The process of sequential restoration presented by Cooper & Trayner (1986) is applied to a N–S cross-section through the Irish Variscides to demonstrate that this approach improves the accuracy of thin-skinned structural modelling and allows the progressive deformation of a marginal belt to be examined. The principles and methods of sequential restoration are illustrated. The cross-section is restored in four steps and gives a bulk shortening of 52%. In this model, the fold belt evolved as the basal décollement migrated northwards, and considerable ductile shortening by folding and cleavage formation preceded faulting, although faulting gradually became more important towards the north. The section is divided into four structural domains based upon different deformation histories. Each is restored independently by removing the ductile strain before restoring the faulting. From this example it is clear that many models derived from single-step balancing, especially those through ductile-deformed areas, should be re-examined.