Brendan MacPartlin, SJ
The social partnership process emerged in Ireland at a time of crisis and has been closely associated with recovery and transformation in the Irish social economy. The names of the six social partnership programmes of the past sixteen years suggest some of key concerns of the time – recovery, progress, work , competitiveness, partnership, prosperity, fairness and sustainability. The notion of fairness came more strongly into focus in recent years and the latest programme, Sustaining Progress, proposes in its vision for Ireland that the foundations of a successful society incorporates a commitment to social justice. If justice is that virtue that intends to give everyone his/her due then social justice is probably the virtue that gives everyone in society his/her due. It was clear in the run up to the agreement of Sustaining Progress that many did not think they were getting their fair dues. So clearly we are not in a position to claim that the outcomes are totally fair. In this article I will try to use traditional ideas about justice and make the case that social partnership is characterised by justice in its process to an extent that it is a practice worth maintaining and developing.