Launch of the Irish State Administration Database

The Irish State Administration Database was launched last week at an event which formed part of the Innovation Dublin festival. The Database was developed by an interdisciplinary team working in the UCD Geary Institute, led by Dr Niamh Hardiman of the UCD School of Politics and International Relations, with funding from the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences. The searchable Database records details of births, marriages and deaths of all central stage agencies (including government departments) since the foundation of the State in 1922. Avid agency watchers can study the growth in agency numbers to their peak in 2008 and subsequent modest decline. The Database shows that there are currently 350 central state agencies. However, the rich data can be mined in other ways, enabling users to look at trends by reference to such characteristics as function (eg delivery, trading, regulation, adjudication), policy domain (eg health, education, transport), and legal form (eg statutory corporation, public company, company limited by guarantee). Some further information about the Database can be found here. Users need to register here to use this free resource. There will a be hands-on demonstration of the Database on 23 November, 3-5pm, in Room G-5, Daedalus Building, UCD Belfield Campus, with an emphasis on the range of potential applications. This event is open to all but requires advance booking with mary.shayne@ucd.ie.

Author: Colin Scott

Colin Scott is Principal, UCD College of Social Sciences and Law and Professor of EU Regulation and Governance at UCD. He is a Co-Editor of Legal Studies (Wiley-Blackwell).

7 thoughts on “Launch of the Irish State Administration Database”

  1. Well done to all involved including IRCHSS which funded it.
    I look forward to exploring ISAD.

    Apart from maintaining it and keeping it up to date (which needs resources), I hope that it will be extended in two directions
    1) to local government. Until the 1970 Health Act and the abolition of rates on domestic residences and agricultural land, I suspect that most public expenditure was by local authorities (If this has bee documented, I would appreciate a reference to a source or sources);
    2) to the political system ie. the Dail/Seanad and assocaited staffs, together with the growth of Ministerial offices/advisers etc.

    The inclusion of universities in ISAD did surprise me, as I never considered universities to be part of the state administration.

    Our education system (including third level, apart from what are now DIT, Institutes of Technology and some others) was largely privately owned, mostly state-funded and up to secondary level, very heavily state regulated (eg. curricula, teachers working conditions/pay/pensions).

  2. @Donal
    Thanks for your comments.
    On the issue of what is in and what is out, we engaged with a wide range of tricky classification issues as part of this project. Defining what is public only by reference to ownership and direct control appeared to us too narrow, so you will find in the database organisations which are not publicly owned in a conventional sense but operate substantially with public money and/or public authority. On the criteria we applied there was a case for including schools in the database, but decided against this on pragmatic grounds that they would greatly increase the number of bodies in the database without significantly increasing its general interest and value.
    Whether the database shoudl be extended to local government, or a separate database established I am not sure.
    As to the political system some of the information you mention pertains to individuals as much as administrative structures. Again a slightly different form of database might be appropriate.
    As to whether the universities are part of the state administration,any residual doubts must have been removed by the issuance of the Employment Control Framework.

  3. @Colin.
    Employment Control Framework.

    This strikes me as an excellent example of all that is inefficient and ineffective in the Irish state. Budgeting is an adequate control framework for any organisation, that manages in a modern way. Otherwise people at a great distance from the actual work are micro-managing with all that implies terms of loss of focus, waste of energy and whimsical interference.

  4. Shame if most of these resource hogging tax spending organizations (rhtsos) are shut down in a budget!

    Good idea and thank God for nerds inputting data …. 😉

    Next, we need the real deal: all activity including correspondence received, put onto the internet as recived, by each of the aforesaid rhtsos!

    More Taxes now! Abolish the army, navy and air corps!

  5. @Pat Donnelly

    “Next, we need the real deal: all activity including correspondence received, put onto the internet as recived, by each of the aforesaid rhtsos!”

    AT the launch, Kevin Murphy (now retired from being the Ombudsman and a Secretary General with responsibility for human resources) did raise Freedom of Information in a comment from the floor.

    Last June, Dan Lucas, a London-based correspondent for a Swedish newspaper observed that

    “But if you ask me for one example where my country shines, I would have no doubt what to choose. Sweden’s Freedom of Information laws are a beacon to the world….In 1766, when a new young radical government came to power convinced that only transparency could deal with the corruption that was looting the Swedish state and society Freedom of Information Act was passed…All documents within the public sector are in the public domain so people can actually check and hold the people in power accountable for their actions…. Freedom of Information… is still a bedrock for transparency and accountability in Swedish democracy…You don’t have to tell why they want to see a document or you don’t even have to give a name…You can even read official letters before they arrive in politicians’ intrays………Yea, Freedom of Information does mean you sacrifice some personal privacy…Of course, Freedom of Information isn’t universal in Sweden. If you really want to hide information you can. But you have to work quite hard to keep things secret. The exemptions are limited and very specific.”

    For more on this, see http://politicalreform.ie/2010/06/21/freedom-of-information-and-corruption/

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