“Economic Governance: Lessons For New Brunswick From Ireland”

August 28, 2019

Dobbin Atlantic Scholarship Report:

Name:                               Constantine E Passaris Ph.D.

Home Institution:      University of New Brunswick, Canada.
Visited Institution:    Maynooth University, Ireland.
Title of Research:       Economic Governance: Lessons For New Brunswick From Ireland

At the outset, I would like to record my profound appreciation and gratitude to the ICUF Board of Trustees for my selection as one of the 2018 Dobbin Atlantic Scholarship recipients, and to the Dobbin family, for their generous support of this important program.

In December 2018, I was selected as a Dobbin Atlantic Scholar and was afforded the opportunity to travel and conduct a four week academic visit to Maynooth University and the Republic of Ireland. The precise dates of my visit were from May 30, 2019 to June 28, 2019.

The Dobbin Scholarship provided me with a unique opportunity to visit Ireland and Maynooth University for the purpose of conducting an onsite research project of significant importance to New Brunswick. Furthermore, I would like to thank Ms. Amanda Hopkins for her guidance and support throughout the application and post-award process.

Words are simply not enough to express my sincere gratitude to my institutional hosts at Maynooth University. More specifically, the Department of Sociology and the Centre for European and Eurasian Studies. I was provided with office space, a desk top computer, internet and library access as well as office supplies, document printing and scanning facilities. Above all I was the recipient of a welcoming, supportive and productive environment which propelled my research agenda and scholarly output.

In particular, I want to single out three individuals who went above and beyond the call of duty to extend a warm welcome and suggested resource persons for my meetings and consultations with academic colleagues. They were instrumental in navigating my research project towards a successful destination. Indeed, they were most generous with their time in providing me with invaluable guidance and resource support for the duration of my four week stay in Ireland.

These three individuals are Professor John O’Brennan who served as my acadamic host and is the Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration and Director of the Maynooth Centre for  for European and Eurasian Studies, Professor Sean O’Riain who is the Head of the Department of Sociology and Ms. Trish Connerty who is the Executive Assistant in the Department of Sociology.

New Brunswick Connection:
It is noteworthy that whenever I mentioned my home province of New Brunswick during my academic visit to Ireland and particularly the cities of Saint John and Miramichi, there was an immediate recognition of that Province. The reason being the influx of Irish emigrants to this part of North America and the lasting family connections that exist up to the present time. My conversations evoked memories of some distant or more recent family member who had emigrated to New Brunswick.

Indeed, New Brunswick’s links with Ireland are distinctively visible in the economy, culture, demography, language and especially the Irish monuments that dot the New Brunswick landscape. Special mention should be made of the monument on Partridge Island that commemorates the arrival of Irish emigrants during the potato famine. There is a special affinity between Ireland and New Brunswick that blends history, economic challenges, resilience  and determination of purpose.


Professor Constantine Passaris (left) at the opening session of the Jean Monnet Summer School on Human Rights, Maynooth University

Research & Development:
My four week academic visit to Ireland provided me with an opportunity to delve into my research project, engage in knowledge transfer, establish a new network of academic contacts, share analytical experiences and participate in academic, professional and social events. All of this afforded me a holistic insight, a contextual narrative and an invaluable perspective into the past, present and anticipated future of Ireland’s public policy evolution and economic development.

My research project focused on three operational axioms. These were economic governance, economic development and immigration. Furthermore, my research parameters were interdisciplinary in both scope and substance. There is no denying that my research outcomes benefitted and were enhanced by the economic, social, political and cultural context of the analytical parameters for my research project.

I am delighted to report that my four week academic visit to Maynooth University and Ireland was an invaluable intellectual experience. One of the overarching benefits of my academic visit to Ireland was the opportunity to engage some of Ireland’s leading thinkers, academics, scholars and researchers in the areas of my research project. It also afforded me the unique opportunity to discuss my research agenda on Ireland in a personal manner with public policy analysts and  practitioners. The topics that were covered during these personal conversations were economic governance, economic development, immigration and much, much more. On every occasion, those conversations were informative, insightful, incisive, analytical, constructive and invaluable.

These consultations resulted in a fruitful exchange of ideas, academic debate, new perspectives, innovative nuances, novel interpretations, new academic contacts and suggestions for new scholarly sources and references. All of this is not something that can be accomplished by reading books and journal articles. It requires a personal contact and viva voce that will engage at a higher level of academic interaction and more intensive interface.

More specifically, my academic visit facilitated a meeting of minds, fostered academic debate, encouraged new perspectives, broadened my intellectual horizons, afforded me a hands on appreciation of my research topic, facilitated my experiential learning, enhanced my research agenda and provided me with a large number of personal meetings with leading Irish academics and public policy practitioners.

In consequence, I can say without hesitation that my onsite academic visit has advanced my research agenda, has met my anticipated research outcomes and exceeded my scholarly expectations. There is no denying that the breadth and depth of my academic research, public policy enquiry  and intellectual investigation would not have been possible without my Dobbin Scholarship.

My academic visit has afforded me the opportunity to explore new research topics as well as new collaborative research projects with academic colleagues in Ireland. One of the tangible benefits of these types of study visits is the academic exchange of professional experiences, insights and perspectives. In short, my academic visit was intellectually rewarding and academically enriching in every sense. It was also a most enjoyable personal and professional journey.

Contacts Established:

My four week academic visit has resulted in a long list of new academic and professional contacts that will serve to enhance my research agenda now and in the future. Indeed, as a result of my visit I have developed a new network of scholarly contacts in Ireland who share my research priorities and will form the foundation for future research collaborations. In this regard, I anticipate future professional collaborations, research incubators and academic spinoffs.

A short list of the academic contacts that were established during this visit include:

Professor John O’Brennan, Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration and Director of the Maynooth Centre for  for European and Eurasian Studies, Maynooth University; Professor Sean O’Riain, Head of the Department of Sociology, Maynooth University; Dr. Michelle Maher, Political Economy, Work and Social Integration Cluster, Maynooth University, Dr. Pauline Cullen, Department of Sociology, Maynooth University; Professor Mary Murphy, Social Sciences Institute and Political Economy, Work and Social Integration Cluster, Maynooth University; Professor Mary Gilmartin, Department of Geography and expert on immigration, Maynooth University; Dr. Eamon Slater, Department of Sociology, Maynooth University; Professor Rob Kitchin, Department of Geography and Social Sciences Institute; Mr. Joshua Savage, Department of Sociology, Maynooth University; Dr. Mary Benson, Department of Sociology, Maynooth University: Dr. Emmanuel Kypraios, School of Business, Maynooth University; Dr. Giovanni Maccani, School of Business, Maynooth University; Ms. Ruth O’Hara, Russell Library, Maynooth University; Dr. Delia Ferri, Department of Law, Maynooth University; Dr. Shanker Singham, Chairman and CEO, Comptere, Professor Frederico Fabbrini, Professor of European Law and Director of DCU Brexit Institute, Dublin City University; Dr. Daniel Keohane, Head of Policy and Advocacy, European Movement Ireland.

Special Events Attended:
During my four week intensive academic visit to Maynooth University and Ireland I had the opportunity to attend several scholarly forums and arrange visits to museums and libraries of special interest. A condensed list of those events and academic venues  is outlined here below.

International Conference on Education, Maynooth University, June 2019; Keynote speeches and panel presentations on “ EU and the 10th anniversary of the Eastern European Partnership” organized by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the European Movement Ireland, Government Buildings, Dublin, June 2019; Keynote speech and panel presentation on “ Which Brexit After the European Parliament Elections?” organized by the Dublin City University Brexit Institute, Dublin, June 2019; National Conference on Public Employment Services and Guidelines, Maynooth University, June 2019; Visit to the Russell Library, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth University, June 2019; Seminar by Dr. G. Maccani on “ IT Governance in Smart Cities”, School of Business, Maynooth University, June 2019; Visit to Maynooth University Science Museum, Maynooth University, June 2019; attended opening session and several presentations at the Jean Monnet Summer School on Human Rights, organized by Department of Law & Maynooth Centre for European and Eurasian Studies, Maynooth University, June 2019; Visit to the EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, Dublin, June 2019.

Lessons For New Brunswick:

The scope of my research project encompassed three operational axioms: economic governance, economic development and immigration. My onsite academic research and extensive consultations with Irish academics, public policy practioners and professional experts revealed a wide range of distinct similarities and significant variances between Ireland and New Brunswick.

Here below is a short list of my preliminary observations and research outcomes that emanated from my four week academic visit to Ireland:

  • In regard to population growth, Ireland and New Brunswick reveal significant dissimilarities. Ireland’s birth rate hovers around the population replacement level of 2.1 and is not a public policy concern. In contrast, New Brunswick’s birth rate has been declining in the last few years below the replacement level. Furthermore, the exodus of New Brunswick’s young men and women in search of employment opportunities elsewhere in Canada and overseas creates a perfect demographic storm in the form of population decline and labour shortages.
  • One of the most important lessons that was gleaned during my academic visit to Ireland was the importance of a global mindset and an international engagement in the context of the new global economy of the 21st century. The emergence of the Celtic Tiger in the 1990s in the form of strong economic growth, full employment and significant foreign direct investment was attributable in large part to Ireland’s global engagement. In comparison, New Brunswick’s international engagement is focused on trade with the USA where a significant portion of its exports are destined. In a globalized world, New Brunswick should enhance and expand its global outreach in order to establish economic beachheads with a more diverse group of trading partners around the world.
  • In regard to economic governance, both Ireland and New Brunswick have an opportunity to fine tune the efficacy of their three tier governance structure with respect to the formulation and implementation of economic policy. While the three tier economic governance structure is identical in both jurisdictions in the form of national, regional and local levels, there is a weak link in terms of an effective two-way directional dialogue between the three levels of economic governance. In effect, the interlocutor axiom between the trilateral levels of economic governance requires an integrated capacity. More precisely, the efficacy of economic governance could be enhanced by the creation of governance structures that will provide community level input in decision making at the regional and national levels as well as facilitating the implementation of economic policies at the local level.
  • Brexit was a topic that surfaced in practically every conversation that I had with Irish academics and public policy practioners. They underlined their concerns regarding Ireland’s economic vulnerability as a result of the U.K. leaving the European Union. Despite the fact that Brexit will not directly affect the New Brunswick economy, there are parallels and lessons to be learned. Brexit was triggered in large part by an emotional response to austerity measures, increased immigration and the perception of unfair trade practices. These emotions are ripe in New Brunswick as well and are demonstrated in the tariffs imposed by the USA on soft-wood lumber exports from New Brunswick.
  • The topic of immigration is clearly shared by both Ireland and New Brunswick. My consultations with Irish academics who are experts on immigration issues revealed specific nuances that should inform New Brunswick’s policy on this matter. Ireland’s immigration is fueled primarily by returning expatriates in addition to a smaller portion of European immigration. New Brunswick has not been very successful at enticing expatriates to return to their home Province. The conventional wisdom is that New Brunswick’s high unemployment rate and lack of career opportunities serves as an impediment to attracting expatriates. On the other hand, my conversations in Ireland revealed that Irish expatriates are primarily driven by social conditions and a desire to regain their social capital. In this regard, New Brunswick’s strategy to attract expatriates should be re-examined.
  • Ireland offers a potent testimony to the importance of small and medium sized businesses (SMB) for jurisdictions that achieve high levels of economic growth and development. It is noteworthy that 60% of Ireland’s GDP is attributed to the economic contributions of SMB. There is no denying that despite the infatuation with large corporations it is the SMB that are the work horses of the economy and contribute the most significant portion of employment creation and economic growth. This is an important lesson for New Brunswick. New Brunswick can increase its economic growth and employment creation by enhancing the economic role of SMB, introducing tax friendly initiatives for SMB and in general fostering an economic environment that supports and nurtures the SMB landscape in the Province.
  • Both Ireland and New Brunswick have been the economic casualties of the global financial crisis of 2008. In this regard, they are both pertinent test cases for examining the theoretical remedies of either imposing fiscal austerity or promoting economic growth. Ireland offers a successful strategy of providing a balance between those two extreme options. Judging by the contemporary economic recovery and the full employment levels that that have been achieved through Ireland’s recent economic initiatives, there is much to be emulated by New Brunswick in Ireland’s recent economic endeavours. Indeed, faced with significant fiscal challenges New Brunswick should avoid the temptation of imposing harsh austerity measures and instead embrace a balanced economic policy approach that pursues cost-cutting efficiencies within its public expenditures while a the same time fostering economic growth initiatives.

At the end of the day, my academic research and personal consultations reminded me of a perennial observation regarding economic development models. The simple fact that transplanting an economic model that worked well in one jurisdiction may not result in economic success in another jurisdiction. Economic development requires an appropriate social, political and cultural context for it to bear fruit. More specifically, the socio-cultural environment, civil society’s priorities, differences in economic fundamentals and buy-in from the local communities are essential prerequisites for economic growth and development. In consequence, New Brunswick has much to learn from the ongoing success story of the Celtic Tiger. However, every lesson should be filtered through the lens of what is congruent with the New Brunswick economic landscape and civil society’s aspirations.

Professor Constantine Passaris at the historic Russell Library, St. Patrick’s College, Maynooth University

Next Steps:
My four week academic visit to Maynooth University and the Republic of Ireland will contribute to my professional development and scholarly output in three tangible areas.

First, my academic research has benefited from the expertise, knowledge and critical evaluation that was provided to me by my academic colleagues in Ireland. It contributed to the successful completion of all the preparatory groundwork for my research project. In consequence, I will pursue several publications opportunities as well as seminar and conference presentations. More precisely, I have plans to conduct a seminar at my home University as well as explore seminar presentations at several other Canadian universities. I will also prepare an academic paper for presentation at a national or international conference in the near future. I intend to author several op-ed articles on my research outcomes for the Canadian mass media and for public readership. In addition, a more scholarly venue will be identified for an academic paper to be submitted to a peer reviewed professional journal. Finally, I will also prepare a book chapter on my research outcomes for a future edited book.

Second, my academic visit has also informed my teaching at the university level. In all of my courses at the University of New Brunswick, I teach a module on the Irish economy. My visit has improved the content, broadened my analysis, updated my resource material and enhanced my understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the Irish economy.  In effect, my four week tenure as a Dobbin Scholar has provided me with new insights, identified contemporary academic resources as well as generating new ideas and perspectives that will enhance and improve my teaching on the Irish economy.

Third, in addition to my professional and teaching duties at the University of New Brunswick, I serve as the Chair of the New Brunswick Ministerial Advisory Committee on Population Growth and as a member of the New Brunswick Ministerial Immigration Advisory Committee. The public policy insights that I have gained during my tenure at Maynooth University and Ireland will result in recommendations for innovative models and new policy initiatives with respect to immigration, labour shortages and population growth.

If I were to select one and only one academic benefit of my four week academic visit to Ireland it would be my personal engagement and conversations with Irish scholars who are building the foundations of Ireland’s economy, formulating the course of Ireland’s economic policy and are the authors of Ireland’s contemporary economic literature on the scope and substance of economic governance.

Respectfully submitted
Constantine Passaris
July 2019