Western Region’s Top 10 Employment sectors

Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2, included data on the number of people working in different sectors.  We’ll be publishing our first analysis of this data for the Western Region shortly, but in the meantime here’s a taster.

Top 10 sectors

At a detailed sectoral level (NACE Rev 2, detailed industrial group), the top 10 employment sectors in the Western Region in 2016 are:

Table 1: 10 largest employment sectors in the Western Region in 2016, by detailed industrial group.



% of total employment 2016 % change 2011-2016
1.      Farming  of animals, mixed farming      20,140 6.0% -8.7%
2.      Residential care & social work (inc eldercare, childcare)      20,010 6.0% 23.7%
3.      Hospital activities      15,652 4.7% 7.8%
4.      Public administration (inc civil service, local authorities)      15,200 4.6% -6.8%
5.      Medical & dental instruments & supplies manufacturing      12,658 3.8% 30.2%
6.      Primary school education      10,416 3.1% 3.8%
7.      Retail sale in non-specialised stores (inc supermarkets)      10,295 3.1% -2.9%
8.      Hotels & similar accommodation        9,656 2.9% 13.9%
9.      Secondary school education        8,096 2.4% -7.0%
10.   Restaurants & mobile food service        7,390 2.2% 26.5%

Source: CSO, Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2. Table EZ011 http://www.cso.ie/px/pxeirestat/Statire/SelectVarVal/Define.asp?maintable=EZ011&PLanguage=0

Farming, and work in residential care and social work, which includes child and eldercare, both employ over 20,000 people.

Five of the Western Region’s top 10 sectors are largely public sector, though there is significant private sector involvement in some cases e.g. residential care, hospitals. Medical devices manufacturing, non-specialised retail (including supermarkets), hotels and restaurants are the largest private sector employers.

The performance of the region’s top employers varied considerably between 2011 and 2016. Farming, Secondary Education, Public Administration and Retail all had declining job numbers; while employment in Medical Devices, Restaurants and Residential Care grew substantially. A growing older population, strengthening tourism and an internationally competitive medical devices cluster have contributed to this growth.

Further analysis of employment patterns in the region is on the way.

Pauline White

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Get Detailed Census Data for Settlements

On 20 July the CSO released the Small Area Population Statistics (SAPs) from Census 2016. This is Census data at its most detailed geographic level; data across all demographic and socio-economic themes is available at spatial scales down to Small Areas.  There are 18,641 Small Areas across the Republic of Ireland, each generally comprising between 80 and 120 dwellings.  The Small Area data is of huge value for mapping and detailed GIS analysis, such as that carried out by AIRO.


For many data users however, Small Area scale is too detailed.  Data at other spatial scales was also released with the SAPs, including Gaeltacht areas, Municipal Districts (95) and Settlements (846). Data for Settlements is a hugely useful resource and is also the spatial scale that many people feel most attached to, and indeed curious about.

It is an important resource for many stakeholders, including local authorities, community and voluntary groups, local development agencies, chambers, policy makers and others. But how to access the data may not be a very well-known, as it is separate to the Statbank system where all other Census data can be downloaded.

Downloading Census 2016 Settlement Reports 

Step 1: Go to SapMap

Step 2: Click ‘Find Your Area’ (icon that looks like a blue thumbtack)

Step 3: Choose ‘Settlements’ from dropdown and type in name of settlement e.g. Gort, Swords.

Step 4: Map will zoom to show outline of the ‘Settlement’ boundary and the key population data. Click ‘For more information on Small Area Population Statistics 2016 click here’.

Step 5: You will get a detailed data report for that Settlement that you can download as a PDF file or an Excel Spreadsheet. You can download a full report of all data or individual reports for each data theme. Data on the following themes is available.

  • Theme 1: Sex, Age and Marital Status
  • Theme 2: Migration, Ethnicity, Religion and Foreign Languages
  • Theme 3: Irish Language
  • Theme 4: Families
  • Theme 5: Private Households
  • Theme 6: Housing
  • Theme 7: Communal Establishments
  • Theme 8: Principal Status
  • Theme 9: Social Class and Socio-Economic Group
  • Theme 10: Education
  • Theme 11: Commuting
  • Theme 12: Disability, Carers and General Health
  • Theme 13: Occupations
  • Theme 14: Industries
  • Theme 15: Motor Car Availability, PC Ownership and Internet Access

The same process can be followed to download data for different spatial scales e.g. counties, constituencies, Municipal Districts. At Step 3, simply select the scale you want from the dropdown and type in name.

It should be noted that while this data is also available for 2011, as the settlement boundaries can change between censuses direct comparisons are not always possible.

This is a link to the CSO’s SAPMAP User Guide.

An Example: Mohill, Co Leitrim

Mohill is a village situated in north county Leitrim.  Fig. 1 shows the initial SAPMAP image for Mohill. The settlement has a total population of 855 with 521 housing units.

Fig.1: Image from SAPMAP of Mohill settlement. Source: http://census.cso.ie/sapmap/


By clicking ‘For more information on Small Area Population Statistics 2016 click here’ you are directed to a more detailed report. Fig. 2 shows part of this. At the top you can choose to download the PDF or Excel.  Scrolling down the page shows all the data for each of the 15 themes, with the option to download each table in PDF or Excel.

Fig.2: Image of top of page for detailed Mohill Settlement report. Source: http://census.cso.ie/sapmap/

For example Theme 8: Principal Economic Status shows there were 282 people resident in Mohill who were employed at the time of the Census, 185 who were retired and 51 students.

Fig.3: Theme 8, Principal Economic Status for Mohill. Source: http://census.cso.ie/sapmap/

All data can be downloaded in Excel to allow analysis. For example, Fig. 4 shows the percentage of families in Mohill who are in each stage of the ‘Family Cycle’ with 20.3% of families consisting of adults only who do not fall into other categories, 15.6% being ‘empty nest’ and 14.6% being retired households.

Fig.4: Percentage of families in each stage of family cycle, Mohill, 2016. Source: http://census.cso.ie/sapmap/

The Settlements reports from the SAPMAP system are a very useful resource, particularly for local voluntary and community groups and others involved in planning and promoting development in town and village level.




Pauline White




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Self-employment – What does the Census tell us?

Regular followers of the WDC Insights blog will know that self-employment is a topic we’ve examined a number of times before, drawing on Quarterly National Household Survey data.  However this can only tell us what is happening in the Western Region as a whole, not in the individual counties.

The publication of Census 2016 – Summary Results Part 2, included some initial data on labour force status including self-employment. Again, as mentioned in our previous post on Principal Economic Status, it must be remembered that the labour market definitions used in the QNHS and in the Census are different, so the figures are not directly comparable.  In the Census, self-employed are referred to as ‘Employer or own account worker’.

Share of self-employed in workforce 

In 2016, according to the Census, there were 61,107 employers or own account workers (self-employed) living in the Western Region. This was 18.3% of all working people in the region. As we’ve mentioned before, self-employment is a particularly important source of employment in the Western Region.

From Fig. 1 it is clear that there is a very strong spatial pattern to self-employment. The State average is that 15.6% of those in employment are employers/own account workers.  The cities are where this is least common. Only 10% or less of workers in Cork and Dublin cities are self-employed. Galway city is next lowest at 11.1% and shows a very different pattern to the rest of the Western Region.

Besides these three cities, it is the other Dublin local authority areas, counties in the Greater Dublin Area and the other two cities (Limerick and Waterford) which have the lowest incidence of self-employment. Indeed the 11 areas with the lowest share of self-employment are the five cities and the Mid-East.

Fig. 1: Percentage of all ‘at work’ who are employer/own account worker by county, 2016. Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016 – Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ003: http://www.cso.ie/px/pxeirestat/Statire/SelectVarVal/Define.asp?maintable=EZ003&PLanguage=0

At the other end of the spectrum are the most rural counties. Co Kerry has the highest share of self-employment nationally at 21.1%, followed by Leitrim (20.3%), Cavan (19.9%) and Roscommon (19.9%).  In total, five of the Western Region counties are in the top  ten in terms of share of self-employment, with Mayo (19.6%), Galway county (19.5%) and Clare (19.5%) also having almost 1 in 5 of their workers self-employed.

The strong spatial pattern of self-employment in Ireland is related to many factors but notably the sectoral and occupational pattern of employment. Agriculture is a major influence, with construction trades also having high shares of self-employed. These sectors play a more significant role in the economies of rural counties. The relative lack of alternative employment opportunities, especially in the more remote rural areas, means that more people choose (or are necessitated) to turn to the self-employment route.  The WDC will be conducting further analysis of the sectoral and occupational data from the Census and its link with employment status, over the coming months.

Change in the share self-employed

In every county in Ireland, a smaller share of the workforce was self-employed in 2016 compared with five years earlier.  The national average declined from 16.9% of workers to 15.6%, with a decline from 19.9% to 18.3% in the Western Region (Fig. 2).

Leitrim, Galway county, Roscommon, Mayo and Clare all had shares above 20% in 2011, with only Leitrim remaining over 20% by 2016.  Among the western counties, Sligo had the smallest change in the share self-employed, declining from 18.2% down to 18%. From Fig. 2 it is also clear how strongly Galway city differs from the rest of the region.

Fig. 2: Percentage of all ‘at work’ who are employer/own account worker in western counties, Western Region, State and Rest of State, 2011 and 2016. Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016 – Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ003: http://www.cso.ie/px/pxeirestat/Statire/SelectVarVal/Define.asp?maintable=EZ003&PLanguage=0

One of the key reasons for the declining share of self-employment in the inter-censal period is the recovery in the jobs market.  During the depth of the recession 2008-2011 employment declined hugely.  Self-employment was not quite as impacted as some people who lost their job turned to self-employment, existing employers and own account workers may have been able to sustain their own jobs while having to let to employees, and there was the continuation of the trend of some jobs becoming contract/self-employment that would previously have been employees. Therefore as overall job numbers fell, the relative importance of self-employment as a share of total employment remained strong. As the jobs recovery began from 2012 and more employment opportunities emerged, the relative importance of self-employment declined.

Change in numbers self-employed

From Fig. 3 it is clear that between 2011 and 2016 the number of employees grew far more strongly than the number of self-employed. Nationally the number of employees in 2016 was 12.9% higher than in 2011, whereas the number of self-employed was only 2.3% higher.  In the Western Region the number of self-employed actually declined in this period, down -1% while the number of employees grew by 9.8%.  It is notable that for both forms of employment, the Western Region’s performance was weaker than the State average and the Rest of State.  The decline in the numbers self-employed in the region is of some concern given its continuing greater significance in the labour market, especially in more rural counties (see Fig. 1 above).

Fig. 3: Percentage change in number of employer/own account workers in western counties, Western Region, State and Rest of State, 2011-2016. Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016 – Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ003: http://www.cso.ie/px/pxeirestat/Statire/SelectVarVal/Define.asp?maintable=EZ003&PLanguage=0

Across the region, Mayo, Galway county, Roscommon and Leitrim, the four counties where self-employment continues to play the largest role in their labour market (see Fig. 1) and the most rural, experienced declines in the actual number of people self-employed between 2011-2016.  All other western counties had some growth in the numbers self-employed with the strongest growth in Galway City (2.8%), which nevertheless continues to have a low share of self-employed.

In all cases the growth in self-employment was always substantially less than the growth in the number of employees.  The main exception to this was Sligo, which had very low growth in employees at only 2.6%. Indeed Sligo had the lowest growth in employee numbers in the State in this period.


While the relative importance of self-employment within the labour market declined between 2011-2016, largely due to the strengthening jobs market, it remains a very significant form of employment. In the five most rural western counties of Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway county Clare, 1 in 5 of those at work, work for themselves.  Nationally there is a very strong spatial pattern of higher rates of self-employment in rural counties, with the lowest shares in the cities and Mid-East.

Some of the region’s most rural counties experienced a decline in the numbers self-employed between 2011 and 2016, the underlying reasons for this will only be apparent when the sectoral and occupational pattern of employment change in these counties is explored.

Pauline White

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Home-Based Working in the Western Region

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has published its latest WDC Insights Home-Based Working in the Western Region, download here (267 KB):, which  is the third in a series examining the current nature of work, focussing on work which is often home based.

Working at or from home can take different forms:

  • The WDC Policy Briefing No.7 e-Working in the Western Region: 
  • A Review of the Evidence (download here – PDF 748KB), examined the extent of e-working in the Western Region, examining those in traditional employer-employee relationships, but who work from home, whether full-time or for a period during the working
    week. This form of working is also illustrated with several case studies of the practice, (download here – PDF 484KB).
  • The second publication in the series, WDC Insights ‘New Work’ – the Gig economy in the Western Region, (download here – PDF 254KB), examined the nature of the gig economy and the extent to which it exists in the Western Region.
  • This WDC Insights on Home-Based Working in the Western Region examines the data on those people who work ‘mainly at or from home’ derived from the Census question ‘how do you usually travel to work?’ with one of the answers being ‘work mainly at or from home’.
  • According to the Census, nationally, in 2011[1] excluding those working in the Agriculture, forestry & fishing industries[2], the share of the state’s working population reported as working mainly at or from home was 2.8% (47,127).
  • In the Western Region the share was higher with 3.2% (8,994) stating they worked mainly at or from home.
  • There is a higher rate of self-employment in the Western Region and this is likely to be a contributory factor.
  • Those working mainly at or from home represent a broad range of workers; the self-employed, employees, ‘gig’ workers and e-Workers across a broad range of sectors. They may have very little in common except their place of work, which is less visible than traditional work places.

Better data is needed to capture and measure the incidence of all types of work so as to ensure that our policy focus is not limited to the traditional workplace-based employer-employee relationship.

Policies are needed to support all employment types and evidence of the nature and extent of work that occurs in the home is required to inform this.



Deirdre Frost

[1]Census of Population 2011, the most recent Census data available. Census 2016 data will be available in September 2017.

[2] The rest of the data presented in this WDC Policy Briefing exclude those working in the Agriculture, forestry & fishing industries, in order to understand the prevalence of e-working in the wider economy. The WDC wish to thank the CSO for a special run of data excluding those working in the Agriculture, forestry & fishing industries.

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Census 2016-The Western Region – in pictures!

As further results from Census 2016 are published we get an interesting picture of the Western Region in 2016.  The Western Development Commission (WDC) has today published an infographic on aspects of the Western Region from the Census 2016 Summary Results Part 1.

This is the first in a series of infographics to be published using data from the Census and focusing on the Western Region – the seven counties under the remit of the WDC.  These infographics make key regional statistics available in an easily accessible manner.

In this infographic we show that:

  • The Western Region had 17.4% of the state population in 2016 compared to 30.7% in 1841
  • While the Region’s population only grew by 1% between 2011 and 2016, it grew by over 26% in the last 20 years (between 1996 and 2016)
  • 4% of the Western Region population is female
  • 21,185 people in the Region speak Polish at home.

For more interesting statistics about the Western Region click here





Helen McHenry

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Regional Growth- rural areas, towns and cities

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has published its latest WDC Insights Regional Growth- rural areas, towns and cities which is now available for download here.

It provides a short discussion of some of the points made in the WDC submission  to the consultation on the National Planning Framework (NPF) Ireland 2040 Our Plan: Issues and Choices about cities, towns and rural areas and the opportunities their development presents for Ireland’s economy and society as a whole.

The capital, smaller cities, towns of different sizes, villages and open countryside have distinctive roles to play in the national economy and, more importantly, as places for people to live, work and visit.  Recognising this, Ireland needs to enable all areas to more fully contribute to national growth, productivity and to its society.

  • The focus of much regional development discussion is on how cities drive regional development but we must not assume that development of key cities constitutes full regional development. All areas need to be the focus of development policy which should address the specific needs of each type of place.


  • Towns and villages are providing employment and services for people in their area and are active centres of local economic activity. Indeed while some are facing difficulties, others are thriving and providing many opportunities for people to live, work and do business.


  • While cities and towns are important to the functioning of regions, it should be remembered that more than half a million people are living in rural areas (in small settlements and open countryside) in the Western Region. These rural areas provide key resources essential to our economy and society.

It is important that the NPF and other policies are clearly focused on creating real opportunities for the people who live in the regions, whether in cities, towns or rural areas, and that these policies aim to improve economic and social opportunities as well as quality of life.




Helen McHenry

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The National Planning Framework – Where is it now?

A conference on Irish planning, held on the 14th of June, brought together planners, policymakers and those interested in the planning process to discuss various aspects of planning.  A key theme of the conference was the proposed National Planning Framework – what it could and should look like, which was held coincidentally on the same day that a new Minister for Planning, Minister Eoghan Murphy T.D. was appointed.

Niall Cussen, the Chief Planner from the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government provided a progress update on the Ireland 2040 National Planning Framework, see here also.

Consultations with various stakeholders, sectoral groups and the public have been undertaken, a position paper and website prepared and the first of two public consultations has been held. The various options and scenarios are being prepared currently and a draft NPF is to be issued before the summer recess with further consultation following. Input from the NPF into the Capital review and Budget 2018 in late Summer – early Autumn, will also be important.

Key themes to emerge from the NPF consultations included:

  • Governance – better collaboration across all levels of Government is required.
  • Cities are crucial for regional development along with towns and villages located outside the cities
  • Communities are now more aware of links between our local environment, planning and health
  • Infrastructure investment needs to be considered and aligned with longer term goals. Broadband was the one specific infrastructure requirement cited continually, an issue the WDC has been highlighting for many years.
  • Another key theme to emerge is the need for an All island approach.

The NPF team are now considering key questions, which include:

  • Dublin – should growth be upward or outwards?
  • How to release untapped potential in regional centres?
  • How to support realising the potential of rural areas? Rural policy is considered important recognising that – depending on the method – between 30 and 50% of Ireland’s population live in rural areas. Rural areas should be seen as more vibrant than some suggest and planning has a major role in identifying and realising potential. Some towns and villages are growing and are very attractive places to live, however there is a need to improve the living environment in all towns and villages to make them more appealing places to live in.
  • There is a need to support urban regeneration also – existing vacant sites within cities and brownfield sites need to be utilised. There is much spare capacity here and there is a need to make city/town living more attractive.

Niall Cussen outlined evidence to demonstrate that higher densities present savings to the State in terms of carbon emissions and financial cost. Less commuting will offer emissions savings while servicing costs and deployment of infrastructure can be more efficient when delivered in higher density developments.

The aim is to have the Ireland 2040 vision and principles endorsed by the public, approved by Cabinet and to have broad political support. There is also an aim that annual Budgets and medium term investment should be ‘working in sync with identification of strategic planning and development opportunities’.

Deirdre Frost, Policy Analyst with the WDC, outlined some of the key points from the recent WDC Submission to the NPF Consultation. See here for full submission (PDF 4.5 MB), see here for Executive Summary (PDF 0.7 MB).

  • A key goal of the NPF should be to effectively promote second tier cities.
  • The five cities serve the East, South, Mid-West & West respectively, driving development in their regions.
  • The North West needs a stronger urban centre with Brexit as an additional challenge facing the Region. Sligo is geographically best placed to drive development in the North West, though Letterkenny is important also.
  • Galway is the only built-up area nationally which has experienced consistent population growth greater than national average over the period 1996-2016, 41% and 31% respectively. This is in part because of its quality of life appeal, good employment opportunities and strong educational & health facilities. The absence of a larger growth centre to the North with a university and ‘Centres of Excellence’ in healthcare have provided Galway city with a very extensive catchment.
  • The role of other towns and particularly smaller towns in a largely rural Western Region perform functions of larger towns or cities in other regions.
  • The regional cities do have the capacity to ‘take the strain’ – if given the resources & more effective linkages between them.

In the WDC presentation it was noted that one of the often expressed arguments about the incapacity of smaller centres to compete effectively for mobile investment is their relative size compared to Dublin. However, Dublin competed successfully internationally, when it was much smaller in size. Also, the experience of Galway, Cork and Limerick show that smaller centres can and do successfully compete.

Research in the UK has found that regional policy can and did effectively alter the location of Foreign Direct Investment in favour of the north of England. However when the policy weakened, investment reverted to an earlier location pattern indicating that policy needs to continue to be regionally focused.


This issue of scale is very important.

  • Not all centres can or should compete for very large scale investments.
  • However it is also worth noting that there have been significant investments in smaller centres recently, for example in the two months of August/Sept 2016, there were investments in Fort Wayne in Castlebar; Coca Cola in Ballina and Jazz Pharmaceuticals in Co. Roscommon, all highlighting that smaller centres attract and retain multinational investments of a scale appropriate to their size.

Transport improvements and labour supply

The importance of transport improvements improving labour supply and extending labour catchments was also noted. Better transport linkages between the second tier cities would extend their labour catchments allowing them to compete more effectively for mobile investment.

Rural-urban linkages are also a very important aspect of labour supply. Census data examining rural dwellers commuting into towns and cities show the importance of rural dwellers as key component of the labour supply of large multinational employers.  For example over a quarter of rural dwellers commuting to work in Galway (25.6%) work in the IDA business parks on the East of the city.

Infrastructure Investment Considerations

The WDC, in its submission to the NPF outlined a series of observations that should help frame consideration of investment in infrastructure to support NPF goals.

  • While our low population density in Ireland is often cited as a difficulty when investing in infrastructure, what is not mentioned is that for example – unlike the Nordic countries – Ireland is geographically quite compact and does not have particularly challenging terrain, all of which is an advantage when deploying infrastructure.


  • Also, while our population density is low, it is relatively broadly dispersed, meaning investment deployed from coast to coast can serve the entire country in between. This is unlike for example Scandinavian countries or Canada or Australia, where extensive parts of the country are uninhabited, but the infrastructure needs to pass through these areas, with no benefit to users.


  • The cost of investment in infrastructure in congested and brownfield sites can be multiples of that in less congested centres.


  • Investment in infrastructure is often considered independent of other infrastructure investment, with implications for unserved areas. For example some broadband networks are along the motorway network, meaning those regions without motorways may not be served well.


  • More specifically investment in transport is often considered on a mode specific basis and the cumulative effect on specific geographic routes and regions is often not considered. The North West of the country is at a disadvantage compared to other regions with regard to road access. The proposed investment in rail is now focused on those routes with better road access (motorways), for rail to stay competitive. Therefore the regions well served by roads will also be served by a better rail network.


  • Short term needs but long-term impacts. Infrastructural investment especially significant investments like new roads or rail routes take time to deliver. It is important to consider the long-term spatial implications as well as trying to solve current problems.


  • Appropriate Appraisal and Evaluation Methods need to be re-assessed in light of policy goals that may emerge from the NPF. The traditional cost benefit approach will naturally favour the larger population centres as the impacts are likely to be felt by a greater number, wherever the project is being delivered. The impact on the wider spatial balance of the country and the extent to which the investment is supporting the NPF goals, will need to be factored in. There is a need for a CBA methodology which accords the NPF/regional development goals and objectives a higher value.


  • The capital appraisal & evaluation methods also need to consider wider, future benefits. For example the planned National Broadband Plan underwent a CBA process which included analysis on the health benefits which could be realised. This was estimated as equivalent to a reduction in national health expenditure of 2% per annum (or €261.5 million pa currently).


  • The concept of social return on investment could also be considered. This might lead to different outcomes when considering cuts to, or additional investment in, various services in that the wider impacts and effects will give a more holistic assessment of the impacts of investments.


  • Finally in the WDC Submission, some necessary, though not sufficient, conditions for successful implementation of the NPF are outlined.


  • A single body with responsibility and designated budget is required.
  • All other spending, investment and policy decisions need to be made in line with NPF
  • Currently sectoral policy and planning largely drives regional development.
  • There needs to be a clear relationship between the delivery of the NPF and the RSES in each of the three regions.
  • Most importantly, there needs to be ‘Buy – in’ – this is not to say that there should be so many growth centres designated, which may be unachievable and invariably suggests a winners and losers scenario. However the Plan does need to address communities in all regions, urban and rural, identifying potential and along with the RSES and County and local area plans identify real opportunities for communities to grow and improve the economic and social opportunities for their residents.

Dr Brian Hughes, Consulting in Urban Economics and Demography at Dublin Institute of Technology discussed new techniques as an evidence base for selecting City and other Growth Centres in the National Planning Framework (NPF).

Key themes from his presentation included the need to learn

  • Lessons from previous spatial strategy failures.
  • An evidence-base replacing political whim so as to achieve cross-party buy-in.
  • An evidence-base to provide political confidence to support the NPF.
  • The urban economic need for population densities in Ireland
  • The New Economic Geography and Centripetal Agglomeration
  • The OECD-EU Harmonized technique and the Graz model
  • An example of its census data application in identifying an emerging city
  • 2016 census provincial and regional population trends
  • How many growth centres should there be and their locations.

David Minton, Director of the Northern & Western Regional Assembly in his presentationMoving from balanced to effective regional development’, outlined how far the West and Northwest regions have come following decades of emigration. He highlighted the huge advantages the region has to offer. From 3rd level institutions through to a wide range of modern manufacturing and financial services companies which now operate throughout the region. Mr Minton argues that the region is well placed to position itself further as a ‘smart region’ with a range of quality employment opportunities as well as a high quality living environment.

The Atlantic Economic Corridor extending from Limerick northwards through to Galway, Sligo and on to Letterkenny could, if effective linkages were provided between them, be a real driver of economic development, acting as a an alternative growth centre to Dublin and the Greater Dublin Area in the East. Mr. Minton also discussed various themes including:

  • Exploring innovative interventions for peripheral economies
  • Capturing latent potential of economic catchments
  • Regional governance and competitiveness
  • Rural Ireland as canvass for 4th industrial revolution
  • How can we plan for true technological transformation?


Much work has been done in preparing a new national spatial strategy – the National Planning Framework. The previous Minister (Minister Coveney) noted the importance of long-term planning and the need for a new spatial strategy.

The new Minister for Housing, Planning, and Local Government, Mr. Eoghan Murphy will take responsibility for the NPF. Whether the change in ministerial portfolios will signify a change in direction, only time will tell. In the short term there may be renewed focus on the housing crisis.

The Atlantic Economic Corridor, a feature of some submissions to the NPF, is an initiative supported by the now Senior Cabinet Minister, Minister Ring.

Given the need to align capital and current spending to support long-term planning it is hoped that the timelines set out by the Department at the conference – a draft NPF to be issued before the summer recess – will be fulfilled. Following this Oireachtas approval will need to be sought along with input from the NPF into the Capital review and Budget 2018.



Deirdre Frost

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