Sunday 11 December 2016

State can't afford rural Ireland - Moran

Former Finance chief warns that a 'mature debate' is needed on future of traditional country life

Published 08/05/2016 | 02:30

DIVISIVE PLAN: John Moran believes that rural living should not be subsidised. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
DIVISIVE PLAN: John Moran believes that rural living should not be subsidised. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins

The former secretary-general at the Department of Finance, John Moran, has strongly criticised the membership of the new Dail for refusing to engage in a "mature debate" on the future of rural Ireland - and warned that the country can no longer afford to subsidise the personal choices that people make, when they elect to live in the countryside.

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Speaking to the Sunday Independent, Mr Moran expressed his concern that the State's insistence on supporting rural living will see Ireland fall foul of the very same difficulties experienced by our less populated counties as competition between the world's economies intensifies.

He said: "The type of issues being faced at the moment by some of the less populated counties along the western seaboard and in the midlands may become the issue for Ireland in the future, particularly if things like corporate tax rates are equalised across Europe.

"This could happen by others bringing their rates down as the UK is doing as opposed to us having to bring our rates up."

Mr Moran said it was important to understand that "Ireland is tiny in the context of Europe, and even more tiny in the context of the world". The lack of attention given in London to Ireland's role in the Brexit debate was a "wake-up call" he said in terms of "how marginal Irish issues are in Europe and in very large corporate boardrooms across the world".

His comments follow on from a speech he delivered recently to the Dublin Chamber of Commerce Dublin 2050 Conference, in which he set out radical proposals for Ireland's development.

Under Mr Moran's plan, the State's future investment would be concentrated on the growth of regional cities - as opposed to the preservation of rural living. Calling for the recreation of Ireland as a 'global city', he laid out his plan.

"This is not an easy message for rural Ireland, and there will be casualties in terms of life as we have known it. But I believe trying to swim against the tide of global trends will in 50 years' time look just as outdated as the policies pursued by Eamon de Valera with his 'maidens dancing at the crossroads'.

While Mr Moran said it was important to consider the potential impact of his proposals on people's lives in rural Ireland, balanced regional development should not involve the approach which had been adopted by governments traditionally, whereby there was "one for everyone in the audience or an IDA factory in every town".

Mindful of the concerns of rural dwellers, the former Finance chief insisted his proposals would actually help regions outside of Dublin and Ireland's other existing major cities to counteract what he described as the "subordinated position of non-central regions". He warned that persisting with a strategy in which the State subsidised rural living would lead to an environment that "may not be a viable model for the future".

Citing the experience of France, he said: "Even with the amounts of money that is being spent in France on infrastructure, which are far in excess of anything we spend in Ireland, they are pulling back services from less efficient parts of their country and encouraging those areas to develop a different business model."

Sunday Independent

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