the huge flats and the broken-down travelling people's encampment the centre is still not visible. It is concealed behind a garage. Up a cobbled laneway full of puddles, the offices stand behind big gates which are securely locked, apart from the times strategically displayed.
In Lord Edward Street there is no indication that any centre operates. No sign is displayed outside the low, shed-like building that peeps up behind the old brick wall. A broken door in this wall acts as the entrance but the bell beside it is too high for most people to reach. (Irish Times, 18 Feb 1982)
Centers may be moved from one location to another, with no advance notice to social welfare recipients and no directions left at the old location. Even if one finds a center, there are often long lines of people and few officials to see them. Little information is available to anyone wanting to see an official; the rates of payment under the scheme are neither displayed nor publicly distributed in leaflets. The application form does not help provide relevant information; the application form is so complicated that it is common for the official to fill out the form and merely ask the individual to sign. The individual leaves with little information about how decisions will be reached, what the potential options are, or the knowledge that a decision can be appealed.
People, as a result, feel grateful for anything they receive, even if they receive only their legal entitlement. Decisions are made without explanation or justification, and the individual feels (perhaps correctly) that to insist on information is to run the risk of getting nothing: "You can't push him too far or he won't give you anything at all". Instead of reciprocal rights and duties, the welfare scheme becomes authoritarian; the official makes any decision he wants and the applicant is dependent on his magnanimity. One expert on social welfare has said that each official can make his own decisions; problems that qualify for assistance from one local official are simply ignored in an different locale by a different official. In so far as one measures power by the individual's ability to determine the terms of exchange, the official has power and the "client" none.
The Coolock Community Law Centre (CCLC) is composed of volunteers who provide legal assistance to a working class community in north Dublin. The CCLC published a report on its experiences over five years (1975-1980) with clients using the social welfare appeals system. The CCLC found that, like the Allowance scheme just described, the appeals system was secretive and deprived individuals of the information needed to make their appeals. Individuals are not told why their claim is rejected, the procedure by which eligibility is determined, or, sometimes, even of their right of appeal. If individuals do not know what information is relevant in their case, they will find it difficult to provide counter evidence at an appeal:
The result is that the appellant may be forced to rely on what he writes in his statement of appeal. To properly state your case to its best advantage in such circumstances can prove difficult, and presupposes a degree of knowledge about the social welfare system which in many cases the appellant could not reasonably be expected to have. (CCLC 1980:33)
They conclude that "it is surely a ludicrous situation that the appellant should have to argue against a refusal of benefit without knowing the reasons for such, using a procedure which is also unknown" (CCLC 1980:40). The CCLC view the social welfare system as depriving, rather than assisting, those in need.
Why should an air of secrecy surround the welfare system? Why should people feel they are begging to get public resources, and that they are both dependent and powerless? One suggestion, often made, is that peoples' perception of a civil service trying to avoid providing social services is accurate. As a newspaper writer said, "if all those who are entitled to financial assistance under this [Supplementary Welfare Allowance] scheme demanded it, the Exchequer would collapse. Hence the extent to which it is surrounded by secrecy" (Irish Times, 18 Feb 1982). While still maintaining the fiction of "objective rules", there is no desire to ensure that those who need social assistance, or who qualify for benefits, actually obtain help. There are few "outreach" programs to ensure that entitlements are taken up, and those few programs are operated by voluntary bodies rather than government departments.
Social assistance in Ireland continues to have the aura of the nineteenth century Poor Laws. To need assistance is to confess a personal inadequacy; to receive assistance is to receive charity. People who receive social assistance are no longer fully human and are not treated in the same way as those who can afford to pay; instead they "are made to feel so grateful for what they receive [that] they do not realise fully what they are entitled to receive" (Irish Times, 18 Feb 1982).
For many people, the bureaucracy is on the other side of a barrier. If individuals felt that the government was attempting to distribute services as fairly as possible, then there would be little need for advocates. However, official policy is perceived to be the reverse; services are dispensed in the most limited way possible, and only when there is little alternative. The civil service is viewed as an adversary, and eligibility criteria and ranking procedures are barriers to be overcome in order to obtain benefits.
At least some people learn how to manipulate the system for their own benefit; social workers and politicians can provide numerous examples of individuals who receive assistance they don't really need. From long experience, they have acquired the same expertise and information that politicians possess. For such people, the adversary attitude exhibited by the civil service is appropriate; the applicants are manipulating the rules without regard for objective need. Yet, there are numerous people without the same ability to manipulate the rules, and they do not obtain the resources they deserve. As one community nurse commented, "those who are smart get everything and those in need are ignorant of their entitlements" (Irish Times, 18 Feb 1982).
It would appear that information about services is as restricted as the services themselves. Many individuals do not have the bureaucratic "literacy" needed to deal with officials. They do not acquire it in the welfare office, since forms are filled out for them and little information is publicly available. The system is too complicated, and has not adjusted to increased demands for social assistance benefits.
Politicians have the expertise to deal with such cases. They look at a person's circumstances, and know whether there are any state benefits the person is entitled to receive. The politician can direct the person where to go and and tell him what to say in order to obtain the benefit. Here then is room for the politician as broker; he gets individuals the services or information which they cannot get for themselves. If officials restrict information about how to apply for benefits, the politician can use his knowledge to manipulate the rules. The individual gets a benefit which he deserves, but which he may have been deprived of without the politician's intervention. This is how some politicians justify their claims that they "get" someone a benefit; without the politician, the individual is helpless. The politicians provide information which can be, but is not, available to anyone. It is a clear example of information confering power, and the politician uses information scarcity to secure political support.
Public housing is an example of a service in which the qualifying criteria is only the first hurdle. It is necessary to reside in the local area for a specific period of time before qualifying for public housing, but only some who qualify obtain a house. The number of houses available is limited by the funds provided for the purchase of land, provision of services, and construction of dwellings; more people qualify for houses than there are houses available. Here, politicians do not simply provide information about who qualifies for housing, they also provide information about procedures and guidelines that can increase one's chances of obtaining housing. In so doing, they are able to claim influence over the allocation of houses; often, the applicant receives "proof" that going to a politician has been helpful (although the "proof" may have little basis in fact).
In the Dublin Corporation area there were almost 6,000 people in 1978 who qualified for a house but who could only be put on a waiting list. As new houses were built, they had a chance of getting one; however, for every applicant who got a house, there was another new applicant at the end of the queue. The criteria used to rank families on the waiting list became crucial, as did the ability of politicians to assist the family in jumping the queue.
Housing is the most frequent problem brought to a politician. But it is one of the most thankless tasks a politician can face. Altering the general conditions which cause the housing shortage is beyond his control. Financing for house construction is provided by the central government; the local authority which is pressured to provide housing cannot increase its construction activities. Only national pressure could provide more housing, but housing rarely becomes a national issue, and there is rarely a concerted effort to make enough funds available to meet the housing need. Thus, the housing scarcity never diminishes, and is never solved.
Housing has always been an important brokerage resource for politicians. In the 1930's, the Fianna Fail government embarked on a large scale building program in order to provide public housing for the poor. Entire areas of Dublin (such as Cabra) were built at this time, and those who obtained housing were grateful to the Fianna Fail government which built them. To this day, working class residents vote for Fianna Fail candidates because the party "gave" them houses. Moreover, a politician often knew when someone was getting the key to his new local authority house and would congratulate him on the house, implying that political intervention got him the house. He might even be at the house when the key was being given to the applicant, as though the politician was personally presenting the house.
Such blatant claims of patronage are no longer made, but more discrete examples persist. Even today, phone calls or letters of congratulation are often sent out by politicians once housing allocations are made; the obvious implication is that the politician has "looked after" the applicant.40
Housing procedures vary from one locale to another; Dublin Corporation's procedures are markedly different from those of County Dublin. The Dublin Corporation method of ranking applicants is the result of agitation in the early 1970's, when people suspected that houses were being allocated on the basis of political influence. As a response to this anxiety, Dublin Corporation established an "objective" set of criteria to assess social need. Individuals are assigned points on the basis of various economic, social, medical, and housing criteria; the number of points allocated determine the applicant's ranking on the waiting list. This method has now been adopted by many other local authorities.
The individual applies for a house and, if he meets the minimum qualifying criteria, provides information on his current living situation. The guidelines are used to assess the individual circumstances and calculate the number of points he gets (roughly, the extent of his social need). After that, it is a question of having enough points to get to the top of the list. Since additional points are added for each year on the waiting list, all applicants should eventually get a house. Individuals are told how many points they have, and can get a rough idea how long it will be before they get a house.
Since houses are given to those with the most points, and points are assigned on the basis of public criteria, it would seem the perfect answer to charges of influence peddling. Nevertheless, people continue to go to politicians. Often, politicians serve simply as secretaries in the matter of housing. In clinics, they take down the applicant's name and details of his case. They check with the Corporation and tell the applicant how many points he has, why he has that number, and what his chances are of getting a house. They do precisely what the applicant could, but does not, do himself. Many politicians are convinced that the voters feel cheated if they have to do it themselves: "sure, isn't that what we elected him for?"
The assistance provided in presenting the applicant's case can be important, because the politician knows both the applicant's situation and the housing guidelines. Circumstances that the applicant might not mention, or know were relevant, are known by the politician and, if relevant, put into the application. The politician ensures that any medical problems that will increase his points are mentioned, or the long distance commuting which will be shortened by a house elsewhere in Dublin is emphasized.
The politician's "translation" of the applicant's circumstances into the proper phrasing can make a substantial difference. Virtually any bureaucrat, such as a social worker or health worker, can provide the same translation, and even many applicants know the system as well as the politicians. But, for those who lack the expertise and get no help from bureaucrats, the politician's assistance makes a difference. It is a contribution that both politician and bureaucrat recognize, some grudgingly and others pridefully.
Politicians may also help an applicant manipulate the points system, and obtain more points than are deserved. An applicant might be told: "make sure the mother-in-law is in the house when the local authority inspector comes", or told to get a certificate from a psychiatrist regarding the stress caused by over-crowding.41 If these strategies work, then the politician is using his knowledge of the system to help the applicant get an undeserved service. Officials insist that such strategies do not work. Medical certificates have to be approved by the local authority medical officer who will himself inspect the patient; housing inspectors do not give warning before inspecting the household.
Often, the politician only provides the illusion of special assistance. He knows that sometimes his strategies work, but sometimes not. Crucially, the efficacy of his action is beyond the applicant's knowledge; the applicant cannot know whether such strategies made a difference or not. At least, the applicant feels that he has received personal attention; some politicians suggest that they provide the personal link that is necessary if people are not to feel completely alienated from the faceless state bureaucracy.
This illusion of special influence also occurs when politicians arrange interviews with local authority officials. Anyone can make an appointment to talk with a social worker in the housing department. He can inquire about the points system and how many points he should have; the social worker can explain the system and alter the applicant's points if the change is justified. Many people prefer, however, to go to a politician and ask him "to do something". The "something" that the politician probably does is make an appointment for the applicant to talk to an official in the housing department. The official whom the applicant sees, however, is going to be a higher official than the one he would have otherwise seen. The applicant comes away feeling that he has gotten special treatment; by virtue of going to the politician, he has obtained a personal audience with a high official when otherwise he would have only talked with the official's subordinates.
The result of talking to the higher official is usually the same as talking with the social worker; the higher official is obliging the politician by seeing the applicant. The official and the politician together create a system in which the applicant seems to get better treatment by going to a politician, but the actual decision usually remains the same. At no cost to the official's ideology of objective assessment, the politician has satisfied the voter's desire for, or expectation of, personal treatment. The image of influence has been created, in parallel with the reality of impersonal assessment. The lack of actual conflict between politician and civil servant permits the required cooperation. The official denies any responsibility for the imagery of influence; he knows that the image is not the reality. Nevertheless, without his assistance, the image could not be maintained by the politicians.
Unlike Dublin Corporation, points in County Dublin are not assigned at the time of application, but are assigned only when houses become available. At that point, housing officials look over the file of housing applicants for that area, and rank them. The information is then presented to the councillors from that area, who have the opportunity to make sure that all applicants have the ranking which they deserve. There is more secrecy in the County system, since people don't know in advance how many points they have or how many points other applicants have. The applicants only see that some people get houses who don't seem to deserve them, presumably through political influence. The personal circumstances which justify the allocation are not visible to outsiders. This problem is exacerbated in County housing because preference is given to applicants from the area in which the new houses are built. Disappointed applicants are likely to know those who obtain housing, whereas the process is more anonymous in the Corporation area.
Not all claims by politicians are illusory; a politician's knowledge can make a difference in housing allocations. For example, one applicant was applying in the wrong area. By switching the applicant to another area, in which there was a shorter waiting list, the applicant quickly got the house. The applicant felt that it was the councillor who got her the house, which was true in the sense that without his action, she would have had to wait much longer.
Occasionally, when forced by the Labour Party, Dublin County Council has debated proposals to assess points immediately upon application and tell people what their points are. Both Fianna Fail and Fine Gael councillors always opposed such motions. Some have said that calculating points only when houses are allocated is more accurate because the information is up-to-date. Others have pointed out that the number of points required in different housing areas vary, 20 points in one area would get a house, while 40 points in another area would not. If the points were public, people would have unreasonable expectations and be disappointed when they didn't get housed. The applicant's welfare was best protected, it was argued, by trusting the councillors to act in their best interests, and the councillors should have the strength not to give in to proposals that would "disturb the general populace". At the best, this suggests that citizens are dependent on politicians and incapable of acting on their own behalf. At worst, it shows politicians maintaining their monopoly over housing information and continuing to take credit for getting someone a house.
Information and expertise are acquired by politicians, but they are not restricted to them. Many politicians report that many of those coming to them often know the rules as well as the politicians themselves. One politician estimated that every second person coming to him for housing knew every bit as much as he himself did, and a few knew ways to manipulate the rules that he himself did not know. In the Dublin Corporation area, applicants have been known to collaborate with their landlord in order to be evicted. If evicted, they knew they would then qualify as an emergency case and would receive priority over virtually everyone else on the list. In extreme cases, applicants have even been known to intentionally set fire to their flat, in order to qualify for emergency rehousing.42
There are other services which are similar to housing, in that there are not sufficient funds to provide the service for everyone who actually qualifies. For example, until about 1981, it required years to obtain a phone for a private house, and politicians were frequently asked to speed up the installation of a private, or even a public, phone.43 Similarly, numerous people apply for job training schemes operated by AnCO, and ask politicians for assistance in getting a place. Those applying for jobs in the semi-state sector (e.g., the E.S.B. or C.I.E.) may also ask a politician for help. The result is similar to the result in local authority housing: the bureaucrats support the politician's image of influence without actually altering their own decisions. In the case of AnCO, political intervention led to an applicant getting an interview when no intervention would have meant no interview. But the end result was the same: no acceptance into the training scheme. From AnCO's perspective, they protected themselves from the politician by providing the interview. AnCO could tell the politician that they gave the applicant every chance, and they could not be accused of ignoring the politician. They know that, even if they reject the applicant, the politician is probably still satisfied -- he can now show that, due to his intervention, the applicant got special treatment. Once again, politician and bureaucrat collaborate to provide the image of personal attention and yet the reality of objective assessment.
Medical assistance is another state benefit which is in great demand, and is a common brokerage commodity. Up to 1970, local authorities were responsible for medical services within their area. Rising health costs and the need for an integrated national system of hospital and medical services led to the establishment of regional Health Boards in 1970. Regional Health Boards are responsible to a central government department (Health), but are under the general direction of local Board members. The Health Boards administer hospitals, community care programs, and special programs for the young and elderly, as well as the medical card scheme.
Those who pass a means test receive a General Medical Service card ("medical card") which entitles them to free health service. A medical card entitles an individual to a wide range of medical services, and any treatment which a doctor feels is needed can be prescribed, regardless of the individual's inability to pay. Such a carte blanche makes the medical card greatly desired. In 1980, approximately 40% of the population had medical cards, and this was a large increase on the 1972 figure of 29%.
There are wide variations throughout the country in the number of people qualifying for free health services; in the North Western Health Board, over 57% qualified while less than 23% qualified in the Eastern Health Board (which includes Dublin). This variation results from the concentrated areas in the west and northwest which are dependent on agriculture but where farm incomes and incomes in general are low (Curry 1980:180). The lowest figure is the Greater Dublin Area, where only 21.3% are covered. In theory, each regional Health Board is autonomous; it makes its own decisions, using its own eligibility criteria to decide who qualifies for medical benefits. However, the eligibility rules for medical cards must have the approval of the Department of Health, and a complex formula is used to assess standard of living. Income, rent paid out, medical expenses and the like are used to determine whether or not a medical card should be granted.
General policy is determined by locally nominated members of the regional Health Board. Almost half the members are nominated by various medical organizations, while slightly over half the members are local councillors, nominated by their County Councils. The administrative structure is markedly less rigid and impersonal than in central government departments. The relationship between "client" and official is quite different, partly at least due to this flexible and responsive administrative structure. The decision-making process is relatively open to inspection and the staff is accessible to outsiders.
Central government guidelines would appear to leave little room for influence or "string-pulling"; people either have too much money or not enough and the measures used to gauge economic status seem objective. Borderline cases result from potentially different interpretations of the individual's economic and social circumstances. Any individual may appeal the decision in his own case, or any legitimate community representative (priest, social worker, or politician) may appeal on his behalf.
Information about entitlements is easily available from various health board offices, and officials are willing to explain how decisions are made. Those who dispute the decisions can appeal, and the officials seem willing to consider the matter without prejudice. Medical card appeals are judged solely on the merits of the case and can be seen to be so. Interviews with officials in the Eastern Health Board supported the claims of impartiality. Officials frequently receive representations from councillors who are members of the Health Board, councillors and TDs within the Health Board's area, and even Ministers. Usually, the politician asks why a particular person has not received a medical card, or asks for the person's case to be re-examined. Sometimes the politician provides new evidence, but, equally, the politician often merely asks that an application form be forwarded to the person, with a note that it was sent following the Deputy's request.
Unless new information is presented, the politician's intervention is unlikely to alter the Board's decision. Officials in the Health Board view the politicians' interventions very unfavorably. The politician is seen as creating a false impression in order to get a political reward; they claim to be able to "get" people medical cards in order to enhance their prestige. Few of them make a positive contribution to the process of getting medical services to people in need. They merely try to take whatever credit they can for providing services which the person deserves anyway.
Medical cards seem to epitomize the idea of "imaginary patronage": politicians claim to "get" someone an entitlement which the person can get himself. Personnel are available to provide information about eligibility rules and application procedures; there should be no need to turn to the politician for such information. Despite this, voters ask politicians for assistance, and they may have good reason to approach politicians. There is always a grey area when an applicant might or might not qualify; officials admitted that in such cases, more information provided by a politician might tip the scale in favor of the applicant. This is not a case of officials giving in to political pressure; politicians often present a case more effectively than the applicant himself. Politicians deal with similar cases all the time, and know how to fill out the application forms to a client's best advantage; the applicant has no reason to have gained this expertise.
Can the applicant obtain the same expertise from the Health Board officials? More importantly, does the applicant believe that officials try their best to help those in need? It seems that they do not, as politicians report that medical cards represent a large number of brokerage requests. One reason for this may be the type of people who need medical cards. A survey carried out by the Department of Health in 1977 indicated that in the Eastern Health Board region (including Dublin), 30% of medical card holders were welfare recipients, and another 31% were unemployed (Curry 1980:184). There is a core of people in Dublin who are dependent on the state for a wide range of social services, and who interact with a range of different government agencies. The lessons learned from interactions with some state agencies are applied to all state agencies indiscriminately, included the Health Boards. Although Health Board personnel can be contacted, information is easily available, and decisions are (relatively speaking) open to inspection and challenge, this is not the case for the vast majority of government agencies providing social services. The Health Boards are thus tarred with the same clientelist brush, whether deservedly or not.
There are many state benefits which, by definition, must benefit an entire community or neighborhood, such as roads, schools, parks, libraries and so on. Community amenities are often in greater demand in suburban areas, but there is a general demand for them everywhere. To be able to claim credit for securing such amenities makes an entire community indebted to a politician, and enhances the politician's community reputation.44 Politicians often claim to be instrumental in providing a community benefit, but are often simply the first ones to hear about it.
There are many areas of public expenditure which require significant capital investment and for which groups wait for long periods. Various interest and community groups lobby local politicians regarding the building of schools, establishment of factories, or provision of telephone exchanges. When such a benefit is provided, it is credited to the politician who has been making representations on behalf of his constituency. Politicians claim that the provision of the service for their local area was a result of their intervention. There is rarely any denial from civil servants; they are bound to silence and are, in theory, merely the agents of the Minister.
The only problem comes from other politicians who may make similar claims. Since there is rarely any evidence one way or another, it becomes a question of tactics -- which politician can manage the flow of information so as to convince people he is the benefactor. Politicians belong to the party in Government usually have an advantage, since Ministers give advance warning to local politicians when something benefiting their area will soon be announced. The local politician then anticipates the announcement by telling people that he "has been onto his friend the Minister" regarding a school, or a road, or telephones, and was hopeful of results. When the service is announced, it is clear to all concerned that the local politician's influence paid off. He can even create the need for a service which he knows is about to be provided, thus enabling him to claim credit for providing a service which the voters did not previously want and which was going to be provided anyway (cf. Higgins 1982).
In this chapter, a range of state services have been examined. Politicians' monopoly over information permits them to help voters obtain state services and exaggerate their influence over the allocation of those services. The politician's intervention sometimes provides new information, or presents the applicant's case better. For many state services, the latter results are common, and the provision of medical cards best exemplifies this. In other cases, politicians' monopoly over knowledge permits them to make unjustified claims. Political intervention produces the illusion of special treatment, without making a substantial difference in the outcome. This is the common occurrence in the provision of public housing, in interviews for jobs and training courses.
At its most general, information-based brokerage involves "selling" information about bureaucratic procedures which outsiders find difficult to obtain. As one politician said,
It is impossible [for people] to get quick answers to simple inquiries on matters to which there may have been a strict entitlement. Deputies are forced to interfere and further clog up the administrative process. (Dail Debates v.339(5), para. 550)
Politicians ensure that applicants obtain services they already qualify for. The discussion of the social welfare system exemplifies this; a closed decision-making system seems to deny applicants the information they need, so advocates are necessary.
The ability of politicians to function as information brokers requires the consent and cooperation of administrators. Applicants believe that bureaucrats do not want to provide services and bureaucrats do not actively counter such beliefs. Many of their practices actually encourage, and reinforce, such beliefs. For instance, in central government departments, the person who makes decisions is rarely identified. Civil servants are often unwilling to give their names to people with whom they deal, and try to avoid public contact. Generally, information is treated as potentially harmful, and no one gives away information without a good reason, especially to strangers.45 Lack of information and lack of trust make political brokerage an insurance policy for voters. Since the applicants do not trust bureaucrats, they look to advocates who can manipulate the rules to provide, rather than deny, assistance. Bureaucratic secrecy and complexity create the barrier between individuals and state services, which creates the demand for mediators.
People prefer to deal with politicians rather than civil servants, and are more satisfied with the outcome when they do see politicians. In the IPA survey, people were asked how satisfied they had been after contacting politicians or officials. People who had gone to a politician were clearly more satisfied than those who had gone to an official. This is not surprising since it is the politician's job to keep people satisfied regardless of the outcome of the intervention. Officials administer the system, and their jobs do not depend on people's satisfaction nor do their careers suffer if people are dissatisfied. In contrast, the politician must make every effort to soothe, sympathize and comfort, and people leaving a clinic feel that at least they have gotten someone to listen, even if the problem isn't solved. People leaving an official are likely to feel frustrated.
Politicians function as public advocates, but this function can be fulfilled by government institutions or any other organization possessing the relevant information. Politicians have been referred to as "glorified social workers", and many have taken this as a compliment. One politician commented that, "to be a Deputy a person needs to be a solicitor, psychologist, psychiatrist, accountant, social worker, and so on" (Dail Debates, v.339(5), para. 574). Like social workers, they must have, at their fingertips, a vast range of information about benefits, which they then match with the specific case in front of them. Like social workers, they make sure that individuals obtain every benefit which they might qualify for. Ironically, various state organizations actually employ people who could fulfill this function. For instance, Dublin Corporation and the County Council both employ community development workers, and the Eastern Health Board employs social workers. However, their focus is a narrowly defined and restricted by the organizations they work for, and they can provide only specific services for specified "targets". Social workers employed by the Health Boards focus only on the elderly, the handicapped, and the mentally ill, and can only provide a limited range of services for them. They have no mandate to examine the situation from the individual's point of view and provide broader assistance. Therefore, they are not ones that local individuals or groups look to for help.
In recent times, organizations have been established to provide an alternative to people's dependence on politicians. Throughout Ireland, there exist Community Information Centres (CICs). These are local offices, staffed by local volunteers, but the workers are trained and given relevant literature by a national agency. The volunteers are often well informed and can assist people in their dealings with bureaucracy; their aim is to ensure that people know about their just entitlements. They are accepted by the bureaucracy as "legitimate" organizations, and can appeal cases and otherwise act as advocates on behalf of clients. Unlike politicians, they encourage people to deal with officials directly, rather than simply transferring dependence from politicians to the information centers.
The CICs have not yet made an impact, as many people in the local communities either don't know about them or prefer not to go to strangers about personal business. Increased publicity has improved the situation. A spokesman for the national organization has been appearing on a popular radio show in the past five years. Prior to this, there had been about 40,000 questions per year nationally. As a result of his regular appearances, people have become more aware of the CICs in their own area and questions increased to 75,000 annually in 1983. The success of CICs also seems to depend on local factors, such as the ability of the volunteers in particular areas. In some areas, a strong local commitment has led to large numbers of people using the Centre (e.g., Tallaght and the Liberties). Tallaght is physically remote from the offices where social welfare forms must be processed; when a mail strike prevented easy access, the Tallaght CIC acted as intermediary. They accepted the forms and then transported them in bulk to the various offices. People came to the CIC in large numbers where before they would never have thought of it. Once the strike was over, the CIC volunteers found that many people continued to come to them for advice. The CICs may increase in importance and provide an alternate access to state bureaucracy, but, for the moment, politicians remain the preferred mediator for brokerage problems.
For politicians, their monopoly over information is an especially useful political resource because it is relatively "cheap" brokerage: it does not involve any significant expenditure of state money. Bureaucrats are less likely to resist politicians interventions which don't cost money. Even better, politicians do not need to compete with one another over which politician will get a bigger "slice of the pie". There is an unlimited, rather than finite, number of "slices" available, and so politicians can cooperate, to assist each other in claiming influence.46 Information brokerage is also "cheap" in that it does not require a great investment by the politician. He does not expend much political "capital" in providing the benefit. Often, he can claim to have been effective when he does no more than spend two minutes dictating a letter or three minutes on the phone to a local official.
The "cheapness" of information brokerage helps explain how politicians resolve a dilemma raised in an earlier chapter. They are aware that much of their brokerage activity is not rewarded by any direct return of votes or personal support. Often they can only hope that voters feel a moral obligation to help the politician who has helped them. The question was raised as to why politicians should engage in activities that provide such marginal benefits. This chapter shows that such activities actually require only marginal investment by the politicians. The time, energy, and personal reputation they invest in such brokerage is as minimal as the return they receive.
Not all brokerage revolves around information. In some situations, political intervention makes a substantial difference, and a politician actually is able to alter the criteria by which decisions are made or make the decision himself. Equally important, there are a vast range of benefits in which political intervention does not alter the outcome but does lead to a much quicker decision. The ability to alter bureaucratic decisions is a resource of a very different sort than that of information control, and will be discussed in the next chapter.
A key issue in political clientelism is the extent to which political influence can actually get resources to people who would not otherwise qualify for them. Here is the nub of political brokerage: are politicians actually able to deliver "prizes" and so privatize the public provision of common benefits? Do some voters who go to politicians and become their supporters receive tangible benefit in return? This is an issue on which previous studies of Irish political clientelism have differed.
In some cases, politicians are indeed able to deliver public goods or "prizes", and people receive a benefit which they could not have received through other means. Planning is one area where interventions by politicians actually do alter the outcome of decisions taken by local officials; providing amenities and repairing local authority houses are other areas where a politician's action influences the allocation of resources. There are also areas in which political intervention does not alter the outcome, but does lead to a much quicker decision.
Although politicians operate simultaneously in both the local and national political arenas, there is a sharp demarcation between the local and national administrative structure. The structure of government departments and the procedures for the provision of central government services is quite distinct from the structure of local authorities and the provision of local authority services. It is thus essential to distinguish between political influence over national level versus local level services. Since the national and local structures of government are different, it is not surprising that the character of politician-bureaucrat interactions is different in the two arenas. Generally, politicians can only speed up the provision of services allocated by central government departments, but cannot deliver undeserved "prizes". Politicians have greater influence over local authority services, and are able to obtain special benefits for their clients. This becomes clear as each arena is examined separately.
At the national level, politicians have access to the administrative process through their positions as Dail Deputies. Decisions regarding benefits are made by civil servants who are part of the administrative, rather than political, structure. In theory, the provision of state benefits is not a matter for politicians' interventions; in practice, they use whatever resources they have to obtain special treatment for their constituents.
To exercise influence over bureaucrats' decisions, politicians must have formal or informal sanctions at their disposal, in order to threaten bureaucrats who do not respond to their inquiries. Civil servants are not directly responsible to politicians; they are responsible to their Minister, who is then accountable to the Dail. A Minister is the ultimate authority in the department; he is responsible for all the decisions in his department, and TDs can ask him to explain and justify decisions by his civil servants. Accountability to the Dail is exercised through the parliamentary question (PQ), which makes the PQ the most vital resource which TDs in the opposition party possess in their attempts to influence the actions of civil servants.
The PQ is directed by a TD to the Minister responsible for a particular department. It must be submitted at least three days in advance, and the question then appears on the agenda (the Order Paper). One hour a day, when the Dail is in session, is reserved for PQs, and the TD eventually has the chance to formally ask his question. If he asks for a verbal reply, he (and any other TDs present at the time) has a chance to ask follow up questions. Often, however, the TD simply asks for a written reply. The written reply may provide sufficient information for a TD to look good in his constituency. A PQ is also used to put pressure on civil servants to expedite a particular case.
In theory, a TD asks a Minister to explain his actions regarding general policy or specific administrative decisions. In practice, TDs use PQs to help individual constituents or locales with particular problems. The following are typical questions, from a random Question Time (26 May 1982; Dail Debates, v.335 No. 1):
806 Mr. Keegan asked the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs when his department will be in a position to install a telephone kiosk at Castledaly, Athlone, County Westmeath.
878 Mr. J. Bruton asked the Minister for Education when the grant in respect of the provision of indoor toilets at Cortown national school, County Meath will be provided.
957 Mr. Begley asked the Minister for Social Welfare the reason why unemployment benefit is not being paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry.
970 Mr. F. Fahey asked the Minister for the Environment the present position in relation to the payment of a 1,000 new house grant to a person (name supplied) in County Galway.
Questions in the Dail are a source of concern to Ministers and civil servants because Question Time is one of the few areas of risk and potential embarrassment in government administration. The Dail is not primarily a legislative body, it is an arena for political disputes between parties. The audience for disputes is the general public, party supporters, and the members of the Dail themselves. A wrangle in the Dail generates publicity which benefits one party and humiliates others; it reassures the party faithful and provides them with an explanation for party actions; and it increases one's standing amongst party colleagues (and competitors). It is an arena for political competition involving individuals with complex motives and goals, and is not relevant either for drafting legislation or oversight of administrative actions. PQs are just another part of the ongoing political competition. The civil servants are providing administrative information which will be ammunition for political conflicts.
Potentially, any civil servant's prepared reply for his Minister could be used to embarrass the Minister giving the reply. Ministerial displeasure is not directly focused on the civil servant, but it is indirectly felt. Replies that cause political difficulties for a Minister cause difficulties for the civil servant who prepares the reply. The Minister makes things difficult for the Secretary (civil servant department head), who makes things difficult for his subordinates. Thus, civil servants are careful when preparing replies. The reply is drafted with a view to giving as little away as possible and not providing any ammunition for possible attacks by the TD. Too much information can only cause trouble, too little information never causes problems. The best reply to a PQ is the shortest: "No".
When a TD submits a PQ, it receives special attention. It goes to a special sub-section of the relevant government department which handles all such business, and is put into a special file folder. It is then directed to the official who knows the particular case. A reply is drafted and returned to the special sub-section, which may send the draft back if it does not protect the Minister well enough. If necessary, a better reply is drafted. The final reply includes the answer to the PQ, as well as answers to possible supplementary questions which might be asked. The answer is designed to say as little as possible and provide no opening for further supplementary questions which could prove difficult to answer. If the civil servant's efforts are successful, the reply is made in the Dail and the Minister passes on, quickly, to the next question. If the reply is unsuccessful, the TD will be able to ask further questions which may show the Minister in a bad light.
TDs are aware that civil servants try to avoid revealing anything. A great deal of expertise is necessary to learn how to phrase questions so as to elicit the answer desired. Often, TDs must submit additional PQs in order to clarify ambiguous answers and eventually get the specific information required; this process may take months and even years. One TD said that he never bothered asking a PQ unless he knew in advance what the answer would be. Otherwise, he was too easily misled by the civil servant's reply.
TDs ask questions not only to embarrass the opposition, but also to help constituents. Often, submitting the question is sufficient threat to produce the desired response, and by the time the question comes up for answer, the case has been expedited. Even the threat of submitting a PQ speeds up the processing of a constituent's case. As one politician said,
I used to spend frustrating hours on the telephone without getting any satisfaction from the Departments. Then I decided to put down a written question. Within a week I had my reply . . . (Dail Debates, January 1983, v. 339(5), para 575).
Civil servants have strong reasons for responding quickly to politician's interventions. A displeased politician can cause problems for the civil servant; a displeased citizen can do little that will cause the civil servant difficulty. Inevitably, civil servants respond quicker to politicians than they do to citizens. The result of a politicians' intervention is not always a different decision, but it is certainly a quicker one. Politicians thus have access to bureaucrats, while the public suffers from passive neglect.
Fear of a superior's displeasure is not the only reason why special attention is given to politicians. While many civil servants have little regard for the individual politician who happens to be their Minister, they still have regard for the office of Minister. Whatever the failings of an individual Ministers, civil servants still do not want him to look bad in the Dail. He represents their department and, for the honor of the department, they try their best to protect the Minister. In addition, a Minister who looks good in the Dail gains prestige in the Cabinet. Thus, he will successfully present the department's case when meeting with other Ministers and obtain a greater share of government funds.
TDs from the party in power are less able to use PQs to threaten civil servants, because the threat implicit in PQs is not, in their case, credible. They do not wish to embarrass a Minister of their own party. On the other hand, TDs from the government party have special access to Ministers via the party structure. Pressure put on the department by a Minister is as effective as the threat of Ministerial embarrassment through a PQ. In addition, such TDs receive other benefits as well. They often receive advance notification, from the Minister, of government actions which benefit the constituency. The advance notice lets them take local credit for "getting" the particular benefit. They often also receive advance notification of decisions which the opposition has forced the department to take, so that they may claim the credit instead of the rival TD.
The system is not strictly one of government TDs going to the Minister and opposition TDs asking PQs of the civil servants. There are also personal contacts among politicians of differing political parties. Ministers are not always adverse to helping opposition TDs, and contacts across party lines can be useful. Long years of common membership in the Dail "club" creates inevitable friendships. It is even possible, given the intra-party conflicts that characterize Irish politics, for a Minister to prefer helping an opposition TD rather than a government TD who may be a rival or the supporter of a rival. The extent to which a Minister pressures his own civil servants on behalf of different TDs reflects the conflicts and alliances among party members.
Officially, there is very little that can happen to a civil servant who is unhelpful. It is unlikely that he will be fired, and, since promotion depends more on seniority than ability, he will probably be promoted when his time comes. None-the-less, civil servants have reason to appear responsive. New jobs or tasks given to him depend on his superior's judgement. It is common practice in any bureaucracy to punish people by assigning them boring and low prestige jobs. By contrast, a civil servant who shows himself able to deal with politicians is likely to be offered more responsible jobs. Finally, few office workers are able to withstand the disapproval of their co-workers; "letting down the side" by giving politicians a chance to criticize the department is not a way to win friends.
While TDs can, through PQs and the threat of embarrassment, force the review of a particular case, or speed up the processing of a case, in none of these cases has the TD actually influenced the decision process. No one has received a benefit to which they were not entitled, although politicians have profited from their special access to bureaucrats.
There are major expenditures, such as schools and road construction, which concern all individuals in the constituency. To appear to demonstrate influence over major government projects assists the politician in his efforts to obtain support from uncommitted voters and cement the support of party voters. But how much power do TDs have over policy matters which affect their local constituencies?
This question revolves on two issues. First, how much influence does a TD have with the Minister? Second, how much influence does a Minister have over decisions in his department? The first depends on the dynamics of Irish politics, the second on the relationship between Ministers who make policy and civil servants who carry out the Ministers' decisions.
There are numerous reasons why a Minister may be prepared to exert influence on behalf of a TD. He may be building support which can be used in conflicts with other ranking party members. For example, the election of party leader is a crucial battleground in party politics. Members of the Parliamentary Party (TDs only in Fianna Fail, TDs and Senators in Fine Gael) each have one vote, and support may be solicited years in advance. In the early 1980's, there were competitions over the party leadership of Fianna Fail in which the contestants had built support for decades previously. Gaining the future support of a TD is sufficient reason for a Minister to pressure his civil servants. Ministerial interventions can also weaken an opponents's position by helping the opponent's rival. Fianna Fail has been severely divided in recent years; Ministerial interventions are used to help supporters and undercut rivals. Since Ministers are party competitors, each one's supporters are targets of others.
In addition to party conflict, party cooperation may have created personal bonds between Ministers and TDs: help on a canvass, or during a by-election, or even old ties between families. The scope for personal ties is enhanced by the practice (more common in Fianna Fail than Fine Gael or Labour) of appointing Ministers and Ministers of State on a regional basis. It is expected that every area will have some Ministerial representation in order to reassure voters and party supporters that all areas have equal influence over government decisions. Otherwise, a region's voters believe that there is no one to look after their interests in competitions with other areas. TDs have a "local" Minister who mediates for them.
There are also party reasons for helping local politicians. On the basis of past voting patterns, some constituencies are known to be marginal. Local politicians are helped, or "built up", in hopes of securing an extra seat in the next election. Similarly, some parts of a constituency are weaker than others, and so special effort is put into enhancing the party image in that area.
If the motivation for intervention through Ministerial pressure is clear, the effectiveness of intervention is not. Civil servants are supposed to make decisions without reference to political intervention, but this is one of the most secretive areas of Irish government, and interpretations of what happens vary depending on one's position. Some decisions are clearly the result of Ministerial interventions and are designed to obtain electoral support, others are not.
Decisions are usually subject to conflicting interpretations, and the truth is known only by a very few. For example, the allocation of a government scheme to one local area was explained by party workers as a political attempt to bolster the sagging image of a local politician. The bureaucrats' explanation pointed to various demographic factors. The bureaucrats' explanation was seen as only a "cover story" by political activists, and visa versa. The few who actually know (Ministers and top civil servants) are not likely to reveal whether it is a case of actual influence or claimed influence. As in many government decisions, with insufficient information to prove or disprove competing claims, politicians profit from the ambiguity to exaggerate their influence.
In some ways, it is easier for politicians to intervene in major decisions than minor decisions. Major financial allocations are viewed by civil servants as policy decisions; as such, they are legitimate political decisions and non-bureaucratic criteria may be used. By contrast, the provision of schools or telephone exchanges for one area rather than another is the administration of policy, and beyond the scope of legitimate intervention.
Politicians' influence over bureaucrats' decisions on individual cases or general policy need not depend soley on sanctions derived from formal political office. Personal links between politician and civil servant can provide an alternate conduit for influence. Personal links can be divided into two categories: they may be politically based (developing out of formal interactions), or they may be based on extra-political social links. A civil servant can, as a friend, assist the TD in getting through a dubious grant application. The TD can equally, as a friend, use his political contacts to get the civil servant's son a job with a local industrial concern. With a national population of just over three million, social links between politicians and civil servants should be inevitable. Perhaps they have friends or relations in common, they come from the same county, they now live in the same area, or they belong to the same clubs. Perhaps the politician's wife once worked with the civil servant's brother-in-law. Connections are quickly discovered, and provide the initial social bond out of which a personal relationship can develop. At the very least, long-serving politicians, dealing with the same bureaucrats for years, should develop "working relationships" that make each other's tasks easier.
There is surprisingly little scope for personal contacts to develop out of formal politician-bureaucrat interactions. Contacts between TDs and civil servants tend to be impersonal. Representations take place via letter or telephone; a TD or his secretary rarely talks to a civil servant in person. In addition, representations are funnelled through a special section, rather than directly to the civil servants actually concerned. A TD deals with the Department as an anonymous unit, and direct access to responsible bureaucrats is relatively difficult, as they are insulated by intervening layers of other bureaucrats. The discovery of common social links or the development of "working relationships" is difficult when the opportunity for face-to-face interactions is minimal.
Senior politicians are likely to be exceptions to this general rule. Many of them have served in government previously, and they have had personal contacts with high ranking civil servants in various departments. The civil servants, for their part, respond to politicians who might, at any time, become government members again and thus able to influence career and department allocations. Since backbench TDs can become Ministers in ten years time, civil servants will be respectful to them as well. No one wants to make an enemy of a politician who may become a superior, or a friend of one's superior, in a few years.
Opposition spokesmen cultivate contacts in the departments they are concerned with, but this is of very limited use. Civil servants are very nervous about such contacts, which, in any event, can only provide general gossip about conditions in the department, rather than information about specific cases. Although party spokesmen also have high level contacts with civil servants, in order to be briefed on various issues, their contacts will be circumspect since there is an adversary relationship between opposition spokesmen and Minister's civil servants.
Through the party structure, politicians can deal with a civil servant who also is a party activist. Officially, no civil servant is supposed to be an active member of a political party. In addition, he has signed the Official Secrets Act, which requires that he not reveal state information to outsiders (including fellow political activists). If he does, he is subject to prosecution; in Ireland, the Official Secrets Act covers virtually all bureaucratic activity. Some bureaucrats are known, however, to be party activists. This is clearly revealed when individuals are promoted after a new government has come to power (and then transferred if that government is replaced). However, activists are more useful for forming party policy, than in assisting individual TDs with particular problems. Even when TDs may have access to departmental information in this way, the information isn't always sufficient to alter decisions. In any event, rank and file TDs need contacts across the entire range of government departments with which they must deal; one or two contacts are insufficient. By and large, few bureaucrats are party activists, so there is little scope for contacts.
The only way around this structured impersonalism, for rank and file TDs, is membership in Dail committees. Unfortunately, cabinet government, combined with strong party discipline, renders the legislative committee system relatively impotent. What use is a Dail committee when everyone knows that the Dail will do whatever the Cabinet decides? Despite this, such committees offer some possibilities. For instance, one committee exists to scrutinize State Sponsored Bodies, which depend on government money but are independent of close Ministerial supervision. As the Committee examines each semi-state body in turn, there is scope to develop personal contacts. The heads of semi-state bodies can be subjected to considerable ridicule and pressure at committee hearings; an unfavorable report can adversely affect future budget requests. Even without the threat which the committee represents, continual meetings provide an arena for personal discussion. TDs on the committee have leverage, by their standards, over the semi-state bodies and can expect special attention when they bring problems to the attention of one of them. Some TDs welcome service on the committee for just this reason while others welcome the chance to get "revenge" for previous unresponsiveness.
For most civil servants, the risk of helping TDs outweighs any possible gain. Civil servants remark that Ireland is so small that if they help politicians, it will come out and this will harm one's career. They find it hard to imagine what gain would justify the risk of probable disclosure. Political promotions of civil servants do exist, but they are restricted to the higher levels of administration. Here, the gain of promotion may be worth the stigma of political connections; elsewhere, it isn't.
If few personal ties develop out of the interactions between politician and civil servant, what of common social ties? Common origin, common University friends, and overlapping social life all provide shared links; the politician's political, economic and social contacts are a resource which civil servants need, just as civil servants have resources politicians need.
In practice there are few social contacts between politician and civil servant. First and foremost, contacts are "improper"; they create the appearance of unethical contacts. Furthermore, until recently, civil servants were recruited early and spent their life in the civil service, isolated from the broader society. Politicians, on the other hand, become TDs by working their way up through a local political organization and being able to command support in a local constituency. Hence, there is little common experience to provide social contacts.
The social and educational gulf between the two groups is beginning to lessen, as more and more politicians and civil servants share a common University education. Government and backbench TDs are now more likely to have a University education (see Chubb 1982:225; Farrell, D., 1984), and University graduates now enter the civil service at a middle management level (Administrative Officer grade). University graduates who took classes together or were members of the same social clubs now find links which cut across the political versus administrative divide (although the number of University educated civil servants is still small). The potential benefits of these contacts can be overestimated, since the ability of an individual bureaucrat to alter decisions is limited. Any alterations must be sanctioned by a superior and usually result from pressure from Ministers.
The major gain from a "friendly" civil servant is information. A politician learns about bureaucratic procedures, and the disposition of individual cases. This information can then be used to exert pressure on the bureaucracy. For example, the TD phrases his PQs more effectively and is not misled by the evasive answers that emerge. He thus forces bureaucrats to respond.
Generally, personal influence does not seem to be a crucial issue. Major changes in the allocation of resources (e.g., a new school or road) benefit particular TDs, but these changes are the result of Ministerial, rather than civil servants', decisions. For substantial matters, the TD goes to the Minister concerned and applies political pressure. Thus, he does not need to invest undue time in creating extra-political ties that only marginally increase his efficacy as a broker.
Local government is based on specific powers delegated by law by central government. Local councillors are delegated broad powers to set overall policy, which local officials then administer. In theory, councillors have no authority over day-to-day decisions. In practice, the authority to set policy also gives councillors influence over the administration of individual cases. Politicians often exercise influence over local authorities' decisions, unlike central government departments' decisions.
The relationship between councillors and local officials differs from the relationship between TDs and civil servants. Many politicians are both national and local representatives; they are emphatic about their preference for working with local officials over central government civil servants. They find local officials easy to get along with: understanding, responsive, and flexible. Where civil servants are anonymous and contacted by phone or letter, local officials are known by name and contacted in person. In short, local officials are willing to pay attention to politicians.
This different attitude is partially due to differences in scale. The number of councillors and officials interacting with one another is fewer at the local level. Since the scale is smaller and the frequency of interaction much greater, it is easier to develop the working and personal relationships that the national arena lacks. It is not surprising that while TDs and civil servants treat each other as adversaries, both councillors and local officials characterize their relationship as "working together".
One way a councillor influences the administration of services is through participation on committees. Local authorities organize themselves differently from one area to the next, and so the procedures for influencing housing, planning, and community services vary. Dublin Corporation has one planning committee and one housing committee; each examines all cases in the Corporation jurisdiction. The committee's recommendations are passed on to the entire Council for final decision.
In contrast, the County Council organizes itself primarily on a regional basis. Thus, there is the North County committee, the South County committee, and so on. Each committee deals with planning, housing, and local amenities for its' area. The regional rather than functional organization of the County Council is an inevitable result of Dublin's geography. Dublin Corporation's central position effectively separates the northern, western, and southern areas of the County. A County councillor is unlikely to know much about areas of the County other than his own. Since councillors' advice is justified by their experience of local conditions, a councillor from North County would not have the experience to suggest policy for South County. Councillors from each area safeguard their own autonomy, and although the County Council has general monthly meetings, only policy matters affecting the entire County are discussed.
Many of the services which officials administer and which councillors try to obtain are in limited supply, and both officials and councillors are powerless to increase that supply. Not only is the scope of local power limited by national legislation, but their finances are also determined by central government.47 The latter determines how much a local authority has to spend, and even, to a great extent, the way the money is spent. These constraints mean that local authorities can often do little more than decide which particular person gets a house; they cannot increase the number of houses being built and they cannot even decide the criteria by which houses are allocated (since the central government provides "guidelines").
Politicians try to get their constituents as many of the available resources as possible. Thus, in public housing, sewerage and water facilities, local amenities, and roads, the councillor seeks his "fair share" (or more) and competes with other councillors who try to get the most possible for their area. Politicians' vigilance prevents any one politician from obtaining undeserved benefits for individual clients; other politicians will use bureaucratic rules to restrain any politician who attempts to get too much for his area or his clients. In the end, the allocation of services is relatively fair and immune from political excesses.
Yet, some services are not in limited supply. Planning is a regulatory function; individuals and businesses have to get permission from the local authority before they can build new structures or significantly alter existing ones. From a politician's perspective, planning differs from other services in that the granting of a permission does not mean fewer permissions for other politicians' clients. Councillors work together to push through planning permissions so that each councillor can reward his clients. The other difference is that the personal reward for delivering planning "prizes" can be enormous. It is thus worthwhile to examine the local authorities exercise of its' planning powers in some detail, and then consider other services which local authorities provide.
Under the 1963 Planning Act,48 the local authority is responsible for devising guidelines for future development and ensuring that all new construction and alterations in existing buildings satisfy planning regulations. Planning has become a crucial patronage resource for local politicians. It is one area in which politicians control overall policy and influence individual decisions. Planning decisions do not require financial expenditure; the local authority acts as a regulator. Planning decisions involve little public expenditure, but they can mean significant profit or loss for private individuals. If political influence alters planning decisions, then politicians control a resource of significant value to business interests, and this constitutes a useful patronage resource.
Planning permissions are especially important in County Dublin because much of Dublin's growth is taking place in the previously rural County area. Land which is zoned for agriculture will triple in value once rezoned for residential development (cf. Jennings 1980:25). Property developers increase their profit substantially if they get planning permission for a greater number of houses per square kilometer or if they reduce the amount of "open space" (public park area) they are expected to provide. The potential profit for private speculators makes politicians the recipients of a variety of inducements.
The County's area committees meet twice a month, once for "general purposes" (including housing) and once for planning. The committee is informed of all planning applications for the area. Although planning decisions are legally the sole responsibility of the Manager, the councillors comment on the applications. They request planning files in order to examine the applications before making comments, and they also talk with planning officials informally.
Applications for planning permission are submitted directly to the local planning officials. If the application is rejected, the case can be appealed. Revised applications can be submitted, in hopes of eventually getting one approved. People often go to councillors after the first application is rejected, hoping that the councillor will help them get the next application approved. Planners prefer working out acceptable compromises between applicants, neighbors, and planning procedures, rather than simply rejecting applications; they see their task as one of negotiation amongst various interests, rather than one of enforcing a rigid set of rules. Often, a councillor gets an application approved by knowing what the planners want and suggesting alterations which ensure approval. The councillor makes political capital by dispensing freely available information, and claiming credit for having dispensed it.
There are a number of opportunities for councillors to influence the disposition of a particular planning application. The first step is to talk with officials informally, suggesting that it should (or should not) be approved. The matter can then be raised at the area planning committee meeting. Councillors discuss the relative merits of various applications and indicate whether the permission should or should not be given. While planning officials maintain that the Manager has the final decision, the councillors' opinions are respected. Officials do not try to gauge community opinion independently of the councillors. Rather, councillors are the medium through which the community speaks.
If the Manager's decision is not acceptable to councillors, the Council has the power to force the Manager to comply with its' wishes. A councillor can require the Manager to obey any legal instruction, if he has the support of two-thirds of the elected councillors. If the planning application clearly contravenes planning policy, the councillor can, with sufficient notice, persuade his fellow councillors to approve the exception, and, in effect, alter planning policy. If the case is a glaring exception to planning policy, the councillor may prefer to wait until the five year revision of the general development plan and suggest an alteration in zoning that would then permit the original planning application. Each step brings increasing pressure on officials, and makes clear to officials how strongly the councillor feels about a planning application.
The councillor's intercession improves the chances of a particular application. Junior planners report many occasions in which their planning recommendations were overruled due to pressure from councillors on the planners' administrative superiors. Many planning professionals have little regard for their administrative superiors because of the alterations required to avoid pressure. Councillors do not see their actions as putting pressure on officials; they are serving as mediators or brokers. In a number of cases, the planning official was going to reject the application, but a councillor provided information that would justify approving the application. The official replied that, if this information were in the file, then the application would be approved. The councillor went back to the individual, the application was changed and then approved by the officials. In such cases, there is a fine dividing line between negotiating an acceptable compromise and covertly exerting pressure on officials to approve an objectionable application.
Councillors cooperate with one another to put through planning permissions. If councillors support one another, everyone gains. In "Section Four's", which over-rule the Manager,49 and in general rezonings, it is clear that councillors find support not only within their own party, but also from councillors in other parties. It is understood that support for one councillor's "client" will be returned when needed (cf. Komito 1983). Thus, every councillor is able to deliver for "his" clients; all that is needed is sufficient votes to overrule the Manager and the planning officials.
Where the officials' criteria for judging planning matters is the long-term planning good, councillors have a more immediate criteria. There are no votes in the long term good, but there are votes in assisting individuals. Assisting individuals is the councillor's role anyway, and he garners support where a concern for broader issues does little to enhance re-election chances. Even when local community groups are opposed to a planning application, the councillor is often better rewarded by helping the individual than the group. Community memory is short, and there are many other ways to regain people's support prior to an election.
The rewards which politicians receive by getting planning applications approved are significant. In an election, a limited amount of party money is directed to common campaign, rather than individual, constituency campaigns. But, as already noted, political competition is primarily intra-party. The individual candidate's efforts on his own behalf may make the difference between whether it is he or another colleague who gets elected. Councillors are unpaid, and yet have large expenses. The cost of telephones, letters, petrol, and buying drinks is heavy. Given the meager financial and administrative support provided for councillors, it is inevitable that they will search elsewhere for the necessary finances. The assistance provided by those who have profited from politician's planning interventions may be crucial.
There are different ways in which an individual rewards a councillor who uses his influence to get through a financially rewarding planning permission. Straight financial rewards are one way, though this is dangerous for all concerned.50 It seems to happen when major rezonings take place during the five year Development Plan review, and people sometimes contribute to party headquarters rather than to individual councillors. Instructions are then issued to local councillors to support a particular rezoning proposal (without the councillors knowing why they should support the proposal). Other rewards are equally helpful, but not as risky; favors done by councillors are "cashed in" at election time. They include: small financial assistance, providing canvassers, helping organize the campaign, or delivering blocks of votes. Councillors have been known to get campaign contributions from specific builders, and benefit from builders' workers canvassing on the councillor's behalf. Since the benefits to the individual are so great in planning matters, it is obvious that the benefits returned to the councillor will also be great.
Planning in the Dublin Corporation is a different affair. Firstly, planning is delegated to a special planning committee, and is not determined by all councillors in the particular local area. Thus, only a few councillors become the target of pressure or inducement. Secondly, in the Corporation area, planning applications are usually for a change-of-use rather than new construction, or for the construction of huge office blocks. These are matters in which councillors have little incentive to push through a permission contrary to the planning department's wishes. The only areas of potential profit for speculators is a change from residential to commercial or industrial use. However, if the-change-of use is refused, the individual can simply let the building decay; once it becomes unsafe, it can be knocked down and the new building can have a new use. Speculators are less dependent on political assistance, so there are fewer incentives offered politicians.
Housing is another controversial benefit. Planning permissions do not require capital expenditure and constitute "cheap" patronage, but the provision of housing is costly. Since the amount of money available is strictly limited by the central government, the number of houses available is limited. It is the very epitome of the scarce and limited resource; instead of co-operating, councillors compete over housing for "their" clients.
In the previous chapter, it was shown how politicians' control over housing information permitted them to claim influence over housing allocations. Housing officials assert, with some force, that housing allocations are impartial; while councillors and TDs can consult the housing list, they cannot alter the rankings unless they present new information. The officials' case is not without some ambiguities, however. While officials are disdainful of the politician's claims of "getting houses", they do not antagonize the politicians by being too vocal. The officials also distort their version of objective assessment. There are "special cases" when individuals are able to jump to the head of the queue. Families are made homeless by fire, the Corporation demolishes houses in order to build new ones, or medical problems require immediate transfer: in all of these cases the normal criteria do not apply. When "special cases" amount to almost one half of the housing allocations in the Dublin area, this diminishes the officials' claim of "objective" criteria.51 The criteria for "special cases" are subject to manipulation by both tenants and politicians.
The County Council operates its housing scheme differently from the Corporation. As already mentioned, the County Council only assigns points when houses become available. At this point, the housing official prepares a list of applicants, assign points to each case, and presents the list to the councillors. They then have the opportunity to question the rankings. Each councillor has his own "clients" that he has been working for, and he makes sure that his people get the best possible placement on the list (while making sure that the others' clients get no better than necessary). The competition among councillors means that clients move up the list only if a councillor can defend the case against the scrutiny of fellow councillors. Usually, this means that "clients" get more points only if new information is presented by a councillor.
It is relatively rare that councillors "get" someone a house, and it usually has to be a borderline case. Here, the councillors say that since they set the guidelines, they have the right to make sure that the officials "correctly" interpret the guidelines. Such "interpretation" sometimes means someone getting a house who otherwise would have had to wait longer.
Some councillors actually prefer that the officials, rather than they themselves, wield the power to make the housing allocations. In this way, the politicians have the best of both worlds. If the applicant gets the house, the politician suggests that his intervention made the difference. If the applicant does not get the house, the politician blames the Manager and asserts that he, the politician, did all he could. He takes the credit, and avoids the blame. If politicians actually did allocate houses, they would have to take responsibility for the blame as well. After all, for every one client who gets a house, there are twelve disappointed applicants who did not. Politicians are well aware of the advantages gained by transferring blame to the Manager while still claiming the credit.
While most schools are accountable only to the Department of Education via local Boards of Management, some secondary schools (community schools) and some third level schools are operated under the auspices of the local authority.
Both the County and the Corporation have a school committee, on which a small number of councillors sit. As committee members, councillors have certain powers and privileges which make membership a much sought after "perk". Councillors, along with school officials, sit on the selection boards which hire teachers. Councillors may have their own "clients" and, if they are sufficiently qualified (as most will be), they stand a good chance of getting the job. Rumors regarding political influence over teacher's jobs are always rife, and there are enough cases to suggest that political influence plays a part in the appointment process. For instance, the appointment of substitute teachers appears to be in the "giving out" of councillors. But this does not mean that the officials always bow to the will of councillors. As elsewhere, political influence can get the applicant the interview, but not necessarily the job. Nevertheless, officials have to deal with councillors on budget issues, so they do not lightly offend councillors. There is, then, a quid pro quo.
Service on the educational committee provides access to other resources, as well. Councillors deal with teachers, principals, and parents. By being able to assist parents in dealings with teachers and principals, the councillor further cements his reputation in the area. The councillor's position on the school committee makes principals more responsive to his interventions on behalf of parents. Best of all, a councillor's school activities are "high profile" and provide publicity through parents' groups, community meetings, and newspapers.
There are numerous minor services over whose allocation councillors can also exercise influence. In the provision of community services and amenities, officials attempt to make sure that all areas get equal treatment. None-the-less, councillors have some influence over where those services or amenities are provided, including seemingly trivial services. People who need repairs on their Corporation house get faster service if the local councillor puts in a request. Broken water pipes get mended more quickly if councillors put pressure on officials, and the provision of crosswalks is the same.
In one case, a broken water pipe provoked great activity when a councillor raised the question at a meeting. He had been disturbed by residents' complaints the previous night, and wanted to know what was being done. The officials replied they would investigate, and emergency orders went out to find out what was wrong and get it fixed. In actual fact, the workmen knew about the fault and were trying to repair it. However, the councillor's intervention focused official attention on the problem, and workmen were ordered to drop everything else until the problem was solved. Essentially, for any local service for which there is more demand than supply (which, since the national government restricts local funds, is virtually all services), the intervention of a councillor produces results.
Political influence has also affected major capital investment programs. The provision of new drainage schemes, or new roads, require central government approval and thus pressure from councillors is less effective. Yet, officials admit that political influence has sometimes determined what areas receive priority for major drainage or water schemes. Since the provision of such services affects land values (in so far as serviced land can be sold at residential rather than agricultural value), the incentives for politicians and developers are the same as for planning interventions.
As in the national arena, personal contacts with officials are a useful way to increase a councillor's influence. Unlike the national arena, there is scope for contacts to develop. Long serving councillors inevitably develop rapport with officials whom they have contacted two or three times a week, year in and year out. Officials are aware of community pressures on councillors and try to accommodate them. Councillors sometimes have the opportunity to assist officials by not pressing issues that could be embarrassing for officials (e.g., problems that are solely due to officials' mistakes) or by supporting policies which particular officials may want. Both official and councillor must be cautious about publicizing such a relationship, since officials are expected to treat all councillors similarly. However, there have been cases in which individual councillors scored publicity coups against rival councillors, using information that could only have been obtained by virtue of personal friendships with particular officials. Even when other councillors are aware of such activities, little is done. One does not accuse officials of improper conduct; when this accusation was made in Dun Laoghaire, officials refused to assist the councillors until they apologized.
There is another way in which a councillor develops useful contacts in the local authority. As a councillor looks after their constituents, he finds that some of them work for the local authority. Helping them with a problem, or finding that they both come from the same rural County, or that their children are in the same school provides the basis for a useful friendship. While a councillor cannot use contacts to alter decisions, he can get accurate information about activities in the local authority and use this information to good advantage during County Council meetings. Action can be provoked on the basis of inside information, and officials are denied their monopoly on expertise and knowledge.
Not all services are administered by the local authority or central government. Many are supplied by semi-state bodies. Electricity supplies, buses, and telephones, are all administered by organizations answerable only indirectly to national government departments. The semi-state bodies are semi-autonomous; while responsible to a government department, they are not a part of the central government bureaucracy. They are thus doubly isolated from politicians.
The formal and informal sanctions that ensure local officials' compliance with councillors' demands do not work vis-a-vis the semi-state bodies. Where local officials alter their priorities in response to pressure from councillors, the semi-state bodies do not. The semi-states merely reply that they will consider the matter. No matter how unhappy councillors are, layers of government bureaucracy provide an effective buffer which insulates them from councillor's retribution.
Even national politicians are relatively powerless when it comes to the semi-state bodies. There is no institutional access to semi-state bodies, as there is to government departments. Although the semi-states are ultimately responsible to particular departments, TDs' attempts to ask Parliamentary Questions about the semi-states usually fail. The TD is told that the Minister is not directly concerned with the body, and so is not accountable to the Dail for its activities. Deprived of the threat of PQs, TDs have found themselves unable to exert pressure on the semi-states. The semi-states listen to TDs representations and avoid direct challenges, but do little more. The Dail Committee on Semi-State Bodies is an attempt to exercise the oversight that PQs fulfill for government departments. The Committee, however, is best suited to investigation of particular semi-states, each in its turn. It is not a useful equivalent to PQs in so far as TD's representations are concerned.
There has been some suggestion that low level jobs in the semi-state sector as well as in government departments are subject to patronage; this applies to casual workers as well as those low paid jobs for which special qualifications are irrelevant. Such suggestions have been made regarding the Electrical Supply Board (ESB). Certainly the top jobs have always been reserved as rewards for those who have helped the party.
Health Boards were discussed in the previous chapter, in terms of information being used to help people obtain medical cards. Health Boards are similar to the local authorities in structure and are exceptions to the political independence which characterizes most semi-state bodies. The Health Boards carry out the health functions previously allocated to local authorities, and there has been a certain continuity in structure.52 The Board is composed of health professionals (nominated by different professions) and county councillors (nominated by the constituent county councils).
Local political control is maintained over Board policy as councillors must number just over 50 percent of the board. It is thus possible that local politicians can exercise some influence over the provision of health benefits. Nomination to the Health Board, by one's County Council is a sought after privilege. One advantage is closer contacts with the officials who determine medical card eligibility. To be a member of the Health Board at least ensures quick response, although officials generally respond to representations from all politicians. The main result of interventions is to ensure that the particular case has been correctly handled; only when new information is presented is the final decision altered. There was little evidence that officials altered decisions on the basis of political influence, and officials' independence from political pressure is strengthened by a law which specifically states that only the Chief Medical Officer shall determine eligibility for medical benefits.53
Membership on the Health Board also means personal contacts with administrators of hospitals, homes for the elderly, and institutions for mentally retarded. Officials at these places are responsive when a Board member mentions someone who is waiting to get into a home, or is having trouble obtaining a medical service. However, politicians seem to have no better chance of getting their clients special treatment than do others with personal contacts in medical services (e.g., doctors, nurses, and so on).
The last two chapters have explored the relationship between the different resources of information, access, and influence, and the different commodities in which politicians "trade" (social welfare, housing, planning, and so forth). The link between the resources and the commodities is the bureaucratic structure allocating the commodities. The potential for political clientelism depends on the particular benefit in question. It has been necessary to examine the administration of state benefits in some detail to demonstrate this.
The resource of influence is largely restricted to commodities provided by local authorities. Politicians can sometimes influence decisions of local authorities, but rarely can they influence those of central government departments. On the other hand, the resource of access is an especially valuable resource for central government decisions. The resource of information is an important brokerage resource at all levels of administration.
Planning is the outstanding example of influence; interventions by politicians alter the outcome of decisions taken by local officials; a great deal of behind-the-scenes activity ensures that politicians' clients are looked after, and the clients repay the politicians at election time by offering support and assistance. Both sides can verify that the other is fulfilling his side of the "bargain". While the scale of financial gain clearly puts planning into a special category of its own, it is not the only service over which politicians exercise influence. In the allocation of local amenities and the repair of local authority houses, a politician's action alters the allocation of resources (even though that resource is relatively minor, such as tree pruning).
At the other end of the spectrum are those cases in which the politician claims influence which he does not possess. For many state services, the demand exceeds the supply because there is a limit to the supply of "prizes" available. For example, the housing queue is due to the limited amount of money provided for house construction, and, in AnCO, the queue is due to the limited number of places available in training courses. The result is competition amongst eligible applicants, each looking for any special advantage (such as contacts with a possibly influential politician). Politicians often manipulate such situations, and create the illusion of influence and special treatment, without actually altering the bureaucrats' eventual decision.
In the middle is the vast range of services over which politicians exercise influence by forcing local officials and national civil servants to expedite cases. These are services for which the applicant qualifies and will receive in due course; the queue results from the time it takes to process applications. Many central government benefits, such as social welfare assistance, education grants, and housing or construction grants take months to process. Political intervention ensures that the case is processed correctly and, if possible, quickly. Essentially, the politician is being asked to help an applicant jump the queue.
The politician's power derives from his special position; he can make claims on civil servants that citizens cannot make, and his representations receive special treatment. Politicians and bureaucrats alike accept that such interventions achieve results; cases that have dragged on for months are resolved over-night once a politician inquires. In addition, the politician's assistance, even though he provides only "public" information about procedures and guidelines, none-the-less involves a resource not available to the voter: information. From the voter's point of view, the politician provides help which is crucial and without which the benefit would not be obtained.54
Overall, politicians are more effective than individuals, and at less cost. There is an institutionalized procedure by which TDs and councillors have access to decision-makers. The procedures (whether a PQ or an informal chat) get results and require relatively little effort by politicians. Individual voters, who lack the inquiry procedures and sanctions to enforce the procedures, must invest far more effort and usually get far less return. The cost of trying to follow up a particular case, or even obtaining general information about procedures, is high: it requires patience, time, and the voter may still get nowhere. In contrast, the "cost" of going to a politician is low; all it requires is a visit to the local clinic. The only long-term cost is the obligation to the politician, which the voter cannot be compelled to honor in any event.
The results of interventions vary along a continuum from areas in which political interventions makes a great difference to areas where it makes no difference. However, the applicant does not know if his particular housing, medical, planning, or social welfare case is one in which a politician's intervention will make a difference. Only bureaucrats and politicians know this. Therefore, applicants cannot know when the politician's claim of special influence is justified or not. Going to a politician is always a good idea; one's own case may be the one that politicians can help with. Few people, especially those in the inner city and Corporation estates, can afford to pass up the chance.
Bureaucrats are an essential part of the brokerage process. They are partially responsible for creating and maintaining a system which establishes barriers of distrust and anonymity between bureaucracy and the public. They facilitate brokerage activities by permitting special access by politicians, so that politicians may claim (often correctly) to have influence which outsiders are denied. This chapter investigates brokerage from the administrative perspective: how bureaucrats view brokerage, and why the Irish system of administration seems to actually encourage brokerage.
Relatively few studies have been made of Irish bureaucracy. This is not due to a lack of interest, but rather a lack of access to relevant data. The few existing studies tend to be of limited scope, and either deal solely with formal bureaucratic structures, or depend on short interviews with a small number of selected bureaucrats (e.g., Sinnott 1983; Pyne 1974; Dooney 1976). Other research papers are often based on impressions gained from civil servants with whom the author has personal contacts. Thus, one researcher prefaced his article by apologizing for "the limited information available" (Pyne 1974:26). This chapter is similarly derived from a combination of published material, interviews, and personal contacts with local officials and middle-level civil servants.
The lack of available data on the Irish bureaucracy is, itself, a crucial piece of information. As discussed in earlier chapters, procedures of recruitment and promotion encourage a closed system, which exists in isolation from the rest of society. The bureaucracy treats outsiders, whether citizens, politicians, or researchers, as potential threats. As threats, they are given as little information as possible, and thus denied ammunition with which to attack or harm the civil service as a whole.55
Most bureaucrats see their interests as antithetical to those of politicians. In their view, politicians are concerned with narrow sectional interests, and look for short-term solutions which satisfy the voters, enhance their prestige, and further their career. They have little interest in any policy which is not popular or which brings no immediate electoral benefit. On the other hand, bureaucrats see themselves as concerned with the interests of the State as a whole. They are concerned with the entire community and seek long-term solutions which benefit all. Unlike politicians, they have no special interests to protect or constituents to keep happy. Few civil servants see that the civil service has its own special interests to protect, or that these interests are cloaked in the mystique of objectivity and impartiality.
Civil servants are ambivalent about the brokerage activities of politicians. On one hand, they dislike politicians' representations and dismiss them as a time-wasting charade. Yet, on the other hand, they acknowledge the politician's right to inquire. When politicians make representations on behalf of individuals or groups, they are performing a proper and legitimate function, and the public officials recognize this by according them special rights and privileges. They have been given the right, by election, to speak for the community regarding the allocation of state resources. It is the politician's right to look after his constituents, and it is the bureaucrat's duty to be responsive.
This tension regarding bureaucratic accountability exists at both national and local level. There is disdain for individual politicians combined with respect for the institution of parliamentary democracy. There is also a curious "double-think', as many civil servants do not recognize the extent to which politicians' brokerage activities are a consequence of their own administrative procedures. Such attitudes are not spread uniformly throughout the public service. The disdain of bureaucrats is more marked at national level than at local level. Interactions between councillors and local officials are different from interactions between TDs and civil servants, so it is necessary to examine each level of political-administrative interactions separately.
To some extent, councillors are concerned with re-election and political rivalries, and use their office to enhance their political standing. Officials often view such activities as a time-wasting charade at best (or improper influence, at worst), but they are also aware that politicians' activities make a necessary contribution. Councillors are knowledgeable about local conditions, and transmit community opinion to officials. In addition, because councillors are in close touch with voters, they are able to tell officials when the provision of services is faulty -- for instance, when the water supply fails, or the streetlights are broken. Councillors contribute positively as well as negatively, hence the ambivalence of officials in relation to the brokerage activities of politicians.
The tension between politicians and bureaucrats is often underscored at local authority meetings, and was evidenced at the numerous meetings which I attended. Councillors see themselves as expressing community demands, and the officials as being obstructive. Councillors suspect officials of using technical jargon to resist the will of the people. As previous chapters suggest, to whatever extent politicians are indeed trying to contribute positively to policy decisions, they are also concerned with maintaining their reputation in the community. Officials suspect that most of a councillors' activities are aimed at enhancing their own prestige, and not at articulating community opinion in a disinterested way. The officials see themselves using their professional expertise to make decisions which benefit the entire community now and in the future. They see councillors reacting to local pressure, and advocating cosmetic and short-term solutions.
Certainly councillors' behavior at County Council meetings does not reassure officials about their commitment to the community's welfare. Meetings are an arena for reputation management, and resemble a stage more than a forum. The crucial thing is to be seen to be active, and hope one's speech will be mentioned in the newspaper. Since few voters are interested in allocating land for individual house construction, such issues are decided quickly. Since voters are concerned where itinerant settlements are to be located, councillors know that speeches on such subjects attract press coverage. Questions which can be dealt with in a few minutes take an hour if councillors see reporters taking an interest. Every councillor makes sure that his participation is noted; at the least, he says he wants "to be associated with the previous remarks".56
The battle for press attention is constant. Since councillors, like TDs, represent multi-seat constituencies, councillors compete with each other for information regarding particular issues. A crucial problem is, often, which councillor first raises an issue. Compare the two sets of questions, asked at one area committee meeting:
16. Chairman's Business:
(b) That a discussion take place on the taking-in-charge of the estates developed by Dun Laoghaire Corporation in Ballybrack.
(c) That the Manager give an undertaking that the necessary high court actions would be taken if the developer of Corbawn Estate, Shankill fails to comply with the terms of the latest date notice which expires at the end of April, 1980.
(d) That a report be presented to this meeting for discussion with regard to the provision of lands at Dorney Court, Shankill for a town park.
21. Councillor F: That the Manager report on whether it would be feasible for the Council to take-in-charge the portion of Churchview Road between the Dual Carriageway and Three Guys Shopping Centre in Ballybrack.
24. Councillor F: That the Manager report on the document published by North Shankill and Corbawn Residents Association in regard to the taking-in-charge of the Corbawn Estate and the steps being taken by the Council to expedite the taking-in-charge process.
26. Councillor F: That the Manager report on the up-to-date position in relation to provision of a town park at Dorney Court, Shankill.
The two sets of questions deal with the same problems, but Chairman's Business is answered first. If any publicity results from the answers, the Chairman gets it. Chairmen have been known to give reporters advance copies of answers, if the reporters show any sign of leaving early! Chairmen are also assured of quick official response to constituent's problems; for the one year that a Chairmanship lasts, the Chairman of the Council and the Chairmen of area committees have special access to officials. Chairmanships (of the entire Council or its subcommittees) are rotated every year, and go to the more senior councillors. Such office is prized because of its' publicity potential.
Even when councillors are not speaking for the benefit of the press, they still use Council meetings to enhance their reputation. In meetings, a councillor obtains information on local concerns which he transmits back to the voters. Answers are passed on to residents groups or community groups, so that the councillor can show he is active and concerned on their behalf. If, after residents have requested a councillor to press for the installation of a pedestrian crossing, the officials report that traffic density does not warrant it, the councillor protests that the measurements of traffic density must be wrong. The officials wearily agree to measure it again (knowing it to be a waste of time), and the councillor returns to the residents and shows how active he has been on their behalf.
Councillors make policy, but the Manager is legally responsible for the execution of policy. Except when overruled by special County Council action, the Manager is legally accountable for the administration of the local authority and consults, but need not obey, councillors. Managers and their subordinates respond to councillors' comments with the formula "the Manager will take the councillor's opinions into account when making his decision".
This legal position is something of a fiction. There are informal sanctions by which councillors can punish a Manager or his officials if they do not accept councillors' intrusions into the day to day running of the Council. The councillors' power derives from their ability to create a nuisance. A dissatisfied councillor will have ample opportunity to create difficulties for officials. Councillors and officials have numerous meetings every month, and it is possible for a high ranking official to spend one to two days of a five day working week in meetings. In these meetings, the official sits, waiting, for most of the time, while councillors deal with other matters and other officials. A councillor can hold up action, he can ask questions which force the official to waste his time in meetings, and he can generally make life difficult for the County Manager (who will then make life difficult for his subordinates). If the councillor gets support from the other councillors, then life can become doubly unpleasant indeed for the official.
In practice, the County Manager is not primarily concerned with running the County, he is concerned with keeping councillors happy and preventing them from obstructing his work. He and his assistants spend more time appeasing councillors than administering the local authority. Pressure is transitive: if the councillor makes trouble for the Manager, the Manager makes trouble for his subordinates. Even an official's promotion can be affected. While promotion is supposed to be based on objective assessment by interview boards, the interviewers hear whether the official is able to "manage" politicians. Ireland is small enough that the interview board will have heard about, or could find out about, the candidates prior to interviews taking place. In the course of research, one official was convinced he was passed over for promotion because he did not get along with councillors.
There are limitations on the power of councillors to alter decisions. They cannot actually require officials to be cooperative. Since councillors depend on officials in order to satisfy constituent's expectations, councillors do not lightly ignore officials, and are quick to praise them. The homage paid at meetings, even if there is a dispute, indicates that councillors feel they are at the mercy of officials and depend on their goodwill.
Some councillors are better than others at getting assistance from officials. According to officials, the effectiveness of a councillor depends on his persistence. Officials respond to councillors in order to avoid pressure; councillors who exert the most pressure get the best results. As one official said, "those who shout the loudest get the most". He was not very happy about it, since he felt that all intervention should be dealt with in the same way. He recognized, however, that officials respond more quickly if they know the councillor will create problems. As another official said: "it is easier to just do it than having to deal with the same query week after week". This is not restricted to minor services such as house repair or tree pruning; officials accept that sufficient pressure from a councillor can sometimes affect major capital investment programs such as the provision of sewerage facilities. Officials believe that "you win some, and you lose some"; as long as one doesn't lose too many, they will tolerate the occasional case of influence-peddling.
Most councillors see their task as simply getting things for the local area. One former councillor said he realized that since officials made so many decisions, it was in his best interest to get on well with them. By developing a "working relationship", where each "understands the other", he expected the official's cooperation in dealing with local problems. Most councillors are willing to let the officials decide broader policy issues, so long as officials assist the councillors in satisfying local community demands.
Officials need councillors to help them do their jobs efficiently. The councillors are used as a sieve through which community pressure is filtered. The competition of local party politics ensures that councillors keep in touch with all segments of the community. When something goes wrong, the councillors quickly receive complaints. Councillors are in a good position to judge how important an issue or complaint is, and officials use councillors to evaluate the seriousness of a problem. If an issue evokes no action by councillors, officials ignore it. If only one councillor acts, then it may be of some minor significance. However, the councillor may not follow up on his action, or he may restrict himself to public pronouncements, in which case the officials know that the councillor is only playing to his community audience and does not actually care. But if all the councillors from an area make representations, then the officials know that they must respond. Party differences evaporate in the face of community pressure, and councillors cooperate to get action on serious problems.
The task of community advocate and spokesman is reserved for councillors. Through both neglect and design, no local authority department is organized to carry out these tasks. The Corporation and the County Council have community relations departments, but they only explain the local authority's position to the community. Communication is one-way, and councillors carefully guard their monopoly on communication in the opposite direction. If departments try to articulate community concerns and make representations to other local departments, councillors quickly protest.
In many instances, councillors provide real assistance to officials. Housing decisions are made by officials, but the councillor's knowledge of "his" clients ensures that officials know of any facts that might help the applicant. Planning disputes between applicants and officals are costly and time consuming, so planning officials prefer to avoid court cases, Councillors can mediate between applicants, objectors, and planning officials, and so help create agreement among disputing parties.
The usefulness of councillors is the bond of trust between them and officials which develops out of their mutual interactions. As far as officials are concerned, members of the public only complain and make trouble. When they apply for something, the official has no way to be sure that they really deserve it. When they inquire about something, the official fears that any information given out might be used to embarrass the local authority. Councillors, on the other hand, are personally known to officials. They will not disrupt relations with officials just for the sake of one applicant. To some extent, one can give councillors information and one can accept councillor's representations because there is mutual interdependence.
Trust is earned however; officials are not open to all councillors. Some councillors use information for newspaper publicity, though most officials don't mind this. As long as the councillor does not actually work against officials, it doesn't matter too much what he says or does. The councillor is still more likely to play by the rules than unknown outsiders.
Officials are keenly aware that few councillors take a stand that goes against community opinion, even if community opinion is wrong. To do so makes councillors vulnerable to disgruntled voters who might switch votes to more popular party rivals. The officials realize that, in order to appease voters, councillors sometimes merely want officials to give them an "out" which will let them satisfy community opinion. Officials thus take councillors' expositions in meetings with a certain "grain of salt"; if the councillor is really serious, it will be pursued.
Thus, councillors and officials play by an agreed set of rules. The interests of councillors and officials coincide, to the extent that each benefits by working with the other. The councillors use their monopoly on access and information to maintain their position of power in the community. Officials use politicians as buffers to protect themselves from unvetted and untrustworthy outsiders.
In recent times, both councillors and local officials have been left to look after "bins and drains" and little else; the real action is at central government level. In making representations on behalf of constituents and local groups, councillors must turn, increasingly, to national level civil servants. This also means turning to TDs. While civil servants should respond to representations from any politician, TDs and Senators receive greater attention than councillors. Therefore, one must move from the local level of councillor and local official to the national level of TD and civil servant.
Interactions at the national level differ considerably from those at the local level. Whereas at the local level politicians and officials "work together", at the national level, they are adversaries. Civil servants rarely welcome politicians' representations. Their objection is simple: answering representations is time-consuming and unproductive. Decisions are rarely altered, and, at best, a particular case is simply moved to the top of the queue. In order to respond to representations, personnel are diverted from productive work and over-all efficiency is decreased.
The actual picture is more complex; if politicians' actions are pernicious, then why do civil servants respond to intercessions? Earlier chapters have suggested that political interventions rarely have much effect on central government departments; brokerage over such services tends to depend on information and access, rather than influence. Yet, the resources of information and access derive from the actions of bureaucrats, as much as the actions of politicians. It is therefore necessary to examine why the structure of national government departments encourages people to go to politicians, and why bureaucrats respond to politicians' interventions.
One reason for civil servants' deference to politicians is that some jobs are patronage jobs. However, political influence seems confined to the lowest and highest extremes of the civil service ladder. Various minor posts such as messenger boy and labourer are exempt from normal civil service selection procedures. In the Department of Posts and Telegraphs (now a semi-state body) for example, a disproportionate number of casual positions have been filled by applicants from the Minister's own constituency. In many departments, casual posts are filled by giving local TDs a quota of "slots" which they fill at their discretion. In addition, appointments to the highest level of the civil service and semi-state bodies are political rewards for party faithful. The overall number of such posts is relatively small, and they are rewards for long-time personal or party clients.
For most civil service jobs, conditions of employment and promotion must satisfy legal guidelines. Promotions are made by an impartial selection board. Politicians' opinions are relevant only in that a civil servant known to annoy politicians is not likely to be considered "suitable" for advancement. A complicating factor is that the Minister makes the final decision for upper-level appointments. It has happened more than once that someone relatively low on the ranked list was appointed by the Minister. Such influence diffuses downwards -- civil servants who owe their position to a political patron will act on his behalf in the promotion of lower-level civil servants. For example, in the police, promotion up to the level of Inspector is non-political, while Superintendents and above are appointed by the Minister of Justice. Career advancement may depend on being on good terms with politicians, who might be able to influence a Minister or who might themselves become Ministers. Police who do not get along with politicians might find themselves blocked in promotion, just as those who are especially helpful might get promoted. Those who owe their promotions to politicians repay them when it comes time to make lower, "non-political" appointments.
Despite cases to the contrary, the scope for political patronage in appointments and promotions is, relatively speaking, limited. The majority of promotions are based on seniority, experience, and ability (as measured by bureaucratic criteria), and civil service unions protest when political influence is applied to areas traditionally free from such interventions. The Irish civil service, like the British civil service, has maintained independence from political influence. Given their independence, there are few sanctions powerful enough to compel obedience from unwilling civil servants. Perhaps the best evidence of this is the unwillingness of civil servants to accede to politicians' influence regarding state benefits. Politicians at the national level must content themselves with information and access, but not material resources.
Civil servants provide information and access to politicians because they believe that, as elected representatives, politicians have the right to inquire. This respect for the institution of parliamentary democracy reflects a continuity in traditions which predate political independence. As previously noted, the pre-1922 British Civil Service became, overnight, the post-1922 Irish Civil Service. There was little change in structure, personnel, or policy, and successive Irish governments left the civil service untouched (cf. Chubb 1982:240-1). British civil service attitudes of impartiality and political neutrality became entrenched, and politicians were in no position to impose changes. Ireland remained outside the mainstream of European events in the 1940's, and unlike the civil service in Great Britain and other countries, there was little social pressure on the Irish civil service to change. Pre-1922 attitudes therefore actually became exaggerated. The civil service was isolated from the rest of society, and their values and beliefs were rarely challenged.
Recruitment practices strengthen the isolation of civil servants from the broader society, and even from fellow civil servants. New recruits are quickly enculturated; the rest of their career will be spent under the scrutiny of their peers. They are recruited at a young age and slowly progress upwards through the system. Senior civil servants have spent most of their life moving through the ranks, starting at low-level positions. They spend most of that time within one department, as movement between government departments is restricted. Their concerns are thus focused largely on the one department which is their career (cf. PSORG 1969:87-98, 103-4, 141).
What happens outside the department is relevant only in so far as it affects a civil servant's career or the opinions of other colleagues. Civil servants believe that, in the end, their career prospects depend more on the opinions of fellow civil servants than on the opinions of politicians. As one middle-level civil servant said, "civil servants are only afraid of other civil servants". Officially, there is very little that can happen to a civil servant who is unhelpful. He will not be fired, and, he will probably be promoted when seniority demands it. It is advantageous for a civil servant to appear responsive and civil servants try to avoid annoying politicians, as this prevents politicians from putting pressure on his superior. Civil servants humor politicians by moving their cases to the head of the queue, or re-examing the case, but they are not sufficiently intimidated to change their disposition of the case.
The crucial feature of the Irish civil service is the doctrine of Ministerial responsibility. The Minister is the department; "the acts of a Department are the acts of its Minister. Unless there is a statutory exception no civil servant can, in law, give a decision" (PSORG 1969:21). Although civil servants make administrative decisions every day, they do so in the name of the Minister. He is accountable for all the actions of his civil servants, and he must accept blame as well as praise. Regardless of the decision, a civil servant is safe and anonymous.
Loyalty to the Minister who is head of the department is expected, and the need to protect the Minister from criticism colors all the actions of his subordinates. As the Devlin Report noted,
When [civil servants'] mistakes are liable to be used against his Minister in the political field and to attract the widest publicity, the civil servant...must spend an inordinate time in ensuring the accuracy of his work. (PSORG 1969:128)
Civil servants must be able to defend any decision. Ministers are accountable in the Dail for even the most trivial act, and any decision might cause trouble at some future date. Because everything must be justified, in advance, and documented, procedures become rigid and time-consuming:
It is going a bit far to say that everything that happens in the civil service must be recorded on a file but every decision of any consequence with the paperwork leading to it must exist on a file. Paperwork is to a large extent a consequence of responsibility to the Dail. (PSORG 1969:125)
An inevitable result of caution is that decisions are referred upwards because no one wants to take responsibility for even marginally questionable actions:
the higher officers who must report personally to the Minister are forced to interest, themselves in detail which would never otherwise reach them. This involves a large expenditure of time of higher staff in going over relatively minor pieces of executive work done by juniors. (PSORG 1969:127)
Little initiative is shown in dealing with new situations, and precedent becomes the determinant of decisions. This is inefficient but safe. Decisions are slowed and applicants suffer delays, but this problem is secondary because it does not directly affect civil servants.
The civil service is often criticized as secretive, authoritarian, and unresponsive. Not only is little attempt made to release information, it seems there are positive attempts to conceal even trivial bits of information. As one expert of Irish public administration said,
the operations within government departments and within state-sponsored bodies are almost entirely closed to public scrutiny. We know about what goes on within them only in so far as a conscious decision is taken to publish a decision or report, often presented as a remarkable act of magnanimity on the part of the body concerned. (Barrington 1980:191-2)
One never knows what might happen if one gives too much information to unknown people. Information in the wrong hands can be used against civil servants, so they take no chances. One politician observed that there was an "almost paranoid refusal by public agencies to divulge even the minimum information about projects or concerns of public interest" (Chubb 1982:379). So long as employment and promotion are secure, civil servants have everything to lose and nothing to gain by giving information to unknown individuals.
Civil service distrust includes politicians, since, by virtue of Parliamentary Questions, they are in positions to breach the secrecy surrounding decisions. Because they must have a response, they are all the more dangerous. In their case, therefore, officials alter their position to one of not giving away more than they have to. Newly recruited civil servants are criticized by their superiors if they provide answers to PQs that say anything beyond the absolute minimum.
The relations between departments and special interest groups is instructive, as it illustrates the importance which civil servants attach to personal trust. Most civil servants have as little contact as possible with outsiders, but some contact with interest groups is inevitable. The Department of Health has frequent contact with nursing organizations, the Department of Education has contacts with teachers' unions, and so forth. Inevitably, there are special interest groups which have long and trusting relations with departments. If a representative from a favored teachers' union goes to the Department of Education with a problem, he is listened to seriously. His complaint will be investigated and dealt with quickly. If there is a departmental mistake, it is admitted and rectified. If a representative from an unfavored union goes to the department, his problem is treated with scepticism and caution. Even if a mistake has been made, nothing is admitted. Why the different treatment? The first union has developed personal contacts with department personnel, and its representatives are known and liked because they play by the rules. They know when to push a case and when to accept a refusal, and they can be trusted not to use privileged information to embarrass the department and the Minister. The second union cannot be trusted in this way, and it receives the opposite treatment.
Problems caused by administrative secrecy are not new. A governmental review (PSORG 1969) recommended changes in the central government structure which would streamline the process of administrative review, and lessen the amount of time spent by politicians making, and civil servants responding to, representations about particular cases. They reasoned that it was fear of Ministerial embarrassment which caused civil servants to document everything and refer decisions upwards (PSORG 1969:125-127). If civil servants were directly accountable for minor actions, this fear would be obviated. Decisions could be taken more quickly, in response to the particular circumstances of particular cases, and without the caution and concern which slow down procedures.
Most politicians and civil servants agreed with the Devlin Report's criticisms and suggestions, but little changed after the report was issued. Civil servants have evinced little enthusiasm for abandoning traditional procedures, and the Devlin report itself warned that a "serious feature of the present system is its built-in resistance to change" (PSORG 1969:142). Civil servants, while deploring the time wasted in representations, prefer the anonymity of public service to personal accountability.
Civil service lack of enthusiasm for change is understandable; those who are expected to implement changes are those who have benefited the most from the existing system -- the top civil servants. Their desire is to avoid alienating the politicians who can, if they choose, wield power over high-level civil servants. Paying attention to a politician's constituency problems has always been an excellent way to keep politicians satisfied, and there is little evidence that civil servants have a greater goal in mind.
The social backgrounds of civil servants may minimize their interest in wide-ranging change. As has been noted, a large proportion of higher civil servants received their secondary education from Christian Brothers schools. These schools were intended to provide education for people without family resources; their students have been described as having an excellent grasp of tactics and empirical knowledge, but having little interest in intellectual or philosophical matters (Chubb 1982:266). Administrative reform is thus of little interest, as long the departments run smoothly on a day-to-day basis.
If politicians exerted sufficient pressure, then the civil servants would introduce change, but that pressure has not, up to this point, existed. Both bureaucrats and politicians have found that the existing system suits them. If people want to go to politicians for assistance, politicians and bureaucrats alike accommodate them.
The structural complexity of the bureaucracy further enhances the demand for political brokerage. Local authorities, semi-state bodies, central government departments are all quite autonomous. Local officials have little contact with semi-state bodies, and civil servants in one government department have little contact with civil servants from other departments, much less local authorities. Numerous organizations take decisions which affect the same village or neighborhood, but they do not co-ordinate their activities.
The administrative tangle is especially pronounced in Dublin. Each organization divides up its geographical area into smaller units, for purposes of administrative efficiency. But each organization divides up Dublin using different criteria. For example, the Eastern Health Board includes Dublin Corporation, Counties Dublin, Wicklow, and Kildare. There are 10 internal units, one for County Wicklow, one for County Kildare, and 8 units for Dublin Corporation, County Dublin and Dun Laoghaire. The eight community care health units for the Greater Dublin area ignore and actually cross-cut the political boundaries; they were a compromise between opposing interest groups when the Eastern Health Board was created. A Health Board area includes sections of Dublin Corporation and Dublin County, and the County and the Corporation have their own community workers who need to work with the Health Board social workers. But the territory covered by the Corporation worker may cover a number of Health Board areas, just as the area covered by the Health Board worker includes different local authority areas.
It is difficult to co-ordinate two cross-cutting jurisdictions, but there are additional organizations which also divide the Dublin area according to their own criteria. The internal administrative divisions used by AnCO (with responsibility for job training) differ, as do the ones used by Manpower (job placement), CIE (public transportation), the ESB (electricity), the Department of Social Welfare, Posts and Telegraphs (telephones and post offices), the Garda Siochana (police), as well as individual Corporation, County Council, and Dun Laoghaire Council departments. All use separate criteria for establishing jurisdictional responsibilities. It is virtually impossible to coordinate services when the services are administered by a variety of organizations, each with its own procedures and internal administrative structures.
There is little information sharing among organizations. Each sets its own internal priorities, which may conflict with the priorities of other organizations, to say nothing of the priorities of the communities which are on the receiving end of these services. The prime examples are the newly built housing estates on the outskirts of Dublin. Although the local planning authority tries to provide services on a phased basis, bottlenecks develop. The relevant organizations which provide street lighting, telephones, schools, buses, or parks do so when the the organization is ready and not when the community needs them. Housing estates wait years for the piecemeal provision of necessary services.57 Areas find that telephones or buses or street lights (or usually all of the above) are not provided until years after house construction is finished.
The lack of rationalization of services creates the sorts of difficulties discussed in Chapter Eight. It is difficult for voters to know which organization might be able to provide assistance; for instance, the Department of Social Welfare, the Eastern Health Board, and Dublin Corporation all provide different types of assistance for those in financial need, but qualifying criteria and application procedures for each benefit are different. It is difficult for an outsider to know the different procedures of different departments, and, with no central information center, applicants may not know which benefits they qualify for, or what organizations administer them. There is a need for specialists to help people, and politicians are quick to fill this brokerage "slot".
The bureaucracy cooperates with politicians. The bureaucracy creates the need for brokers and at the same time provides politicians with the special access and information needed to fulfill the brokerage role. Bureaucrats gain by appeasing the politicians, to whom, after all, they are more vulnerable than everyday citizens. At the same time, giving politicians special information and access permits civil servants to keep policy and staffing decisions largely non-political. Finally, they also gain a very efficient system for monitoring community opinion and discovering when things are going wrong.
It has been suggested that political brokerage results from a gap between the "traditional" beliefs of those in peripheral areas and the "modern" beliefs of the central core (e.g., Bax 1976:194; Chubb 1982:14-16; Sacks 1976:50-51, 210-212). This chapter shows that, on the contrary, brokerage results from a gap between the contemporary needs of citizens and the out-moded procedures of the state. Modernization has not resulted in a decrease in brokerage, only an alteration in the form of brokerage exchanges. More and more decisions are made by central government departments, and the trend has been for politicians' influence to decrease, while their resources of information and access increase in significance. The state provides more benefits to a growing proportion of the population, and new regulations and procedures, grafted onto existing rules, make specialized knowledge a vital resource. As state intervention increases, the value of the brokerage resources of information and access increase as well. Both of these resources derive directly from the politician's formal role as an elected representative. Since they are an integral part of the rights and duties of the political office, politicians' continued monopoly over such resources is secure.58
This study has examined clientelist politics in Dublin by tracing exchanges between voters, politicians, and bureaucrats. The rhetoric of Irish politics suggests that state benefits are allocated on the basis of political contacts. The reality is more complex. Most public resources are allocated on the basis of an impersonal assessment of need and qualifications, and only rarely can politicians influence allocations. Yet, although politicians do not control access to state resources, they do possess a dual monopoly over information regarding state services and access to those who make decisions. This control encourages clientelism in Dublin; voters are dependent on someone else to be sure of receiving state benefits.
Discussions of Irish clientelism have usually emphasized political influence, but have differed as to its importance in the allocation of resources. Some studies argued that politicians have influence, others argued that voters are only fooled into believing politicians have influence. This study showed how some political brokerage does involve patronage. The "prizes" which political influence provide can be as trivial as which road is repaired, or as major as a planning decision which increases land values. While such prizes are obviously significant for the people involved, rewards of this sort are relatively rare. The bureaucracy is fairly invulnerable to political pressure, so politicians are unable to exercise as much influence as they might wish. Most often, politicians claim personal credit for providing legal entitlements; the people, in the end, receive only the benefits which they deserve. In that sense, there is little "real" patronage involved in Irish clientelism.
It is not, however, useful to discuss Irish clientelism in such terms. It is more useful to view it in terms of information and access. Even when only legitimate benefits are provided, politicians' interventions often achieve results which the voter cannot himself achieve. Politicians argue that, whatever the legal entitlements, the person would receive nothing without the politician's help. Many people do not understand the bureaucratic system well enough to obtain all that they are entitled to. The politician is one expert who can be trusted to assist them through the bureaucratic maze, and provide a state service that might otherwise be denied.
The basic issue is not politicians' control, or claimed control, over the allocation of state resources (such as housing grants, medical cards, and so forth). It is, rather, their ability to monopolize and then market their specialist knowledge of state resources as well as their access to bureaucrats who allocate such resources. The state actually helps maintain the market for political brokerage. Bureaucratic procedures are slow and inefficient, so it is difficult for citizens to obtain information about their entitlements, redress in the event of incorrect decisions, or proof that their case is being fairly decided. For all these reasons, voters depend on politicians' assistance. The bureaucracy also helps politicians carry out their brokerage activities "cheaply" by responding to politicians' interventions quickly. Politicians are able to provide brokerage inexpensively and can afford to do so even for marginal clients. The broker's "profit" derives from providing a service that is "cheap" for him, but "expensive" for an outsider. The broker's reward is the reputation he maintains in the community; this reputation will mean more votes in the next election.
Politicians often try to claim influence which they do not possess, and encourage voters to feel grateful for services that the voter could have obtained directly. This often works because voters are predisposed to believe that such special influence is necessary. Yet, this study has shown that Dublin politicians cannot enforce a trade of state benefits for votes. Voters can, if they chose, invest very little in the exchange. They can avoid commitments to politicians, while still expecting brokerage assistance. The combination of strong party loyalty and PR-STV in multi-seat constituencies makes politicians vulnerable to public opinion; they cannot afford to alienate possible voters. Often, voters obtain an efficient secretary, at only a small cost to themselves. It is for this reason that politicians emphasize moral commitment and mutual solidarity in their exchanges with voters; they hope to create the electoral support which they do not have the power to demand.
Dublin politicians appear even more vulnerable to voters than politicians elsewhere in Ireland. Scott (1977) noted a general trend from moral, diffuse, long-term exchanges ["traditional"] to instrumental, specific, short-term exchanges ["modern"] in South East Asia. In Ireland, urban clientelism resembles the "modern" style of exchange, while descriptions of rural clientelism resemble the "traditional" style. In Dublin, the moral "core" of a politician's following appears to be small, while the transactional periphery is large. Politicians must compete with rivals from the same party for the support of a large number of uncommitted voters. Hence, the Dublin politicians' dependence on clientelist rhetoric.
Voter-politician exchanges span the range from diffuse and long-term exchanges with a high moral content to specific and short-term exchanges with a high instrumental content. The former are concentrated in the party arena, the latter are more common in the public arena. Despite such variations, all these exchanges exhibit features which identify them as clientelist. The exchanges are dyadic transactions, and emphasize individual rather than collective strategies for obtaining resources. They are contractual and voluntary, and yet continue to partake of the moral solidarity of ascribed status (cf. Lemarchand 1981:15; Eisenstadt and Roniger 1980).
Clientelist exchanges are most frequent in deprived areas such as the inner city. The high incidence of brokerage beliefs and contacts among poorer residents of Dublin shows that clientelism is not the result of rural in-migration, or the expression of "rural" values. Brokerage exists because it remedies deficiencies in the system by which state benefits are allocated. Those who are most dependent on state assistance are most likely to participate in clientelist exchanges, and such exchanges as necessary in urban as in rural settings. They are consequences of a dependence on state assistance.
To some extent, clientelism is a formalized preference for dealing with friends. Personal contacts are utilized throughout Irish society, and, with a relatively small population of just over three million, this is hardly surprising. There is, in Ireland, a "tendency to operate through personal contacts rather than through organizational procedures" (Pyne 1974:34), but the resource of "personal contacts" is unevenly distributed throughout the population. It is the unequal distribution of such contacts, due to economic and social differences, that is relevant. As Lande (1977:xvi) has noted:
Persons who own or who have access to substantial resources have many would-be allies, and can afford to create alliances with many of them. The poor and the weak, on the other hand, may have few willing allies to choose from, and may find that they cannot afford to cultivate more than a few alliances in any case.
Middle class residents have the knowledge to deal with bureaucrats directly, or have alternative contacts to politicians. Their access via personal friends, neighbors, or relations decreases their dependence on politicians. For less privileged citizens, the range of possible contacts remains limited. In the working-class areas of Dublin, the local politician is the main link between the individual and the bureaucracy.
The benefits of clientelist exchanges, for both politician and voter, might seem marginal. The politician hopes to obtain some increase in electoral support, the voter hopes to have a better chance of obtaining state assistance. Neither is sure that they will benefit to any great extent. Given such uncertain returns, why, one might ask, do clientelist exchanges exist in Ireland? They exist because, while the benefits for both sides are often minimal, the costs, to both sides, are also minimal. Clapham has observed that clientelist exchanges are likely to decline when "either patrons or clients or both see themselves as no longer gaining a benefit from the transaction sufficient to outweigh its costs" (1982:14). The cost for the Irish client is minimal because the electoral system, combined with strong party loyalty, makes individual politicians very vulnerable to voters: voters are able to make demands which politicians dare not resist. On the other hand, the institutional relationship between politicians and bureaucrats provides politicians with procedures by which voters' expectations can be satisfied with very little investment of time or energy on the part of politicians. Since the costs, for both sides, are minimal, then clientelist exchanges remain a useful investment for both parties.
This study has made clear that clientelism fulfills specific functions with regard to politicians' and bureaucrats' needs, as well as citizens' needs. Primarily, it provides politicians with a means of obtaining electoral support that does not require influence over material patronage, although politicians sometimes provide real assistance, and always act as personal advocates, making sure that voter's interests are looked after. Clientelism also protects civil servants by providing a buffer between them and the public, and permits them considerable autonomy. People are satisfied with personal contact with politicians, and so continue to support a political and administrative system which often provides few material benefits.
Irish clientelism fits into Eisenstadt and Roniger's description of patron-client relations which exist as addenda in modern societies. They note that such relations are usually phrased in terms of "subversive friendship" rather than honor, and tend to be transactional exchanges "with relatively little unconditionality built into them" (1984:184-5). In their classification, such traits are characteristic of those clientelist exchanges which exist in "societies in which other, non-clientelistic, modes of structuring of generalised exchange are predominant" (1984:173), rather than societies in which the clientelist mode is dominant. Dublin clientelism fits into their scheme.
What are the implications of Irish clientelism for theories of political clientelism? The Irish case is relevant because Ireland differs considerably from many other societies with clientelism. Ireland emerged as a periphery without a center, with no sharp economic or ethnic divisions to be bridged through clientelist exchanges. Political clientelism is often linked with ethnicity and an absence of collective class identity (e.g., Lemarchand 1981:19), but Ireland lacks "ethnic loyalties". Does the existence of clientelism in Ireland therefore contradict such assumptions about clientelism and ethnicity? Interestingly, the loyalty and moral commitment which Irish voters attach to political parties is very similar to the loyalty engendered by such ascriptive memberships as tribe or ethnic group. The voluntary and contractual exchanges of clientelism exist within the collective group defined by shared party membership. Hence, clientelism exists within the context of a shared moral identity which is based on neither class nor ethnicity.
In addition, after independence, Ireland's administrative structure remained relatively impervious to political influence. Administrative and personnel decisions are relatively non-political, and so unavailable as political "prizes". While the clientelist metaphor defines political rivalries, clientelist exchanges do not dominate the system of resource allocation. However, Irish clientelism is no less significant for this lack of material patronage. Clientelism provides voters with a personal and moral link with the state and so maintains support for the existing political and administrative structure. It compensates for the relative impersonalism of universalistic values by infusing exchanges with personalistic qualities of trust and solidarity.
Finally, this study shows the importance of information as a brokerage resource. The structures and procedures of the state bureaucracy prevent the public from having access to information about state benefits. This closed bureaucratic system makes information a valuable resource for politicians. They are able to make unjustified claims and create a sense of moral obligation which increases their electoral support. This resource has the advantage of being "cheap": it does not require the reallocation of scarce economic resources. There has been a rapid increase in the need for state assistance in urban areas, and the state bureaucracy has not adjusted to increased demands from citizens. In such a situation, the politicians' control over information has been a particularly useful resource. With an increasing number of citizens dependent on state assistance, control over information is likely to remain a powerful political resource.
|percent of IPA
respondents per area
|Area 1||25 (18%)||4 (16.6%)||14%|
|Area 2||24 (17%)||2 (8.3%)||5%|
|Area 3||24 (17%)||5 (20.8%)||19%|
|Area 4||15 (11%)||3 (12.5%)||10%|
|Area 5||31 (22%)||6 (25%)||40%|
|Area 6||22 (16%)||3 (12.5%)||12%|
|Totals||141 wards||24 wards||100%|
The inner city area (Areas 1 and 2) was undersampled and Corporation housing estates
(Area 5) were oversampled; but the selection of wards generally parallels the social areas
suggested by the NESC study. The survey results also paralleled the distribution of
occupations in Dublin, as described in the 1971 Census of population (CSO 1975:147). Both
surveys categorized occupations according to the same modified Hall-Jones scale (CSO
1975:vii; see also Reid 1977:44-45). The IPA categories could be collapsed as following
(with the parallel Census results in brackets): Professional 13.1% [12.62], other
non-manual 40.5% , skilled working-class 18.4% , and semi-skilled and unskilled
28% [22.25]. As with the geographical sampling, there was a slight over-sampling of the
more deprived socio-economic groups.
A preliminary account of the survey results can be found in Litton (1973). The raw data was subsequently made available to the author for analysis, which was recoded. While 500 cases is less than the desired number, it is sufficient to shed light on beliefs regarding brokerage as well as clientelist behavior. All tables are significant to at least .05.
List of Abbreviations
|CSO||Central Statistics Office|
|CCLC||Coolock Community Law Centre|
|IPA||Institute of Public Administration|
|NESC||National Economic and Social Council|
|NIEC||National Industrial Economic Council|
|PSORG||Public Services Organisation Review Group [Devlin Report]|
|RTE||Radio Telefis Eireann|
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