A graduate of Pembroke College, Cambridge, Paul Bew has been Professor of Irish Politics at Queen's University, Belfast since 1991. A leading commentator on Northern Irish politics, he is the author of many publications on Irish history and the politics of contemporary Ireland.
This pioneering study is the first overview of politics in the Irish Republic from the 1916 Easter Rising to the present based on an examination of the state's social foundations. Starting with the eclipse of the left in the early years of the Irish Free State, the authors examine the decades of Fianna Fail domination characterised by heavy emigration, economic isolation and the massive social and political influence of the Roman Catholic Church. In these years the de Valera regime was built upon an alliance - unique to Ireland - of small farmers, trade unionists and business interests welded together by Fianna Fail.
The internationalisation of the economy and the urbanisation of Irish society in the 1960s provoked serious divisions within the Fianna Fail party which culminated in the Arms Crisis of 1970. Deepening economic crisis in the 1970s went hand in hand with the inability of a modernising coalition of Fine Gael and the Irish Labour Party to govern in harmony with trade unions which have always found it easier to work with clientilistic Fianna Fail governments.
Political, fiscal and social crisis have been the hallmark of Irish politics in the 1980s, with the emergence of new political parties (notably the Workers' Party and the Progressive Democrats), a struggling economy and controversial divorce and abortion referendums.
The conclusion, which takes account of the crucial 1989 General and European Elections, sees the rapid changes of the last twenty years mirrored by a long delayed realignment towards a politics based on class, as has traditionally been the case elsewhere in Europe.
Contributors: Paul Bew, Ellen Hazelkorn, Henry Patterson