Whilst the Irish data rank amongst the highest on the ‘as is’ scale of humane orientation, the notion that Ireland should be more humane is interesting. This high ‘as is’ score 4.96, rank 9/61, cluster A, is probably a result of our strong Christian and Catholic heritage and the size of the country. The Irish public gives generously to local and overseas charities and is very supportive of humanitarian appeals for disasters abroad. For decades, Irish missionaries have ministered to the needs of those in developing and third-world countries and nowadays are assisted by many young volunteer workers. There is a long tradition of charitable institutions being funded by the state and run by religious orders, a pragmatic solution to the problems of cash shortages. Even today, in spite of the benefits of the Celtic Tiger economy, hospitals continue to have fund-raising committees staffed by volunteers. In respect of organisations which represent and work for those with disabilities, the State does provide resources for core services but there continues to be heavy reliance on voluntary funding.
The higher ‘should be’ score (5.47) may be stimulated by the perception that the ‘softer’, gentler characteristics of life in this country are being sacrificed to the ‘Celtic Tiger’ through economic success and emphasis on performance and individual achievement. Guiomard (1995) writes of his desire to see a modern day social democracy embracing a ‘combination of productivity and equity’, which is founded on ‘a policy of “hard heads, soft hearts” – sensible but compassionate economic policies’ (p.19). According to Collins and Kavanagh (1998): ‘There has been a marked increase in the level of inequality (in Ireland) over the past twenty years’ (p.172). Whilst the wealthiest 20 percent of the population has increased its share of national income from 46.7% in 1972 to 52.5% in 1994, income distribution for the lowest 50 percent fell from 18% to 11.5%. A comprehensive welfare system does exist, but, as in many other developed nations, fails to catch all in its net. Many of those who remain on outside the system are reliant on handouts and other services provided by different voluntary organisations.
Ireland is becoming and will continue to become a more pluralist society. Already, the impact of an increasing number of foreigners and refugees seeking either political or economic asylum in the wake of the country’s prosperity, is being felt. The influx of refugees is a relatively new phenomenon when compared with other industrialised nations and the legislators have not been quick to respond and to plan for the future. Ireland was effectively shielded over number of decades by its relative economic weakness, its island geography and by Britain from immigration and thus Irish society has remained remarkably homogenous. Whilst there is a tolerance within Irish society of difference within the ‘in-group’, this not necessarily replicated in respect of ‘outsiders’ from other cultures who seek refuge in Ireland. The Department of Justice has been involved in latter years in several controversial decisions not to grant asylum and thereby stimulated considerable public debate, possibly in light of the relative ‘newness’ of the problem. Against the backdrop of the recent Kosovo crisis, the Irish government asserted its intention to fulfil its responsibilities and to offer temporary sanctuary to 1000 refugees until such times as they can return home. Such affirmations have provoked debate in the media as members of our society have sought to remind politicians and the public at large of the humanity of other nations who have, over the centuries, received large numbers of Irish emigrants. Through economic prosperity Irish people have forgotten their own diaspora. In a letter to the editor of a leading newspaper, the writer stated: ‘I have never felt ashamed to be Irish, but when I read about the ongoing attack on refugees, visiting students and non-white Irish people and our Government’s ambivalence to it all, I feel that very soon I will’ (The Irish Times, April 29, 1999). In the future, Irish people expect fear and greed to be more apparent and politeness, generosity and tolerance to wane. Jupp and O’Neill (1994) record: ‘Our socio-cultural values will be severely tested as twice as many people expect us to be less caring by the next millennium’ (p.12).
Hofstede classified Ireland as individualistically-oriented, a profile which deviates from the view held by respondents to the GLOBE questionnaires who see Irish society as relatively collectivist. Within the Collectivism I scale, Ireland ranks within the highest grouping, cluster A, in the ‘as is’ scale, 4.63, rank 9/61 and slightly less in the ‘as should be’ scale. The high level of collectivism is an outcome which is compatible with our size and post-colonial history. There is a strong sense of belonging to a parish, of community-level interdependence especially in a rural context. Most indigenous Irish sports are team-based and membership of collectives is high. It has been noted in Sections 1.3 and 1.5 that recent statistics cite trade union density at 53% and membership of the Catholic Church is 92%.
This high positioning on the collectivism scale may be influenced by the collective sense of national pride and self-esteem evident in Ireland today. Such collectivism, labelled ‘corporatist partnership’ by some (Sweeney 1998), has undoubtedly contributed to the economic boom. There is a shared sense of well-being influenced by positive economic growth, low unemployment, availability of jobs for all and an absence of the forced emigration, which saw some 200,000 people leaving Ireland in the eighties. The collectivist orientation may draw on the sense of solidarity, of battling together: government, employers, trade unions, farmers, voluntary organisations and the unemployed through the process called ‘social partnership’ to achieve this positive outcome. The Programme for National Recovery (1988-1990) secured trade union support for cuts in public spending. This was followed by the Programme for Economic and Social Progress (1991-1993) and the Programme for Competitiveness at Work (1994-1997). Partnership 2000 was agreed by all interest groups in 1997. Partnership at enterprise level, which requires culture change in companies, is a key component. The agreements have functioned well in past years and are only now beginning to be challenged in some quarters by those who perceive that whilst the economy booms and government coffers are full, the benefits are not being equally distributed.
There has been a definite move towards encouraging greater collective responsibility in dealing with a variety of societal administrative and behavioural matters such as drinking and driving, car parking, tax avoidance and evasion. It is suggested that this trend is symptomatic of desire to foster an independence rather than a dependence culture and also mirrors the trend toward Irish individuals accepting collective responsibility for what is acceptable in our society. Creating a sense of national solidarity has been and is vital in facilitating collective action to bring about the many changes which we are witnessing in Irish society today. Despite the high levels of Collectivism reported to exist in Irish society, Irish middle managers wish to see less emphasis on collectivism and more individualism in Irish society.
One economist presents a different view on collectivism in Irish society: ‘[…] our rhetoric stresses the community over the individual, upbraiding the upstart and the self-starter, implicitly requiring that everybody stay in his or her appointed place’ (Guiomard 1995, p.186). Such a commentary raises a number of interesting issues in respect of Irish attitudes to failure and to power distance. Peter Sutherland, ex head of GATT and Ireland’s previous EU-Commissioner, observed in 1990: ‘[W]e have a capacity for excessively admiring noble failure. […] We seem sometimes to be inured to coming off worst and almost to wallow wilfully in this’ (cit. Guiomard 1995, p.188). The notion that we like to see others fail is a theme which recurs in both the focus groups and the ethnographic interviews where it is discussed in the context of leadership in Ireland. It is reminiscent of the ‘tall poppy’ syndrome identified in Australian leadership. Ashkanasy and Falkus note with reference to Mackay (1993), ‘Australians do not necessarily dislike success, and only demonstrate the ‘tall poppy’ syndrome when success is accompanied by arrogance and any inherent implication of authority’ (The Australian Enigma, p. ), an observation which again has implications for power distance, which will be discussed later in this section.
The desire for greater gender egalitarianism reflects current reality within Irish society. Comparatively, Ireland ranks low on gender egalitarianism on the ‘as is’ scale and third highest, 3/61, on ‘as should be’ (4.52). Since Hofstede’s study, which classified Ireland as high on masculinity, the dismantling of discriminatory legislation and expanding participation of women within the workforce have altered the profile and role of Irish women in society. Nonetheless, they remain underrepresented at senior management level across a number of sectors. Despite the existence of equality legislation passed in the 1970s, ongoing research on equal opportunity since the 1980s has revealed stable underlying gender cultures in place in key Irish companies (McCarthy 1988). Working women in Ireland are segregated into a small number of occupational groupings and they are still striving to achieve equivalent earnings to men. By contrast, women are extremely active in a voluntary capacity at local level in their communities. In 1993 over 600 women’s groups were being supported by government subsidies in a wide variety of local community endeavours. Coulter posits that ‘the mushrooming of locally-based women’s groups over the past few years has been the result of a marriage between the influence of modern feminism and tradition’ (1993, p.48).
Education has facilitated greater gender equality, although some academics would argue that sex role models are reinforced by schools. Lynch draws attention to the contradiction with which those attending single sex girls’ schools were confronted:
[…] on the one hand they were educated to compete and succeed in the formal educational system with a view to gaining labour market advantages that go with it; on the other hand they were socialised to be guardians of the moral order, to be unselfish, non-assertive and appreciative of the cultural rather than the purely material products of the age. (K. Lynch 1989, p.27)
Such social stereotyping has implications for the career choices made by women and how they view their role within society in the new millennium. Whereas equality of access does exist in medicine, law, science and business studies/commerce courses, there is still an uneven take-up of some traditionally male-oriented subjects at second-level and women thus remain underrepresented in some third-level courses, most notably engineering.
The shift away from masculinity described by Hofstede’s findings attests that the country has made progress in achieving egalitarianism, although the findings also echo the widespread and explicit recognition that we still have considerable distance to travel. The ‘should be’ value placed on egalitarianism, 5.14, 3/61 speaks volumes in terms of the recognition to redress this perceived imbalance in Irish society. The nature of the GLOBE sample may emphasise this imbalance as the workforce within the food industry remains predominantly male. In fact, the respondents to the questionnaires in this particular sector were 100% male. It is also important to record that the participation rate of women in the workforce has begun to drop on account of the shortage of crèche facilities and the high rate of marginal taxation. Such a trend could have serious long-term implications for the economy which has already begun to experience skills shortages in certain sectors.
There is a possible link between the perceived need for Irish society to be more humane and the wish - albeit less pronounced – for more Family Collectivism. Surprisingly, the ‘as is’ score for Family Collectivism places Ireland in the B cluster and ranks Ireland 38/61. The espoused value ranks Ireland 28/61, highlighting the desire expressed by the participants of the GLOBE survey for greater Family Collectivism.
This may be traceable to the increasing fragmentation of Irish society in the wake of shifting values, coupled with economic development, attendant urbanisation and the sense of displacement and anonymity which this can produce. Moreover, the changing role of women and their increased presence in the workforce, together with divorce,2 have repercussions for the stability of family life and may contribute to the desire for more family collectivism. Whilst the family is given pride of place in the Irish constitution, our confidence in the benign and supportive nature of Irish family life has been shaken in recent years (O’Connor 1992). A succession of visiting anthropologists has commented on the rural Irish family (Arensberg & Kimball 1940; Brody 1973; Scheper-Hughes 1979). The traditional pattern of family organisation involving strictly delineated gender roles, an authoritarian pattern of decision- making and discipline has become less common. With the emergence of dual career families, fathers are becoming less enabled to adopt patriarchal roles.
Ireland is perceived as a good place to rear children according to McCullough (1991) which may reflect the idealisation of the Irish family. Kinship ties are still strong in both rural and urban families and many people obtain important levels of support from their family and neighbours. However, the changing role of women also contains implications for childcare and care for the elderly. According to Lynch and McLaughlin (1995):
‘[…] women are likely to provide care to a range of people across the generations – parents, parents-in-law, siblings, as well as spouses – whereas men are likely to provide care to their own wives. This, in turn, means that women are more likely than men to provide care while they are of working age, and therefore that women are much more likely than men to forego earnings from paid employment to provide care. (p.272f.)
Provision for childcare at the workplace is inadequate; childcare facilities are privately run and few organisations provide these for their employees. State run facilities are non-existent, nor are there tax allowances for childcare. State provision for residential homes for the elderly also falls short of needs. As Lynch and McLaughlin (1995) observe: ‘While public care services for older people are greater than they were 50 years ago, this does not necessarily mean that people receive less care from close kin or friends; public care most often supplements informal care rather than substitutes for it’ (p.261). In recent years allowances for carers have been increased as part of a general trend toward care in the community, although they are means-tested and domiciliary services such as meals-on-wheels, home help and day centres remain inadequate and are provided by the voluntary sector, rather than by the State (ibid., p.269). Lynch and McLaughlin note that although the Republic of Ireland is rather unusual insofar as it does make some provision for carers in its social security system, the actual sharing of costs between carer and the State remains minimal (ibid., p.283). The family remains an important fulcrum in Irish life. Children frequently remain in the family home until they have completed their studies and many do so until marriage. The desire for greater individualism on the Collectivism I scale and for more family collectivism on the Collectivism II scale is not incompatible. Family collectivism is centred on the private sphere as opposed to the public orientation of Collectivism I.
One of the most paradoxical results to emerge from the GLOBE survey relates to Ireland’s positioning on the power distance scale. Hofstede classifies Ireland as low on power distance, a view which is not held by the Irish respondents to the GLOBE questionnaires who express the view that our society has quite a high level of power distance – 5.15 ‘as is’ and that it needs much less, 2.71 ‘as should be’. This shift mirrors precisely the profile emerging from the English data. Ireland ranks 35/61 placing Ireland mid-range, and we are located in cluster C (on a scale of a-c) highlighting that we are among the lower power distance societies on a comparative basis. There is an interesting contrast between how we see ourselves and how we compare with other countries.
A point worth considering as an explanation for the perception of high power distance within Irish society is the notion of centralisation. It might be posited that, faced in the 1980s with a galloping national debt and rising unemployment, central government and its various departments assumed greater powers as a means of tackling these problems. Brussels and the EU are also perceived to represent a centralised power exerting ever greater influence on Irish society. Other organs of centralised power include the Church, which has been the target of vocal reaction from both clergy and laity. Where the locus of power is seen to be more centrally defined, those who are affected by its mandate may discern its influence to be greater.
On the surface Ireland would not appear to be a very formal society. People do not use titles, prefer first name terms and tend to relate to each other as equals in a familiar way, regardless of position or status. Yet, underneath this behaviour is an awareness of the power relationship, which is not obvious to the casual observer or outsider who could easily misread such familiarity. There is a sense that everybody knows his or her place. Irish society cannot not be described as elitist; status is achieved rather than ascribed, yet status can confer certain privileges as a number of recent scandals within Irish public life have demonstrated and which recall Lee’s observations in respect of rewarding position rather than performance (1989). The abuse of power by named politicians, members of the judiciary, the banking and accounting professions, well-known chief executives in the agricultural and financial services sectors and government departments in a wide variety of now exposed activities has caused great concern in Irish society. Clientelism and networking have always been an accepted part of life in Ireland; in political contexts, as noted in Section 1.3, this may have been underpinned by the pivotal role played by the local constituency. As Nic Ghiolla Phadraig points out:
[T]hose who have been educated in elite Catholic schools are over-represented amongst the judiciary, financiers, business and independent professions. Past pupils who chose medicine might receive further assistance in their careers by appointments in the substantial proportion of voluntary hospitals run by religious. There is also a tendency to recruit teachers from among past pupils. (1995, p.615)
Whilst such networking previously remained in the private sphere and there was considerable suspicion, speculation and whispering, it is now entering the public domain as fact, courtesy of numerous tribunals, trials and public investigations. Undermining the clientelist approach, transparency and accountability are part of the canon of the late 1990s. They are a consequence of the country’s economic development and EU-membership which have necessitated the creation of new structures and more explicit reporting relationships.
Irish managers wish to see less power distance as demonstrated by one of the highest absolute differences between the ‘as is’ 5.15 and ‘should be’ 2.71 scores. However, the shift is modest by international comparison, a move from rank 35 to rank 30 out of the 61 countries in the survey. Like all countries, Ireland wants to see power more equally divided in Irish society. At the same time we continue to be classified in cluster C, thereby signalling a wish to remain, comparatively speaking, a low power distance society.
This attitude to power distance may be linked to the latent disrespect for authority held by Irish people. Paxman notes, albeit with reference to the English, that the result of the ‘English obsession with privacy and individualism has been to create a people who are not easily led. They distrust exhortation, and the further away they are from metropolitan life, the stronger their cussedness’ (1998, p.134). Whilst the English and Irish would not consider themselves to be natural bedfellows, it is possible to recognise within Irish society a similar disposition. Attempts to impose new regulations on different aspects of daily life have traditionally been ignored on a wide basis and form part of the culture of non-compliance. This situation is changing rapidly as structures are being imposed to modify behaviour across a variety of fronts. A further shift has also been reiterated throughout this chapter: For years the Catholic Church stood as moral arbiter and wielded an authority which remained, until recently, unquestioned. The growing confidence of a younger, more highly educated generation coupled with the many scandals within the Church has fundamentally altered this sense of acquiescence. Society has become more critical not only of the hierarchy, but also of political leaders and institutions, a trend apparent in media coverage of recent, political and financial scandals.
Today, Ireland is a society looking to the future. The respondents recognise a moderate level of future orientation ‘as is’ 3.98, ranked 21/61, but would like to see significantly more emphasis on this (5.22). The comparative rank of the ‘ should be’ score at 43/61, suggests that other countries are more focused on the future at this point in time.
With increased economic prosperity, the stability offered by continuity of employment provides a more solid basis on which to plan for the future and encourages a move away from managing on a day to day basis. The efforts of the Irish Industrial Development Authority in pursuing a policy of attractiveness to targeted MNCs, specifically in the technology sectors, cannot be underestimated as a successful planning strategy. Central planning to sustain economic performance and growth is also evident. In its Operational Programme for Human Resources 1994/1999 (Government of Ireland 1995), the Irish government outlines programmes aimed at maximising the potential of Ireland’s most significant resource, its people. Investment in training and executive education has increased and is funded significantly through EU channels. Higher levels of investment in R&D within industry – the figure has more than quadrupled since 1982 when it represented a paltry £42.5 million – is also evident. However the percentage remains modest when juxtaposed with other European countries and is lower in indigenous Irish firms than in foreign companies (J.J. Lynch & Roche 1995, p.48-52), a factor which may have to do with size. Within organisations strategic planning has assumed new dimensions, even if the Anglo-Saxon model of shareholder as opposed to stakeholder value remains predominant amongst the larger, publicly listed companies. It is also evident how individuals within Irish society have become more pro-active in making independent provision for their future as evinced by the increase in numbers acquiring third-level education, purchasing health insurance and making pension arrangements.
According to a recent study ‘Reflections on Ireland in the Year 2000’, most Irish people expect the future to be a process of steady evolution in which individuals will create their own destiny (Jupp & O’Neill 1994, p.6). When asked what positive factors were likely to impact on the future Irish society, Irish people listed the following: an increase in the availability of jobs in the computer sector, an increase in the availability of part-time work, an increase in the number of working women, an increase in the numbers of Irish people setting up their own business, the availability of divorce and the possibility of full-time second-level education for all children up to eighteen years of age. Among the negative factors, the following issues were mentioned: having to emigrate for a job – the fate of countless generations of Irishmen and women - the increasing number of foreigners and the impact of American culture on Irish culture.
One area where the lag between reality and policy making for the future is to be seen, is in the area of infrastructural development. A lack of foresightedness on the part of previous governments to plan adequately for the future is reflected in an inefficient public transport system, and a rail and road network which has not kept pace with economic development. Massive grants from the EU have helped in this respect, but successive cabinets have failed to put forward a cohesive plan to tackle the severe traffic congestion within rapidly expanding urban areas. The current administration has set aside some £30 billion to invest in an infrastructure which lags behind that of many of its European neighbours and could ultimately compromise Ireland’s attractiveness as a location for inward investment.