Creative Dublin

It is probably not unfair to say that Ireland as a whole has always had an ambivalent perspective on Dublin. For some time now, in size and influence, Dublin has dominated the state, and certainly since partition (and the placing of Belfast in another jurisdiction in consequence) has been the only major conurbation. Of course there are Cork and Galway and Limerick and others, but without wanting to play down the importance and strong traditions of these places, it has to be said that of them only Cork could really be recognised internationally as a city, and even then it would be a small one (the definition of a ‘city’ being, under the terms of the 1887 International Statistics Conference, a town with over 100,000 inhabitants). But in terms of having critical mass, only Dublin could really be said to count.

Because of its size, together with the large scale clustering of government functions there, Dublin has been the country’s magnet for investment, for migration, and for wealth creation. This has of course produced a significant concentration of people, and over time the city’s quality of life was affected by infrastructure problems, social issues, and just general overcrowding. At the same time other parts of the country were experiencing problems due to population flight – going back to the 19th century at least.

So we have come to love Dublin and loathe it, to seek out its cultural attractions but despair of its discomforts, to admire its political clout and to resent it. So by the time we came to the current decade it had become the received wisdom that Dublin’s people, influence and wealth needed to be distributed around the country. We know about the government’s programme of decentralisation (which got a bad press but was not without logic); we also experienced a spacial strategy operated by economic development agencies, which at least seemed to involve an anywhere-but-Dublin approach to investment. But at the same time, the clustering in particular of so many higher education institutions in the Dublin area made it difficult to have an effective decentralisation of investment.

Last momth the National Competitiveness Council (of which I am a member) published its report Our Cities: Drivers of National Competitiveness, which placed some emphasis on the role of cities as drivers of competitiveness and creators of wealth. It recommended that the country should work positively with cities – and Dublin in particular – to allow them to be drivers of growth and competitiveness in these challenging times. By doing so we can engage the key aspects of national development that cities can help to deliver, including enterprise, connectivity, sustainability and attractiveness and inclusivity, using the key resources of education and research activities and health facilities in particular. In the meantime, driven by Dublin City Council and supported by the other Dublin region local authorities, the Creative Dublin Alliance has been formed, linking universities and colleges, local government and industry.

Dublin has a significant critical mass of Ireland’s higher education institutions, and these too must collaborate to reinforce the potential for the city to become the engine for national recovery. There is much that, between us all, we can achieve.

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5 Comments on “Creative Dublin”

  1. Mark Dowling Says:

    Ooh, now you’ve done it. Nothing gets people more chippy than saying they aren’t a city – especially Kilkenny folk.


  2. Dublin is expensive and the weather is not ideal. But I suppose London has these same characteristics and look how successful it is.

  3. Vincent Says:

    You are wrong. What Dublin has in spades are all the really bad holdover crap which comes with a 1000yo history where any two Dubliners will provide you with at least five competing organisations. And are expecting to be payed a kings ransom just because their gay little face is seen on the street.
    But it must be said it is very rare that any English speaking city has the wherewithall to do as you want. Bruges, Gent and a few others are ideal examples. In Bruges there is a massive carpark sitting directly under one of the city squares. In Dublin they are moaning because a few yards of city street is being removed during rush hour. When if they had the brain to light a match they could see that cars do not shop, people do, and connecting the two main streets into one might be a good thing for all.

  4. Aoife Citizen Says:

    Well said Universitydiary: the world is becoming a competition between cities; almost a return to trading city states of yore, and Dublin, for good or ill, is our big city. We need to concentrate on the city and its assets, particularly its inimitable assets: the history, the texturedness of it historicity, its setting, its museums and galleries, its parks and streetscapes and its institutions, particularly its centers of learning. Decentralization was mistake because it was lazy, we need to solve Dublin’s big-city problems rather than palliate them making Dublin a smaller city.


  5. […] by Dublin City Council, is a key project of the Creative Dublin Alliance (press release | Ferdinand | Karlin), a collaborative group made up of Dublin local authorities, universities, state agencies, […]


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