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The Politics of Policy-Making

Module Code: PO4760

Module Name: The Politics of Policy-Making 2018-19

  • ECTS Weighting: 15
  • Semester/Term Taught: Michaelmas + Hilary Term
  • Contact Hours: One 2-hour seminar per week
  • Module Personnel: Dr Séin Ó Muineacháin

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;
  • understand the impact of new technology on the policy-making process; and
  • discuss the rationale and potential options for reform of the policy-making process.

Module Learning Aims

  • To equip students with a critical understanding of the theoretical aspects of public policy making and the public policy cycle in an Irish context;
  • To understand the aspects of the Irish policy-making process and the balance of power between the main actors in the process; and
  • To articulate the main challenges facing the Irish public policy making process and the debates concerning its future reform.

Module Content

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. With these stages in mind, 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. Developments since 2011 are explored and their success in meeting the objectives laid out for them is explored. The future of policy-making in Ireland is also discussed, with respect to the challenges perceived to face it and how these compare in an international context. In light of this, actual and proposed reform are discussed including the role of technology and the internet, the potential for deliberative democracy and the prevention of corruption.

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Recommended Reading List

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

  • Howlett, Michael and Michael Ramesh, Studying Public Policy: Policy cycles and policy subsystems, 3rd ed. Oxford University Press, 2009
  • O'Malley, Eoin, and Muiris MacCarthaigh. Governing Ireland: From Cabinet Government to Delegated Governance, Institute of Public Administration, 2011.
  • Hardiman, Niamh (ed.), Irish Governance In Crisis. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2012
  • Fischer, F. and Miller, G.J. eds., Handbook of public policy analysis: theory, politics, and methods. crc Press, 2006

Assessment Details

60% end of year exam

40% coursework, split equally between Michaelmas and Hilary term

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