Between the years of the mid thirties through to 1960, independent Ireland suffered from economic stagnation, and also went through a period of intense cultural and psychological repression. While external circumstances account for much of the stagnation - especially the depression of the thirties and the Second World War - Preventing the Future argues that the situation was aggravated by internal circumstances.
The key domestic factor was the failure to extend higher and technical education and training to larger sections of the population. This derived from political stalemates in a small country which derived in turn from the power of the Catholic Church, the strength of the small-farm community, the ideological wish to preserve an older society and, later, gerontocratic tendencies in the political elites and in society as a whole.
While economic growth did accelerate after 1960, the political stand-off over mass education resulted in large numbers of young people being denied preparation for life in the modern world and, arguably, denied Ireland a sufficient supply of trained labour and educated citizens. Ireland's Celtic Tiger of the nineties was in great part driven by a new and highly educated and technically trained workforce. The political stalemates of the forties and fifties delayed the initial, incomplete take-off until the sixties and resulted in the Tiger arriving nearly a generation later than it might have.
'Make no mistake about it, this is an academic page turner and as provocative a read as it is scholarly and challenging. Tom Garvin, using his accomplished and characteristic combination of history and political science, sets out to discuss the simple question: why was Ireland so poor for so long? ... Reading Tom Garvin's book would make a good start on the road to developing a deeper sense of citizenship ... It may come to be regarded as a classic of its kind. It ought to be required reading ... if only to show that the slowness of Irish development was substantially a self-inflicted but not fatal wound, which can't be blamed on the British empire or, for that matter, the Rolling Stones. We did it our way.' - Dermot Keogh, The Irish Times
'Seventy years ago science was made optional in primary schools to allow more time for the Irish language - even though many of the pupils could hardly read English. The state deliberately neglected technical education, with the Education Minister in the early 1950s stating that, after religious formation, the "inculcation of patriotism is the second great goal of education". These are just some of the stunning observations that tumble off every page in this great book.' - Joe Duffy, RTE broadcaster