While Irish Independent advertisements suggest that the difference between Greek and Irish responses to austerity is a matter of individual choices, new research from NUIM Dept of Sociology indicates that matters are a little more complex than that. Understanding European movements: new social movements, global justice struggles, anti-austerity protest, published today by Routledge and edited by Cristina Flesher Fominaya and Laurence Cox, is the first systematic attempt to situate Europe’s anti-austerity movements in their historical and cultural context.  Cristina Flesher Fominaya (Aberdeen) starts a two-year Marie Curie fellowship at the Dept. of Sociology in September, working with Prof. Sean O Riain on a comparison between anti-austerity movements in Ireland and Spain, while Laurence Cox co-directs the MA in Community Education, Equality and Social Activism, jointly based in Sociology and Adult and Community Education.

Understanding European movements is the first publication from the Council for European Studies’ research network on social movements, which is chaired by the two editors and brings together 178 scholars from 23 countries and 18 disciplines working in the field. The book’s
15 chapters include authors based in 11 countries whose analyses are all grounded in ethnographic and historical research on these movements – in Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Romania, Spain and the UK as well as transnational relationships. The book offers a comprehensive, interdisciplinary perspective on the key European social movements in the past forty years and sets present-day struggles in their longer-term national, historical and political contexts. Its four sections discuss the European tradition of social movement theory, the relationship between European movements from 1968-99 and contemporary anti-capitalist movements, the construction of the “movement of movements” within the European setting from the late 1990s onwards and the new anti-austerity protests in Iceland, Greece, Spain and elsewhere.

The book will be launched by leading social movements scholar James Jasper (CUNY) at the CES conference in Amsterdam next month. Other network events at the conference include two mini-symposia, five panels, a workshop and a roundtable on understanding contemporary waves of protest. Together with the ECPR’s and ESA’s standing committees on social movements, the CES network is also organising a symposium on social movements and the European crisis at the Transnational Institute, Amsterdam.


Cristina Flesher Fominaya and Laurence Cox, eds. (2013) Understanding European Movements:
New Social Movements, Global Justice Struggles, Anti-Austerity Protest. London: Routledge (Advances in Sociology series).

304 pp. hardback, ISBN 978-0-415-63879-1

In the UK, the government are looking to radically reform building standards and introduce much greater self-regulation of the construction industry.  Here’s how The Guardian open their story about such measures:

Regulations covering building standards, including fire safety and wheelchair access, could be torn up in a government plan to cut costs for the construction industry and boost the economy.  Ministers have ordered a wide-ranging review covering all aspects of building regulations, also including standards on energy efficiency. The review, which controversially includes the option of giving the building industry more scope for self-regulation, is the latest in a series of government initiatives intended to stimulate activity in the economy and drive job creation through investment in homebuilding.  Its aim is to prune regulations “significantly”.

Apparently costs to property developers and the construction sector are worth more than people’s health and safety and also the effects on the environment of poor planning and build.  Of course, health and safety and the environment are unlikely to be in the cost-benefit model for vested interests.  And nor, no doubt, are the costs for addressing sub-standard build in the future.

Perhaps the group that is charged with reviewing standards and the regulation process should visit Ireland and have a look at what happens when you de-regulate and let the construction industry self-regulate and dictate government policy towards planning, development and construction.  Perhaps they might wander our 2,876 unfinished estates, many of which are build in unsuitable locations and are in various states of disrepair, or visit Priory Hall where residents have been forced to live in rented accommodation for over 12 months due to fire safety risks, or Gleann Riada where an apartment block was demolished and residents are living in houses prone to gas explosions, or the over 12,000 homes affected by pyrite most of which are going to need expensive restoration work.  Or the houses that have been built on floodplains.  The list could go on an on.

Planning policy and building standards and regulations were introduced for a reason.  They improve and assure the quality, safety and design of buildings and the sustainability of environments.  They do not depress construction if there is market demand for property.  Britain only has to look at its banks – the other half of the equation in property development – to know what deregulation generally means: profit before good practice.  And it only has to look at Ireland to see what happens when you deregulate and introduce laissez faire planning and self-regulation of construction (and combine that with deregulating finance).

Given that Ireland often seems to look to the UK for new policy initiatives this kind of change isn’t good news for those hoping for improved regulation, standards and enforcement with respect to development, planning and construction in Ireland.  The only people these kind of changes help are property developers and construction companies in making more profit.  It is highly unlikely that any savings from cutting corners on health and safety will be passed onto to buyers.  All the risk will be though.

Rob Kitchin

Tanaiste Mary Coughlan has come under fire for her recent comments, during a BBC interview, about young people emigrating from Ireland. Coughlan appears to suggest that emigration is a welcome rite of passage, and that current emigrants from Ireland have the social capital to allow them to move freely. Her comments have been criticised by fellow politicians, and by letter writers to newspapers who claim she is understating the crisis of emigration.

The outrage about Coughlan’s comments stem in part from a refusal to acknowledge that emigration from Ireland continued during the Celtic Tiger era. Indeed, geographer Bronwen Walter has pointed out that many of those who emigrated from Ireland to the UK in this period ”were facing a range of experiences of disadvantages and limited options for improving their lives” (2008: 189). These emigrants, and the social and economic conditions that led to their departure from Ireland, are among the hidden stories of the Celtic Tiger.

One consequence of the denial of recent emigration is that emigration statistics, limited though they are, are being used to construct a contemporary moral panic.  Yet, even in the middle of the Celtic Tiger era, thousands of young Irish worked in Australia, New Zealand and Canada on one-year working holiday visas, and their migration was celebrated rather than seen as a cause for concern. There has clearly been an increase in this type of temporary migration (see Figure 1), but from an annual base of over 10,000 over a sustained period.

Figure 1

Similarly, there is as yet no clear evidence for a significant increase in Irish emigration to the UK, at least in terms of National Insurance numbers issued to Irish nationals (see Figure 2). In other words, accounts of the increase in contemporary emigration from Ireland need to take into consideration the baseline levels of emigration during the Celtic Tiger era.

And what of current, well-educated emigrants from Ireland, with their degrees and their Phds? We have to hope that their experiences do not mirror those of well-educated immigrants to Ireland, whose qualifications and experiences were often discounted in Celtic Tiger land. Research by the ESRI, for example, highlights the fact that it is difficult for many immigrants in Ireland to gain access to more privileged jobs (e.g. managerial, professional), regardless of their qualifications.

It appears, from CSO publications, that there is an increase in emigration from Ireland. Just who those migrants are, and their reasons for and experiences of migration, are questions we still need to answer.

Mary Gilmartin