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The Politics of Policy-Making

Module Code: PO4760

Module Name: The Politics of Policy-Making

  • ECTS Weighting: 15
  • Semester/Term Taught: Michaelmas + Hilary Term
  • Contact Hours: One 2-hour seminar per week
  • Module Personnel: Lecturers - Dr Séin Ó Muineacháin (MT) & Dr Emanuel Coman (HT)

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

  • Understand the policy cycle and how this applies in an Irish context;
  • understand the main actors involved in the Irish policy-making process;
  • understand the main analytical concepts underlying comparative policy analysis and how these apply in the Irish context; 
  • understand the relationship between evidence and policy making in Ireland; and
  • understand the impact of new technology on the policy-making process.
  • Acquire a thorough knowledge of the main EU institutions and the way in which they interact in the process of policy making
  • identify the main EU policy areas as well as the historical process through which they have developed
  • analyse the development of these policy areas within the well-established theories of European integration
  • have a good understanding of how EU and national level policy-making interact, as well as the policy areas in which each of the two levels is more important
  • critically assess some of the more contentious policy areas such as labour movement or employment and social policy.

Module Learning Aims

Term 1: The main aim is to equip students with a critical understanding of the Irish policy cycle and the aspects of the Irish policy-making process.

Term 2: The main aim is to provide students with a critical understanding and comprehensive knowledge of the policy making process, the main policy areas, the actors involved in this process and the interaction between policy making processes at national and EU level.


Module Content

Term 1: The financial crisis and the aftermath brought the Irish policy-making process into focus. Questions were asked about whether or not the policy-making process in Ireland was fit for purpose and what reforms, if any, were needed to address this. The purpose of this module is to equip students with an understanding of the theories used to explain policy-making and how they can be applied in the Irish case. This will include a focus on the conceptual stages of the policy making process – agenda setting, formulation, decision making, implementation and evaluation. The institutional framework for policy-making in Ireland is discussed as well as the main drivers of policy-making. Specifically, the roles of various actors in the process are explored, and the relative strength of actors in Ireland is compared with the theoretical frameworks explored in the literature. The role of evidence and evaluation in policy-making is also discussed, with particular regard to the extent of evidence-based policy in Ireland. Finally, the future of policy-making in Ireland is discussed, with respect to actual and proposed reforms, the role of technology and the internet and the prevention of corruption.

Term 2: We will start with discussions of the main EU institutions, their historical development and role in the policy-making process. Special attention will be given to the so-called ‘EU democratic deficit’ and the steps that have been taken to reduce it. Once we gain a strong understanding of the actors, we will discuss the evolution of the main policy making areas such as the single market, justice and home affairs, competition, agriculture etc. Given that the entire history of European integration can be understood as a history of expansion to new policy areas, we will take a historicist approach, and focus on how EU level policies have expanded through European treaties.

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Recommended Reading List

Term 1: Readings will be assigned for each week; useful texts include:

  • Cairney, P. (2012) Understanding Public Policy – Theories and Issues, Basingstoke: Palgrave.
  • Collins, Neil, Terry Cradden and Patrick Butler (2007) Modernising Irish Government – The Politics of Administrative Reform, Dublin: Gill and Macmillan.
  • Fischer, F. and Miller, G.J. eds., 2006. Handbook of public policy analysis: theory, politics, and methods. crc Press.
  • Hardiman, Niamh (ed.), Irish Governance In Crisis. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2012

Term 2: Readings will be assigned for each week; useful texts include:

  • Helen Wallace, Mark A. Pollack, and Alasdair R. Young, eds. Policy-making in the European Union. Oxford University Press, USA, 2015
  • Simon Hix and Bjørn Høyland. The political system of the European Union. Palgrave Macmillan, 2011.

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Assessment Details

60% end of year exam

40% coursework, split equally between Michaelmas and Hilary term

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Last updated 20 September 2016 polsci@tcd.ie.