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Achieving Regional Equality: Urban-Rural Dynamics in Ireland’s Southern Region

Monday, 4 October, 2021

Achieving Regional Equality

Funded by the Irish Research Council Enterprise Partnership Scheme in partnership with the Southern Regional Assembly.

In the past three decades, policies from the supranational to the local level have prioritised centring economic activity within the city-region (D’Albergo & Lefèvre 2018). As a result, issues of territorial inequality exist due to the perception that metropolitan areas are privileged while other areas are relegated as ‘places that don’t matter’ (Rodríquez-Pose 2018). In Ireland, these sentiments contribute to an overarching ‘Dublin versus the rest’ political culture but there is limited knowledge of the experience in and between cities and regions outside of Dublin. 

The new National Planning Framework (NPF) and its corresponding documents—the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies (RSES) and the Metropolitan Area Spatial Plans (MASP)—present the opportunity to strengthen Ireland’s ‘second tier cities’ (Cork, Galway, Limerick and Waterford) to achieve regional parity and balanced regional development. However, a challenge exists in moving from a competitive co-existence between metropolitan areas to one based on collaboration in pursuit of regional objectives. Furthermore, little guidance to navigate the process exists.

Through a case study of Ireland’s southern region, this project observes, documents and theorises metropolitanisation processes as they unfold to offer insight into historic and contemporary roadblocks to implementation.


- To examine tensions and opportunities between securing balanced regional growth, a strong urban structure at the metropolitan scale and vibrant rural areas.

- To assess the financial, societal and political transformations required to foster collaboration between Ireland's regional cities as engines of growth for the regions.

- To explore how new regional planning ambitions, competences and practice intersect with local development planning and identify points of challenge and opportunity.

- To examine the extent to which Ireland's regional cities can collaboratively form a defined and recognisable counterbalance on the southern/western seaboard to the dominance of Dublin and the east.

Research Questions

1. What have been the historic barriers to effective implementation of regional and national plans in Ireland?

2. What institutions, experts and perspectives are required to support the realisation of ambitious territorial agendas?

3. How do variations in the discourse and policy intervention around cities and metropolitan areas outside of the capital impact spatial development and policy?

Follow us on Twitter @regequality. If you have questions and want to learn more about the project, contact Carla Kayanan [PI] at carla.kayanan@ucd.ie 

*This project is formally registered through the IRC with the following title: Reconfiguring intra-regional dynamics and inter-metropolitan relationships: Addressing the challenge of traditional urban and regional governance and perceptions of 'left-behindness' in Ireland