See the Videos and Papers from our 30th Annual Social Policy Conference

Posted on Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Society Matters:  Reconnecting People and the State

This year's conference featured an excellent and diverse line-up of speakers from Spain, Italy, Germany, the USA, and Ireland. The key note address was delivered by President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins.

President of Ireland Michel D. Higgins at Social Justice Ireland's 30th Annual Social Policy Conference with (left to right) Justin Kilcullen (Chair of the Board of Directors), Brigid Reynolds (founding Director) and Dr. Seán Healy (CEO)  

Ireland has changed considerably in the past 30 years. We are now in the middle of a global shift of ideas, values and politics. With a generational transition in politics clearly taking place in Ireland, what values will emerge from this country over the coming years?

Recent developments, such as Brexit, have major implications for the European Union and its future. What direction should it take? How can people be involved?

Can the "new politics" deliver a different relationship between people and the State in Ireland? What kind of Ireland do we want to shape through our civic participation? What is the role of the Citizen? How do we reconnect people with the State, and do we need a new Social Contract for citizens to engage with? There were just some of the questions that were addressed at our 2017 Social Policy Conference at Croke Park Conference Centre on Tuesday, November 21st.

The conference began with some opening remarks by Social Justice Ireland CEO Seán Healy.

The first presentation of the morning was by Lorenza Antonucci of Birmingham University. She spoke about how to address inequality in a changing world. Dr. Antonucci was followed by Michael Dauderstadt, who dealt with the issue of the fragility of the social cohesion that exists at the moment in Europe.

The first session was followed at 10:50 by the highlight of the day. Social Justice Ireland was honoured to have President Michael D. Higgins deliver the key note address of the conference. His speech, entitled Of The Discourse That We Need, was a tour de force, dealing with the neoliberal influences that drive much of the current political and social agenda, how this came to be, and what can be done.

The third session of the morning featured Danny McCoy, of the Irish Business and Employers Confederation, and Jack O'Connor of the trade union SIPTU. Representing the business sector and the unions, they spoke about the challenges that lie ahead in the world of work, and the trends we are currently seeing in employment.

The first session after lunch saw Manuel Muniz, Dean: IE School of International Relations, Madrid, being beamed in from Spain by videolink, and he delivered a fantastic presentation on equality and the shifting paradigm of the current world economy. This was followed by Seán Healy and Eamon Murphy of Social Justice Ireland who outlined some of the elements required in a new Social Contract for Ireland that will serve as protection against the social upheaval being witnessed internationally, and move Ireland towards the Western European norm in terms of taxation, investment, and social provision.

The final session of the day was shared by Cara Augestenborg of UCD, Aine Macken Walsh of Teagasc, and Sara Bourke of Social Justice Ireland. Dr Augustenborg's presenation dealt with the "new politics" and how innovative democracy can engage people in making Ireland's low carbon transition sustainably. Ms. Walsh gave an excellent presentation on bridging the urban/rural divide, and Ms. Bourke finished the day off with a presentations on the work of Public Participation Networks in Ireland.

The conference was ably chaired by Michael Clifford of The Examiner newspaper, who won the award for Journalist of the Year in 2016.

Watch the presentations made at our Policy Conference below.

Speaker Biographies can be accessed here

Click on the presenter's name for the text of their paper, or click here to access all papers in the conference booklet.

The morning session

Theme: Equality and Society

Speakers Lorenza Antonucci (Birmingham University) (View summary graphic)

Michael Dauderstadt (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Germany) (View summary graphic)

Keynote Address: President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins - 'Of The Discourse That We Need'

Theme: Business, Unions and Society

Speakers Danny McCoy (IBEC) (View summary graphic)

   Jack O’Connor (SIPTU) (View summary graphic)

The afternoon session

Theme: A New Social Contract for a Fairer Future

Speakers   Manuel Muniz (Dean: IE School of International Relations, Madrid) (View summary graphic)

  Seán Healy & Eamon Murphy (Social Justice Ireland) (View summary graphic)

Theme: Towards a Rural, Regional, Sustainable Society with Real Local Participation

Speakers:  Cara Augestenborg (UCD and Friends of the Earth) (View summary graphic)

  Aine Macken Walsh (Teagasc) (View summary graphic)

  Sara Bourke (Social Justice Ireland) (View summary graphic)