© The Author(s) 2019. Teacher autonomy has been a popular topic of investigation over the past decades. This article contributes to the debate by casting light on Irish and Finnish teachers’ perceptions of their professional autonomy, drawing from teacher interviews conducted in both countries. The intersection of newly introduced curriculum reforms, differing education governance models and differing control regimes make Ireland and Finland fertile points of comparison. Teacher autonomy is understood in this article as a multidimensional and context-dependent phenomenon, and the conceptualisation is presented in an analytical matrix applicable to comparative research. Findings indicate that teachers in both countries consider themselves very autonomous in their classroom practice and in their educational decisions overall. However, where much of the school-level decision-making in Finnish schools concerning educational, social and developmental issues tends to be in the hands of teachers (either collegially or as individuals), in Irish schools the senior management, and especially the principal, is reportedly more involved. Possibly the greatest difference is the ways in which teachers’ work is controlled, and in how teachers perceive it; Finnish teachers report intensified external control from the civil society, whereas on top of parental pressures Irish teachers report also increasing pressures from the state agencies.