Public policy accumulation in Ireland: the changing profile of ministerial departments 1922–2022

Muiris MacCarthaigh*, John Biggins, Niamh Hardiman

*Corresponding author for this work

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The relationship between the policy ambitions of political incumbents and the organisation of the state administration to achieve them is complex and fluid, and cross-sectional studies provide useful but limited insights about how this relationship is evolving. There is evidence that the challenge of managing and coordinating the modern state’s stock of public policies is under considerable pressure, however, arising from the accumulation of increasingly diverse public policies. In the Westminster/Whitehall administrative tradition, the primary actor for managing these endeavours is the ministerial ‘department’, which acts as the central organisational entity for formulating and coordinating public policy measures, and accounting for their implementation. In this paper, drawing on a data-set spanning a century of Irish public administration ( and other sources, the changing profile of ministerial departments between 1922 and 2022 are examined in longitudinal perspective to illuminate the incidence and content of policy portfolio accumulation, and the political and administrative responses to these changes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)92-119
Number of pages28
JournalIrish Political Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 Feb 2023


  • Ministerial Departments
  • Policy Accumulation
  • Public Policy
  • Ireland
  • Public Administration


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