Regional development ‘not about taking projects away from Dublin’, says Leo Varadkar
Minister criticises previous government’s decentralisation drive
Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar said: “If Dublin does well, all of Ireland should benefit.”
Regional development is not about securing projects that might otherwise be destined for Dublin, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar told the Fine Gael conference in Limerick last night.
“There are some people who believe that regional development is merely about transferring investment and development from the greater Dublin area to other regions,” he said. “I can understand where that thinking comes from, but it is actually wrong.”
He said Dublin was an international city with many people and a hinterland. “More often than not, when it competes for investment, it does not compete with other parts of Ireland, ” he added. “It competes with other international cities like San Francisco, Tel Aviv, Birmingham or Amsterdam.”
Mr Varadkar said what was lost to Dublin was, more often than not, lost to Ireland too. While Dublin sometimes competed with other regions for tourists, it was also the entry point for 5 million visitors every year.
‘All of Ireland should benefit’
“If Dublin does well, all of Ireland should benefit,” he added. “I think we need to start seeing it that way; we are, after all, one country and not a federation of counties or rival parishes.”
Mr Varadkar said that, under Fianna Fáil, regional development was about two things: decentralisation and the national spatial strategy.
Decentralisation, he added, was “an expensive, back-of-an-
envelope plan” to scatter civil servants against their will to different parts of the country and break up government departments in doing so.
It had not been planned, or thought out properly, and in many ways it was to take away from the bad news of the only tough budget introduced until the recession came.
“While there had been some exceptions, by and large it was an expensive folly and this Government was right to put a stop to it,” he added.
Mr Varadkar said that under the national spatial strategy, most towns in Ireland were designated as a hub or gateway or something else. “And that is not how you do a national spatial strategy,” he added. “It has to be one where you pick winners and losers and makes firm decisions and they were not up to doing that.”
The right approach to regional development was not about Government intervention to shift it from one area to another, he said. It was about identifying a region’s strengths and opportunities and building on them.