Wednesday 13 December 2017

Dublin Chamber's new boss seeks views on what future should hold

Mary Rose Burke previously worked as a pharmacist and ran her own business, before eventually becoming director of pharmacy at Boots
Mary Rose Burke previously worked as a pharmacist and ran her own business, before eventually becoming director of pharmacy at Boots
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

The new boss of the Dublin Chamber of Commerce is planning a "mass consultation" with the public in order to drive its advocacy agenda.

Mary Rose Burke said her vision for her new role is centred around the importance of Dublin to the Irish economy.

"If Dublin thrives, the country thrives... how do we imagine Dublin to be the best it could possibly be, so that it competes with international cities but doesn't become the same as them," she told the Sunday Independent.

"You have to be able to attract people to live in the city, you have to be able to house them, you have to be able to move them to and from, for work and for social activity.

"People want to live in Dublin at the moment, it's very multicultural, people enjoy living here, they do enjoy that sense of Irishness and the craic in Dublin. So it is attractive, but we now need to scramble to make sure that we don't lose that. The pressure that's coming on in terms of housing, the pressure that's there in terms of transport, the length of people's commutes, all of those, if they're not dealt with, could end up making it less attractive to live in Dublin and harder to attract business."

Burke said the planned consultation is designed to get people talking about the kind of city they want Dublin to be in the year 2050.

"Anything done in a five- or seven-year scale, people's views are framed by the limitations of what's possible now, or what they read in the papers. If you take it out more into the 'impossible future', anything becomes possible." She said policymakers need to "dream bigger".

"There's no reason now in a very modern dynamic and successful economy why we wouldn't have a big ambition and have that ambition to be a world-class city." Burke backed the construction of a rail link to Dublin Airport and the Dart Underground, adding that the city should look to have 40-to-60-storey "iconic buildings" in defined areas. Burke cited London and Boston as examples of Georgian cities with low skylines that had successfully built higher in certain areas.

Burke previously worked as a pharmacist and ran her own business, before eventually becoming director of pharmacy at Boots.

In the late 1990s, she ran two lingerie shops, one in Mallow and one in Tralee.

"I was probably a little bit ahead of my time. They went well, they were kind of a hobby thing to see if I could run a business... I was doing an MBA in UCC at the time and online was just beginning to emerge and it really would have been a perfect business to move online but I didn't have the skillset for that. I also didn't really have the interest in it - it was more of a hobby and the idea of scaling it wasn't really what I wanted to do."

Once the consultation is complete, the chamber will look to present its findings to policymakers at both national and local level.

Burke said persuading politicians of the merit of a lobby group's positions requires "coherent argument, structured engagement and repeated engagement".

"Sometimes you just have to keep going. I suppose lobbying on policymaking is a bit like sausage-making; it's not the most attractive thing but it is about having a clear position, principles-based. So you can follow it through all the way - just repeated engagement," Burke said.

"Like everything in the policy space, you can be lucky in terms of timing, and that's why you have to keep repeating it.

"It might not find fertile ground the first few times, but eventually the stars align and other things come into the space, and that's where you have to keep repeating the policy.

"A good idea will eventually find expression and that's what the system is set up to do."

Sunday Indo Business

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