RED C opinion poll for the Western Development Commission

41% of people under 35 who live in East would like to move West

43% of people believe economic gap between East and West has widened in the past 5 years

RED C opinion poll for the Western Development Commission

A new opinion poll taken on behalf of the Western Development Commission (WDC), the body charged with the economic and social development of counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare, shows that 36% of those living in the East, when asked, said they would like to live in the West, while an even higher number, 41%, of those under 35 expressed the same wish.

The poll, carried out by RED C, surveyed a representative sample of 400 people in western counties and 400 in Dublin, Kildare, Meath and Wicklow. The findings revealed that one of the main attractions of living in the Western region was ‘a superior quality of life relative to Dublin’ according to 54% of those in the East and 75% of those living in the West. The poll also shows a dramatic shift in the way Ireland works. Work practices are becoming more flexible, with 41% in West, and 43% in East saying that it is possible to work remotely in their job.

On the negative side, 42% of those in East and 46% of those in West believe the economic gap between East and West has widened in the past 5 years. This is an indication that despite high levels of investment and improvements in infrastructure, the perception remains that the West is falling behind the East.

Commenting on the findings, Gillian Buckley, CEO of the WDC, said, “These results show that a lot of people value the higher quality of life available outside the major urban areas on the East coast. This, of course, is not surprising to us who live in the West, but it underlines the importance of the Government policy of balanced regional development. The things that are holding people back from moving West is a perception that the quality of infrastructure (transport and broadband) is poorer than in the East, while a large number also believe that the type of work they seek is not available in the West.

“Around two thirds of those surveyed in the East believe that the quality and availability of transport is inferior in the West relative to Dublin and this is something that the Government can tackle immediately by ensuring the NDP commitments to the road routes, to and through, the West are delivered. The continuing upgrading of the quality and frequency of train services should mean that a large proportion of the population in the West are a maximum of three hours away from Dublin. The development of commuter rail routes within the region is also vital, as those interviewed in the east say access to public transport is an important factor in deciding where to live.”

Dr. Patricia O’Hara, Policy Manager with the WDC added, “The continuing successful rapid growth of international routes at Ireland West Airport Knock also means that any feeling of isolation on the part of industry wanting to locate in the more northern counties of the region will be dissipated. Given the congestion elsewhere, dynamic regional airports are proving more and more attractive to business and leisure travellers. Broadband continues to be the bug bear right around the country and the sooner that fast, reliable broadband is available, the sooner we’re likely to see population movements away from congested areas. With such a high number of young people willing to move, broadband provision will make it more attractive for these people to establish their own business ensuring the longterm vibrancy of the West.

“The good news is that the access issues are being tackled. The planned fourlane northsouth Atlantic Road Corridor will make an immense difference and the major East to West road routes are being upgraded. Broadband access outside of major centres remains a major issue and we need to see huge improvements so that businesses and individuals who choose to relocate to the

region are not disadvantaged. If we are to achieve balanced regional growth, which will help the Greater Dublin Area as much as those areas outside Dublin, access in all its guises must be THE priority in coming years.

Up to 70% of those asked also were of the opinion that job opportunities were poorer in the West relative to Dublin However, other work we have done in the WDC shows that there are a growing number of top level vacancies in high tech areas such as computer software, medical devices and internationally traded services. We will be raising all of these issues at a national conference on balanced regional development which the WDC will be running in late May.”

The poll was commissioned by the WDC to inform its policy making role and to help make those policies more relevant to encourage balanced regional development across the country.

Notes to editors About the poll

The RED C poll was carried out on behalf of the Western Development Commission (WDC) from the 3rd to 7th December 2007. The research was conducted via telephone among a random representative sample of 800 adults – 400 West and 400 East residents.

The WDC’s 4 strategic aims are:

  • Contribute to balanced regional development by ensuring that the Western Region maximises its full potential for economic and social development.
  • Promote the benefits of living, working and doing business in the Western Region.
  • Support the sustainable economic and social development of the rural economy.
  • Provide risk capital to businesses and community enterprises through the WDC Investment Fund

For further information please contact: Gillian Buckley, CEO, Western Development Commission, on 094 986 1441 or 087 2236982

Or Dr. Patricia O’Hara, Policy Manager, WDC, mobile: 087 686 2772 or work 094 986 1441 Or Conall O Móráin, The Media Group, 0872 463 111