Bank of Ireland CEO ‘surprised’ by low-rise Dublin sprawl

Francesca McDonagh says debate needed on ‘what we build, and where we build it’

Francesca McDonagh, group CEO of Bank of Ireland. Photograph: Joanne O’Brien

Francesca McDonagh, group CEO of Bank of Ireland. Photograph: Joanne O’Brien


Bank of Ireland’s chief executive, Francesca McDonagh, has questioned the level of low-rise residential developments and urban sprawl in Dublin as the State grapples with a massive shortfall in housing.

Speaking at the British Irish Chamber of Commerce annual dinner in Dublin on Thursday evening, the London-born executive said: “From a personal perspective, living in Ireland for less than a year, I am surprised by the level of urban sprawl, the low-rise nature of most development, even the lack of more intensive residential development running alongside key transport arteries like the Luas.”

Ms McDonagh says that while Ireland focuses on navigating the “Brexit challenge”, this can’t derail longer-term planning as the population is predicted to grow by more than 20 per cent over the next two decades and become more urban.

“We’re going to need to debate what we build, and where we build it; the height and density of our housing to create sustainable urban areas and the specific needs of an older population that calls for careful thought and planning. That could mean we challenge the approaches of the past.”

Dublin-listed Cairn Homes chief executive Michael Stanley said earlier this week that there is “not a chance” of new house completions in the Republic bouncing back to levels above 30,000 to meet demand by 2021, 15 years after the homebuilding market peaked. Goodbody Stockbrokers estimates home completions will reach 18,000 this year, compared to the 2006 peak of more than 90,000, before rising to 25,000 by 2020.