Ciara Meehan

Historian, Author, Lecturer

A Just Society for Ireland? (2013)

A JUST SOCIETY FOR IRELAND? 1964-1987 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013)

Click to view on Amazon (Kindle version available)
Click to view on Amazon
(Kindle version available)

My second monograph – A Just Society for Ireland? – was published by Palgrave Macmillan on 21 October 2013.  Fine Gael’s demise has been periodically predicted since 1933.  Yet it has survived, becoming the largest party in the state after the 2011 general election.  Drawing on interviews with key players and previously unused archival sources, this book offers a fascinating account of a critical period in Fine Gael’s history when the party was challenged to define its place in Irish politics.  The central role played by Declan Costello is disclosed for the first time.  Although he was never party leader, his Just Society proposals transformed Fine Gael by encouraging a new generation of socially-minded politicians, while his agenda for change paved the way for Garret FitzGerald.  Exploring the continuities and discontinuities between Costello’s Just Society and FitzGerald’s Constitutional Crusade, the book documents how the internal debate shaped the party and provides an insight into the origins of an identity crisis with which Fine Gael continues to struggle.  It also offers a commentary on Irish society, and explores the difficulties faced by an older generation as it sought to locate itself in a changing Ireland.

The introduction is available to read on the Palgrave Macmillan website.

The book was largely researched during my time as an Irish Research Council postdoctoral fellow, and it is currently one of the IRC’s featured titles.

 

With An Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Enda Kenny and Maurice Manning, Chancellor of the National University of Ireland, at the launch, 10 December 2013. Photo Credit: Deirdre McGing (http://www.deirdremcging.com)
With An Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) Enda Kenny and Maurice Manning, Chancellor of the National University of Ireland, at the launch, 10 December 2013.
Photo Credit: Deirdre McGing (http://www.deirdremcging.com)

A Just Society for Ireland? in the Media

The book was featured on Bowman: Sunday, RTÉ Radio 1, on 8 December 2013.  Click here to listen to the programme, which included clips from the RTÉ sound archive.

I have discussed aspects of the book with Myles Dungan for RTÉ’s The History Show, 5 January 2014, (listen here) and with Patrick Geoghegan for Newstalk’s Talking History, 26 January 2014 (listen here [starts 18.27]).

Vincent Browne, prompted by the content of my book, made the Just Society the feature of his column for The Irish Times on 12 February 2014.

Reviews

Prof Brian Girvin (University of Glasgow), Irish Historical Studies, 154 (2015):

A welcome study of Fine Gael’s attempts to come to terms with a changing political environment.

This book provides a careful and considered assessment of Costello’s influence, even if at times the connections are somewhat strained. Nevertheless this study restores Costello to the centre of the political stage and addresses why he was so successful in persuading the party to accept the Just Society as a policy.

In an important chapter on the ‘Constitutional Crusade’ she explores the reasons for the failure of FitzGerald’s initiatives to change Irish political culture in the 1980s.

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