Adapting Irish model to build
by Leslie Vryenhoek
Could the social partnership that helped create the Celtic Tiger work to build prosperity in Newfoundland and Labrador? Memorial Coracle Fellow Walter Kirwan has organized a public roundtable to explore that question.
The Oct. 5 event, which brings a delegation of key players from Ireland to St. John’s, is open to everyone interested in improving the social and economic circumstances in this province.
According to Dr. Steve Wolinetz, Political Science, Ireland faced serious socio-economic challenges in the 1980s similar to those experienced in this province, including high levels of debt, unemployment and emigration.
“The Irish government gave business, trade unions, farmers and the voluntary sector a seat at the decision-making table as a way of breaking out of adversarial roles,” explained Dr. Wolinetz. “Economic growth resulted, while the social justice issues remained on the agenda.
“The only country that has used regional aid successfully, to my mind, is Ireland. Education was a part of the secret. The question is: can this province do a variant of the same thing?”
According to Dr. Wolinetz, Mr. Kirwan, formerly of Ireland’s Department of the Taoiseach (Prime Minister) and now vice-chair of the Ireland-Newfoundland Partnership, played a significant role in the development of these social partnerships and was also involved in matters relating to Northern Ireland and the European Union.
Last year he was named a Coracle Fellow at Memorial University. The Coracle Fellowships and Roundtables promote exchanges and foster the relationship between Ireland and Newfoundland and Labrador across a broad range of fields. Fellows can be academic scholars, senior civil servants or others from various professions.
Working with the Faculty of Arts and the Strategic Partnership Initiative in the province’s Rural Secretariat, Mr. Kirwan organized the Coracle Roundtable, Building Consensus to Build Competitiveness. The event will involve the community in an examination of the Irish Social Partnership experience, including methods of consensus building, the problems encountered, how the partnership changed over time, and current issues.
The Coracle Roundtable happens on Thursday, Oct. 5, from 2:15-5 p.m. at Salon F, Holiday Inn, St. John’s. RSVP appreciated: 737-8254.