Rich land, poor land
According to Haase, the concentration of these social problems leads to a “neighbourhood effect”, compounding deprivation through additional factors such as lower-quality teaching, lower levels of expectation for children and peer pressure on young people.
There is one notable exception. The overall picture of affluence has been transformed by an influx of relatively affluent residents into new apartment complexes in Dublin’s inner city over the past 20 years. The colour-coded maps indicate that large swathes of the inner city along the docklands and city quays have changed from red, signifying deprivation, to bright blue, signifying affluence. For example, the proportion of residents with third-level education in part of the north-east inner city rose from around 10 per cent to 50 per cent between 1991 and 2011.
It seems like a stunning success story of urban regeneration. But a closer look reveals a much more complex story: it shows how the growth in the population has masked areas of extreme deprivation that persist.
Take the area around the capital’s docklands. The areas close to the IFSC where the new apartment complexes have been built show levels of affluence way above average. But just metres away are pockets of extreme deprivation in local-authority flat complexes near Seán MacDermott Street and Summerhill.
Rather than transforming the entire city, urban renewal in Dublin resembles a finely knit patchwork of highly affluent and disadvantaged developments, side by side.
The proximity of affluence and deprivation hasn’t necessarily helped the indigenous population, says Seanie Lambe, the chairman of the Inner City Organisations Network, a forum for issues in Dublin’s northeast inner city. Residents in gated apartment complexes tend to live in isolation from the surrounding community. In theory, new apartment complexes were supposed to have 20 per cent of units set aside for social and affordable use, but few have materialised, says Lambe. Developers either paid money to local authorities to escape the obligation, or simply built social units elsewhere.
“One of the selling points for Spencer Dock, for example, was that it was free of any social housing,” says Lambe, who is also on the council of the Dublin Docklands Development Authority. “We, the local community, objected. But the developers said they’d build it on another part of the site. Then the crash came. It was never built.”
While many of the gains of the boom, such as high employment rates, have been wiped out, Lambe says there is a positive legacy: education. The focus on early intervention has raised the quality of early-years childcare, he says, while the number of people completing their Leaving Cert and going on to third level is increasing.
Deprived areas, of course, aren’t limited to the cities. There is rural deprivation, although it is more hidden. The index finds that the more remote areas of Donegal and Mayo are extremely deprived. They are being ravaged by emigration, unemployment and a lack of opportunity.
The lack of infrastructure to get to and from work also plays a big role in determining how deprived some of these areas are, says Trutz Hasse.
If marginalised areas are still suffering, what about the most privileged? The latest data shows that everywhere, including the most affluent areas, has suffered during the downturn. However, in relative terms, the gap between the most privileged and the most disadvantaged remains as wide as ever.
The suburbs in southeast Dublin, such as Blackrock, Foxrock, Ranelagh, Sandymount and Stillorgan, are among the most affluent in the State, much as they were 10 or 15 years ago. Levels of unemployment are very low, at between 5 and 10 per cent, and the proportion of highly skilled individuals is very high: between 70 and 80 per cent of adults have a third-level qualification. The numbers of lone parents are very low, while less than 1 per cent of housing is owned by local authorities.
In general, the most affluent areas of the country are distributed in rings around the main cities and towns, representing the suburbs and the traditional commuter belt. In fact, the five main cities withstood the economic downturn relatively well when compared with the outer commuter belt in the greater Dublin area.
The fact that the gap between the haves and the have-nots hasn’t narrowed isn’t a surprise to many. Mary Corcoran says this has been a clear trend for generations: middle-class areas tend to shore up their advantage through investing in education, for example.
“Many people in places such as south Dublin believe they can secure their children’s future by often disengaging from public schools, for example, and investing in private education,” says Corcoran. “It’s not necessarily the quality of education as much as the social networks that can give them an advantage in later life.”
The extent to which the most affluent and deprived areas have remained largely the same during the boom and the bust raises some nettlesome questions. What was the point of expensive regeneration and anti-poverty strategies if, after years of investment, they still lag just as far behind the most affluent areas?