Course Overview

This course is designed to introduce the student to the Irish body politic, to this country’s legal system and to the workings of the European Union.

It will also encompass an examination of environmental politics and a comparative analysis of the political and legal systems of the United States with those of Europe.

Course Modules

Week 1

  • Introduction to the course
  • An Idiot’s Guide to democracy

A tongue-in-cheek examination of how three centuries of modern liberal democracy has thrown up some highly illiberal autocrats.

Week 2

  • Law, public administration and the road to modern Ireland 1898-1922

From the 1898 Local Government Act to the fledgling institutions of the new Irish state as they existed during the Anglo-Irish War

  • The Alpha Male in Irish Polity or How to Keep Good (Irish) Women Down: 1860-1950

Week 3

  • From Free State to Failed State (and back): Irish politics and society from 1923

From the Irish Free State to the Republic of Ireland – Whitaker and Lemass take charge – corruption and entitlement in Irish politics – the rise and fall of the Roman Catholic Church – the ubiquitous Tribunal – the Celtic Tiger and its consequences)

  • The health of the nation

The Roman Catholic church and 20th century Irish medicine – with particular emphasis on the ‘Mother and Child’ controversy of the 1950s.

Week 4

  • Dev, PR and the ‘Eighth’

Irish constitutions, referenda and elections – our (almost) unique voting system, and is our party structure European or Anglo-American?

  • Brexit Through the Gift Shop or How Our Nearest Neighbours (and former rulers) Finally Lost it

Week 5

  • Five crises: Democracy in America from de Tocqueville to Trump.

1. The American War of Independence and the establishment of the United States.

2. Slavery and the American Civil War.

3. The ‘Red Scare’ and McCarthyism.

4. The sixties and the Reaganite reaction.

5. Trump!

  • The Making of the President: 1968

The bitter ‘wartime’ (Vietnam) general election that unseated a President, changed US politics and enabled ‘Watergate’.

Week 6

  • Politics, Society and the Environment:

The Green New Deal – how ecological and environmental issues and the spectre of climate change has risen higher on the political agenda, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

(Dr. Lara Dungan holds a PhD in immunology from TCD, a medical degree from UCD and is co-presenter of the RTE TV environmental programme Eco Eye.

Week 7

  • The European Union and how it works

The Council, Commission and European Parliament, the operation of the Five Freedoms, the effect of Brexit and Ireland’s relationship with the EU.

(Tomás Baynes holds a Masters Degree in Law and works in the European Parliament as an assistant to Green Party MEP Ciarán Cuffe.)

Week 8

  • Irish criminal law, civil law, and jurisprudence.

How the Irish legal system works from the District Court to the Supreme Court.

(Conor Duff is a barrister and lectures in law at City Colleges)

Week 9

  • Holding truth to power: the rise of investigative journalism.

The influence of the early American ‘muckrakers’ – 20th century American investigative journalism – the Washington Post and Watergate – the Sunday Times and thalidomide – whither modern investigative journalism.

Week 10

  • Connection, ‘dysconnection’ and the crisis of MSM

The decline of modern journalism and the downside of social media – ‘fake news’ – the spread or the QAnon conspiracy and its anti-vaxxer cousins – the dangerous primacy of Facebook and Google.

Learning Outcomes

Students will have acquired an in-depth knowledge of politics and society to aid them in both their career and personal life.

The student will have gained an understanding of the laws and rights that govern the Republic of Ireland and their roles in our politics and society.

Course Award

City Colleges Diploma


A pass grade on the written assignment will be required for awarding the diploma.


Myles Dungan

Myles Dungan is a broadcaster and journalist with more than forty years experience of working in Irish radio and TV, as a presenter and programme maker. He has, since 1980, presented Five Seven Live, Rattlebag, Today with Myles Dungan, The History Show and Prime Time on RTE Radio and TV. In 2012 he received a PhD in History from Trinity College, Dublin and has taught at undergraduate level and as an adjunct lecturer in the University of California, Berkeley, Trinity College, Dublin, University College, Dublin, the Dublin Institute of Technology as well as City Colleges.

He is the author of more than a dozen books on Irish and American History, including Irish Voices from the Great War and Conspiracy: Irish Political Trials. He is the recipient of two Fulbright Awards to the University of California, Berkeley as a researcher (2007) and a teacher (2011). He is also the recipient of numerous awards for his radio work, including a Jacob’s Award in 1988 for the 13-part radio documentary series, Vietnam. He is the programme director of the annual Hinterland Festival.


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live online
Live online training with real-time instructor-student interaction.
  • Live & fully online
  • Archived for review
January 2023
10 weeks, 1 evening per week from 6.30 to 9.30pm GMT
on demand
A flexible online approach developed to allow you to learn at your own pace.
  • Fully Online
  • Pre-recorded
  • Suit your own schedule
10 weeks

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Diploma in Sociology of Ireland

Diploma in Irish History

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