Rural TDs lobby against investment plan’s ‘urban bias’

Government’s long-term proposals will see rural constituencies ‘lose out’ in the process

Eoghan Murphy: he and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe will update Cabinet colleagues on the 10-year capital plan and the new National Planning Framework at a meeting on Monday. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Ministers preparing the Government’s long-term investment plan, to be published in the coming weeks, are being lobbied intensively by rural TDs over a perceived “urban bias” in the proposals.

Minister for Planning Eoghan Murphy and Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe have held a number of bilateral meetings with other Ministers in recent weeks and have been lobbied fiercely by TDs concerned that their constituencies will be seen to "lose out" in the process, according to sources familiar with the exchanges.

The two Ministers will update their cabinet colleagues on the forthcoming 10-year capital plan and the new National Planning Framework at a special meeting of the Government on Monday. Both plans are expected to be published together in the coming weeks.

“The new capital plan will set out a 10-year vision for the development of Ireland’s public capital infrastructure grounded in the strategic investment priorities identified by each Minister,” according to the Department of Finance.


The investment priorities in the plan are closely aligned with the objectives of the new spatial planning framework detailed in the National Planning Framework, to be published alongside the capital plan, the department says.

Specific projects

However, there is significant concern amongst Ministers and TDs that the investment plan will focus on a small number of specific projects and objectives.

Government sources acknowledge that the plans will prioritise the development of cities outside Dublin, but stress there will be a “strong regional element” also.

“The whole point is to move growth away from Dublin,” said one high-ranking source.

The plan involves a major change in the direction of state-backed investment, with much denser development planned for central Dublin and a rapid expansion of the other major cities, such as Cork and Limerick, where the aim is to double the pace of growth seen in recent years.

Overseen by a new planning regulator, the aim for Dublin in particular will be to develop so-called “brownfield” sites – those previously used for other purposes – and infill sites between current developments to build more housing in central areas and move away from urban sprawl.

These new developments will be planned around public transport links, including existing networks and the new Metro North.

Higher buildings will also be allowed in centres such as Dublin. Under the plan, the other urban centres and their hinterlands would receive significant investment to develop them as a counterweight to Dublin.


There will also be investment in rural towns and villages, but the focus on major investment in Dublin and the key other cities is likely to be controversial. Last week, a group of Opposition TDs said they would oppose the plan in the Dáil, warning that it would ignore development in rural Ireland.

There is also unease at local level about the plans to centralise more planning decisions, with fears that this could undermine the ability of local authorities to oversee development and to give clearance in areas such as one-off housing.

The plan is based on estimates that the population of the Republic will grow by more than one million people to around six million by 2040. Ibec, the business lobby group, believes this underestimates population growth, which it says is likely to be closer to two million.

Ibec’s chief economist, Fergal O’Brien, says it is essential that there “is no backsliding on the ambition to have a strong urban and regional-based development plan which clearly identifies a small number of designated growth centres”.

He added that “we cannot repeat the mistakes of the 2002 National Spatial Strategy which identified too many growth centres in a ‘one for everyone in the audience’ approach.”

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy

Pat Leahy is Political Editor of The Irish Times