Mr. Whitaker and Industry:Setting the Record Straight
After 16 years of unbroken Fianna Fáil rule, the first four of the five general elections of the period 1948-1963 saw sitting governments unseated. Economic policy pivoted: protectionism was abandoned; foreign direct investment welcomed and an application for membership was made to the EEC. Whitaker’s Economic Development appeared in 1958. Lemass took over from de Valera as Taoiseach in 1959. The ‘long 1950s’ remains of enduring fascination to Irish historians. Conventional wisdom accords the bulk of the credit for the turnaround in policy to Seán Lemass, Minister for Industry and Commerce in most Fianna Fáil governments since 1932 and Taoiseach from 1959 to 1966, and T. K. Whitaker, Secretary of the Department of Finance from 1956 to 1969. This arguably downplays the importance of the intensified electoral competition of the time, and undervalues the achievements of the second inter-party government, which introduced export profits tax relief – the genesis of Ireland’s low corporation tax regime – in 1956. Fine Gael and Labour had long advocated liberalising the restrictions on foreign ownership of industry before Fianna Fáil finally yielded (Bew and Patterson, 1982, McCarthy, 1990). Whitaker’s particular role in the reform process is – to our minds – seriously misrepresented by Walsh and Whelan (2010) in a recent paper in this journal. The present note assesses their main assertions in this regard in the light of information available from the archival records.
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- Patrick Paul Walsh & Ciara Whelan, 2010. "Hirschman and Irish Industrial Policy," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 41(3), pages 283-299.
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