The newly independent Irish state in 1922 was in touch with the rest of the world through emigration rather than exports. The government's objective was to bring this involuntary emigration to an end. In the 1930s, a financial dispute with the UK, together with the trend of events running against free trade internationally, saw a vigorous policy of protection and industrialisation put in place.
The world at large was in the grip of depression with demand for goods falling catastrophically and unemployment severe and widespread. World War II caused further scarcities and postponed any widening of the Irish industrial base. However, in the post-war period of the 1950s, supplies became more freely available and protective duties were gradually revived but with less conviction as to their efficacy as a vehicle for economic development.
Programme of Economic Expansion. Against a background of movement towards free trade in Europe, the government realised that there would never be any improvement in the standard of living if the current rate of real output were not raised. This first programme changed the direction of policy, coordinated the development process and boosted public confidence. Supported by buoyant world conditions, the programme was instrumental in creating an outstanding economic performance in the 1960s and marked the turning point from the isolation, poverty and desperation which had previously characterised so much of Irish economic life to the optimism, dynamism and growth that it helped to inaugurate.