State agencies keen to play down Dublin-centric nature of economy

Enterprise Ireland, IDA play up regional spread of investment

The IDA revealed that 48% of the jobs created by its client companies last year were based in Dublin

The IDA revealed that 48% of the jobs created by its client companies last year were based in Dublin

 

The State’s industrial agencies never tire of highlighting the regional spread of incoming investment.

Apart from wanting to avoid the tag of being too Dublin centric, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland are keen to play down what’s becoming an increasingly obvious feature of global investment, namely that it favours large urban centres with access to housing, transport and telecommunications.

In a State with such obvious regional disparities and associated sensitivities, talking down the capital and talking up the regions has become a political imperative, but the message is wearing thin.

At the launch of its latest annual report, Enterprise Ireland highlighted the fact that two-thirds of the 19,000 jobs created by agency-backed firms last year were outside of Dublin. The message was latched on to by Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor, who described the regional spread as “significant”.

The same tune of regional prosperity was showcased at the publication of the IDA’s annual report last week. However, in the case of the IDA, the numbers tell a different story. They reveal that 48 per cent of the jobs created by its client companies last year were based in Dublin, which is broadly reflective of how gross domestic product (GDP) breaks down.

The clustering of digital tech firms in Dublin’s docklands is an obvious example of the current investment trend, and the city’s acute housing difficulties is a reflection of its economic hegemony.

Such a bias is only likely to be exacerbated by Brexit, with Dublin likely to be one of the main beneficiaries of any London exodus, while food firms here, which have a much greater regional spread, appear most exposed to Britain’s shifting economic allegiances.

The last government’s “keep the recovery going” election slogan bombed so badly precisely because nobody outside of Dublin bought it.

There is perhaps little the State agencies can do in the face of this trend away from old-school, out-of-town investment, but we must, at the very least, have an open debate about what it means for the State rather than pretending it’s not happening.

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