Renehan Hall, NUI Maynooth

The economic crisis and fiscal austerity have hit regional Ireland, outside of the major urban centres, particularly hard. Unemployment and out-migration have all increased markedly, re-exposing the historic disparities which were temporarily masked by the construction bubble. The geography of the nascent economic recovery is further revealing an increasingly ‘two-speed’ Ireland with new employment and investment ever more concentrated in the larger cities competing at a global scale.

While much of the focus since the onset of the recession has been on prioritising national economic recovery, comparatively little attention has been paid to the spatial and regional dimensions of the crisis. EU Cohesion Funding for 2014-2020, which is worth €1.2 billion to Ireland, together with the Government’s proposals for local government and planning reform present important opportunities for Ireland to implement meaningful policies and governance to counteract unbalanced development and promote regional recovery.

This one-day conference aims to take stock of these developments and will have a specific focus on the spatial dimension of policy implementation, particularly the proposed review of the National Spatial Strategy and the new Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies which are proposed to be developed as integrated cross-sectoral policy vehicles for economic development, investment and job creation.

The programme of speakers will comprise national and international speakers and will bring together policy actors who will have a key role in shaping Irish regional policy in the years ahead. Confirmed speakers include Lewis Dijkstra of DG Regio; Professor Michael Parkinson of the University of Liverpool; Professor Steve MacFeeley, Centre for Policy Studies in University College Cork; Dr Edgar Morgenroth, Economic and Social Research Institute and Dr. Graeme Purves, Former Assistant Chief Planner at the Scottish Government; and Dr. Adrian Healey, Cardiff University

A full programme for the conference will be available shortly.

Key questions for the conference include:

  • What is the territorial impact of the economic crisis? What can regional policymakers do to complement macro-economic measures stimulating regional economic recovery?
  • Where is the regional additionality to be found in how investment decisions are made on the use of EU Cohesion Funds?  What quantitative and qualitative factors allow regions to move faster out of economic downturn?
  • What should a revised National Spatial Strategy look like? What is required for the development of Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies? How can we strengthen cross-sectoral cooperation?
  • How can we best link Cohesion Policy, national and regional spatial policy and the Europe 2020 strategy? How can we learn from EU best-practice?
  • How can we be sure of targeting the right priorities and creating value-added? How can we improve the impact of investment through a bottom-up place-based approach?
  • What conditionalities and what incentive measures need to be introduced for a more effective cohesion and spatial policies? How do we measure performance?

Given widening inter and intra regional imbalances, what type of governance and cooperation arrangements are best placed to contribute to a more balanced territorial development of the Irish regions? How can regional governance be reinvigorated and what change of emphasis is required? What role can local authorities play