Dobbin Atlantic Scholar Report – Development and the State: Fighting Disparity in Atlantic Canada and the Republic of Ireland, 1956-2006

October 30, 2017

Dobbin Atlantic Scholarship Programme Final Report

Name of Home University: Saint Mary’s University, Canada

Name of Host University: University of Limerick, Ireland

Title of Research: Development and the State: Fighting Disparity in Atlantic Canada and the Republic of Ireland, 1956-2006

Visit Details:

Weeks 1 – 2

I arrived in Limerick on 12 April 2016 to begin research.

I immediately met with Professor Anthony McElligott, Chair of the Department of History at the University of Limerick, and became acquainted with the available material and archival sources. Dr. McElligott introduced me to several members of the department who shared similar research interests, including Professor Bernadette Whelan who specializes in Irish and American political economy. Professor Whelan spoke with me about the resources involved with the University of Limerick Oral History Project, which includes a series of interviews surrounding the issue of university development in the late-20th century as a part of the transition towards knowledge and service sectors in the Irish economy.

In addition to the ULOHP, the holdings of the Special Collections room at the UL Glickman Library were instrumental in my research. I spent several days examining the Kemmy and Allott papers, which include information on the Irish trade union movement, familial connections between Irish trade unionists in County Limerick and elsewhere in the country, and much information on the life of Jim Kemmy – an Irish politician and trade unionist who was deeply involved in both the Labour and Democratic Socialist parties in Ireland between the 1970s and 1990s. I had copies made of much of this material, and have brought it back with me to Canada to form the primary source material for a paper on Irish political economy in the 20th century.

On 18 April, I delivered a public lecture at the Glickman Library titled “White Rage or Economic Anxiety: Donald Trump, Post-industrialism, and the Making of the Rust-Belt Right.” This talk was well-attended by both faculty and students from U.L., and I made certain to thank the ICUF publicly for the support that has been provided. This provided a further opportunity to meet with Limerick-based researchers with interests in economic development, labour, and working-class politics.

While in Limerick, I also met with William T. O’Neill of the Limerick City Museum and Archives. Dr. O’Neill provided me with access to the business documents of Ranks Ltd. a British-owned milling company that operated in Limerick between 1930 and 1983. These records provide insight into issues of foreign ownership, labour relations, and the spatial division of labour within the city. The Factories Act (1955) produced a series of changes at Ranks, which are visible in correspondence and shifts in the organization of production on the shop floor. These records will be very useful in my proposed scholarly output. Similarly, I explored the records of the Geary and Son Biscuit Factory, which – like Ranks, closed its doors in the 1980s.


Week 3

My third week in Ireland was spent in Cork, exploring the history of the American-owned Ford Motor Company in that Irish city. At the Boole Library at the University College of Cork, I copied materials from both the Cork Constitution and Cork Examiner newspapers related to the industrial and economic history of the Irish automobile industry. I specifically focused on the events surrounding the end of production in 1984, the resulting layoffs, and state efforts to re-train and find employment for displaced workers. I was able to identify three former Ford plant employees who are interested in the project, and have agreed to the possibility of conducting oral history interviews in the coming months.

Also in the Boole Library were a series of Cork City Council books from the late-20th century, which provide evidence for the place of the factory within municipal politics. These records will be useful in my planned discussion of local responses to globalization and the threat of factory closures during the 1980s. I also used the opportunity to explore the issues of Saothar – the Irish labour history journal – which includes several articles related to economic displacement, trade unionism, and Irish working-class politics.


Weeks 4-5

The final two weeks of my trip were spent at the National Archives in Dublin, where I explored material related to Irish politics and economic development throughout the postwar period.

In Dublin, I examined the Department of the Taoiseach Records, which include correspondence and material related to the development of the 1958 Economic Development program by T.K. Whitaker and the Irish Department of Finance under Éamon De Valera and Sean LeMass. These holdings included newspaper clippings, political correspondence and notes, draft policy documents, and information related to the development of the European Common Market and the place of Ireland within the European free trade movement.


Information related to LeMass was particularly useful, as it is with his administration that my proposed research begins – and there is a wealth of comparisons to be drawn between the LeMassian development and the schemes enacted under Robert Stanfield and the regional developers in Atlantic Canada. From the LeMass papers, I copied material relating to various Irish industries and the economic situation in the 1950s and 1960s. Agriculture is prominent within these records, and the development of policy surrounding Irish farmers and farming will fit well with the records drawn from Limerick relating to the bacon industry and Irish food production. These will provide the backdrop for an overall assessment of the Irish state and its development strategy throughout the 20th century. Oral history material, as well as correspondence and other documentary evidence, will help to link this focus to the lived experience of Irish workers – particularly as they wrestled with disparity and job losses in a rapidly shifting national economy in the 1980s and again in 2008.


Future Continuing Collaboration:

As the result of discussions with Anthony McElligott in Limerick, I hope to return to the city sometime in 2018 to conduct a series of interviews with former industrial employees from a number of Limerick-based firms.

Immediately, I will begin writing a scholarly paper comparing state development strategies in Atlantic Canada and the Republic of Ireland between the 1950s and 2000. This will provide insight into how the two regions responded to the shifting pressures of the 20th century globalizing economy. In consideration of the contacts that I made while in Ireland, I am considering submitting this paper to Saothar – the Irish labour history journal. If accepted, I will ensure to properly thank the ICUF and the Dobbin Atlantic Scholarship Programme for the support of this research.

Description of Academic Field

Labour History ; Political Economy ; Oral History