Republic needs Mayoral offices to fight urban decline…

David McWilliams reckons that the Republic’s expansion has led to unsustainable urban communities, and a startling divide between ‘new’ and ‘old’ Ireland. In essence, the problem raised by the 2006 Census is that whilst Dublin is expanding rapidly, the countries other centres of populations, Cork, Limerick and Waterford are witnessing falls in their population, whilst in the countryside it is rising.

The population is falling or about to fall in three of our five major cities. This is a huge issue and is a direct result of bad transport. Traditional Irish cities are in danger of getting cut off from their hinterland. This could be a disaster if not checked. It is a new development and we must wake up to it.

In the past, our politicians focused on the peripheral nature of the remote countryside. This was the starting point for much of our lobbying. Now the opposite is happening – rural areas are flourishing and our cities, apart from Dublin and Galway, are dying. And even Dublin and Galway are not keeping pace with the growth of surrounding counties.

What it needs, he argues, is strong political leadership and focus, and a strong mayoral office for the dying cities.

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  • smcgiff

    ‘The population is falling or about to fall in three of our five major cities.’

    Lies, damn lies and statistics.

    And why would growth in the counties be bad? Coupled to decentralisation it would be very welcome.

  • Brian Boru

    All of these cities are in Munster, and Census night, by someone’s stroke of genius, was held on the day of the Munster game. Tens of thousands stayed overnight in Dublin on that night. I agree with FG Cllr Diarmuid Scully that this may have effected the census results. So I think this is exaggerated. Intriguingly the Census of 2002 was held in similar circumstances and also showed a “decline” in the population of Cork City. The CSO needs to be more cognaissant of these events when timing future census.

    Another important point is the outdated city boundaries of cities like Cork, which have not been redrawn in 40 years and do not really reflect the modern reality of urban sprawl and the swallowing up of surrounding towns/villages by Dublin, Cork etc. Having said that, I do not discount that some are moving out of the cities because of unbearable house-prices.

  • smcgiff

    There’s a similar problem in Limerick, Brian. Limerick city boundary should be allowed to move into Limerick county, but not County Clare. Both boundary extensions are being opposed, but a minister said the extension into country Clare (which would add 10k plus) is not going to happen.

    When one thinks of Limerick they imagine Dooradoyle and Casltetroy (and others) are in Limerick city, whereas, they are in fact in County Limerick. This inclusion would add 10s of thousands to the city. I imagine there’s similar issues in Cork city. I can assure ye there’s huge amounts of building going on in Limerick “city”.

  • Brian Boru

    However David is correct that we need directly-elected mayors.

  • Occasional Commentator

    The current population density of these areas should be published too. My guess is that Dublin over the last few years now has more people covering more area, but that the centre is becoming slightly less densely populated as people move a few miles out. This is nothing to worry about – it’s probably even a good thing assuming the density was quite high to begin with.

    It would be worrying for a city if the population density was already low and it decreased a bit more. And/or if they move not just to the suburbs but away to another city or to the countryside.

  • slug

    It seems looking at various discussions going on that there is a worry about Great Dublin being overdominant when the boundaries are redrawn.

  • Nathan

    Mayoral offices need to be revamped – becoming a first citizen of your city is a great honour, in fact it is the highest honour a local authority politican can ever achieve in local government.

    The fact that off the top of my head I don’t know who the Lord Mayor of Limerick is for instance, is an indication of how low-profile this office has become.

  • Nestor Makhno

    Belfast’s population has been falling for a generation – to the extent that the city proper has only about 270,000 people. To be a viable city most planners agree that this figure should be more like 400,000. With that sort of density services like public transport start to become much more cost effective. (Although with the cost of housing in Belfast I’m not sure where this extra 130,000 people are going to live.)

    Intertrade Ireland had an interesting report recently on the need for cross border spatial planning.

    Dublin is disproptionately bigger that other cities in the Republic (most countries’ second cities are about half the size of their capitals – Cork is much, much smaller than this compared to Dublin).

    However, add Belfast to the equation – historically the island’s second city – and the relationship between Dublin and the rest of the island starts to look a bit less ‘third world’. (Most developing countries have disproportinately large capital cities).

    Planners need to consider the relationship between Belfast and Dublin – and how Belfast can be used to counter balance out of kilter development in the south. Otherwise, inflation, lack of space, mad house prices, etc. are going to bring the Republic’s growth to a halt. Belfast has the capacity – why not start building a proper Belfast-Dublin corridor? Seems like a win-win solution to me. The Republic continues to grow at insane levels, the north gets a cut of the action and helps take the strain.

    It perhaps doesn’t require unification politically – but it does need it in planning terms.

  • smcgiff

    ‘The fact that off the top of my head I don’t know who the Lord Mayor of Limerick is for instance, is an indication of how low-profile this office has become.’

    First of all, only Cork, Dublin and Belfast have LORD mayors. And Limerick has a new mayor (don’t know his/her name either!). The previous incumbent (Scully) was the most high profile Limerick Mayor for a long time, but you have a point.

  • Nathan

    smcgiff

    First of all, only Cork, Dublin and Belfast have LORD mayors.

    Was this always the case – when one of your citizens (Frances Condell) became the first woman Protestant to hold a mayoral office in Ireland, she was referred to as the Lord Mayor of Limerick. What has changed since then?

    The previous incumbent (Scully) was the most high profile Limerick Mayor for a long time, but you have a point.

    Sorry, never heard of him/her.

    Being a (Lord) Mayor of an Irish city can really do wonders for peoples political portfolios though. Look at Jan O’Sullivan – once upon a time she Labour councillor and Mayor of Limerick, and now the moneys on her becoming the first woman Protestant to hold a cabinet position in the history of the Irish state (provided Labour get into power in the forthcoming elections of course).

    Its a shame the politicians who get to hold an mayoral office in their lifetime, don’t often use it as a stepping stone to national politics.

  • smcgiff

    Nathan,

    ‘she was referred to as the Lord Mayor of Limerick. ‘

    I imagine this was a typo, although I couldn’t tell you the difference between the Lord and non-Lord mayor.

    ‘Its a shame the politicians who get to hold an mayoral office in their
    lifetime, don’t often use it as a stepping stone to national politics.’

    Oh, believe me they try – sometimes on more than one occasion.

    ‘the first woman Protestant’

    I think I was told she was a Protestant before(probably on Slugger!) , but I’d forgotten. She’s very popular in her constituency and lives around the corner from where I live. I gave her my #2 last time, and #1 to FF, but FF or the PD’s wont be anywhere near my x this time around.

  • Nathan

    smcgiff,

    It was probably this blogger who let loose with her Protestant (more precisely her Church of Ireland) credentials some time back.

    Once upon a time, she was a high-profile Protestant. But she had a rough ride from members of the Catholic Church while Mayor of Limerick in the 1990s. Both herself and her Catholic husband were criticised by members of the clergy for their ecumenicism, and being the quiet soft-spoken lady that she is, her Protestantism has been kept low-key ever since.

  • Ciaran Irvine

    the first woman Protestant to hold a cabinet position in the history of the Irish state

    Countess Markievicz, surely?

    Course, that was during the First Dáil and so may not be included in some people’s definition of “Irish State” 🙂

  • Keith M

    Frances Condell (another member of the city’s CoI community IIRC) was certainly Lod Mayor when Kennedy visitedin 1963, I’m nt sure why the position has been downgraded this then.

    A far more fundmental thing is required befor directly elected mayors. The problem is that with cities outside of Dublin, most of the more recently built suburbs are not within the city. The problem with Limerick is especially bad in Limerick in that the western suburbs are in county Limerick and the northern ones in Clare. This is ridiculous in turms or urban planning, public services etc.

    The boundaries should be changed every twenty years or so to reflect the footprint of the cities.

  • Nathan

    Ciaran,

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but Ms Markievicz (while having a Protestant Ascendency background) converted to Catholicism before she earned the accolade of becoming the first lady to become an MP in the history of the British-Irish archipelago. Therefore she goes out the window.

    In contrast, Jan O’Sullivan, is a devout Church of Irelander who won’t be following the footsteps of those Irish politicans before her (e.g. Lady Valerie Goulding and Ms Markievicz) in becoming Catholics.

    The cringe-worthy cool Catholicism trend that gained ascendency in the late 20C is as dead today as a Mauritian dodo.

  • Nathan

    Typo – of course I mean the early 20C

  • smcgiff

    ‘Typo – of course I mean the early 20C’

    The outrage that was the ordination of women priests seemed to have caused the odd convert in the late 20c.

  • Keith M

    “The outrage that was the ordination of women priests seemed to have caused the odd convert in the late 20c.”

    Indeed, they don’t come much odder than Ann Widdecome.