Document Type

Conference Paper


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence



Publication Details

Trinity College Dublin Eco-Urbanites Symposiusm


Ireland’s demography in the world context is unique. Its population count remains the same as it was some 200 years ago and yet it has experienced profound movements. This paper contrasts Ireland’s changing demography with that of Japan since the 1840’s, for these the two offshore nations, located off either end of the Eurasian land mass. Historic urban literature identifies that governmental policies towards cities and city-based industry and services appears to explain many of these contrasts. In Ireland’s case such policy both prior to and since the formation of the State has been an ambivalent one that has not favoured the growth of its provincial cities. Ireland’s forthcoming National Planning Framework provides a policy opportunity to change policy direction and opt for intensive city growth. Urban economic and new economic geography advances show that Ireland is no different from similar nations and the principal question for the future is: will the focus of development be in favour of its secondary cities or will Dublin by default become Ireland’s city state of the 21st century? The choice is to remain with the failed policies of the last spatial plan, premised on balanced regional development, which has created many additional villages, small towns and one-off housing while Ireland’s provincial cities get left further behind compared with ‘primate’ Dublin. The paper provides interesting insights into the preliminary 2016 census figures to portray the contrasting populations and regional growth differences. Celebrated world urban experts, including Japan’s Masahisa Fujita and Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman and also Jacques-Francois Thisse, all emphasise the wealth creation benefits of cities, driven by the move from physical to cerebral types of work and to the concentration of economic activity. The paper reviews some of the major players on the world stage of Urban Economics and the New Economic Geography. It points to future demographic possibilities and concludes that the adoption of urban-agglomeration policies of densification, centripetal rather than centrifugal growth and a positive land-use/ transportation interface with the objective of reducing commuting times, all will enhance competitiveness and which should inform Ireland’s spatial policy direction.