This article is a case study of the emergence of an evaluation culture in the public sector and particularly in education in Ireland. It suggests that the emergence of this culture was strongly influenced by external bodies, particularly the EU and, to a lesser but significant degree, the OECD. It is further argued that the continuation of systematic evaluation is still dependent on external forces, since a commitment to evaluation as a tool of governance has not taken hold among key policy-makers in Ireland. However it is postulated that, notwithstanding its arguably insecure foundations, evaluation practice has moved beyond the confines of externally funded EU programmes, which saw its first introduction into Ireland. In recent years a broad quality assurance agenda within the public service and to an extent beyond has emerged.The article concludes by making the point that an evaluation culture in a particular country is hugely contextualized and influenced by the constraints of existing ideologies and relationships between different interest groups.Thus, in Ireland, in line with the corporatist and partnership-driven approaches to economic policy and industrial relations which have been dominant in recent decades, the form of evaluation which has emerged is consensual, collaborative and negotiated. Copyright © 2009 SAGE Publications.