The numbers attending and the variety and quality of papers delivered at the 5th Annual Irish Criminology Conference in UCD last June demonstrates the vibrant nature of the discipline in Ireland.
It was heartening to see so many academics from overseas in attendance too. There is much to be gained from analyses of the Irish context. Obvious examples include the way in which Irish criminal justice and penal policy has diverged from that of its nearest neighbours, despite their common origins. Why Ireland did not have a well-developed system of penal-welfarism (and one which developed much later than in Britain) tells us as much about the nature of penal-welfarism as it does about Irish penal policy.
The conference is blogged at www.irishcriminologyconference.wordpress.com and you can read about many of the sessions there. I spoke on the relationship between Secretary and Minister in the Department of Justice and its impact on the creation of penal policy in Ireland. This paper looked specifically at Charles Haughey and Peter Berry and their role in the creation of an arguably more progressive, and certainly more energetic, form of penal policy in the 1960s.
The argument ran that Ministers and civil servants may have a disproportionate influence on the nature of penal policy in Ireland for many of the reasons noted by Professor O’Donnell. The paper concluded, however, with a more general call for analyses of the policy-making process in order to understand its operation more fully.
Feel free to contact me for a copy of the powerpoint presentation.