"We need to see our capital as an asset"
“We are taking the opportunity now when there is less development pressure to create planning frameworks, such as local-area plans for George’s Quay and the Docklands, to make sure that those plans are ready for when the upturn comes, because then the need for development will become apparent very quickly.”
With the powers of the now defunct Dublin Docklands Development Authority expected to transfer to the council soon, planning for what was always intended to be one of the prime economic drivers in the city is becoming a priority.
“In the city council we would be very cognisant of the fact that there is something unique about the Docklands and the way it has developed. We are also conscious of coming up with a new governance model that has the support of the community and the city council.”
There have been “justified complaints” from Docklands communities about the level of social housing that has been provided, he says, overshadowed by the debacle of the authority’s involvement in the Irish Glass Bottle site in Ringsend. But the authority did “a lot of good work,” he says.
“There has been fantastic work done here over the years. There’s huge controversy over a single site, but that shouldn’t diminish the work that was done and the jobs that have been created.
The city’s capacity to thrive will be determined by its ability to raise finance. With a decent commercial rates base, the city council is less reliant than other local authorities on central government. However it’s the application of domestic charges in the form of a property tax that could mean a real step forward for the council in the running of the city. Much will depend on whether the council is given the power to increase the charge and whether the money raised in Dublin stays in Dublin.
“Obviously I would like to see local discretion in terms of increasing the charge. There is an argument about some level of equalisation based on needs and resources; however, it’s important that the maximum amount of resources are retained locally to deal with service requirements locally. There are a lot of demands in Dublin, the demands of a capital city.”
On balance he believes the city has reason to be confident about its future. “If you look at the benchmarks as to how Dublin is performing internationally . . . in relation to quality of life or a whole range of economic indicators, it punches far above its weight. We are one of the smaller cities ranked by the OECD, but we outperform many other cities in the rankings. The quality of living Dublin is still ranked 26th in the world. Educational and demographic factors are all very positive and we produce the most employable graduates.”
However, the city needs to be the focus of national investment if it is to capitalise on its potential, however. “Dublin is the only place in Ireland that will be able to compete for certain projects, so we need to see Dublin as an asset. The point I always make is this: better that your children are working in Dublin than in far-flung places such as Australia and Canada, if that’s the choice. My motto would be, let’s try and bring them back home.”