Updated: May 2, 2018
Little if any attention has been paid to the emergence of Dublin as an economic and geopolitical entity over the last 50 years and, more particularly, how this phenomenon has impacted on the New Ireland. The figures are stark: they point to the ongoing concentration of economic power in the hands of an elite while at the same time, economic inequality becomes the norm for many Dubliners and those in the rest of Ireland.
All capital cities occupy a special position in the life of their respective countries. However, the hegemonic position of Dublin sets it apart from other capital cities around the world. Dublin city and county accounts for 28% of the Irish population; the comparative figure for London is 12%. Dublin’s economic dominance is also apparent as it accounts for 45% of Irish GDP; the comparative figure for an internationally renowned economic hub such as London is 23%. When the greater Dublin area – counties Wicklow, Kildare and Meath – is included, this imbalance is even more pronounced. Today, 40% of Ireland’s population and 53% of its GDP is located within a 50km radius of Dublin’s GPO.
While Dublin’s position as Ireland’s defacto economic city state has undoubtedly benefited some Dubliners, overall it has had the effect of distorting social, political and economic life in Ireland. This is particularly so in Dublin. Notions of Dubliners as some homogenous community standing around together singing rousing versions of ‘Molly Malone’ may be touching but they fail to capture just how polarized much of Dublin life has become. As well as being Ireland’s capital, Dublin also has the unenviable distinction of being Ireland’s capital of homelessness accounting for 72% of all the country’s homelessness in the 2016 census. The problem of homelessness in Dublin is, above all else, a symptom of an economic order where the ‘have’s’ and the ‘have nots’ have radically different economic outcomes and accordingly, occupy distinctly different worlds within the same city.
The Dublin housing market has long fascinated Ireland’s power elites mainly because they stand to gain so much from it. When it’s examined up close, the most striking feature of this market is just how polarized it is. A My Home study in 2017 based on actual prices paid for properties showed that the highest average prices in Dublin 4 (€890,000) were approximately 5.8 times greater than the lowest ones in Dublin 10 (€153,000) even though both postal districts are less than 10km apart. It’s worth noting that Dublin’s homeless population didn’t even qualify in order to be represented on this measurement of economic and social inequality.