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Decentralisation, the WRC and Regional Development

The Irish Times 19/06/06


Of course Bertie Ahern and his cabinet did not have too many problems persuading the key personnel in the Marine Institute to go to Oranmore ("Ahern says new marine HQ a 'shining example' of decentralisation, The Irish Times, June 10th). It is right beside the ocean it serves, it is close to a city with the third-level educational, social and cultural infrastructure that such people require, it is on a mainline rail to Dublin and has a local airport. The same cannot be said about several selected locations, including Birr.

It is the choice of suitable locations that is the key to decentralisation. There are several towns which are suitable for subsidiary elements of government. Tipperary town would be one example, because of its first-class rail connections to Dublin, Cork and Limerick.

I agree with many of the points raised by Martin Mansergh in his column of June 10th. It is vital that our other cities and gateways play an increasing role in drawing growth away from Dublin. With the population projected to grow to 5 million before 2020 and to 6 million in the 2030s we must make every attempt to limit the proportion living in greater Dublin to 40 per cent of the total.

This will mean that a city such as Cork will have to contain a higher proportion of the population - say 10.5 per cent, which would be around 630,000, almost twice its current population. This would apply to all the other Gateways, so Limerick and Galway together would have a similar population. This would more than justify the Western Rail Corridor. They would also be important cities on the European scale.

Cities and their regions are the key drivers in the world, not countries, as set out succinctly by the late Jane Jacobs in her book Cities and the Wealth of Nations.

Sustainable urban development has been highlighted as the key challenge facing Irish society, following the social partnership of the late 1980s. With this in mind the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, together with the other professional institute involved in urban development, founded the Urban Forum, which has held a number of workshops attended by representatives of stakeholders in Government, business and the professions.

The Forum is also launching a programme, in collaboration with DIT, to get each city and gateway to create a vision of where that city will be in 25 years time, not just in its physical development, but economically and socially. Such a vision, which will by no means create a fixed outcome, would give important guidance for the great demands for social and physical infrastructure which face our country over the next decades.

Decentralisation of some government functions is obviously required, but I would very much agree with Joe Ahern (Letters, June 13th) that the core policy-making functions must stay in Dublin, and that genuine decentralisation would mean devolving appropriate powers away from central government to regional and local authorities.


President, RIAI,
Merrion Square,
Dublin 2


© The Irish Times ©








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