Irish - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization. Although an increasing share of the population lives in Dublin, rural culture enjoys a disproportionate importance, and many urban dwellers retain ties to the countryside. While an egalitarian ethos prevails in most rural areas, there are large differences in the "objective" class situation of farmers, ranging from large numbers of very small farmers cultivating less than 6 hectares, mainly in the west, to graziers farming hundreds of hectares in the east. The class structure of the cities resembles that of other urban areas in western Europe.

Political Organization. Eire is a parliamentary democracy with a nonexecutive president elected by direct vote. The Parliament (Oireachtas) consists of a lower house (An Dail Eireann) elected through proportional representation by a single transferable vote, and an upper house (An Seanad Eireann). The government is headed by a prime minister (An Taoiseach) chosen by An Dail. The two principal political parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail, are both centrist in European terms and owe their origins to respective positions on the border question seventy years ago. There are a variety of other parties holding few seats, including the Labor Party and Sinn Fein (the political wing of the IRA). Local government is through the "county council," but recent changes in the structure of taxation have left that body with little real resources and hence little power, making Eire's political system an increasingly centralized one.

Social Control. In rural areas, the local community and kin groups continue to play the most obvious role in daily Social control. The Catholic church, especially in the person of the parish priest, typically continues to exercise considerable authority, especially in the rural areas. In these same areas the "legitimacy" of the state to interfere with local practice may be more often questioned.

Conflict. Irish nationalists tend to sum up Ireland's History as "800 years of British oppression and Irish resistance." Academic histories currently debate whether the local uprisings and guerrilla activity of the eighteenth century, the 1798 rebellion, the Fenians of the nineteenth century, and the ongoing "troubles" can best be understood in terms of class, nationalism, or local interests. From any point of view, however, conflict continues to define the Irish experience, historically and currently.

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