Cathal FitzGerald joined NESC in 2018 and was appointed Senior Analyst in 2021. He specialises in data and behavioural analysis, economic policy research, leadership, and decision-making. His work with NESC focusses on Ireland’s economic policy, our governance structures and processes, and how to improve Ireland’s decision-making, policy adoption and implementation. Specifically, his work takes a behavioural political science approach, employing behavioural insights and traditional concepts of institutions, interests, and ideology to help explain good/bad policy decisions.
In 2023, Cathal is leading NESC’s strategic ‘NESC@50’ research and conference programme, marking the anniversary of the Council’s establishment in 1973. He also leads the Council’s research into the economy, resilience, and vulnerabilities. This work focuses on the global drivers of change, and national capacity and cohesion challenges, to provide the policy system with an understanding of the economy in these turbulent and unpredictable times.
In 2022, Cathal led NESC’s research into the public policy lessons from Ireland’s experience of the Covid-19 pandemic. This work involved understanding vulnerability and risk in emergencies and approaches to crisis management, evaluating Ireland’s experience of the pandemic for strategic lessons about public governance, and capturing how these lessons can shape the recovery and future policy (e.g. in the areas of sustainability, housing etc.).
From November 2020 to February 2022, Cathal was on special assignment to the Department of the Taoiseach, working on Covid data/behavioural analytics to assist the Government in their response to the Covid-19 pandemic. The role involved undertaking analysis and reviewing national and international data and research to ensure the Government had the best possible evidence to inform policy decisions.
Prior to that assignment, Cathal managed NESC’s research of housing and land-use policy.
In 2020, Cathal led the Council’s research into the impact of economic transition on vulnerable workers and sectors, specifically Ireland’s low carbon and digital transition. The resulting report, Addressing Employment Vulnerability as Part of a ‘Just Transition’ in Ireland, has been described by the President of Ireland as a seminal and influencing document, of similar significance for the economy and society as T.K. Whitaker’s 1958 report on economic expansion.
His previous work at NESC includes an examination of the strategic framing of climate action, an assessment of the opportunity to apply the concept of transport-orientated development in Ireland. Examples of his research output can be found below.
Cathal has extensive experience and knowledge of public/civil service organisations and their decision-making structures having worked in the Oireachtas, in the Departments of the Taoiseach, Transport, Enterprise, and in the former State advisory agency Forfás. He has also served as a Special Economic Advisor to the Government. He has lectured in politics at the Institute of Public Administration. From 2011, Cathal’s work was central to the development and implementation of the Irish Government’s policy response to the unemployment crisis following the economic crash, the annual Action Plan for Jobs series. Cathal has also worked on the enterprise aspects of economic infrastructure policy, approaches to regional development, and the impact of Brexit on firms across sectors.
He holds an BA in Economics and Social Studies from Trinity College Dublin, and a PhD from Dublin City University. He is a recipient of the Basil Chubb Prize, awarded annually for the best PhD thesis produced in an Irish university in any field of politics.
May 2023: “Green Budgeting, Climate, and Ireland’s Economy”, presentation to the Austrian Finance Ministry.
April 2023: “Understanding the Irish Economy in a Time of Turbulence”, NESC Council Report 160.
April 2023: “Ireland’s Economy: Resilience and Vulnerability”, presentation to the EU Heads of Mission.
March 2023: “NESC’s Housing Policy Research: A Summary”, presentation to the Government’s Housing Commission, Dublin, Ireland.
October 2022: “Transport Orientated Development: Making it Happen in Ireland”, presentation to the ‘Housing for All’ Interdepartmental TOD Working Group, Dublin, Ireland.
July 2022: “Five Policy Lessons from the Covid-19 Pandemic in Ireland”, blog post for the International Public Policy Observatory website.
June 2022: “The Covid-19 Pandemic: Lessons for Irish Public Policy”, NESC Council Report No. 158.
April 2021: “Housing and Urban Development Policy Priorities”, with Noel Cahill and Damian Thomas, NESC Secretariat Paper No.24.
November 2020 – February 2022: On special assignment to the Department of the Taoiseach, working on Covid data/behavioural analytics.
November 2020: “Housing Policy: Actions to Deliver Change”, NESC Council Report No. 150.
October 2020: “The Transition To Low Carbon: What About Vulnerable Workers?”, presentation to the European Environment and Sustainable Development Advisory Councils Annual Conference, Dublin Castle, Ireland.
June 2020: “How We Value Work: The Impact of Covid-19”, NESC Secretariat Covid-19 Working Paper.
May 2020: “Understanding Covid-19 and Sectoral Risk—Economic Activity and Sectoral Differentiation”, NESC Secretariat Covid-19 Working Paper.
April 2020: “The Transition to a Low-Carbon and More Digital Future: Supporting the Needs of Vulnerable Workers and Enterprises”, with Damian Thomas, NESC Secretariat Paper No.19.
March 2020: “Addressing Employment Vulnerability as Part of a Just Transition in Ireland”, NESC Council Report No. 149.
October 2019: “The Politics and Framing of Climate Action in Ireland”, presentation to the Annual Conference of the Political Studies Association of Ireland (PSAI), Maynooth, Ireland.
September 2019: “Climate Action Framing: Strategic Considerations”, Session Chair/presentation to Annual Conference of the International Association for Research in Economic Psychology (IAREP) and the Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Economics (SABE), Dublin, Ireland.
July 2019: “Give credit to the market: The decision not to prohibit 100 per cent loan-to-value mortgages”, Administration, Volume 67: Issue 2, p.25–45.
July 2019: “Policy success/policy failure: A framework for understanding policy choices”, with Eoin O’Malley and Deiric Ó Broin, Administration, Volume 67: Issue 2, p.1–24.
June 2019: “Transport-Orientated Development: The National Context in Ireland”, presentation to NESC Policy Workshop, ‘Transport-Orientated Development: Making it Happen in Ireland’, Dublin, Ireland.
June 2019: “Transport-Orientated Development: Assessing Opportunity for Ireland – Background Case Studies”, with Noel Cahill and Edna Jordan, NESC Research Report No. 14.
June 2019: “Transport-Orientated Development: Assessing Opportunity for Ireland”, NESC Council Report No. 148.
April 2019: “The Framing of Climate Action in Ireland: Strategic Considerations”, NESC Secretariat Paper No. 17.
July 2018: “Policy Success and Failure: Irrationality, Ideology, Institutions, and Interests”, presentation to School of Law and Government Policy Seminar, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland.
June 2018: “Government Statement on the Role of Data Centres in Ireland’s Enterprise Strategy”, Policy Paper, Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation, Dublin, Ireland.
June 2018: “The Firm-Level Impact of Brexit On Most Exposed Sectors: Findings and Insights”, Policy Paper, Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation, Dublin, Ireland.
April 2018: “Economic Decision-Making and Rational Behaviour”, presentation to Department of Business, Enterprise, and Innovation, Dublin, Ireland.
October 2017: “Behavioural Science Research and Enterprise Policy”, presentation to Geary Institute of Public Policy, UCD, Dublin, Ireland.
June 2017: “Trait, State, or Source? A Methodological Reflection on Leadership Trait Analysis”, (with Femke A.W.J. Van Esch), paper for the 40th Annual Scientific Meeting of the International Society of Political Psychology, Edinburgh, Scotland.
June 2017: “Brexit: Firm-level Impact on Enterprise”, presentation to Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service Annual Conference 2017, Dublin Castle, Dublin, Ireland.
November 2016: “Surprisingly Rational? The Case of 100% Mortgages in Ireland in 2005”, presentation to the 9th Annual Economics and Psychology Conference, Queens University, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
November 2016: “Leading to Crisis: Decision-Making in Ireland’s Celtic Tiger”, PhD Thesis, Dublin City University.
November 2015: “I Groupthink Therefore We Are: Detecting Behavioural Convergence in Leaders Before the Economic Crisis”, presentation to the 8th Annual Economics and Psychology Conference, ESRI, Dublin, Ireland.
October 2015: “Explanations for the Inflation of Policy Bubbles: Privatisation and Taxation policy in Ireland”, (with Eoin O’Malley), paper for Political Studies Association of Ireland Annual Conference 2015, Cork, Ireland.
September 2015: “Decision-Making Heuristics to Improve Policy: Assessing Sustainable Employment”, in Enterprise 2025, DBEI, pages 243-246.
March 2015: “Explanations for the Inflation of Policy Bubbles: Privatisation and Taxation policy in Ireland”, (with Eoin O’Malley), paper for the European Consortium for Political Research (ECPR) Joint Sessions, on The Politics of Policy Overreaction, Warsaw, Poland.
January 2015: “Action Plan for Jobs 2015”, Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation, Dublin, Ireland.
November 2014: “I Groupthink, Therefore We Are: Detecting Convergence Bias in Leaders before the Economic Crisis”, paper presented to DCU School of Law and Government, Postgraduate Seminar, Dublin, Ireland.
June 2014: “Detecting Behavioural Biases in National Leadership in the European Economic Crisis”, presentation to conference In Search of European Political Union, Utrecht, The Netherlands.
May 2014: “Behavioural Biases in National Leadership”, presentation to Political Studies Association of Ireland (PSAI) Postgraduate Conference, Dublin, Ireland.
February 2012: Inaugural “Action Plan for Jobs 2012”, Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation, Dublin, Ireland.
November 2011: “Enterprise Statistics at a Glance”, Forfas, Dublin, Ireland.
March 2010: “Single Window Assessment of The Costs Of Trade-Related Regulatory Requirements In Ireland”, Forfas, Dublin, Ireland.
August 2009: “Firm-Level Productivity – A Practical Guide”, Forfas, Dublin, Ireland.
October 2008: “Input to the Services Directive Regulatory Impact Assessment”, Forfas, Dublin, Ireland.
January 2008: ”Review of the European Single Market”, Forfas, Dublin, Ireland.
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