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Lessons from the Pandemic

The nature of the Covid-19 pandemic means it has impacted on almost every aspect of our lives: from how we interact and socialise, to how we work, to how we learn, to how we consume, and more. These impacts reveal lessons for many facets of our world, including lessons for public policy. Those lessons were the focus of this recently completed project (June 2022).

The Government’s strategy Reframing the Challenge: Continuing Our Recovery and Reconnecting, stated that it is important to understand Ireland’s response to the pandemic, to capture the learning’s and experience to assist future planning (2021: 7).

In March 2020, just as the pandemic began, the Council published Report No.149, Addressing Employment Vulnerability as Part of a Just Transition in Ireland. One of the primary conclusions of that work was that, given the uncertainty surrounding the precise nature of shocks to the economy and society (e.g. the transitions to a low-carbon and digital future), the emphasis in policy must be on identifying vulnerable sectors, communities, and workers, and the co-production of placed-based solutions. Ireland’s experience of Covid-19 has reinforced the Council’s findings.

Building on this and other relevant NESC work, in 2022 the Council reviewed international experience, looked at examples of Ireland’s response to the pandemic, and identified lessons from Covid-19 for public policy.

The resulting NESC report – The Covid-19 Pandemic: Lessons for Irish Public Policy – is not a performance assessment exercise, rather it highlights ways that public policy in the future can be improved.  The Council proposes five key lessons:

Lesson One is that vulnerability is complex and context-specific, and that we must continue to work hard to pinpoint and manage vulnerability.

Lesson Two is that deep engagement with stakeholders, social partners, and experts has been critical, and needs to continue as we work to build consensus and meaningful action on other challenges.

Lesson Three is that the real-time data-gathering and analytics capability and infrastructure was key to the policy response on Covid-19 and this work should now be used to support decision-making in other areas.

Lesson Four is that data governance, privacy, access, confidentially, and sharing issues must be prioritised and addressed with urgency.

Lesson Five is that the policy system developed many means of listening to citizens, stakeholders and experts, and that these provide insights for how to further build trust in Government.

  • The Council’s report in full can be found here.
  • A summary document of the main lessons and suggested responses can be found here.
  • A background report ‘Managing Emergencies and Disasters: A Review of Key Literature’ can be found here.

For any queries contact Dr Cathal FitzGerald, Senior Analyst,

Related work:
Digital Inclusion in Ireland: Connectivity, Devices & Skills
Building a New Relationship between Voluntary Organisations and the State in the Health and Social Care Sectors
Gender and Covid-19 in Ireland
Community Call: Learning for the Future
The Impacts of Covid-19 on Ethnic Minority and Migrant Groups in Ireland
Covid-19 and How We Value Work
Covid-19, Protecting Enterprises and Employment: National Responses


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