Dublin Is Well into Recovery ... for Some

Andy Storey

Andy Storey is a lecturer in political economy at University College Dublin and a board member of human rights group Action from Ireland (Afri).

Dublin seems to be doing well. Or at least it is doing better than much of the rest of the country. That is the message from a new report released by Teagasc, the agriculture and food authority.

Titled The Local Impact of the Economic Recovery, the report finds that the financial crisis hit rural areas hardest, with unemployment there rising much faster than in urban locations.

And the recovery has seen a “growing concentration of economic activity in and around Dublin City”. Since 2012 employment in Dublin and its surrounding areas has grown by almost 16 percent, compared to 10.4 percent in the West and 7 percent in the South West.

By 2014, Dublin’s level of economic activity was 10 percent higher than in 2007 – in the Border region it was 32 percent lower.

However, the report acknowledges that this is not the whole story, and that there are also costs associated with this pattern, such as that “Increasing incomes within the Greater Dublin Area … are not compensating for the cost of commuting to these areas”.

The fact that the cost of purchasing a home in Dublin has risen by 87 percent since 2013 (almost 13 percent in the last year alone) is also relevant here.

Some of these trends are confirmed by the latest “deprivation index” devised by Trutz Haase and Jonathan Pratschke and published by Pobal, the government’s agency for supporting community development.

Haase and Pratschke also find that Dublin and its surrounds were, on average, less impacted by the crisis than other areas and have recovered more quickly since. This is in line with studies that attribute much of the Irish recovery to foreign investment in sectors such as software services, investment that is disproportionately concentrated in Dublin.

But Haase and Pratschke also stress the huge level of inequality within Dublin – between, for example, parts of south Dublin and a neighbourhood such as Darndale.

Commenting on the Pobal study in the Irish Times, Kitty Holland honed in on that comparison: for example, only 6.4 percent of people in Darndale have a third-level education, compared to 81.5 percent in the area around Merrion and Fitzwilliam Squares; 44 percent of homes in Darndale are rented from the public authorities, compared with 3.4 percent in the affluent part of Dublin 2.

Inequality in Dublin will not come as news to regular readers of this column. Nor will the wider inequality of Irish society as a whole: a 2015 study by the think tank TASC revealed that more than half of all wealth in Ireland was in the hands of the richest 10 percent of households, a greater degree of inequality than the average for the rest of Europe. The number of millionaires in this country is growing apace.

The Panama and Paradise Papers revelations have shed light on the global shenanigans of the Irish rich – from Bono’s tax avoidance to Denis O’Brien’s (VAT-free) purchase of a private jet via the Isle of Man.

On the issue of tax avoidance, Fintan O’Toole (also in the Irish Times) argues that “Bono is a hypocrite – but so is Ireland”.  He claims that Bono’s willingness to dodge tax is at odds with his global-development stance, but that this mirrors the whole country’s similarly hypocritical support for good causes while happily functioning as a tax haven.

O’Toole has a point – but he misses a larger one. It is not Ireland that is being hypocritical here, it is the Irish elite. The rural people who were hardest-hit by the economic downturn do not avail of offshore tax arrangements. The deprived of Darndale are not buying corporate jets, nor are they even getting many of the jobs attracted to Ireland by generous tax treatment of corporations.

Generalisations, like the one I opened this column with about Dublin doing well, usually conceal more than they reveal. Some people are doing very well indeed, while others are losing out – whether they live in Dublin or not.

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