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A Ground-breaking new survey of the Irish value system from leading sociologist Niamh Hourigan


24-03-2015 12:45

In an important new book, leading sociologist Niamh Hourigan traces Ireland’s recent economic crisis to a centuries old aversion to rules. She shows how corruption in Ireland stems from our colonial history and a deep-rooted belief that rules are inherently unfair, favouring the interests of elites. In so doing, this ground-breaking study attempts to understand and break the cycle of corruption in Irish society.

 

We have built a nation on a value system that equates ‘being good’ with ‘being there for each other’, although simply adhering to the rules is not considered an equivalent form of goodness. As a society we favour ‘minding our own’ over ‘doing what we’re told’. While these two parallel worlds have co-existed harmoniously during periods of Irish history, in 2008 they collided in spectacular fashion.

 

Dense networks of strong relationships allowed politicians, developers and banks to manipulate and, in some cases, rewrite the rules to promote their own interests rather than the interests of ordinary citizens. Equally, and despite their criticism of bankers and political elites involved in the crash, the Irish middle classes themselves used favours to get around the rules that they encountered to pursue their own ends.

 

Although the austerity programme has resulted in the development of a new, stronger set of rules to deal with debt and white-collar crime, the two-tier nature of the new system has reinforced rather than challenged the popular belief that rules are unfair. If rules can’t be relied upon to treat people equally, why shouldn’t people continue to turn to relationships to mitigate their harshness?

 

In Rule-Breakers Niamh Hourigan brings a new understanding to how corruption has developed in Ireland, illustrating how the conflict between the culture of ‘being there’ versus that of ‘being fair’ finally caught up with us, and provides fresh insight into how we might develop a sustained, widely supported response to the problem.

 

Rule-Breakers will be published by Gill Books on Friday, 27 March 2015, priced at €16.99. No reviews, interviews or features to appear before then. Niamh Hourigan is available for interview about the book.

For further information please contact Teresa Daly, Communications Manager, Gill Books, 01 500 9521, 086 838 3559, tdaly@gill.ie.



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