Rural revival plan shows ‘anti-Dublin bias’, says business group

Encouraging workers to stay away from capital ‘guaranteed to fail’, says Dublin Town

Dublin city: ‘Before the pandemic, city use had demonstrated how attractive urban centres are for modern life,’ business group says. File photograph: Alan Betson

Dublin city: ‘Before the pandemic, city use had demonstrated how attractive urban centres are for modern life,’ business group says. File photograph: Alan Betson

 

Business organisation Dublin Town has accused the Government of “anti-Dublin bias” in its plans to revive rural Ireland with working-from-home incentives.

The Government’s proposals, which would see 20 per cent of the public service working remotely with people encouraged to settle in town and village centres, were “short-sighted” and “guaranteed to fail” the organisation said.

“We are living in abnormal times, very few people are satisfied with their current life patterns, fewer wish to see their current lives continue indefinitely. They are making the most of a bad situation. Basing long-term plans on current circumstances will soon be seen as folly.”

The Our Rural Future plan, which will offer tax breaks for people who want to move or work for home, has been described by Minister for Rural Development Heather Humphreys as “modern-day, worker-led decentralisation”.

However, Dublin Town said it ignores why people migrated to cities in the first place. “Cities offer the best opportunity for economic and environmental sustainability. Before the pandemic, city use had demonstrated how attractive urban centres are for modern life.”

It noted the plan proposed grants to repurpose disused cinemas and theatres as office spaces. “This proposal highlights sustainability concerns and quality-of-life issues,” it said. “People increasingly seek out leisure, entertainment, arts and cultural opportunities. Cities are best placed to provide these opportunities.”

Foreign investment

The plan could also damage Ireland’s ability to attract foreign direct investment, with large organisations seeking the “quality of life” provided by urban settings.

“Internationally, larger urban centres have borne the brunt of virus containment measures. Dublin has suffered disproportionately in Ireland. It is therefore, very disappointing to see a clear anti-Dublin bias extolled by Government at this time,” it said.

“It must be seen that while cities have suffered, they are best placed to rebound and regenerate economic activity and employment. It will soon be seen as short-sighted to forgo these opportunities. Dublin has been Ireland’s engine of growth and opportunity; it can be again.”

The plan was economically and environmentally unsustainable, Dublin Town chief executive Richard Guiney said.

“There is no structure to the current proposals or targeted investment to achieve economic and environmental sustainability. The proposals are a hotchpotch of ill-considered, non-integrated ideas banded together to produce a plan guaranteed to fail.”