The Reality of the Locality: Exploring Spatial Aspects of Quality of Life in Galway City, Ireland

The Reality of the Locality: Exploring Spatial Aspects of Quality of Life in Galway City, Ireland

F. Fahy M. Ó CinnÉide 

Department of Geography, National University of Ireland, Galway, Ireland


31 March 2008
| Citation



Quality of life is increasingly recognised as a vital component of sustainable urban development. Indicators are used to assess quality of life and to monitor progress towards sustainability over time. An emerging body of literature contends that these indicators need to be derived in close consultation with target populations in order to optimise the extent to which they capture the real determinants of quality of life in particular places. Furthermore, quality of life considerations vary significantly across urban neighbourhoods and consequently the spatial scale at which such studies are conducted may have significant implications for the results obtained. This study focuses on spatial variations in quality of life in Galway, a city of approximately 70,000 people, situated on the west coast of Ireland. Galway is reported as having an exceptionally high quality of life, however, significant variations are found to exist across city neighbourhoods. Factors contributing to this spatial pattern are explored in this paper. An important lesson emerging from this study is that quality of life indicators derived at the neighbourhood level are of utmost importance when assessing the reality of living in different urban settings.


Ireland, quality of life indicators, scale, sustainable urban communities


[1] Moore, N. & Scott, M., Towards a Sustainable Future in Renewing Urban Communities: Environment, Citizenship and Sustainability in Ireland, Ashgate: Aldershot, 2005.

[2] The Economist, The World in 2005,, accessed on 14/05/2006, 2005.

[3] Moller, V., Monitoring quality of life in cities: the Durban case. Development Southern Africa, 18(2), pp. 217–222, 2001.

[4] Swain, D. & Hollar, D., Measuring progress: community indicators and quality of life. International Journal of Public Administration, 26(7), pp. 789–814, 2003.

[5] Rogerson, R.J., Quality of life and city competitiveness. Urban Studies, 36(5–6), pp. 969–985, 1999.

[6] Myers, M., Building knowledge about quality of life for urban planning. Journal of the American Planning Association, 54, pp. 347–358, 1988.

[7] Cutter, S.L., Rating Places: A Geographers View on Quality of Life, Association of American Geographical Research Publishers: USA, 1985.

[8] Kline, E., Indicators for sustainable development in urban areas. How Green is the City?, eds D. Devuyst, L. Hens & W. De Lannoy, Columbia: USA, pp. 275–298, 2001.

[9] Bell, S. & Morse, S., Sustainability Indicators, Earthscan: London, 1999.

[10] Wheeler, S., Planning for Sustainability: Creating Livable, Equitable, and Ecological Communities, Routledge: UK, 2004.

[11] Devuyst, D., Hens, L. & De Lannoy, W., (eds), How Green is the City?, Columbia: USA, 2001.

[12] Bristol City Council, Indicators of Quality of Life in Bristol,, 2005.

[13] United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED), Agenda 21 – Action Plan for the Next Century, UNCED: Rio de Janeiro, 1992.

[14] Rydin, Y., Holman, N. & Wolff, E., Local sustainability indicators. Local Environment, 8(6), pp. 581–590, 2003.

[15] MacRae, R.J., Hill, S.B., Henning, J. & Mehuys, G.R., Agricultural science and sustainable agriculture: a review of existing scientifi c barriers to sustainable food production and potential solutions. Biology, Agriculture and Horticulture, 6, pp. 173–219, 1989.

[16] Healy, P., Collaborative Planning, Palgrave: UK, 1997.

[17] Lovan, W.R., Murray, M. & Schaffer, R., (eds), Participatory Governance: Planning, Confl ict Mediation and Public Decision-Making in Civil Society, Ashgate: Aldershot, 2004.

[18] Murray, M., Greer, J. & Sterrett, K., The public value of public involvement: insights from participatory village planning in Ireland. Administration, 53(1), pp. 3–15, 2005.

[19] Fahy, F. & Ó Cinnéide, M., Community-based quality of life indicators for urban areas as derived in Galway City, Ireland. The Sustainable City, eds U. Mander, C.A. Brebbia & E. Tiezzi, WIT Press: Boston, 2006.

[20] Rogers, M., Social sustainability and the art of engagement. Local Environment, 10(2), pp. 109–124, 2005.

[21] Kenny, S., Evaluation and community development: mantras, challenges, and dilemmas. Paper presented at the 2002 Australasian Evaluation Society Conference, Wollongong, 30 October–1 November 2002.

[22] Hobson, K., Thinking habits into action: the role of knowledge and process in questioning household consumption practices. Local Environment, 8(1), pp. 95–112, 2003.

[23] Central Statistics Offi ce. Statistical Bulletin, The Stationery Offi ce: Dublin, 2005.

[24] Central Statistics Offi ce. National Census, CSO: Dublin, 2006.

[25] Kirby, P., The Celtic Tiger in Distress: Growth with Inequality in Ireland, Palgrave: New York, 2002.

[26] Collins, P. & Grimes, S., Leveraging of Power by Foreign Owned Affi liates of MNCs in Ireland. Presentation to Regional Studies Association, Irish Branch, April 2005.

[27] Department of the Environment,, accessed on 13/09/2006, 2006.

[28] European Urban Audit Perception Survey,, 2004.

[29] Central Statistics Offi ce. National Census, CSO: Dublin, 2002.

[30] Mahon, M. & Ó Cinnéide, M., Governance defi cits in residential housing estates in Ireland. Urban Studies, 46(1), 2009 (forthcoming).