Regional development: dominant Dublin

Many rural councillors who oppose an expansion of city limits are often the first to complain about the capital’s dominance

 

When it comes to choosing between what is right and what is popular, local politicians have a dismal record. Even when there are clear long-term benefits for their communities, reasons are found to protect personal interests. That has been the case concerning the development of second-tier city hubs, designed to counteract the oppressive growth of Dublin. Rather than welcome an expansion of their city limits that would provide the necessary critical mass to attract jobs, housing and investment, rural councillors and some officials went to war with their urban counterparts. But big decisions that will shape the State’s industrial development are likely to be taken soon in Cork, Waterford, Limerick and Galway.

A report by the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) outlines the importance of these events. Without regional development, investment and population growth will accelerate in Dublin and surrounding counties, increasing long-distance commutes and putting further pressure on housing. Such centralisation will reduce national economic performance and damage the potential of other regions. It has been estimated the State’s population will grow by a further one million within 25 years, so there is no time to lose in addressing these issues.

Many rural councillors who opposed an expansion of city limits were often the first to complain about Dublin’s dominance. But they were unwilling to risk boundary changes because of electoral and other considerations. But change is on the way. Limerick city and county were amalgamated and there are plans to push into Clare. Cork City is expected to grow to eight times its current size and its population may double. Waterford city and county want to absorb part of Kilkenny while Galway city has its own development plan.

Expanding city boundaries is the easy part. Providing necessary State funding for social housing, transport services and other amenities, along with inward capital investment, will require careful planning and co-operation at all levels. Local councillors should consider the bigger picture.

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