Contemporary Politics in Ireland

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Module code


Module Details

This module introduces students to politics in Ireland, focusing on questions of power and policy-making. 

A critical analysis of the political culture is attempted through an examination of questions and debates surrounding modernization, secularization, economic change and gender change.  The party system and electoral system are examined, as are the mechanics of governance.  The changing role of the Irish State in the context of globalization and European integration is examined. 

Although the primary focus is on the Republic of Ireland, students are also introduced to recent academic discussions of the conflict in Northern Ireland, both in order to understand the internal dynamics of that conflict and to understand how Northern Ireland has featured as a key issue in the politics of the Republic.

The module covers the following areas:

  • Irish political culture
  • Irish electoral behaviour: origins and development of the party system
  • The Constitution: background and development
  • The parties and the party system
  • The electoral system and its political consequences
  • The Dáil and the government
  • TDs and their constituency work
  • Policy-making: the role of government, civil service, interest groups
  • Power within the government: the position of the Taoiseach
  • Ireland and the EU: the impact of EU policy-making on Ireland
  • Northern Ireland: historical background to the problem
  • How republicans, loyalists, nationalists and unionists see the NI problem


There will be 14 one-hour lectures, and 8 one-hour seminars. There will be two lectures per week during weeks 1-3, thereafter one lecture and one seminar per week.

In addition, personal assistance is available to students with the preparation of their seminar presentations. And all essays will be returned to students on a personal basis, with a one-to-one short tutorial.


This module is assessed as follows:

  • Essay (40%)
  • Seminar paper (20%)
  • Two hour unseen exam (40%)

Intended Learning Outcomes

  • To assess the role of different political actors and institutions in the process of policy-making
  • To apply relevant theories of politics to the behaviour of these actors and institutions
  • To assess the consequences of modernisation, secularisation, and rapid economic and cultural change in the Republic of Ireland
  • To consider whether the Irish state retains its relevance to its citizens in the face of internal and external pressures
  • To introduce students to an understanding of the complexities of the Northern Ireland conflict

Indicative Readings

  • John Coakley & Michael Gallagher., (eds.), Politics in the Republic of Ireland, 5th edition (Routledge 2010).
  • Maura Adshead & Jonathan Tonge., Politics in Ireland: Convergence and Divergence in a Two-Polity Island, (Palgrave Macmillan 2009).
  • Roy F. Foster., Luck and the Irish: A Brief History of Change 1970-2000, (Penguin 2007).
  • Henry Patterson., Ireland Since 1939: The Persistence of Conflict, (Penguin 2007).

An extensive reading list is available on My Dundee.


30 credits