Ireland, social protection policy, austerity, retrenchment, welfare


This article analyzes the impact of austerity on the Irish social protection system. The analysis is situated in Ireland’s wider financial and economic crisis and its status as an ‘early adopter’ of an austerity response which has continued under European Union/International Monetary Fund intervention. We focus on how the crisis instigated a political narrative about the cost and design of the social protection system, leading to a programme of retrenchment and reform which has blended a politics of blame avoidance with credit claiming. Three core elements in this narrative— generosity, sustainability and suitability— are identified, and against this background, a pattern of multi-dimensional change in social protection across the life course dealing with working age, pensions, and child income supports is analyzed.

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