You are here: Home > News & Events > Secretariat Paper No.32 – Is Ireland Thriving? Answers from International Assessments

Secretariat Paper No.32 – Is Ireland Thriving? Answers from International Assessments


“Is Ireland Thriving? Yes, but…” – New Research from the NESC Secretariat

Ireland today is thriving in many aspects, with some obvious capacity and distributional challenges; but more must be done on environmental sustainability and for the Ireland of tomorrow. This is a key message in a new report from the NESC Secretariat.

The theme of NESC’s 50th anniversary NESC@50 conference is A Thriving Ireland: Inclusive, Protective, and Forward Looking.

“We examined the extent to which Ireland can be described as a thriving country with reference to nine regularly used assessments of progress”, Noel Cahill said. “These cover topics such as well-being, sustainable development, biodiversity, competitiveness, and the so-called doughnut model”.

“What we found is that while it is difficult – if not impossible – to accurately summarise the complex findings of nine different techniques for assessing progress, the analysis suggests that Ireland today is thriving, inclusive, and protective in many aspects. At the same time, Ireland has some obvious capacity and distributional challenges, in the areas of housing, incomes, infrastructure, and certain services. We also find that more must be done on environmental sustainability and for the Ireland of tomorrow”, he added.

The NESC Secretariat paper states that more action is especially needed in terms of our climate, biodiversity, and infrastructure. “Environmental issues such as water quality and flooding pose a threat both to future prosperity and to current well-being”, Mr Cahill said.

“How Ireland is doing is a fundamental question for policymakers”, Dr Cathal FitzGerald said. “When we used international benchmarks to try answer this question, some key points became clear. For example, there is no one ideal measure of a country’s performance. There is judgement involved in selecting indicators for any assessment and the results are invariably influenced by those choices. This means that the indicators in Ireland’s well-being framework should be kept under ongoing review”, he said.

“Another important lesson is that it is important to distinguish between current and future performance. The research suggests that it is possible to decouple economic growth and environmental impact, but there is a lack of evidence to show that this can be done at the scale and speed required to live within planetary boundaries. There are huge challenges to be faced for Ireland and the international community in living within these limits”, Dr FitzGerald added.

“The question of whether a country is thriving must consider distributional issues”, Noel Cahill said. “While Ireland ranks highly on many metrics, and in several ways is a successful and prosperous nation, there are obvious, significant areas for improvement”, he said.

Dr FitzGerald concluded, “if we want to think about how Ireland is doing, looking at our performance on evidence-based assessments is a necessary starting point, and it makes sense. However, we have found that it can only be a starting point. These assessments inform other research, dialogue, and advice – they do not replace it.”

These issues are the subject of a significant NESC conference in Dublin Castle on 23rd November 2023.


The NESC Secretariat report can be found HERE.


For further information, contact:

Noel Cahill,


t: 01 8146335 / 086 120 8206


If you wish to receive updates on this and other events, as well as news items throughout the year on the Council’s ongoing work, you can subscribe to our mailing list here.

Follow us @NESCireland