A new book examining the history of a “think tank”, established in the mid 1950s, to challenge the ways Ireland was governed, socially, politically and economically, is to be launched in the National University of Ireland on 19 February. Tuairim: intellectual debate and policy formulation: Rethinking Ireland, 1954-75, published by Manchester University Press, was written by Dr Tomás Finn, a lecturer in modern Irish History at NUI Galway.
Tuairim (the Irish word for “opinion”) was an intellectual movement that challenged traditional orthodoxy and put forward new ideas and fresh solutions. From the late 1950s, Tuairim’s members, who included the late Garret Fitzgerald, future Supreme Court Judge Donal Barrington, Miriam Hederman O’Brien, Jim Doolan and David Thornley, sought to influence debate and public policy in an attempt to re-invent the country.
“At a time when Ireland is currently looking at ways to re-invent itself as it continues with the process of economic recovery, the timing of this publication is particularly appropriate,” explains Dr Finn. “The Ireland of the 1950s, 60s and 70s encountered similar social and economic upheaval.”
The book argues that Tuairim influenced the key public policy decisions that shaped modern Ireland. Policies on which Tuairim’s members voiced influential arguments included: investment in education; reforms to censorship and the system of childcare; the central importance of economic planning to Ireland’s future; and moves towards a more conciliatory policy in relation to Northern Ireland.
Also considered in the book, is Tuairim’s contribution to debates on both administrative and Oireachtas reform, and on the quality of ideas informing public policy. The groups’s hopes for moves towards equality of opportunity, and increased co-operation, provoked a strong reaction from vested interests, particularly the Catholic Church, but also facilitated increased activity by the State.
In assessing the relative successes and failures of the organisation in these areas, the book is an addition to the current public debate on national policy and its administration and Ireland’s intellectual and cultural development in the post-Celtic Tiger period.
The book will be launched by Dr Maurice Manning and Mr Justice Donal Barrington on Tuesday, 19 February at 6pm in the National University of Ireland, Merrion Square, Dublin.