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Coveney calls for doubling size of regional cities to counter Dublin influence

Ireland's regional cities should double in size to counter the growing influence of Dublin, Simon Coveney said.

The Housing Minister called for dramatic growth by 2040, more "balanced" development to bridge the urban/rural divide and further tax cuts.

His rival for the Fine Gael leadership Leo Varadkar is promising a "catch up" plan for left-behind Ireland.

Mr Coveney said: "My goal is to make Dublin the most dynamic international capital city in Europe while targeting a doubling in the size of our other cities by 2040.

"I want to ensure that these cities have sufficient critical mass to act as effective counter balances to Dublin and that there is, in turn, real integration between the regional cities and their surrounding local areas."

Dublin's recovery from the economic slump has been much more pronounced than in other parts of the country.

Housing rent prices have been pushed higher than during the boom by lack of supply and property purchase prices climbed nearly a tenth in the year to March.

Mr Coveney promised to consider how post-Brexit Ireland should maintain its competitiveness in key areas like taxation and infrastructure, including appointing a minister for infrastructure.

He said: "In order to ensure that Ireland is tax competitive, I favour reducing the overall marginal tax rate (including USC and PRSI) to below 50%, and to widening the tax bands so that people don't start paying the higher rate of tax at the current low level of 33,800 euros."

He would establish a working group, to report by the end of the year, on using green taxes to further the climate change agenda, taking into account his ambition to reduce the overall burden of tax.

Mr Coveney also promised education, health and social welfare reform.

He said he would make a "positive case" for the reunification of Ireland over time and within the EU.

Mr Varadkar offered a new social contract, a n ambitious and expansionary economic policy and f air play for the private sector.

He said there should be a catch-up plan for the Ireland left behind and measures to build a better society and modernise government.

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