August 28, 2018
Urban politics and national crisis - the Irish case
In small countries where large cities are the main drivers of economic growth, urban politics can become the main reason behind a national crisis. Take Ireland. Dublin represents 50% of the national GDP and yet there is no urban governance structure for this metropolitan city. This is quite unusual compared to other European metropoles.
Two researchers, John Tomaney and Niamh Moore-Cherry, link the lack of metropolitan governance with the economic crisis in 2008. They argue that a property-based growth machine brought developers, and local and national politicians, together with a banking sector that became over-committed to residential and commercial real estate.
The lack of an adequate governance structure in Dublin gives rise to clientelism and results in uncoordinated responses across different levels. Politicised private actors can play the zoning game with direct access to local and national politicians, and sometimes in corrupt ways to eke out some rezoning even if there is no approrpiate infrastructure. Instead of coordinating, local governments compete with each other for infrastructure projects and revenues. The results are inefficient projects in the area, like the three regional shopping malls built by three different local authorities about 25km apart from each other on the orbital M50 motorway.
The government's response so far was a spatial plan but no real governance at the metropolitan level. The authors argue this is a sign of a deeply-rooted metrophobia, related to Ireland's history and national identity. It does not look like it will change any time soon.