March 2014

New Paper: ‘Urban Governance and the ‘European City’: Ideals and Realities in Dublin Ireland’ by Philip Lawton and Michael Punch published in the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research. Available here (If you cannot access please email philip.lawton (at)


Throughout recent decades, a significant amount of attention has been given to the notion of the ‘European city’ within policy formation and academic enquiry. From one perspective, the ideal of the ‘European city’ is presented as a densely developed urban area with a focus on quality public transport and a more balanced social structure. More recently, however, the particular elements of the ‘European city’ associated with pedestrianized public space, urban design and image-making strategies have become central features of entrepreneurial urban policies throughout Europe. This article undertakes an examination of the notion of the ‘European city’ in urban change in Dublin since the 1990s. Specifically, the article illustrates the degree to which a wholly positive spin on the urban design and image-making elements of the ‘European city’ in Dublin has served as a thin veil for the desired transformation of Dublin according to neoliberal principles.



The RSA Irish Branch, in association with the Geographical Society of Ireland, sponsors:

Regional Economic Development

three sessions at the Conference of Irish Geographers

UCD, Dublin

Friday 9 May

Keynote speaker

Prof. David Bailey,

Aston Business School, Aston University.

(further details on keynote, other speakers and conference see below and here)


Online Registration here:

For further information:


Professor David Bailey works at the Aston Business School. He has written extensively on economic restructuring and industrial and regional policy, especially in relation to manufacturing and the auto industry. He has been a regular columnist and blogger for The Birmingham Post and Coventry Telegraph newspapers, as well as Reuters. He recently led an ESRC funded project on the economic and social impact of the MG Rover closure, which had widespread coverage in the media, and has acted as Specialist Advisor to the House of Commons Select Committee on the West Midlands. His recent work on local and regional responses to economic shocks and recession has been funded by Birmingham City Council, the Audit Commission and Advantage West Midlands, as well as auto companies. He recently undertook an EU-funded INTERREG project on the role of FDI in cluster internationalisation and upgrading, and is contributing to the European Union FP7 project WWW for Europe (Welfare, Wealth,Work), with his input on industrial policy. He was Chair of the Regional Studies Association over 2006-12 and is now an Honorary Vice-Chair, and an Editor of the Association’s flagship journal Regional Studies.

Abstract: This paper examines the implications of a place-based economic strategy in the context of the UK Coalition government’s framework for achieving local growth and the creation of Local Economic Partnerships in England. It draws on the international literature to outline the basic foundations of place-based policy approaches. It explores two key features, particularly as they relate to governance institutions and to the role of knowledge. After examining key concepts in the place-based policy literature, such as ‘communities of interest’ and ‘capital city’ and ‘local elites’, it shows how they might be interpreted in an English policy context. The paper then discusses a place-based approach towards an understanding of the role of knowledge, linked to debates around ‘smart specialisation’. In doing so, it shows why there is an important ‘missing space’ in local growth between the ‘national’ and the ‘local’ and how that space might be filled through appropriate governance institutions and policy responses. Overall, the paper outlines what a place-based approach might mean in particular for Central Government, in changing its approach towards sub-national places and for local places, in seeking to realise their own potential. Furthermore, it outlines what the ‘missing space’ is and how it might be filled, and therefore what a place-based sub-national economic strategy might address.

Other Confirmed Papers Include

Other Confirmed Papers Include

Dieter F. Kogler (UCD), JürgenEssletzbichler (University College London) and David Rigby (UCLA) – The Evolution of Invention within European Regions, 1980-2005

Justin Doran (School of Economics, UCC) – Employment Resilience during the 2008 Economic Crisis: Insights from Micro Level Data for a Selection of European Countries

Brendan Williams (UCD) – The Changing Role of Property Market Factors in Regional Economic Development following Boom/Collapse

Martin Sokol (TCD) – Can Silicon Valley be Replicated in Post-socialist Eastern Europe?

Pat Collins (NUIG) – Gauging the Impacts of the Volvo Ocean Race Finale from a Tourist, Residents and Business Perspective

Enda Keenan and Des McCafferty (MIC/UL) – Foreign Direct Investment, Agency-Assisted Employment and the Economic Development of Ireland’s Atlantic Gateway Cities, 1993-2011

Proinnsias Breathnach (NUIM), Chris van Egeraat (NUIM) and Declan Curran (DCU) – Regional Economic Resilience in Ireland: The Roles of Industrial Structure and Foreign Inward Investment





Call for papers

Friday June 13th and Saturday 14th 2014, Renehan Hall, South Campus, National University of Maynooth

Keynote Speakers will include:

David Featherstone, Department of Geography, Glasgow. Author of Solidarity: Hidden Histories and Geographies of Internationalism (2012) and, Resistance, Space and Political Identities: the Making of Counter-Global Networks (2008).

Costis Hadjimichalis, Department of Geography, Harokopio University, Athens. His research and publications have included uneven geographical development, socio-spatial justice and solidarity.

Conference themes

The global financial crisis and austerity has been met with significant protest and opposition from new social movements, radical Left political parties and single issue campaigns. However, the response has been uneven and divided across and within different countries and there remain many challenges in relation to developing strategies, alternatives and politics that can progress this opposition.

This is a conference aimed at academics, community activists, trade unions, political activists, and NGOs, who are engaged in such campaigns and movements, for example in housing, austerity, unemployment, precariousness, regeneration, community campaigns, debt, natural resources, migrants’ rights, amongst others. The conference will provide a space to promote solidarity amongst diverse agendas, groups, organisations and politics to facilitate greater alliances and cooperation amongst those engaged in campaigns and politics to promote social and spatial justice, radical equality, democracy, and human rights. We welcome papers and presentations from practice or theoretical reflections fitting the themes including, but not limited to:

  • Spaces of solidarity
  • How can we progress solidarity, alliances and cooperation between us to support and enhance our individual campaigns and movements?
  • How can we progress solidarity, alliances and cooperation between us to  influence the national, European and global policy and politics?
  • The right to the city: local struggles, global solidarities seeking social and spatial justice
  • New Left Political Parties: what potential for a socialism for the 21st Century?
  • What role can new Left and radical Left political parties play in progressing a radical egalitarian, socialist politics?
  • Social Movements & civil society: Where is the Irish resistance?
  • Partnership with the state as a strategy to achieve social justice; Can such strategies be pursued without silencing or excluding more critical voices and disruptive protests?
  • Reflections and contributions from critical urban and social theory on resistance and solidarity
  • Lessons from communities and social movements engaging in campaigns and struggles in relation to community activism, housing, debt, natural resources, workers rights, migrants rights,  at a local, national and global scale
  • Facilitated open discussion: possibilities and strategies for solidarity, community resistance and Left politics

Email title and short abstract (250 words) indicating which theme it fits under and whether it is a presentation or a poster to before April 15th.

Register your interest email:

We are working to keep registration costs as low as possible at this stage

Supported by:

The Department of Geography NUIM , NIRSA, Network on Politics, Power and Society NUIM

Readers of this blog may have already heard about Claiming Our Future’s idea to organise a widespread consultation process between now and 2016 to develop a “Declaration for a New Republic”.  If not you can find out more in the invitation below and on the Claiming our Future web site.

There are unique moments, inspired by history which offer possibilities and hope for radical transformation in the present and future. 2016 could be one such opportunity. It will be 100 years since the Easter Rising and the proclamation of the Irish Republic. It is also likely to be the year of the next General Election. We face major challenges and questions about what type of future Ireland is going to have? What values should shape Irish society in the coming decades?

As an initial step we are are inviting organisations, campaigns, communities and individuals to an open meeting on March 29th (10.30am-12.30pm, Liberty Hall) to explore what this might look like and how best to develop and promote such a Declaration. It would be great if some of you are able to participate on 29th and help us to develop and shape the idea and plan the best way forward.

For more information see event page.


espon logo 

Save the Date

One-Day Conference:

The National Institute for Regional and Spatial Analysis in association with ESPON will host the following one-day conference: 

Creating the Regions of Tomorrow: 

Maximising Ireland’s Reform Opportunity

Renehan Hall, NUI Maynooth, County Kildare

Friday 26th September 2014

*Admission is free but registration is essential*


The economic crisis and fiscal austerity have hit regional Ireland, outside of the major urban centres, particularly hard. Unemployment and out-migration have all increased markedly, re-exposing the historic disparities which were temporarily masked by the construction bubble. The geography of the nascent economic recovery is further revealing an increasingly ‘two-speed’ Ireland with new employment and investment ever more concentrated in the larger cities competing at a global scale.

While much of the focus since the onset of the recession has been on prioritising national economic recovery, comparatively little attention has been paid to the spatial and regional dimensions of the crisis. EU Cohesion Funding for 2014-2020, which is worth €1.2 billion to Ireland, together with the Government’s proposals for local government and planning reform present important opportunities for Ireland to implement meaningful policies and governance to counteract unbalanced development and promote regional recovery.

This one-day conference aims to take stock of these developments and will have a specific focus on the spatial dimension of policy implementation, particularly the proposed review of the National Spatial Strategy and the new Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies which are proposed to be developed as integrated cross-sectoral policy vehicles for economic development, investment and job creation.

The programme of speakers will comprise national and international speakers and will bring together policy actors who will have a key role in shaping Irish regional policy in the years ahead. Confirmed speakers include Lewis Dijkstra of DG Regio; Prof. Michael Parkinson of Liverpool John Moores University; Professor Steve MacFeeley, Centre for Policy Studies in University College Cork; Dr Edgar Morgenroth, Economic and Social Research Institute and Dr. Graeme Purves, Former Assistant Chief Planner at the Scottish Government; and Dr. Adrian Healey, Cardiff University

A full programme for the conference will be available shortly.

Key questions for the conference include:

  • What is the territorial impact of the economic crisis? What can regional policymakers do to complement macro-economic measures stimulating regional economic recovery?
  • Where is the regional additionality to be found in how investment decisions are made on the use of EU Cohesion Funds?  What quantitative and qualitative factors allow regions to move faster out of economic downturn?
  • What should a revised National Spatial Strategy look like? What is required for the development of Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies? How can we strengthen cross-sectoral cooperation?
  • How can we best link Cohesion Policy, national and regional spatial policy and the Europe 2020 strategy? How can we learn from EU best-practice?
  • How can we be sure of targeting the right priorities and creating value-added? How can we improve the impact of investment through a bottom-up place-based approach?
  • What conditionalities and what incentive measures need to be introduced for a more effective cohesion and spatial policies? How do we measure performance?
  • Given widening inter and intra regional imbalances, what type of governance and cooperation arrangements are best placed to contribute to a more balanced territorial development of the Irish regions? How can regional governance be reinvigorated and what change of emphasis is required? What role can local authorities play?

 Mark Boyle & Gavin Daly

It is well known that Mayo last won the All-Ireland in 1951 and recent final defeats have become infamous, cutting a deep scar in the local psyche even prompting superstitions that the county is cursed.  Now it seems, in an effort to ensure no stone is left unturned, Mayo county councillors are doing their bit by proposing a radical solution. The recently endorsed amendments to the Draft Mayo County Development Plan aim to socially re-engineer the county back to the conditions of the early 1950s! The proposed amendments put forward by the councillors state that the sustainability of rural communities will only occur if rural population densities are restored  to 1951 levels and this objective should be supported by Mayo County Council.’  While emigration and depopulation certainly have had a negative impact on the sustainability of rural GAA clubs, I am sure that the selection of 1951 is mere coincidence (or is it?) but I could not resist the tongue-in-cheek anecdote.

All joking aside, I have been following local planning policy in Ireland for a while now and have come across some bizarre objectives inserted into development plans at the behest of councillors. In 1951 the population of County Mayo was 117,181 with the 2011 equivalent at 82,808. Mayo councillors are therefore seeking to increase the population of the rural part of the county by 35,000 people. This is despite the fact that, according to the Draft Plan, the total (and now extremely optimistic) additional population target for the entire county by 2020 is 17,500. The majority of this new population growth is supposed to be directed to the linked Hub of Castlebar-Ballina in accordance with regional policy to deliver sufficient critical mass to drive employment creation and prevent emigration.

To achieve these historic demographic and settlement conditions, all of the controls on ‘one-off’ dispersed rural settlement are set to be stripped from the Draft Plan and largely abandoned. This includes all statements (presumably inserted by the Planning Department) criticising the unsustainability of the continuation of current patterns of population dispersal and vacancy levels and their costliness in terms of infrastructure provision, water quality and quality of life. Instead mawkish statements, unsupported by any evidence, have been inserted in favour of the ‘tradition’ of dispersed settlement patterns as a valued part of ‘local heritage’ and even that the decline in rural housing represents a threat to sustainability and therefore significantly more people should be encouraged to live in rural areas.


County Mayo in the 1950’s (Source:

Even sensible policies of the original Draft Plan which sought to encourage those seeking to self-build a rural dwelling house to first examine the feasibility of purchasing a vacant house have been deleted. According, to Census 2011 there are over 12,500 vacant and unoccupied housing units (including holiday homes) in rural Mayo which ironically would be more than sufficient to repopulate rural areas to 1951 levels! The Council’s own independent Environmental Assessment of the proposed amendments states “With respect to population, it is not clear if it is sustainable to restore the rural population to 1951 levels. This material alteration to the Settlement Strategy is predicted to result in significant effects on landscape with mitigation not deemed feasible… is considered to weaken control and management of housing in rural areas and consequently is also considered to have significant effects …. with no likely mitigation to reduce, offset or prevent these effects.”

1950’s Ireland has long been regarded as the decade of ‘doom and gloom’, the ‘worst decade since the famine’ and the ‘lost decade’ where approximately half a million emigrated. Roughly three out of every five children who grew up in 1950s Ireland left at some stage and these trends were particularly severe in the west. Dispersed settlement patterns were driven by small farm holdings where people lived in no small amount of poverty, poor housing and without public services, and the State, including local government, dedicated insufficient effort to developing new industries to fill the gap created by the irreversible demise of the small farm rural economy. While the drivers of modern dispersed housing are incomparable, sadly the conditions of the 1950s, which are described in John Healy’s 1968 book ‘No One Shouted Stop: The Death of an Irish Town’ chronicling the catastrophic economic decline of his hometown of Charlestown, County Mayo, are now re-occurring. Clearly, early 1950s Ireland is not a time to aspire to for the future planning and development of Mayo.

Of course, we have been down this road before in Mayo and they have form on this issue. The previous 2008 Development Plan was thrown out by the then Minister and further action from central government will again be required here. I have no doubt that many councillors are well-intentioned, even if unwittingly misdirected, in their blundering attempts to reverse rural decline. However, most concerning is that despite the significant recent emphasis on the need for evidence informed planning, very little, if anything ever seems to be learnt. It is as if we are so ideologically attached to the idyll of the detached rural house that we cannot see how damaging the self-inflicted cumulative effect is on regional development. The conspicuous spectre of abandoned and vacant housing and mass emigration from both the 1950s and the present should be proof enough that randomly building scattered housing is no solution to economic and population decline – in fact it serves to worsen it. After all isn’t the very definition of madness doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results? Mayo seems cursed to repeat the mistakes of the past. There are alternatives. Someone needs to shout stop.

Gavin Daly