Nurses are recognizing the need to influence health care policies; this requires an understanding of the ways in which policies are made. The key players and processes which influence public policy in the Republic of Ireland and the lack of policies referring explicitly to nurses and nursing are discussed in relation to a public health nursing curriculum. The lack of specific policies on nursing has had deleterious effects on some aspects of the curriculum but has also given the planners freedom to include primary health care and nursing values. It is argued that it may be better to have few policies than inappropriate ones. The preferred solution would be for nurses to be more involved in wider policy-making, ensuring that policies reflect nursing values and concerns. An opportunity for a nursing voice to be heard and relevant policies recommended is provided by the Irish government's Commission on Nursing.