How (Not) To Do Public Policy

Conference and launch of new report on water charges and the local property tax

1:30pm, Thursday, 13 September 2018
Aula Maxima, The Quadrangle, NUI Galway

Why do some public policy measures succeed while others fail? Why, for example, has the Local Property Tax been a policy success, while the attempt to introduce water charges was a policy disaster? What can we learn from successful and failed policies about the policy-making process in Ireland and how to make that process more effective?

This conference will gather senior policymakers, public servants, academics, and other experts to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the policy-making process in Ireland with a view to suggesting how the quality of policy-making might be improved. Although much analytical attention has been paid to the effects of public policies in Ireland and to the macroeconomic context in which they are set, there has been very little analysis of the policy-making process: How policies are conceived, designed, implemented, communicated, and reviewed. This conference is an attempt to address this gap. View the conference programme here.

The conference will feature the launch of a new Whitaker Institute report by economist Jim O’Leary on water charges and the local property tax. This report, meticulously researched based on exceptional access to senior policymakers, looks back forensically at these two recent policy initiatives and explores what it was about the policy-making process in each case that contributed to success or failure.

This conference is aimed at a general audience and will appeal to anyone with an interest in how public policy is made in Ireland. The event is free and open to the public, however those who wish to attend must pre-register at:

4 replies on “How (Not) To Do Public Policy”

Will this conference and panel discussion be recorded? I cannot attend but I would like to see the panel discussions.

It will be very interesting to see what this “exceptional access to senior policy-makers” will reveal about the failure to apply household water charges. But the failure shouldn’t conceal the fact that the establishment of Irish Water, the negotiation of the Service Level Agreement with the Local Authorities, the successful sale of the non-network activities of Bord Gáis Éireann (to satisfy a clear Troika demand), the combining of Irish Water and its assets (as a gift) with the Bord Gáis network business (Gas Networks Ireland) to create Ervia (so as to compensate Bord Gáis for the sale of its non-network activities and the development of a charging model that would convince Eurostat to designate Irish Water as a “market corporation” so that it could raise borrowing that would be off the government’s accounts all together constituted a magnificent feat of co-ordination with many moving parts and, literally, a cast of thousands.

The magnificence of this feat of co-ordination should not be underestimated. It involved ministers and senior officials in three departments (the then Departments of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources and of Communities, Environment and Local Government and the Department of Finance), Local Authority councillors, management, staff and unions, semi-state (mainly Bord Gáis) directors, management, staff and unions, the EPA, the CER (now the CRU), the CSO and a veritable army of lawyers, accountants, economists, consultants, academics, organisational specialists, PR operatives, and IT and other service providers from a plethora of private sector firms.

The only problem is that those involved were so enraptured by the magnificence of what they had confected that they failed to engage with and convince the ordinary voters that they should pay what was deemed a relatively trifling amount for this magnificent confection.

Comments are closed.