keywords: Politics Clientelism Irish clientelist political Urban Ireland information reputation brokerage Irish county council administration government planning brokers clients Dublin bribery county councillors TDs planning rezoning development plan illegal housing corruption influence information patrons political local city corporation

Politics and Clientelism in Urban Ireland:
information, reputation, and brokerage

(c)Lee Komito 1985
University Microfilms International 8603660

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  1. Graziano seems to ignore the possibility of clientelist politicians engaging in socially desirable, non-material, programs. Few political parties are solely pragmatic; they have some collective ideology which binds members together (cf. Cohen 1974; Bailey 1969). This ideology can legitimate decisions which have no immediate or pragmatic benefit. In addition, a charismatic leader can use his own personal credit to justify otherwise unacceptable actions
  2. It is worth emphasizing that Ireland has been undergoing a rapid economic restructuring. Ireland's present proportion of employment in agriculture of 17.3% is a dramatic drop from the 38% of employment in 1957. Even in the period from 1980 to 1982, agricultural employment dropped almost two percent. Equally, women's participation in the wage economy continues to rise; for example, the 1983 figure represents a 1.5% increase over the 1981 figure. Only Greece showed a similar rate of increase (Eurostat 1981, 1983).
  3. Based on radio, television, and newspaper reports.
  4. For a full description of the Irish voting system, see Chubb (1982:350-53).
  5. As in a list system, see Rae (1971).
  6. Attempts to recruit personnel for top level appointments from outside the civil service have never proven successful.
  7. One example of this is found in the hostility with which many high level civil servants greeted the appointment of an Ombudsman in 1984. The Ombudsman has authority only to investigate specific cases; he cannot actually force civil servants to alter their decisions. Many departments have made access to cases difficult, and have even challenged the legality of the relevant statutes.
  8. Councillors are also nominated to represent the Council on interview boards for locally administered third-level institutions, and accounts of political interference and influence over staff appointments are frequent and pervasive.
  9. Bax's research has aroused great controversy, and numerous researchers have expressed reservations as to some of the data (e.g., Garvin, n.d., Higgins, pers. comm.).
  10. The recent emergence of the Worker's Party in urban areas may alter the status quo; it explicitly identifies itself as a "working class" party. At the moment, its support is less than the Labour Party's, but Labour Party politicians consider it a real threat.
  11. As a note on the significance of party unity, disgraced former Ministers continued to support their party on Dail votes, even on the very matters which had forced their resignations.
  12. See Rae (1971) for a discussion of the effect of electoral systems on representation.
  13. The only exception was Neil Blaney in Donegal. Blaney had a very strong personal following in Donegal and, perhaps most importantly, was able to claim that it was everyone who remained in Fianna Fail that had actually departed from party ideals. In nationalist Donegal, the claim that he represented the true Fianna Fail seemed effective.
  14. Many of the examples used here have been drawn from fieldwork in Dublin, and may thus be more apt a description of urban politics. Discussions with party activists suggest, however, that rural politics is little different.
  15. "Itinerants" is a pejorative label for a nomadic, gypsy-like group of native Irish people who remain distinct from the "settled community". They are more often described as "travellers". They congregate in small groups of a few families by roadsides, and are disliked and distrusted. Although there have been attempts to provide settlements for them, such attempts are often resisted by neighborhoods, who fear a drop in property values and an increase in theft.
  16. Dublin was "the pale", and was considered British; the boundary of this enclave was well established, and those outside the boundary were, in common usage, "beyond the pale" (hence the origin of the phrase).
  17. Daly (1985) provides a comprehensive account of Dublin's social and economic development in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
  18. This has changed recently, as there has been intensive capital investment in telecommunications in the 1980's. Transport services, however, remain underdeveloped.
  19. Local authorities have some power to either compel construction of shops or provide their own shops, but neither is often done in practice.
  20. This attitude worsens social segregation since private owners do not want to risk being tarred with the same social stigma brush; they want to live in estates clearly separate from any public housing areas.
  21. The number of Corporation renters buying their rental house is likely to increase, as significant financial incentives are now provided to encourage renters to buy out their leases.
  22. Many of the working-class families own houses only because the state has helped them to buy the houses which they rented from the Corporation; thus, most of the working-class families who now own their own houses were originally renters and continue to live in working-class housing estates.
  23. Significance of under .05; based on unpublished M.A. research by Simon Devilly, University College, Dublin.
  24. Out of 141 electoral wards, 24 were chosen, and 42 names were chosen from the electoral register in each ward. The sample size was thus 1,008, and 701 interview schedules were completed. Unfortunately, due to an interviewer's error, over 200 of the responses had to be discarded, leaving a total of 499 valid cases.

    At the time of the survey, there was little data available on the demography of Dublin; it was difficult to be sure of wide social coverage in the selection of wards throughout the city. In retrospect, the survey achieved good coverage, as shown by a comparison between the number of actual electoral wards in each social area of the the NESC (1981:91-103) survey and the number of wards and respondents per social area sampled by the IPA survey:
      total wards
    per area
    IPA sample
    of wards
    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% [41], skilled working-class 18.4% [24], 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.

  25. Although each social area had distinct concerns, there was still room for variation within areas. Different BEAs and even locales within BEAs had conflicting priorities, as shown by Tables 6.3d and 6.3e.
  26. This excludes the small number who chose the other two answers of "fixing things for friends" and "getting publicity".
  27. This roughly corresponds to the RTE (1977) survey. Dublin respondents selected national politicians (33%) and local politicians (11%), for a total of 44%, while 46% chose bureaucrats.
  28. During field research, politicians confirmed this. For example, one politician in a middle class constituency said that the small number of public housing estates in his area took up as much time as all the rest of the constituency.
  29. Social class, as indicated by occupation, was not measured in this survey, nor was the housing status or area of residence of respondents recorded.
  30. Although the present tense is used throughout, the chapter describes the situation that existed from 1978 to 1980.
  31. For example, in one large community association (an umbrella group for over 20,000 residents), the three officers were each members of different parties.
  32. In actual fact, the trees were pruned because it was that estate's turn and the councillor had made no representations on the matter. The residents, without any evidence, presumed that the tree pruning was a result of special influence.
  33. This is different from the case of community activists who are seen as using their community activities as a political base. Politicians avoid being prominent in community groups, to avoid any suspicion of partisan personal manipulation. Since the politician is not perceived as using the group's activities to enhance his own position, members tend to be positive about supporting him.
  34. Reported in the Irish Times of 16 February, 1982.
  35. Nora Owens won the seat, based partly on her work as a politician and partly on her association with Michael Collins.
  36. The party rivals were not able to become known as "experts" on other issues, and so did not receive the media attention that would have permitted them to respond to the new threat.
  37. The fear was justified since, in the February 1982 election, O'Brien lost his seat, while Gay Mitchell retained his. In the next election, O'Brien regained his seat, at the expense of a different politician.
  38. Estimate based on interviews with rural political activists.
  39. In one case, a building contractor, who had benefited from his association with a local politician, gave his workers time off so that they could canvass for votes and also made company cars available for the politician's election workers.
  40. The system can break down when a successful applicant gets letters from a number of different politicians!
  41. Both suggestions were actually made by politicians to clients coming to clinics.
  42. The fact that these people still go to politicians for assistance suggests that expertise is not the only resource which the politician has; those whose expertise matches the politicians' still find that politicians are more effective advocates.
  43. Since that time, a special capital investment program has increased the capacity of the phone system, and decreased the waiting list for phones.
  44. The electoral benefit from providing community services is often less than might first appear. As previously noted, many people who gain from collective benefits are already committed to a different party or politician.
  45. An instance of this attitude occurred during research. When a local official was phoned, in order to arrange an interview, the official first enquired how his telephone number had been obtained.
  46. Often, politicians are not competing over the same voters. One politician's publicity "coup" in one part of a constituency does not necessarily threaten other politicians, whose support is strongest elsewhere in the constituency.
  47. At one point, local authorities obtained funds by taxing local residents and business interests. As a result of a pre-election pledge given by Fianna Fail, residents were no longer taxed after 1977 and the money was replaced by direct central government assistance. While this was electorally popular especially with property owners, it has increased local authority's dependence on central government dictates. The autonomy of local authorities has been severly diminished.
  48. Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1963
  49. Motions are termed "Section Four's" after Section Four of the City and County Management (Amendment) Act, 1955; they permit the County Council, by a two-thirds vote, to overrule a Manager's decision on various matters.
  50. Rumors have suggested there were payments amounting to five thousand pounds for specific planning permissions, but this was never proved in court.
  51. Many of the special cases are due to Corporation condemnations of old buildings, in order to tear them down and construct new ones.
  52. While the local authority County Manager is eventually accountable to the Department of Environment, the Health Board Chief Executive Officer (CEO) is accountable to the Department of Health.
  53. As stated in the 1970 Health Act which established the regional Health Boards.
  54. The politician's monopoly on access to bureaucrats has been slightly undermined by recent legislation which, in 1984, introduced the post of Ombudsman. People can bring complaints to the Ombudsman, and he will investigate the case and ask the relevant civil service department to justify its decision. Only some government activities may be investigated by the Ombudsman (semi-state bodies, for example, were initially excluded); however, this does represent an alternative to approaching a politician. The civil service has not been positive about this new accountability, so a voter may still receive a quicker and more satisfactory response by asking a politician to intercede rather than the Ombudsman.
  55. One of the most important sources of information about the bureaucracy is a government study carried out in the late 1960's by the Public Services Organisation Review Group (PSORG), commonly referred to as the Devlin Report (after its chairman). Although extensive research regarding civil service attitudes was undertaken, little of the material has ever been published.
  56. Sometimes a councillor intentionally raises an issue that has local relevance and is certain of attracting publicity. Having raised the issue, he is best prepared to speak on it and so will get press coverage.
  57. Cronin (1975) presents an example of this problem in Tallaght.
  58. This is by no means a static situation. The increasingly complex and unwieldy administrative structure generates a need for increasing representations, and is overworking politicians and bureaucrats alike. There are indications that the system is becoming overloaded, perhaps to the point of breakdown. One indication of this overload is a recent civil service union motion to ban representations. Another indication is a recent debate of Dail reform in which politician after politician complained about the bureaucracy's lack of responsiveness both to the public and the politicians themselves (Dail Debates, v. 339, nos. 4-10).

    As a partial response to these problems, there have been changes in bureaucratic and Dail procedures since the late 1970's. Computerization and other procedural improvements have speeded up the processing of applications, thus making politicians' monopoly on access to bureaucrats less valuable. Various local and national departments now operate public information services, and Community Information Centres undercut politicians' monopoly of information. There have been a number of reforms in Dail and civil service procedures since 1983, aimed at making the civil service more accountable to both the public and politicians. For example, the introduction of the Ombudsman, in 1984, provides an access to civil servants which bypasses politicians. In addition, the Dublin electoral area was revised in 1985, in advance of promised reforms in local government. The number of councillors in Dublin Corporation and County Council was increased from 96 to 130. This increase in the number of councillors means that it will be more difficult for sitting TDs to prevent potential rivals from obtaining a local seat. Clientelism in the l980's is likely to be different from the clientelism of the 1970's.


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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