Sunday 27 May 2018

Dan O'Brien: Taxpayers' money must be spent wisely, but have we ever done politics that way?

Governments don't control how society and the economy evolves - but they can make a difference if interest groups don't get in the way, writes Dan O'Brien

Minister for Community and Rural Affairs Michael Ring. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Minister for Community and Rural Affairs Michael Ring. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Dan O'Brien

Dan O'Brien

In a little over two years, the number of people living in the Republic will hit five million. While most rich countries are grappling with the many challenges posed by falling or stagnant populations, Ireland has the happier, if no less daunting challenge of planning for more people. Comparatively high birth rates and immigration rates explain Ireland's strong demographics.

Ireland's demographics differ from other countries in other ways too. Among the countries of western Europe, Ireland has one of the highest share of its population living outside towns and cities. It has remained unusually rural despite having a very low population density, something which makes infrastructure and public services provision more expensive. If rural Ireland was being starved of resources, as some of the more excitable souls in Dail Eireann claim, we would not have such a large and growing rural population.

Over the past quarter of a century Mayo has been the country with the slowest growing population in the Republic. Yet its increase of 18pc is more than double the rate of increase Europe as a whole has experienced.

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