The Sustainability of Public Private Partnership in Ireland: A theoretical framework


There has been private sector involvement in the delivery of public services in the Irish State since its foundation. Ireland is a latecomer to PPP and, prior to the credit crisis, was seen as a ‘rapid follower’ relying primarily on the UK PPP model in the procurement of infrastructure in transport, education, housing/urban regeneration and water/wastewater. PPP activity in Ireland stalled during the credit crisis, and some projects were cancelled, but it has taken off again recently with part of the Infrastructure and Capital Investment Plan 2016 – 2021 to be delivered through PPP showing continuing political commitment to PPP.

Ireland’s interest in PPP cannot be explained by economic rationale alone, as PPP was initiated during a period of prosperity. This report considers three alternative explanations: voluntary adoption – where the UK model was closely followed; coercive adoption – where PPP policy was forced upon Ireland; and institutional isomorphism – where institutional creation and change was promoted to aid public sector organisations in gaining institutional legitimacy. Evidence of all three patterns is found, with coercive adoption becoming more relevant in recent years.

This paper therefore asks why PPP was adopted and how this adoption pattern has affected the sustainability of PPP in Ireland. This paper defines PPP; examines the background to the PPP approach adopted in Ireland; outlines the theoretical framework of the paper: transfer theory and institutional theory; discusses the methodology; reports on findings and gives conclusions.

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