The Managing Director of Supermac’s, Pat McDonagh, has said it is not acceptable that rural areas are allowed to decline while parents of young children commute long distances into already over-crowded cities.
“We need to identify the places of strategic economic importance and focus incentive on them,” Mr. McDonagh said. “Population statistics emerging from the earliest returns of the 2016 census suggest a huge concentration of people in cities with an almost equally large population commuting to these cities every day. This is entirely unsustainable.
“It is destroying family life and forcing people into hostile living environments. One of the best examples of progressive, proactive planning was establishment of the Shannon Free Zone. The idea was simple and yet hugely successful.
“There were vital reasons at the time to implement the strategy as a Trans-Atlantic airport in Ireland could only survive if its hinterland was defined as a preferred zone for economic development.
“The Shannon Region experiment has been copied all over the world,” he said. “We need to copy the Shannon model,” Mr. McDonagh said. “The closer you are to major city, the more likely it is that you will get planning and that has to change.”
Mr McDonagh cites three fundamental aspects of society which he said are vital to humanity and must be fostered at local level where people feel pride and ownership. He cited these as the need for emphasis on culture, the need to support a spirit of innovation and the need to incentivise economic investment in areas where population is in decline.
Mr McDonagh has asked that councillors and officials review their development strategies in order to ensure that industry, which could as easily locate in a rural town as it could in a city, be given every support and incentive to do so. Addressing the issue of the closure of Garda Stations, Post Offices and Schools in rural areas Mr. McDonagh said “I would suggest very strongly that this decline is not social in context. People have not changed all that much.
“It is economic in context and it is derived from an investment strategy which is perverse, out of step with human needs and is a paradox to what it means to be Irish. That investment strategy is driven in turn by policies which are derived from the thinking which was key to our economic development in the 1960s but which I would suggest to you has actually succeeded too well and needs to be reviewed.
Elected members of Local Authorities, are some of the few people empowered to turn economic decline around as they are the Government in their own county or city. They decide planning policy though each development plan,” Mr. McDonagh said.