United Ireland could take the shine off Dublin

Two weeks ago, when the rest of Ireland voted Yes, Dublin voted No. And No carried the day.

The day after the vote on the abortion referendum the papers carried maps showing how the country voted. A quick glance would show that, by area, that most places voted Yes. A few little pockets voted No. These included some of the urban areas outside Dublin which had voted marginally against the proposal.

But Dublin, with its bigger population, its bigger turnout and its bigger No vote, dominated the rest of the country.

It was a very good metaphor for the position that Dublin actually does have within this state. Despite what might be dismissed as culchies whinging, the fact is that Dublin dominates the southern state.

Four out of the five leaders of the parties in Dail Eireann are from Dublin. All of the Sunday newspapers and three out of the four national dailies are based here. All the main national TV and radio stations broadcast out of Dublin.

And so it goes. The main universities. The main sporting venues. The headquarters of most national organisations. The main transport links. Theatres, museums, gigs – I could go on.

Dublin is not just the biggest city in the Republic. It is the only one. What we call cities are mostly big towns, including Cork.

But its profile is not just restricted to being the biggest by population. In international terms Dublin boxes far above its weight as a European capital and cultural centre. For example, Dublin would be far more important internationally than Birmingham, a city twice its size.

Most people can see that this is not good for Ireland and that the development of the country is hopelessly skewed. Grand plans to decentralise have made very little difference and the population of Dublin is projected to reach 1.5 million by 2020.

We can all see the attendant nightmares involved in that scenario.

Now though, a competitor might be at hand. David Trimble has proposed a border poll. A unitary state will never be accepted but a federation (or confederation) just might in the medium to long term.

Ireland would then be an island of two capitals. Belfast has the critical mass to compete with Dublin with the Greater Belfast area home to some 750,000 people.

Belfast has a similar position to the north that Dublin has to the south. It too, is a media and cultural capital – albeit crippled by decades of turmoil. The city area has about 35 per cent of the population of Northern Ireland, akin to Dublin’s position.

Belfast is really just getting back on its feet and has a lot of catching up to do. But as we have seen here, development and expansion can proceed at an astonishing rate once it gets going.

For the moment the city area is in decline. The population dropped by 2,000 in the past year but that is, hopefully, the last spasms of suburban flight. Dublin suffered the same fate up to the ‘90’s.

The term ‘Dublin 4’ expresses the frustration with the insular and smug attitude that has accompanied Dublin’s unassailable position. Belfast might just be the antidote. As peace takes hold and the barriers disappear, maybe we can look forward to a more diverse and interesting Ireland.

As for Dublin – the competition wouldn’t do any harm at all.

As Well As That. . .

Dublin – the fifth province?

So many of Ireland’s organisations and associations base themselves around provincial administration that perhaps it is time to give official recognition to Dublin as Ireland’s fifth province.

This could be done by assembling all those bodies from civil society that have an interest, north and south, for the purpose. As provinces don’t actually have any legal significance their use comes from their traditional recognition, hence the need for broad civic agreement to ensure that Dublin would be widely accepted as a province.

For a simple exercise it could have a huge benefit.

We could have a provincial declaration signed by civic society and a special day to mark the occasion (an enormous booze-up) to be repeated annually.

GAA wrestles with the Dublin problem

As a forerunner to problems in many other organisations the GAA is attempting to get to grips with the size of Dublin.

The solution – to split the county football team in two – has gone down like a lead balloon. There is no way that the GAA should proceed unless they have the consent of the members in Dublin.

By all means split up the admin – perhaps along local authority boundaries – but leave the Dubs intact. For now, at least.