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Social Dialogue


If Ireland is to succeed in addressing the challenges we are faced with, the pathway to doing so must be founded on consensus, must be well-managed, and must be properly evaluated.  A deliberative decision-making process, involving all stakeholders and founded on reasoned, evidence-based debate is required. 


A mature discussion needs to take place about the price of food and who pays for the additional production costs imposed by increased environmental and other conditions.This is an area where there is potential for collaboration between the environmental and agricultural lobby. Recent evidence of this can be found in the mutual opposition to the ratification of the Mercosur trade deal negotiated by the European Commission.

On Wednesday, 18th November 2020, Social Justice Ireland held our Annual Social Policy Conference by webinar. This year's theme was 'A New Social Contract, A New Social Dialogue: Building a Better Future'. In case you missed it (or you'd like to revisit the presentations), the videos, papers and graphic reports are all available now.


Covid-19 has caused us to think about many things that previously we may never really have considered: the importance of good public services; the need for a social security system that provides real security in the face of sickness and unemployment; and about concepts such as inter-dependence and solidarity.  It has led us to reassess what we mean by ‘essentially work’; who really are the ‘essential workers’; and is it right that many of them are treated the way they are.  And it has fundamentally changed the relationship between business and the state.


As societies and economies across the globe respond to the Covid pandemic, Ireland has the opportunity to execute a strategy which can address the major structural challenges from both the present and pastand set out a strategy and a blueprint for a better Ireland.

How normal was the world before Covid-19? The last decade has been anything but normal – whether viewed at national or European level, or in broader geopolitical terms.  We, as a planet, face a choice between attempting to develop responses cognitively through a new dialogue, political and social, or simply marching on, brainless, based on some notion of the old normal.


The cuts to funding for the Community and Voluntary sector made during the last recession have yet to be restored. Covid-19 has again highlighted the importance of communities. This support must now be formally recognised in Budget 2021 with investment in programmes that support community engagement; deal with deficit demand; tackle social exclusion; and sustain communities.

A robust Social Dialogue process with the broad-based enhancement of capabilities in the economy and society at its core would assist in driving a sustainable recovery from the current crisis that will boost business development, improve wellbeing and invest in the future of citizens and communities.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact across all society.  We are all stakeholders in this crisis, and a whole-stakeholder approach to addressing it is urgently required. At a national level a new structure for Social Dialogue is required where issues may be discussed in a deliberative manner. Any proposal for Social Dialogue should involve Government, trade unions and employers, the community and voluntary sector, as well as farmers and environmental groups. Any structure for Social Dialogue that excludes any of these groups would be a recipe for ensuring that most of Ireland’s resources would be captured by those participating in the discussion. Such an approach would simply lead to deepening divisions and growing inequality in Ireland at a time when the needs of society, the economy and the environment require that we come together.

Social dialogue and social partnership, in various forms, are common across Europe’s most successful economies and can play an important role in creating a fair and sustainable economic recovery here in Ireland.  A social dialogue process would be a very positive development for Ireland, and given the disruption caused to the economy and society by the current coronavirus pandemic, such a process is increasingly important. Read more in our policy briefing on Social Dialogue.

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