Friday 15 December 2017

This area must make more of its Dublin 'footprint'

Hubert Murphy

Professor John Fitzgerald knows Drogheda. So, when he arrived in town last week to deliver a talk on the Boyneside, Brexit and the future, it was worth listening to.

Ultimately, John, formerly of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) and currently Adjunct Professor at the Department of Economics at Trinity College, feels Drogheda should use its 'Dublin footprint' to its maximum.

'Look, there's better access to Dublin Airport from Drogheda than South Co. Dublin', he states. He feels Drogheda should sell all those features as benefits, especially for those in traditional services, including finance.

He has studied the history of the town in detail, adding that there's been a 50% increase in the population since 1971 and while the big industrial history has diminished, the service industry has increased rapidly.

He said an unusual aspect of Drogheda life is that women equal men in a lot of the skilled areas and many have better jobs as they are better educated.

The problem for Drogheda is attracting skilled people to the town and make it a place they want to live in', he states.

While many would spend their honeymoon in exotic destinations, he, and his new wife, decided to spend their early days on holiday in Drogheda, 45 years ago.

'I began coming to Drogheda in the 1950s and we stayed in Bettystown. Back in 1970 I took pictures of the old buildings and they looked bleak but it is different today', he adds.

He did his Masters on the Economic History of Drogheda 1780 to 1820.

'In 1800, Drogheda was the same size as Belfast and had loom weavers living in poor conditions, making poor quality linen and clothing', he remarks, but by 1820 machine cotton had arrived and the weavers lost their jobs.

'In 1780, this was a merchants paradise but by 1820 it was losing out to Dublin. It suffered from its proximity to Dublin. But today, I think it can gain from that fact', Prof Fitzgerald continues.

He feels Drogheda is a satellite of Dublin and has said in the past that it's not all about factories, it's about skilled workers.

'Drogheda is where Galway was 30 or 40 years ago when its infrastructure was very poor. In 2040, there will be 50,000 people in Drogheda but it can't be car dependent', he explains.

But he asks who will be responsible for the town's future planning. 'It needs a ring road now', he adds.

Drogheda Independent

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