Census 2016: Looking Back 175 Years- Changes in the Western Region Population

The release of information from the Census of Population 2016 provides an interesting opportunity to look back 175 years to the Census of 1841 to see how population in the Western Region has changed.

The 1841 census is considered to be the first modern census in the Great Britain and Ireland (the UK as it was then).  Each householder was required to complete a census schedule which contained the household address and the names, ages, sexes, occupations and places of birth of each individual living at the address.  The process is described here.  That Census, occurring before the devastation of the famine, provides information about a different Western Region.

Of course we know that in 1841 pre famine Ireland was a very different place, yet sometimes it is hard to believe how altered things are.  Leitrim then had a population of 155,297 (it is now 32,044).  Roscommon had more than a quarter of a million people, it now has 64,544 residents.  For those of us who know these counties, it is strange to think about how much more densely they were populated and how little obvious evidence of that population remains.

Population density has of course reduced significantly throughout the Western Region (Table 1).  It had been particularly high in Roscommon (99.52 persons per square kilometre), Sligo (98.44) and Leitrim (97.74) where some of the largest population losses occurred over the next decade.

Table 1: Population Density in the Western Region in 1841 and 2016

1841 persons per sq km 2016  persons per sq km
Clare 83.20 34.52
Galway 71.57 41.96
Leitrim 97.74 20.17
Mayo 69.59 23.35
Roscommon 99.52 25.33
Sligo 98.44 35.67
Donegal 61.00 32.76
Western Region 76.94 31.85
State
96.04
70.05
Source: CSO, 2017, Census 2016 Profile 2 -E2001: Population at Each Census 1841 to 2016 by County, Sex and Census Year and own calculations

As is evident from the changes in population density, all of the counties in the Western Region have suffered severe population decline since 1841 as is shown dramatically in the chart below.

Figure 1: Population of the Western Region counties 1841-2016

Source: CSO, 2017, Census 2016 Profile 2 -E2001: Population at Each Census 1841 to 2016 by County, Sex and Census Year

Of course the most rapid decline in population coincided with the famine (shown by the change between the 1841 and 1851 census), with Western Region counties losing between 32% (Roscommon) and 14% (Donegal) of their population in that decade[1].  Bald population data can only indicate the horror of that time.

After 1851, as we know, the population continued to decline, for the most part at a gradually decreasing rate, until the 1971 Census when the population of Clare and Galway both showed increases. Other Western Region counties followed over the next decades (with some fluctuations) and Leitrim experienced its first population increase since 1841 in 2006, 165 years later.

None of the Western Region counties have yet returned to their 1841 population levels (Table 2) through there is significant variation in the percentage of the 1841 population resident in each county today.

Table 2: Population of Western Region counties and State, 1841 and 2016

1841 2016 2016 as % of 1841 population
Clare 286,394 118,817 41%
Galway 440,198 258,058 59%
Leitrim 155,297 32,044 21%
Mayo 388,887 130,507 34%
Roscommon 253,591 64,544 25%
Sligo 180,886 65,535 36%
Donegal 296,448 159,192 54%
Western Region 2,001,701 828,697 41%
State 6,528,799 4,761,865 73%
Source: CSO, 2017, Census 2016 Profile 2 -E2001: Population at Each Census 1841 to 2016 by County, Sex and Census Year, and own calculations

The State, which had a population of more than 6.5m in 1841, now has 73% of its 1841 population.  There are predictions of more rapid population growth see here and here and here , bringing the population back to pre-famine levels before the bicentennial of the 1841 census.  This is largely due to more significant population recovery in other parts of Ireland, in particular on the east coast around the capital.

Despite declines in the nineteenth century (except in Dublin), five counties (Table 3) in the State now have higher populations than they did in 1841.

Table 3: Population of the five counties with larger population in 2016 than 1841

1841 2016 2016 as % 1841 population
Louth 128,240 128,884 101%
Meath 183,828 195,044 106%
Wicklow 126,143 142,425 113%
Kildare 114,488 222,504 194%
Dublin 372,773 1,347,359 361%
Source: CSO, 2017, Census 2016 Profile 2 -E2001: Population at Each Census 1841 to 2016 by County, Sex and Census Year, and own calculations

The population has moved eastward (and out of the State), but if rising population is a good indicator of a successful economy and society, it is to be hoped that the Western Region can also recover much of its pre-famine population by 2041.  Perhaps the forthcoming National Planning Framework  will be instrumental in achieving this.  However, given shifting population patterns (see here) it is likely that the 2041 population will be living in very different parts of the Region than in 1841.

Helen McHenry

[1] The population of Dublin County grew by 9% in that decade, the only county in the State which showed growth.

Census 2016: Rurality, Population Density and the Urban Population of the Western Region

Detailed population figures from the Census of Population were published last week in Profile 2 – Population Distribution and Movements  which looked at population density, rural and urban populations and the population in towns.

Rural and Urban Population

In Ireland as a whole just over a third (37%) of the population live in rural areas (that is outside towns of 1,500).  In contrast, in the Western Region shows the opposite pattern and 65% live in rural areas (Figure 1).  This is a marginal decline on 2011 (when it was 66%).

The rural population of the seven counties varies from almost 90% in Leitrim (where there is only one ‘urban centre- over 1,500) to 54% in Galway which of course includes the largest settlement.  After Leitrim, Roscommon, Donegal and Mayo are the most rural of the Western Region counties.  Sligo and Clare, along with Galway are slightly less rural.  It should be noted that Galway county (i.e. excluding the city) is one of the most rural with almost 78% of the population living in rural areas.

Figure 1: Percentage of Population living in rural areas in the Western Region and State.

Source: CSO Census 2016 Profile 2 E2008: Population Percentage in the Aggregate Town Areas and Aggregate Rural Areas

 

Each county, and the Western Region itself (64.7%), has a significantly higher proportion of people living in rural areas than for the State as a whole (37%).

Population Density

Density is another key indicator of rurality and it certainly is important in considering the provision of services.  In Ireland as a whole the population density is 70 people per square kilometre and in the more rural Western Region it is almost 32 people per km2 .  Again there is considerable variation by county and as can be seen in Figure 2 below, this largely mirrors the rurality of each of the seven counties.

Figure 2: Population Density in the Western Region and State (persons per sq km)

Source: CSO Census 2016 Profile 2 E2013: Population Density and Area Size 2011 to 2016

 

Galway has the highest population density (42 people per square km) and Leitrim has the lowest with just over 20 people per square kilometre.

Population in Towns

The population of towns across is also included in this Profile and looking at towns across the region the weak urban structure of the region is evident.

Galway is the significant city, with a population of 79,934 in 2016.  Only five towns have a population of more than 10,000 people (Table 1), and all of these had population declines between 2011 and 2016 though, with the exception of Ballina these were small.  Ennis, the largest settlement after Galway is less than a third of its size (25,276 people), and it had a slight population decline (-0.3%) while Letterkenny (19,274) and Sligo (19,199) also had population decreases (1.6% and 1.3%).  The population of Castlebar (12,068) fell by 2% but that in Ballina (10,171) fell by a more significant 8.3%.

Table 1: Population of Towns larger than 10,000 in the Western Region

2011 – Population (Number) 2016 – Population (Number) Actual change since previous census (Number) Percentage change since previous census (%)
Galway City and Suburbs, Galway 76,778 79,934 3,156 4.1
Ennis*, Clare 25,360 25,276 84 -0.3
Letterkenny*, Donegal 19,588 19,274 314 -1.6
Sligo*, Sligo 19,452 19,199 253 -1.3
Castlebar*, Mayo 12,318 12,068 250 -2
Ballina*, Mayo 11,086 10,171 915 -8.3
*Boundaries used for these Census towns have been changed since 2011 so the populations between 2011 and 2016 are not directly comparable.  See this post for more discussion.

Source: CSO Census 2016 Profile 2 E2016: Population and Actual and Percentage Change 2011 to 2016 by Alphabetical List of Towns

 

There are a further seven towns with a population of more than 5,000 (Table 2) giving a total of 13 towns including Galway in that size category (5,000-9,999) in the Western Region.  All of the towns in this category grew with the exception of Buncrana (-0.8%) and Ballinasloe which had no change.  The largest growth was in Loughrea (9.8%) which, along with Tuam, serves as a residential location for people working in Galway.

Table 2: Population of Towns 5,000-9,999 in the Western Region

2011 – Population (Number) 2016 – Population (Number) Actual change since previous census (Number) Percentage change since previous census (%)
Shannon*, Clare             9,673            9,729 56 0.6
Tuam*, Galway             8,242            8,767 525 6.4
Buncrana*, Donegal             6,839            6,785 – 54 -0.8
Ballinasloe*, Galway             6,659           6,662     3 0
Westport*, Mayo             6,063            6,198   135 2.2
Roscommon, Roscommon             5,693            5,876  183 3.2
Loughrea*, Galway             5,062            5,556 494 9.8
*Boundaries used for these Census towns have been changed since 2011 so the populations between 2011 and 2016 are not directly comparable.  See this post for more discussion.

Source: CSO Census 2016 Profile 2 E2016: Population and Actual and Percentage Change 2011 to 2016 by Alphabetical List of Towns

 

There are a further 27 towns in the Western Region with a population of more than 1,500 and which are therefore categorised as urban.  Athenry (12.5%), Gort (13.2%), Tubbercurry (13.7%) and Collooney (17.6%) showed the strongest growth, while Clifden showed a very significant population decline (-22.3%) partially associated with the closure of a Direct Provision Accommodation Centre in 2012.

Table 3 below shows the urban structure of the region.  165,922 people (58% of the region’s urban population of 283,873) live in towns of more than 10,000, and a further 49,573 people (17%) in towns of more than 5,000.  A significant population lives in the smallest towns 68,378 (24%)

Table 3: Urban Structure of the Western Region

2011 2016 Actual change (2011-2016) Percentage change (2011-2016)
Population of towns greater than 10,000 164,582 165,922 1,340 0.8%
Population of towns 5,000- 9,999 48,231 49,573 1,342 2.8%
Population of towns 1,500-4,999 66,647 68,378 1,731 2.6%
Total Population of towns greater than 1,500 279,460 283,873 4,413 1.6%

Source: CSO Census 2016 Profile 2 E2016: Population and Actual and Percentage Change 2011 to 2016 by Alphabetical List of Towns

 

While these urban populations are significant in the context of the region, it should be remembered that more than half a million people (535,953) are living in rural areas (in small settlements and open countryside) in the Region.  The CSO has provides population details of a further 201 settlements in the Region, the smallest of these is Malin (population 92) and 103,936 people live in these.  A total of 440,888 (53%) therefore live in more open countryside (and in even smaller settlements).

Conclusion

It is important to remember that the Western Region is a very rural region, and while higher level services (for example in health and education) should be provided in the larger urban settlements, the needs of those living in more rural, dispersed populations and the best means of providing services and access to services and employment in these areas must be considered.

For some more detail on town populations in each Western Region county see the WDC County Profiles.

Helen McHenry

What are the Capital Infrastructure Priorities for the Western Region?

Last week the WDC made a Submission to the Public Consultation on the Mid-term Review of the Capital Plan 2016-2021.

The consultation sought views as to what should be included in the current Plan (€42 billion), over and above what is already included – arising from additional resources (€5 billion) being made available.

In addition, an interesting and welcome aspect was that the Consultation also sought views on the criteria which should inform consideration of the capital investment choices to be made. This was in the context of the remainder of the current plan, but also and arguably of more importance in the context of a longer term 10 year Capital Plan.

This idea of a longer term 10 year Capital Plan acknowledges another important Public Consultation underway – the National Planning Framework (NPF) and the need to consider investment priorities which would align and support the final NPF. A draft NPF is due for consideration over this Summer.

In discussing the Considerations for the Mid-Term Review of the Capital Plan (Section 2), the WDC highlighted the importance of infrastructure for regional development where all regions need quality infrastructure to compete effectively. The WDC submission also noted;

  • The importance of long-term planning, as decisions made on infrastructure now have very long term impacts.
  • The need to invest to join existing networks together and complete ‘unfinished sections’. For example once the Gort-Tuam motorway is complete, the priority should then be to improve the outstanding sections between Tuam and Sligo to ensure a high quality road network.
  • Identify and utilise existing available capacity before considering new investments at congested sites. For example there is international air access capacity available at Shannon and Ireland West Airport Knock. Another example is to develop more attractive services on the rail network, which is a valuable transport asset with capacity to ease congestion on the road network and help us meet Ireland’s climate change obligations.
  • Develop inter-regional linkages. While connectivity to Dublin from most regions has improved considerably in the last decade, inter-regional connectivity is relatively poor. By improving inter-regional connectivity, such as improving the road network between the urban centres in the Mid-West, West and North West then the investment potential of the key urban centres there can be enhanced.

The WDC submission also notes the importance of appropriate appraisal and evaluation methods when considering alternative investment projects. The capital appraisal and evaluation methods determining the costs and benefits of different investment projects need to be re-examined. The traditional cost benefit approach will naturally favour the larger and often largest population centres as the impacts are likely to be felt by a greater number, wherever the project is being delivered. To realise better spatial balance, there will need to be a change to the conventional appraisal and evaluation methodologies which are typically used to determine what projects proceed. The impact on the wider spatial balance of the country should be factored in.

In the section examining the prioritisation of Capital Expenditure and Selection of Projects/Programmes in current Capital Plan (Section 3), the WDC focused on the infrastructure areas it considers critical for Western development.

Key priority infrastructural investments include:

  • Funding to deliver and complete the National Broadband Plan as soon as possible to ensure high speed broadband for all.
  • National primary road improvements including N4, N5, N6, M17, M18, incorporating the Atlantic Road corridor.
  • National secondary roads see WDC Submission for specific priorities.
  • There is a need to increase regional and local roads funding to allow road maintenance programme to be enhanced.
  • The importance of Bus services and the Rural transport programme to citizens in the Western Region is highlighted.
  • Continue investment is needed to support increased rail frequencies and service levels on routes serving the Western Region.
  • Ongoing support for improvements and access to Ireland West Airport Knock and Shannon.
  • Investment in the electricity network and natural gas infrastructure is made through the commercial state sector, but it should be co-ordinated and monitored through the Capital Investment Plan.
  • Apart from completing all energy commitments in the Capital Plan there should be investment to connect to the natural gas grid at Athenry, Ballyhaunis and Knock, all three of which qualified for connection in 2006.

In Section 4, Long-term Capital Investment Framework (10 years), the WDC Submission examines the longer-term considerations needed for effective capital investment. The WDC believes that capital investment which is by its nature long-term investment should be undertaken within the context of a longer term planning framework as is proposed in the National Planning Framework 2040. The WDC has made a detailed submission to the NPF (4.5 MB) consultation conducted by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government.

Other considerations include:

Capital spending on new infrastructure should focus on supporting better spatial balance as well as supporting those citizens and that part of the country which is relatively poorly served. Quality infrastructure is one of the necessary conditions for regional development.

Investment in road infrastructure to join existing networks together and complete ‘unfinished sections’. For example in the West/North West. These are often infrastructure requirements needed to satisfy current as well as future demand.

As outlined previously, the state should capitalise on the capacity already available and ‘sweat’ the state investment already made, such as in transport, for example the rail network and the international airports with spare capacity such as Shannon and Ireland West Airport Knock. Other examples include educational infrastructure (Institutes of Technology), Health facilities and Housing.

Policy will also influence the infrastructure investments needed. The need to lower carbon emissions will help influence infrastructural investments (for example supporting cleaner transport modes).

Another consideration is to enable greater policy integration and joined up investment decisions across all sectors, for example planning, employment and transport policy sectors, which are proven to help to make sustainable and active travel more attractive alternatives to the private car.

A good example is the benefits which could be realised through increased e-Working, see WDC Policy Briefing No.7 (748 KB) which can reduce transport demand, traffic congestion and emissions. It has been estimated that if just 10% of the working population of 2.1 million were to work from home for 1 day a week, there would be a reduction of around 10 million car journeys to work per annum[1]. Benefits arising from higher broadband speeds and greater levels of e-Working include time savings, enhanced communications, increased sales and productivity gains[2]. To promote greater take-up, e-Work needs to be prioritised as a policy objective and a cross departmental approach is required. Lead departments would include the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation and the Department of Communications, Climate Change and Environment.

The WDC Submission is available for download here (4 MB).

Deirdre Frost

[1]Department for Transport, Smarter Travel: A Sustainable Transport Future, A New Transport Policy for Ireland 2009-2020 http://www.smartertravel.ie/sites/default/files/uploads/2012_12_27_Smarter_Travel_english_PN_WEB%5B1%5D.pdf#overlay-context=content/publications. p.35

[2] Indecon International Economic Consultants, July 2012. Economic / Socio-Economic Analysis of Options for Rollout of Next Generation Broadband. Analysis undertaken on behalf of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (DCENR) as part of the Government’s National Broadband Plan, 2012. http://www.dccae.gov.ie/communications/SiteCollectionDocuments/Broadband/National%20Broadband%20Plan.pdf

What are the levers for effective regional development?

‘What are the levers for effective regional development?’  was one of the most interesting questions posed recently by the Department of Housing, Planning, Community & Local Government in its recent ‘Issues and Choices’ consultation paper for the National Planning Framework.

In our WDC Submission to the consultation, we drew on previous WDC analysis including the WDC Policy Briefings ‘Why care about regions? A new approach to regional policy’, ‘Education, Enterprise & Employment – How Can Better Integration Of The 3Es Drive Growth In The Western Region?’ and ‘e-Working in the Western Region: A Review of the Evidence’ to answer this question.

In our submission we argue that Infrastructure, the ‘3Es’ (Enterprise, Employment and Education) and Innovation are the key levers for effective regional development.   The central aim of regional policy, the National Planning Framework and the upcoming Regional Economic & Spatial Strategies should be to provide the conditions for regions to grow and realise their full potential.  Developing infrastructure, the 3Es and innovation is the way to do this.  When these three areas complement and support each other, they drive regional growth.  Each has a distinctive role, and needs its own policy focus, but they are most effective when addressed through an integrated regional policy approach.

Infrastructure

Investment in infrastructure has always played a prominent role in regional policy.  The expectation that improvements in physical infrastructure will generate productivity gains for local businesses and increase the attractiveness of an area for investment and for tourism has been a recurring theme.  Less developed regions need to have a similar quality of infrastructures for their residents and businesses as is available in more successful regions. Infrastructural connectivity has a critical influence on choice of location for both indigenous and foreign investors.  The Western Region, and particularly the North West, is disadvantaged in terms of several forms of infrastructure.  For example Sligo was the only NSS Gateway which was not connected to Dublin with a motorway under the Major Inter-Urban motorway investments between 2006 and 2010 and was the only NSS Gateway or Hub to have a 0 improvement in its ‘accessibility to employment’ score as a result of this period of intensive investment, according to research by Transport Infrastructure Ireland.

In its submission to the NPF, the WDC makes a range of specific recommendations in relation to infrastructural investments needed to facilitate development in the Western Region.  The proposed investments include transport (national roads, regional and local roads, public transport (rail and bus), air and ports), communications (broadband and mobile coverage) and energy (electricity and natural gas).  These infrastructure investments are also highlighted in the WDC’s submission to the Mid-Term Review of the Capital Plan.

While infrastructure is critical, OECD[1]  work emphasises that transport and other infrastructure developments are not enough by themselves; to have an impact on regional development they need to be associated with, and complemented by, human capital and innovation developments.

The ‘3Es’: Enterprise, Employment and Education

Regions are successful because enterprises in these regions are successful.  When enterprises grow, employment grows and this depends on skilled and educated people.  Policy to support the ‘3Es’ of enterprise, employment and education must work together at both national and regional level to create dynamic regions.[2]

One of the most important issues that needs to be recognised and addressed by the NPF is that narrow definitions of ‘job’, ‘work’ and ‘employer’ as a full-time permanent employee travelling every day to a specific work location is extremely limited and does not recognise either the current reality of ‘work’ or the dramatically changing patterns likely to emerge up to 2040. Self-employment, the ‘gig’ or ‘sharing’ economy, contract work, freelancing, e-Working, multiple income streams, online business are all trends that are dramatically redefining the conception of work, enterprise, and their physical location.

A study conducted for Vodafone in 2016 found that nearly one in four broadband users in rural Ireland use the internet at home in relation to their work and one third have remote access to their company network. An estimated 150,000 rural workers avoid commuting some or all of the time because they can connect to work remotely.  This trend is likely to continue.

If the NPF mainly equates the term ‘employer’ with a large IT services or high-tech manufacturing company, many of which (though by no means all) are attracted to larger cities, then it will only address a small proportion of the State’s population and labour force, and will not help to achieve effective regional development. The NPF must recognise and support existing and new sole traders, micro-businesses and freelancers working in sectors where lagging regions have comparative advantage or which are not location dependent.

Quality of life is a key determinant in the location decision of many people and current trends in the world of work and technology will increasingly help people to work from the same location where they want to live.

Enterprise

Enterprises create most jobs.  The NPF must recognise the need to enable and support the diversification of the Irish economy.  It must provide a support framework for indigenous business growth.

Many of the references to enterprises in the NPF Issues and Choices paper focus on high value, high skill exporting enterprises, which are central to export-led growth and tend to cluster in cities and larger urban centres.  However such enterprises cannot provide a full solution for regional development or jobs growth.  While they play a significant role, and have considerable multiplier impacts in other sectors, direct employment in such enterprises only accounts for one in five jobs nationally (2016 there were a total of 400,985 jobs in IDA and Enterprise Ireland supported companies nationally (DJEI) which was 19.5% of total employment (QNHS, Q4 2016)).

Enterprises in employment-intensive, lower-skill sectors are central to maintaining and growing employment both nationally and regionally.  This is termed a ‘whole of enterprise’ approach acknowledging that enterprises across all sectors have the potential to innovate and increase productivity but vary in how they contribute to growth and employment.  If the NPF focuses too narrowly on high skill, high growth enterprises and/or Foreign Direct Investment it will not lead to effective regional development.  Recognising the role and needs of entrepreneurs in local and personal services is important for sustaining as well as creating jobs, in particular in smaller centres and rural areas.  93.1% of registered enterprises in the Western Region are micro-enterprises, employing fewer than 10 people, and in general the region is characterised by smaller enterprise size (CSO, Business Demography 2014).

While Ireland has emerged from recession, enterprise numbers are not back to pre-recession levels and even more so in the Western Region and particularly more rural counties.  Between 2008 and 2014 (latest data available) the Western Region lost 8.6% of its enterprises, compared with a loss of 2.4% nationally. Construction, Wholesale & Retail, Professional Services and Accommodation & Food Service are the largest enterprise sectors. Indeed fewer than 5% of the Western Region’s enterprises are in the Financial & Insurance and Information & Communications sectors combined.  The region’s enterprise base is currently quite concentrated and diversification of the enterprise base is a key objective.

Employment

As stated in the NPF, a skilled workforce will attract high value enterprises to a region, but a skilled workforce are less likely to locate in a region unless the job opportunities already exist.  In reality this relationship is not so straightforward.  Job opportunities are a critical, but not the only factor in people’s decisions on where to live, many other personal and social factors influence this decision.  In Ireland many people have selected to live in one location but commute to work elsewhere in some cases e-Working for a number of days a week. Equally, areas with large pools of skilled labour e.g. counties in the wider Dublin commuter belt, have not necessarily been able to attract employers to locate there instead.  40% of workers living in the Mid-East region work in a different region.

In general, lagging regions have substantial reserves of unmobilised labour, indicated by higher unemployment rates and lower participation rates.  During the Celtic Tiger this pattern was largely reversed in the Western Region with rising participation rates, falling unemployment and high levels of inward migration as many people returned to the region on response to economic growth opportunities. The WDC’s LookWest.ie campaign effectively illustrated many case studies of individuals and enterprises who (re)located to the region at that time.  Labour markets in lagging regions have the potential to respond very positively to improved economic circumstances and stimulus.

The recession however led to high out-migration, which is particularly detrimental to lagging regions, as the propensity to migrate is higher among the more skilled, depriving the region of their skills and leaving the less skilled more dependent on local employment opportunities.  The creation of job or entrepreneurial opportunities for graduates in lagging regions will help retain and attract a highly skilled labour force and, in turn, stimulate further growth and employment.

A key characteristic of the Western Region is that 1 in 5 people who are at work in the Western Region is self-employed (75,000 people were self-employed in the Western Region, QNHS special run, Q1 2016). While farming influences this to some extent, self-employment is higher in the region across most sectors and is particularly important in the most rural counties.

Between 2012 and 2016 the number of self-employed in the Western Region grew by 31.3% but the number of employees only increased 0.6%.  Practically all recent jobs growth in the region has been driven by self-employment. In more rural areas and smaller towns, people who wish to continue to live in these areas have created their own job.  The NPF must both recognise and support this trend.  The Local Enterprise Offices, local development companies and local authorities are most active in supporting this type of business. It would be important to continue and expand initiatives to support them such as:

  • Roll-out of fibre broadband.
  • Provision of serviced, shared workspace including through Community Enterprise Centres, at a reasonable cost.
  • Mentoring and provision of grants for start-up and established businesses.
  • Network facilitation to allow self-employed, particularly in more rural areas who may be quite isolated, to connect with others in other own or other sectors.
  • Training and upskilling for owner/managers and self-employed across all sectors including personal services (hairdressing, childminding), building trades, retail and hospitality.

What is most interesting in recent trends is that since 2012 there has been quite strong growth in the numbers self-employed who are employing other people (from 14,200 up to 19,000) showing the potential for the self-employed to be job creators.

Education

Further and higher education has an important role to play in regional development.  Educational institutions build a region’s human capital assets, attract and retain talent.  Further education and training have a particular role in up-skilling those with lower education levels, who face higher unemployment rates and are at greater risk of long term unemployment.  Lagging regions generally have a greater share of their labour force with lower levels of education.  In 2011 54.7% of adults in the Western Region had only secondary level education or lower, compared with 51.9% nationally.

Higher education brings knowledge creation, knowledge transfer, cultural and community development and innovation to regions.  It can also stimulate entrepreneurship. Within the Western Region, NUI Galway is a key regional asset and economic driver. It greatly contributes to the attractiveness and economic development of Galway city and its wider hinterland.  To the North West the three Institutes of Technology of Letterkenny, Sligo and Galway-Mayo, are collaborating on the Connacht/Ulster Alliance, an initiative that has the potential to expand the contribution of higher education to regional development in this area.

The broader role of further and higher education, touching on innovation, enterprise and employment, needs to be a key focus of regional policy.  Where this works effectively it becomes part of a virtuous cycle producing graduates and skilled workers, and enabling them to find employment in developing enterprises.

Innovation

To remain competitive, manufacturing and service firms must continually upgrade skills and capabilities, access new ideas and technologies through industry networks, tap the knowledge of their workers, suppliers and customers and search for new market opportunities. This is all innovation.

Innovation policy is often focused on scientific and technological research, but while leading OECD regions produce several hundred patents per year per million inhabitants, more than one third of OECD regions generate fewer than ten patents per year.  Lagging regions need a different kind of innovation policy, one that emphasises absorption capacity and innovation by adoption.

Policy needs to address the issues of regions that are not innovation leaders.  A substantial element of innovation policy should be focused on adoption of innovations developed elsewhere and on initiatives in areas such as human resource management or implementation of new processes.  It should stimulate innovation activity in areas where rural regions have particular strengths such as renewable energy and agri-food.

Regional policy which addresses the levers of effective regional development – Infrastructure, the 3Es and Innovation – through a co-ordinated, place-based, cross-sectoral  approach is needed if the so-called, ‘business as usual’ spatial pattern of growth is to be disrupted and all regions facilitated to realise their potential for economic growth and provide sustainable livelihoods for those who live there.

 

Pauline White

[1] OECD, 2009, How Regions Grow: Trends and Analysis; OECD, 2009, Regions Matter: Economic Recovery, Innovation and Sustainable Growth

Key Issues for the National Planning Framework – Submission from the WDC

The WDC  made its submission on Ireland 2040 – Our Plan: National Planning Framework   yesterday.  The Issues and Choices paper covered a wide range of topics from national planning challenges to sustainability, health, infrastructure and the role of cities and towns.  A key element of the paper considered the future in a “business as usual” scenario in which even greater growth takes place in the Dublin and Mid East region with consequent increased congestion and increasing costs for businesses and society, while other parts of the country continue to have under-utilised potential which is lost to Ireland.  The consultation paper therefore sought to explore the broad questions of alternative opportunities and ways to move away from the “business as usual” scenario.

The WDC submission considers these issues from the perspective of the Western Region, the needs of the Region, the opportunities its development presents for Ireland’s economy and society as a whole and the choices, investments and policy required to achieve regional growth and resilience.

This post highlights the key points made in the submission.  The complete, comprehensive submission on the National Planning Framework by the WDC can be read here (4.5MB PDF).  A shorter summary is available here (0.7MB PDF).

 

What should the NPF achieve?

  • The National Planning Framework (NPF) provides Ireland with an opportunity to more fully realise the potential of all of its regions to contribute to national growth and productivity. All areas of Ireland, the Capital and second tier cities, large, medium and small-sized towns, villages and open countryside, have roles to play both in the national economy and, most importantly, as locations for people to live.
  • While spatial planning strives for ideal settlement or employment patterns and transport infrastructure, in many aspects of life change is relatively slow; demographics may alter gradually over decades and generations and, given the housing boom in the early part of this century, many of our existing housing units will be in use in the very long term. If the NPF is to be effective it must focus on what is needed, given current and historical patterns and the necessity for a more balanced pattern of development.
  • To effectively support national growth it is important that there is not excessive urban concentration “Either over or under [urban] concentration … is very costly in terms of economic efficiency and national growth rates” (Vernon Henderson, 2000[1]). Thus it is essential that, through the NPF, other cities and other regions become the focus of investment and development.

Developing Cities

  • As the NPF is to be a high level Framework, in this submission the WDC does not go into detail by naming places or commenting on specific development projects, as these will be covered by the forthcoming Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES). The exception to this, however, is in relation to the need for cities to counterbalance Dublin.  In this case we emphasise the role of Galway and the potential for Sligo to be developed as the key growth centre for the North West.
  • The North West is a large rural region and Sligo is the best located large urban centre to support development throughout much of the North West region. With effective linkages to other urban centres throughout the region and improved connectivity, along with support from regional and national stakeholders, Sligo can become a more effective regional driver, supporting a greater share of population, economic and employment growth in Sligo itself and the wider North West region.

Developing Towns

  • While the NPF is to be a high level document and the focus is largely on cities it is important not to assume that development of key cities will constitute regional development. All areas need to be the focus of definite policy, and the NPF should make this clear.
  • While cities may drive regional development, other towns, at a smaller scale, can be equally important to their region. Recognising this is not the same as accepting that all towns need the same level of connection and services.  It is more important to understand that the context of each town differs, in terms of distance and connectivity to other towns and to the cities, the size of the hinterland it serves and its physical area as well as population.  Therefore their infrastructure and service needs differ.
  • Towns play a central role in Ireland’s settlement hierarchy. While much of the emphasis in the NPF Issues and Choices paper is on cities and their role, for a large proportion of Ireland’s population small and medium-sized towns act as their key service centre for education, retail, recreation, primary health and social activities.  Even within the hinterlands of the large cities, people access many of their daily services in smaller centres.  The NPF needs to be clear on the role it sees for towns in effective regional development.

Rural Areas

  • Rural areas provide key resources essential to our economy and society. They are the location of our natural resources and also most of our environmental, biodiversity and landscape assets.  They are places of residence and employment, as well as places of amenity, recreation and refuge.
  • They are already supporting national economic growth, climate action objectives and local communities, albeit at a smaller scale than towns and cities. But a greater focus on developing rural regions would increase the contribution to our economy and society made by rural areas.
  • The key solution to maintaining rural populations is the availability of employment. It is important that the NPF is truly focused on creating opportunities for the people who live in the regions, whether in cities, towns or rural areas.

Employment and Enterprise

  • In the Issues and Choices paper a narrow definition of ‘job’, ‘work’ and ‘employer’ as a full-time permanent employee travelling every day to a specific work location seems to be assumed. This does not recognise either the current reality of ‘work’ or the likely changes to 2040. Self-employment, the ‘gig’ or ‘sharing’ economy, contract work, freelancing, e-Working, multiple income streams, online business are all trends that are redefining the conceptions of work, enterprise and their physical location.
  • If the NPF mainly equates ‘employer’ with a large IT services or high-tech manufacturing company, many of which (though by no means all) are attracted to larger cities, then it will only address the needs of a small proportion of the State’s population and labour force.
  • Similarly the NPF must recognise the need to enable and support the diversification of the Irish economy and enterprise base. It must provide a support framework for indigenous business growth across all regions and particularly in sectors where regions have comparative advantage.

Location Decisions

  • While job opportunities are a critical factor in people’s decision of where to live, they are by no means the only factor. Many other personal and social factors influence this decision such as closeness to family (including for childcare and elder care reasons), affordability, social and lifestyle preferences, connection to place and community.
  • Many people have selected to live in one location but commute to work elsewhere or, in some cases, e-Work for a number of days a week. The NPF needs to recognise the complexity of reasons for people’s location decisions in planning for the development of settlements.

Infrastructure

  • New infrastructure can be transformative (the increase in motorway infrastructure in recent decades shows how some change happens relatively quickly). Therefore it is essential that we carefully consider where we place new investments.  To do so, capital appraisal and evaluation methods determining the costs and benefits of different investment projects need to be re-examined if we are to move from a ‘business as usual’ approach.
  • Investment in infrastructure can strongly influence the location of other infrastructure with a detrimental impact on unserved locations. The North West of the country is at a disadvantage compared to other regions with regard to motorway access. This situation will be compounded if investment in rail is focused on those routes with better road access (motorways) in order for rail to stay competitive, or if communications or electricity networks are developed along existing motorway or rail corridors.
  • The WDC believes that the regional cities can be developed more and have untapped potential, however better intra-regional linkages are needed. The weaker links between the regional centres – notably Cork to Limerick and north of Galway through to Sligo and on to Letterkenny, are likely to be a factor in the relatively slower growth of regional centres in contrast to the motorway network, most of which serves Dublin from the regions.

Climate Change

For the future, the need to move to a low carbon, fossil fuel free economy is essential and needs to be an integral and much more explicit part of the NPF.  The National Mitigation Plan for Climate Change is currently being developed, and it is essential that actions under the NPF will be in line with, and support, the actions in the Mitigation Plan.

How should the NPF be implemented?

  • While much of the role of the NPF is strategic vision and coordination of decision-making, in order for the Framework to be effective it is essential that the achievement of the vision and the actions essential to it are appropriately resourced. The Issues and Choices paper does not give a detailed outline of how the NPF implementation will be resourced, except through the anticipated alignment with the Capital Investment Programme.
  • It should be remembered that policy on services and regional development is not just implemented through capital spending but also though current spending and through policy decisions with spatial implications (such as those relating to the location of services). Therefore it is essential that other spending, investment and policy decisions are in line with the NPF rather than operating counter to it.
  • While the NPF is to provide a high level Framework for development in Ireland to 2040, it seems this Framework is to be implemented at a regional level through the RSES. The Framework and the Strategies are therefore interlinked yet the respective roles of the NPF and the RSES are not explicit and so it is not evident which areas of development will be influenced by the NPF and which by the RSES.
  • In order to ensure that the NPF is implemented effectively it is important that there is a single body with responsibility for its delivery and that there is a designated budget to help achieve its implementation.

 

It is expected that a draft National Planning Framework document will be published for consultation in May.  Following that a final version of the Framework will be prepared for discussion and consideration by Dáil Éireann.

 

As mentioned above the full WDC submission on the Issues and Choices paper Ireland 2040 Our Plan- A National Planning Framework is available here (PDF 4.5MB) and a summary of key point and responses to consultation questions is available here (PDF 0.7MB).

 

 

Helen McHenry

[1] http://www.nber.org/papers/w7503

County Incomes in the Western Region, 2014

Data on County Incomes and Regional GDP for 2014 was released by the CSO this week.  While preliminary figures for 2014 were released last year  this release provides the official data for 2014[1].  Unlike last year, however, the preliminary figures for the following year (which would have been 2015 in this case) have not been released.  In this post County Incomes in the Western Region are discussed and Regional GDP will be considered next week.  The map (produced by the CSO) gives an overview of the levels of Disposable Income across the State.

Disposable Income per person

Disposable Income per person is the focus of this post, this is made up of Primary Income[2] plus Social Transfers less Taxes and Charges[3].  The changes in the components of Household Income will all affect income level but these will be considered in more detail in a future post.  Table 1 shows Disposable Income per person for the seven counties Western Region counties and for the State.

Table 1: Disposable Income per person by county, 2014 and 2013Source: http://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/er/cirgdp/countyincomesandregionalgdp2014/ Western Region data- own calculations[4]

While Disposable Income per person in 2014 was €19,178 in the State, it was €16,963 in the Western Region.  For both there was an increase on 2013, by 3.5% for the State Disposable Income per person and by 1.9% for the Western Region.

The highest Disposable Income per person in the Western Region was in Galway (€17,929), while the highest nationally was in Dublin (€21,963 per person), some €4, 034 higher than Galway.    Donegal (€15,061) had the lowest Disposable Income in both the Western Region and nationally.

All counties showed growth in Disposable Income between 2013 and 2014 (see Figure 1) with the highest growth in the Western Region in Roscommon (2.7%) although Roscommon has the second lowest Disposable Income in the Region and nationally after Donegal.  Leitrim had the lowest Disposable Income growth (0.8%) between 2013 and 2014

Figure 1: Disposable Income per person, 2013 and 2014

Source: http://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/er/cirgdp/countyincomesandregionalgdp2014/ Western Region data- own calculations[5]

In the Western Region the gap between the county with the highest Disposable Income per person (Galway) and the lowest (Donegal) was €2,751 in 2014.  This gap between the highest and lowest has narrowed slightly since 2013 when the gap between the Donegal and Sligo was €2,802.  Revision of the 2013 figures (which reduced the Disposable Income per person figure for all of the Western Region counties) meant that Sligo had a higher Disposable Income figure than Galway, for the first time in 2013.  By 2014 Galway was again ahead but only by €61 per person.

 

Trends over time

Looking over the longer term (since 2006) incomes in 2014 have still not regained the levels seen in 2006 (see Figure 2), and are still some distance from peak levels in 2008.  Some of this may be explained by higher taxes and charges and lower social transfers than in 2008 and this will be examined in more detail in a forthcoming post.

Figure 2: Disposable Income per person, 2006-2014

Source: http://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/er/cirgdp/countyincomesandregionalgdp2014/

While Figure 2 shows the actual Disposable Incomes per person, when considering the trends among counties it is useful to use Indices so that county figures can be examined relative to the State (State=100).  This is shown in Figure 3.

Figure 3: Index of County Incomes per person 2006-2014, State=100)

Source: http://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/er/cirgdp/countyincomesandregionalgdp2014/

Disposable Income in Galway has been consistently the highest in the region (except for 2013) approaching the State average from 2006 onwards and in 2010 surpassing it with an index value of 100.9.  Since then, however, it has been relatively lower and in 2014 it was only 93.4% of the State figure.  In 2014 Sligo was also at 93.4% of the State Disposable Income per person, and over the longer term the income in Sligo has been improving relative to the State, rising fairly consistently from 92.2% in 2006.

In contrast both Clare and Roscommon have shown significant relative declines since 2006 when Clare was 94.2% of the State average and Roscommon was 93.6.  In 2014 Clare was 89.2% of the State average and Roscommon was only 85%.  Donegal has consistently had the lowest Disposable Income per person in the country at only 78.8% of the State in 2006 and 78.04% in 2014.  In 2010 it peaked at 84% but this was largely due to the lower State figure in that period.

This post has provided a brief overview of the key County Income figures released this week for the Western Region.  The components and trends will be analysed in more detail in the coming months.

 

 

Helen McHenry

 

[1] It should also be noted that the 2013 figures have also been revised.

[2] Disposable Household Income Is calculated in three steps; Primary Income Household Primary Income is defined for National Income purposes as follows: Compensation of employees (i.e. Wages and Salaries, Benefits in kind, Employers’ social insurance contributions) plus Income of self-employed plus Rent of dwellings (including imputed rent of owner-occupied dwellings) plus Net interest and dividends

[3] See http://www.cso.ie/en/releasesandpublications/er/cirgdp/countyincomesandregionalgdp2014/ for more information

[4] Western Region Household Disposable income per person is calculated by inferring population estimates for 2013 and 2014

[5] Western Region Household Disposable income per person is calculated by inferring population estimates for 2013 and 2014

 

New WDC Publication: WDC Policy Briefing No.7 e-Working in the Western Region: A Review of the Evidence

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has published its latest Policy Briefing WDC Policy Briefing No.7 e-Working in the Western Region: A Review of the Evidence, which is now available for download at the following link here.

e-Work is a method of working using information and communication technology in which the work is not bound to any particular location. Traditionally this has been understood as working remotely from the office, usually from home, whether full-time or for a period during the working week. e-Working can provide particular opportunities in regions like the Western Region where many are living some distance from key employment centres.

The WDC Policy Briefing, which includes case studies from companies and individuals, examines:

  • The extent of e-Working.
  • The way in which weaker broadband access in more rural locations impacts on the rate of e-Working.
  • Factors driving e-Work.
  • Recommendations on how e-Working can be further promoted.

This Policy Briefing shows that e-Working is a widespread practice but somewhat hidden from official statistics. It also shows that while there is demand for greater e-working, broadband speeds need to be improved.

The WDC Policy Briefing contains recommendations to support more e-Working, including priority rollout of the National Broadband Plan to those counties with the lowest broadband speeds. Additional case studies are also available for download from here.

Deirdre Frost

All Island Dialogue on the Implications of Brexit on Culture, Heritage, Regional SMEs & the Impact on Border & other Rural Communities

Two weeks ago (6th February 2017) Minister Heather Humphreys hosted an All Island Dialogue on the implications of Brexit on Culture, Heritage, Regional SMEs & the Impact on Border & other Rural Communities in Cavan.   This was one of the fourteen All-Island sectoral dialogues which have taken place across the country over the recent weeks.

Over 100 stakeholders attended the event and there was engaged and active discussion of the issue throughout the day.  To begin with the Minister outlined the Government’s ongoing response to Brexit.  Then a panel of experts covering the broad range of sectors under the remit of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs each gave a short overview of the implications of Brexit for their sector.

Roundtable discussions were then held to consider the immediate impact of Brexit, longer term impacts and how they might be mitigated. The focus was on arts, heritage, small businesses and rural communities.  The discussions fed back into a broader panel discussion.

Common Themes from the discussions

A number of common themes emerged from the discussion (as well as detailed sector specific issues which are not covered in this post). A summary of the more general points raised by stakeholders, applicable to all sectors considered on the day, is provided below.

  • Uncertainty over the form and impact of Brexit was key to all of the discussion. This was regarded as a particular problem as we are just emerging from recession. Uncertainty increases risks for businesses, communities, cultural organisations and people as they make decisions.  Plans are therefore being delayed until a clearer picture emerges.
  • This slowdown in individual and business decision making is affecting economic and social activities on both sides of the border, even before the full consequences of Brexit are known.
  • There is very significant variation in the levels of knowledge of the possible implications of Brexit among businesses, communities and people. Some are well informed about possible difficulties or opportunities, others have very poor understanding and will therefore face more difficulty in making plans and developing responses to Brexit.
  • Currency fluctuations and the loss of value of sterling have had the most immediate impact which has led to other direct impacts on tourism and retail businesses.
  • Maintenance of the Common Travel Area and free movement of people was important to all involved in the discussion. Organisations staff and experts in various sectors move across borders regularly and any restrictions would negatively affect the functioning of these organisations and businesses.
  • Ensuring the continued implementation of the Good Friday Agreement with associated institutions and commitments was regarded as essential.
  • In future, changes to the way cross border services are provided in areas such as health and education will affect people living in border communities.
  • Currently the UK and Ireland are in a common regulatory regime but this will change. Across all sectors there were concerns about the implications of divergence in regulation and implementation of different regulatory approaches.  This is an issue in a variety of areas including, for example, procurement and data protection.
  • The form of future taxation agreements, VAT rules and rates could be very significant and have important implications for businesses and arts and cultural enterprises.
  • There will be a significant change to the funding landscape in the border region and beyond. It is unclear what will happen with the EU Peace programme, Interreg and other funding.  It was agreed that the border counties will be most affected by Brexit, and of these counties some will be more severely affected (Donegal was mentioned as the example of this).  There are over 300 border crossings and it is not clear whether they will all remain open in the future.
  • There has been a significant increase in cross border activity since the Good Friday Agreement and there is concern that this will be diminished. This has business implications but also intangible effects on the mind-set of those living close to the border.
  • A better understanding of the current trade and activities that take place across borders (between ROI and NI and between ROI and GB) is needed. This includes trade of goods and services, but we also have weak understanding of the reasons people are travelling across the border for work, trade or social reasons.
  • Understanding of the cross border infrastructures which have been developing in recent decades is important. The implications of change for roads, energy infrastructure and broadband need to be considered. Changes in the way these are planned and managed will affect both Ireland as a whole and border communities in particular.
  • There should be a focus on the development of new markets outside the UK and support both businesses and cultural organisations in doing this.
  • There was a view that many of the benefits of Brexit will be felt in larger urban centres and that border and rural regions will be most negatively affected because of their proximity to the border, the nature of their enterprises and their smaller population base. There is concern that here could be further rural de-population if the opportunities that Brexit may bring are confined to the Dublin area.  This needs to be addressed in a coherent manner.
  • It was highlighted that if we want a sustainable, viable and vibrant Border region, we need to plan to achieve this
  • There was a suggestion that the concentration on Brexit will take the focus off other important issues already affecting the Border region, such as access to services, infrastructure and access to employment.
  • Finally, among many of the participants, in all areas, there was a positive, ‘can do’ attitude. It was felt that we have had problems and difficulties before and have dealt with them.  There was concern that there might be an overly negative portrayal of the implications of Brexit, and that this in turn was affecting the confidence of enterprise, communities and people and in turn affecting their decision making.

Actions Suggested by Stakeholders during the discussion

  • Clear information needs to be made available about the possible implications for Brexit for communities, cultural organisations and businesses, addressing their specific issues.
  • It is important that there is more analysis and understanding of the current situation in regard to cross border trade, cross border service provision, and the on-going community engagement across borders. This information needs to be used as a basis for considering Brexit implications and appropriate response.  With more detailed information we can have better policy responses.
  • Analysis should not just address issues of business or trade but also the hard to measure issues of social integration, identity and sense of place along the border.
  • It will be important that the implications of differing regulatory standards are well understood and that these are considered both in Brexit negotiations and in developing responses to this regulatory issue in future.
  • We should use expertise from other member states which have borders with non EU countries to get a better understanding of the potential issues and to understand their models and means of ensuring that borders and relationships between EU and Non EU countries are smooth and seamless as possible.
  • The potential for substitution of imports from the UK needs to be explored as it may provide opportunities across a range of sectors.
  • The government needs to continue to consult stakeholders as the impacts of Brexit become clearer so that responses and actions can be developed.
  • We should examine problems individually and develop responses to each. There cannot be one single policy response, each issue will need to be addressed.  Brexit  is complex and responses should be tailored to the individual issue.
  • Both ROI and NI need to work closely together to understand the possible implications for Brexit for both jurisdictions and to work to achieve the best possible agreement. In this it is important that there is a close working relationship and significant engagement with the NI Executive so that all island solutions can be implemented where appropriate
  • Future government policy, including the National Planning Framework, needs to take into account the potential implications of Brexit and the changing nature of the border and ensure that there is a plan for a positive, sustainable future for the border region.
  • Special supports for the border region should be considered, in terms of structural funds as well as enterprise and community support and funding.
  • A specific fund for EU regions with sharing a border with non EU countries should be developed to mitigate the difficulties faced by these regions.

 

The focus in this dialogue on rural communities and on the Border region was significant, as these are likely to be the most immediately and directly affected by Brexit.  Uncertainty was a key theme of the discussion, and it is to be hoped that once Article 50 has been declared by the UK government and negotiations begin, that the situation may become clearer. You can sign up for on-going updates on Brexit here.

 

 

Helen McHenry

 

Realising our Rural Potential- Action Plan for Rural Development

The Action Plan for Rural Development –Realising our Rural Potential –developed by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs (DAHRRGA) was launched yesterday (23.01.17) in Ballymahon, Co. Longford as was mentioned in our last post.

action-plan-cover

The Action Plan contains 274 actions which are to be completed over the next three years and uses the Action Plan for Jobs as a model with responsibility for the delivery of each action is assigned to a government department  or other body.  Each action has a clear timeline.

action-plan-targets

There is an emphasis on the positive assets of rural Ireland and on ‘changing the narrative towards the contribution made to our economy and society by rural areas, rather than a focus on rural decline’.

It is recognised that rural Ireland is not a homogenous place and that different areas face different challenges.  There is no clear definition of rural Ireland but it seems to use that defined in the CEDRA (Commission for Economic Development of Rural Areas )  “all areas located beyond the administrative boundaries of the five largest cities”.

Building on Policy

The Action Plan builds on the CEDRA report and the Charter for Rural Ireland and contains a number of actions which build on these.  For example, a review of the implementation of the CEDRA report is one action, while the REDZ are also part of the Action Plan.

action-cedraRural Proofing, which was a commitment in the Rural Chart published last year, is included here too

action-rural-proofingThe Action Plan outlines the population and other changes which have been taking place in rural Ireland and briefly examines the challenges and opportunities faced by rural areas.  One of the key challenges noted is BREXIT and the Western Development Commission is committed to an action (along with DAHRRGA) to examine the impact of BREXIT on rural areas and on border areas in particular.

action-wdc-brexit

Action Plan Themes

As mentioned in our previous post there are five thematic pillars, each of which has a series of objectives and actions.   Each of the five are further broken down into more specific themes as follows:

Pillar 1: Supporting Sustainable Communities

  • Making Rural Ireland a better place to live (Actions 1-19)
  • Enhancing Local Services (Actions 20-36)
  • Empowering Local Communities (Actions 37-46)
  • Building Better Communities (Actions 47-67)

 

Pillar 2: Supporting Enterprise and Employment

  • Growing and Attracting Enterprise (Actions 68-104)
  • Supporting Sectoral Growth (this covers the Agri-food Sector, Renewable energy and International Financial Services -Actions 105-120)
  • Skills and Innovation (Actions 121-134)
  • Supporting Rural Job Seekers and Protecting Incomes (Actions 135-151)

 

Pillar 3: Maximising our Rural Tourism and Recreation Potential

  • Support targeted Rural Tourism Initiatives (Actions 152-166)
  • Develop and Promote Activity Tourism (Actions 167-185)
  • Develop and Support our Natural and Built Heritage (Actions 186-202)

 

Pillar 4: Fostering Culture and Creativity in Rural Communities

  • Increase access to the arts in rural communities (Actions 203-209)
  • Enhance Culture and Creativity in Rural Ireland (Actions 210-222)
  • Promote the Irish language as a key resource (Actions 223-231)

 

Pillar 5: Improving Rural Infrastructure and Connectivity

  • Broadband and Mobile Phone Access (Actions 232-247)
  • Rural Transport (Actions 248-263)
  • Flood Relief Measures (Actions 264-276)

 

Key Actions

While there are more than 270 actions the key actions for the Plan (as highlighted by DAHRRGA )are listed here:

  • Supporting the creation of 135,000 new jobs in rural Ireland by 2020 by assisting indigenous businesses, investing €50m for collaborative approaches to job creation in the regions, and increasing Foreign Direct Investment in regional areas by up to 40%.
  • Implementing a range of initiatives to rejuvenate over 600 rural and regional towns.
  • Introducing a new pilot scheme to encourage residential occupancy in town and village centres.
  • Assisting over 4,000 projects in rural communities to boost economic development, tackle social exclusion and provide services to people living in remote areas.
  • Increasing the number of visitors to rural Ireland by 12% in the next three years through targeted tourism initiatives, including increased promotion of Activity Tourism.
  • Accelerating the preparation for the rollout of high-speed broadband and ensuring that all homes and businesses in rural Ireland are connected to broadband as early as possible.
  • Increasing capital funding for flood risk schemes up to €80m per annum by 2019 and increasing to €100m per annum by 2021
  • Improving job opportunities for young people in rural areas by increasing the number of apprenticeships and traineeships available locally.
  • Developing an Atlantic Economic Corridor to drive jobs and investment along the Western seaboard and contribute to more balanced regional development.
  • Investing over €50 million in sports, recreation and cultural facilities throughout the country, including in rural areas.
  • Protecting vital services in rural Ireland by improving rural transport provision, enhancing rural GP services and protecting rural schools.
  • Introducing a range of measures to boost job creation in the Gaeltacht, including the creation of 1,500 new jobs in Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies by 2020 and the development of Innovation Hubs in the Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Kerry Gaeltacht regions to support entrepreneurship.
  • Combating rural isolation by improving connectivity and enhancing supports for older people, including significant investment in the Senior Alert scheme.
  • Building safer communities by providing a more visible, effective and responsive police service in rural areas through the recruitment of 3,200 new Garda members over the next four years to reach a strength of 15,000 members, and by introducing a new community CCTV Grant Aid Scheme.
  • Examining the scope for increased investment in regional roads in the context of the review of the Capital Investment Plan 2016-2021
  • Assessing and improving rural transport routes and developing new routes where necessary
  • Delivering 18 new primary care centres in rural Ireland by end of 2018
  • Investing €435m in 90 public nursing facilities and district and community hospitals in rural Ireland, up to 2021, creating up to 5,000 jobs during the construction phase
  • Improving societal cohesion and wellbeing in rural communities by supporting cultural and artistic provision and participation.

 

Co-ordination and monitoring

One of the important outcomes of the Action Plan should be a more integrated approach to rural issues across government departments and agencies.

The implementation of the Action Plan will be overseen by a Monitoring Committee which will include representatives of relevant government departments and key rural stakeholder interests.  The Committee will be supported by DAHRRGA.

Reports will be submitted every six months to a cabinet committee on Regional and Rural Affairs which is chaired by the Taoiseach and the progress reports on the delivery of the actions will be published.

The Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphries, TD  has appointed Pat Spillane as an Ambassador for the Action Plan for Rural Development who will assist the Monitoring Committee in identifying the impacts of the Plan on Rural Ireland and encourage businesses, communities, sporting organisations and others to engage with the Plan.  Mr Spillane previously acted as Chair of the Commission for Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA).  He will also be a member of the Monitoring Committee which will oversee the implementation on the Action Plan.

While the majority of the actions are already part of government policy including them in the Action Plan means that their progress will be regularly monitored by Monitoring Committee which should ensure continued focus.

You can read the full Action Plan here.

There is a short video also available.

 

 

Helen McHenry

New Rural Action Plan to be launched

A new Action Plan for Rural Development is to be launched on Monday (23rd January) by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny in the Longford town of Ballymahon.

The Action Plan has been prepared by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs.  It will include more than 250 actions and is to act as an overarching structure for the implementation of government initiatives for rural Ireland.  It is expected to draw on the commitments in the Programme for a Partnership Government and recommendations in the report Commission for Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA)  and the Charter for Rural Ireland.

It will use a similar framework to the Action Plan for Jobs   and will contain time bound actions with each action the responsibility of a department or agency.

The three year Plan is to be organised under five pillars:

  • Supporting sustainable communities
  • Supporting enterprise and employment
  • Fostering culture and creativity
  • Maximising potential for tourism and recreation
  • Improving infrastructure and connectivity

The new Plan will form part of a suite of Rural Policies which include LEADER, the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, REDZ (Rural Economic Development Zones)  and Clár .

It is to be hoped that there will be a good link with the  forthcoming National Planning Framework (see here  and here) and the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies which will have significant influence on the development of Rural Areas in Ireland.

We’ll provide more detail on what is contained in the Action Plan for Rural Development in our next post following its launch.

Helen McHenry