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The Chat section has been scrapped and will progressively be replaced by articles and links on subjects related to new cities, the Irish society, its future etc... Which models we should follow, which ones we shouldn't.

  • Where we don't want to go:

The Sunday Telegraph    December 1 2002

England has worst crime rate in world

BY DAVID BAMBER
Home Affairs Correspondent

ENGLAND AND Wales have the highest crime rate among the world's leading economies, according to a new report by the United Nations.

The survey, which is likely to prove embarrassing to David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, shows that people are more likely to be mugged, burgled, robbed or assaulted here than in America, Germany, Russia, South Africa or any other of the world's 20 largest nations. Only the Dominican Republic, New Zealand and Finland have higher crime rates than England and Wales.

According to the comparison of international crime statistics produced by the UN's Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention, England and Wales had 9,766 crimes for every 100,000 people in the year 2000. America had 8,517, South Africa 7,997, Germany 7,621 and Russia 2,022.

During the period 1998- 2000, Britain went from fifth to fourth worst in the world league table. An analysis of total recorded crime figures before 1998 also suggests that England and Wales have moved sharply up the league table since Labour came to power in 1997. Crimes fell from 5.5 million in 1993 to 4.5 million in 1997. By 1999, total crimes had risen again to 5.3 million.

Last night Oliver Letwin, shadow home secretary, said: "This does rather blow a hole in David Blunkett's claim that New Labour has crime under control. It is a damning picture."

The UN reports also shows that England and Wales are the second-worst places in the world for assaults, with 851 people assaulted per 100,000, and seventh for burglaries and car theft, with 1,579 burglaries per 100,000 population.

Criminologists believe that a note of caution needs to be introduced into analysis of the data, because of the different ways in which UN member countries record crimes.

A Home Office spokesman said that officials had not yet seen the report and so could not comment.


  • Where we don't want to go either:

The Irish Times, Tuesday, May 8th, 2001

Urban sprawl not the social way

Kevin M Leyden argues that taking the American model of building for cars rather than community will destroy the fabric of Irish society.

As an American, I would like to give Irish people a bit of advice: car-orientated sprawl will ruin the social fabric of your nation.

In the US, we have become so dependent on cars that, in designing our suburbs, we think first about the efficient movement of automobiles - it is cars first, people second.

Such dependence on the auto mobile, however, has brought all sort of unintended consequences. Take Atlanta, for example. In the 1990s, it was held up as an American model, leading the country in terms of employment growth, house-building and highway construction.

Now scattered over an area larger than the state of Delaware, Atlanta is learning a hard lesson about the consequences of urban sprawl.

According to Donald Chen, director of Smart Growth, in Washington DC, the region's workers face the longest average commuting time and some of the most congested freeways in the US, with the result that large corporations such as Hewlett-Packard have started to look elsewhere to locate new facilities because of "quality-of-life" concerns.

USA Today reported that residents of the 13-county Atlanta metropolitan area drove their cars - some three million of them - an estimated 115 million miles per day in 1999. That's equivalent to a trip from Earth to the Sun and part of the way back, and it's projected to grow to 158 million miles per day by 2025.

Atlanta thought it could build enough highways to accommodate growth based on the automobile. But it has found this type of growth to be unsustainable and dangerous.

Road accidents increase with sprawl. Approximately 120 people die every day on American roads, and the death rate is disproportionately high among young people.

In fact, road accidents are the leading cause of death among American teenagers - mainly because of their dependence on cars.

American suburbs rarely have adequate public transportation and most places worth going to must be driven to. A survey by the New York Times found that a young person growing up in suburban Bergen County, New Jersey, one of the 10 wealthiest counties in the US, is three times more likely to die before the age of 24 than a person growing up in Greenwich Village, in the heart of the city. The reason: automobile accidents.

Automobile accidents, long commutes, road rage, traffic and air pollution are just the tip of the iceberg. But from my perspective, one of the more troubling consequences of sprawl is its negative impact on the "social capital" of communities, as documented by Robert Putnam, of Harvard University, in his recent book, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.

Social capital is defined as the networks and interactions that inspire trust and reciprocity among citizens. We usually acquire this trust and willingness to go out of our way for others through day-to-day, face-to-face relationships with our neighbours and other people in our communities - for example, at local shops, pubs, restaurants, parks or churches or within community groups.

What Putnam's book demonstrates is that social capital in the US is clearly declining. Compared to 30 or 40 years ago, Americans are less likely to get involved politically, help out in their communities, attend church or get together with friends and neighbours. As a result, they are less likely to trust other people.

According to Putnam, US states with low social capital have more violent crime and are poor places to raise children. "States that score high on the Social Capital Index... are the same states where children flourish; where babies are born healthy and where teenagers tend not to become parents, drop out of school, get involved in violent crime or die prematurely through suicide or homicide."

Putnam finds the decline in social capital to have several causes. Chief among these are that people feel they have to work more to succeed and have to commute longer and longer distances. "The car and the commute are demonstrably bad for community life. In round numbers, the evidence suggests that each additional 10 minutes in daily commuting time cuts involvement in community affairs by 10 per cent - fewer public meetings attended, fewer committees chaired, fewer petitions signed, fewer church services attended, less volunteering, and so on."

Exhausted Americans turn inwards to the home and turn on the television. Instead of learning about their world and the people in it by participating in that world and talking to people in it; they learn from television. And we know what the world can look like through the distorted lens of that medium.

It is my contention that many of the causes for the decline of trust and social capital in America have to do with the way we fail to plan or design our communities. In most modern housing estates in the US, there is very little community spirit. Modern estates are just that - housing estates: they are made up of houses. If you want to shop, go to church or to a restaurant, pub, community centre, sports pitch or school, you have to travel by car.

Because of the ubiquitous automobile, many American planners have separated out the component parts of our communities, assuming that we can all go where we want to go by car. Often, there are few opportunities to meet neighbours face-to-face and actually talk to them. Indeed, many developers don't even bother to build footpaths now.

Ireland is still in a position to prevent the development of more community-less communities. But this will require planners and politicians who value communities or village-type settings that are both pedestrian and public transport friendly. There should be much less emphasis on building roads and car use and much more emphasis on innovative forms of public transport and public spaces.

Housing estates should be built only after communities have been planned. Currently, housing estates are built first. Schools, shops, community centres, restaurants, playgrounds, green space, viable public transport and all the rest are thought about later.

In Galway, where I have lived since January, it is largely private developers, not planners, who determine the shape of the places where people live. Housing developers build and sell houses. They do not plan communities.

The degree to which the Irish housing estate appears ready to follow the American model was made apparent to me at the recent grand opening of a housing estate called Binn Bhán, off the new Western Distributor Road in Galway. What drew me to it was a glossy brochure that billed Binn Bhán as "a new community set in green open space minutes from the city".

Of course, the cover of the brochure had smiling couples and children running hand-in-hand along beaches and in what looked like wheat fields. Needless to say, I didn't find much of what the advertisement claimed or pictured. Undeterred I visited one of the show houses and asked the salesperson: "Where are the schools?" Answer: "Well, there is one about 300 yards as the crow flies."

I also asked where were the shops, the parks and the playing pitches. After being told something about the crow flying again, I asked if there was to be anything one could walk to. I was told - politely - "you will have to ask Galway Corporation".

The bottom line is that I hope Ireland decides to think about and plan for the type of communities people can feel proud of and connected to, and that reflect Irish values. You don't need to copy Boston or Berlin. But, if you aim for Boston don't be surprised if you get Atlanta.

Kevin M. Leyden is an associate professor of political science at West Virginia University. He is currently a faculty fellow at NUI Galway, researching social capital and planning in Ireland. He can be contacted at [email protected]


  • There is no shortage of money to invest in Ireland, the difficulty is that our capital is being exported. Let's not forget the Argentinian situation, where 10 years ago, Argentina was one of the fifth wealthiest countries in the world. Because of unchecked export of capital, on our scale, its economy has completely collapsed, and there is a danger that Ireland is heading that way.

The Irish Examiner, December 12th, 2002

Ireland invests €830bn abroad

By Conor Keane

IRELAND Inc has €830 billion invested in the rest of the world — a massive 7.2 times the national income or Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of €115.5bn.

The Central Statistics Office yesterday published a new series of statistics under the heading International Investment Position (IIP), which show Ireland Inc assets stock of €829.717bn is €12.03bn below our liabilities stock with the rest of the world of €841.82bn, at the end of 2001.

However, the figures are skewed by the huge financial services business of the International Financial Service Centre (IFSC) in Dublin.

When IFSC figures are stripped out the figures fall dramatically. Without IFSC contribution Ireland Inc has just €185.203bn invested abroad and the rest of the world has €239.87bn invested in Ireland.

The figures also reveal that at the end of 2001 the Irish Central Bank held €6.4bn in reserve assets.

The CSO figures highlight the growth of the IFSC as a financial centre. Commenting on Ireland's overall stocks of foreign assets the CSO said:

"They also show that a substantial amount of the foreign assets were held by IFSC enterprises. Such holdings rose from €236.2bn (or 65% of the total) in 1998 to €644.5bn (or 78% of the total) by end-2001."

Ireland's overall foreign assets and liabilities have grown in tandem since 1998.

"Ireland's overall stocks of foreign assets have increased substantially from €363.7bn at 31 December 1998 to €829.7bn at 31 December 2001.

"Total stocks of foreign liabilities have also shown similar levels and movements, from €333.4bn at end 1998 to €841.8bn at end 2001."

However, the growth of Irish foreign assets held outside the IFSC was less dramatic, going from €127.5bn in 1998 to €185.2bn by the end of 2001.

The growth of Ireland's non-IFSC foreign liabilities, including FDI and the foreign held portion of the national debt, grew from €104.6bn in 1998 to €185.2bn in 2001.

Ireland's Net International Investment Position only entered negative territory in 2001 when it stood at €12.1bn.

Ireland held positive net IIP positions in 1989 €30.3bn, 1999 €56.7 and 2000 €6.76bn.

Foreign companies are investing far more in Ireland in direct investment than Irish companies are investing overseas.

Direct Investment covers investments made to acquire a long-term interest in an enterprise. This long-term interest is defined internationally to include those investments of 10% or more by an individual investor in the equity capital of a company, the CSO explained.

The figures show Irish companies and investors headed by companies such as CRH and Kerry Group have €34.4bn invested abroad in production facilities and physical assets.

While FDI by multi-nationals, such as Intel and Pfizer, have €98.37bn invested in factories here.

Direct investment by Irish companies abroad has gone from €17.34bn in '98 to €34.4bn in 2001 while FDI has gone from €15.9 in '98 to €98.37bn in 2001.


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