Deepening democracy within Ireland's social partnership
Gaynor, Niamh (2009) Deepening democracy within Ireland's social partnership. Irish Political Studies, 24 (3). pp. 303-319. ISSN 1743-9078
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Ireland's social partnership process, now under attack from a number of quarters, has repeatedly been charged with being 'undemocratic' in that it undermines the sovereign position of elected political representatives, with key policy formulation and decision-making taking place in fora outside the institutions of representative democracy. These critiques echo those against new forms of networked governance more globally. A key question therefore is how (and if) democracy may be deepened within social partnership or its potential successor(s). This article addresses this question by employing a post-liberal democratic framework to examine social partnership in practice, and by drawing lessons from another partnership process, Malawi's PRSP. Drawing from Malawi's experience, it is argued that democracy can be deepened within social partnership when governance deliberations and negotiations are conducted under conditions of vibrant public debate and genuine perspective-based representation, and when the communicative and discursive norms are widened to allow for such representation.
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