This paper looks at the narrative of policy change from 2006 to 2015 in relation to lone parents and social protection policy in Ireland. Policy change for Irish lone parents in relation to activation was put forward in 1996 grounded in the belief that a labour market activation programme for this group will decrease levels of child poverty and provide greater returns to the exchequer. Eventually, the decision to introduce labour market activation for Irish lone parents was a condition of the Troika bailout of Ireland in terms of savings to be made and wider reform of social protection and was passed into law in 2010. Drawing on interviews with policymakers in 2007 and 2015, parliamentary debates, policy documents, press statements and newspaper articles, the policy narrative of labour market activation of lone parents in Ireland is analysed to reveal that rather than being a panacea for poverty levels the reform was about behavioural change grounded in a populist narrative of lone parents and welfare dependency. The narrative embodies themes of behavioural modification to end welfare dependency bound up in concepts of rights and responsibilities as opposed to social protection for a stigmatised group in Irish society.