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Cabinet Committee Meetings (Continued)

Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 979 No. 6

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Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett The most elementary infrastructure necessary for the maintenance of society and the existence of humanity is our natural environment. The Taoiseach’s highly disingenuous response to Deputy Bríd Smith earlier about her climate emergency Bill, which is trying to stop the extraction of further fossil fuels was not very heartening in respect of his attitude to this. I do not know whether he heard George Lee on RTÉ today chatting to Pádraic Fogarty of the Irish Wildlife Trust. The headline on the item was that Irish nature is collapsing. He went on to describe how 100 of our plants and animals are already extinct and another third of our species are under very serious threat. He spoke about the deterioration of water quality, the extremely precarious situation of forestry, wildlife and so on and the fact that the Irish Greyhound Board gets as much money annually as the National Parks and Wildlife Service. They even talked about a beautiful forest in Enniskerry - the Taoiseach should go and walk there - Knocksink Wood, where the environmental education centre is sitting there, empty and derelict, because of Government cuts. This is typical of the Government's attitude to environmental issues.

Rather than slagging off the left, which is actually trying to do something about it, as the Taoiseach did earlier today, why does he not actually do something to address these issues, like deal with afforestation, fund the National Parks and Wildlife Service, and indeed, support our Bill to cease fossil fuel extraction?

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar I am glad that Deputy Micheál Martin took the time to study the website and spreadsheets. I have not done it myself for some time. It is clear that they are out of date and need to be updated and I will see to it that is done.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin Yesterday the Taoiseach was adamant and certain that they were up to date.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Obviously I was wrong. I should have checked them. We will get them updated; they should be updated.

In respect of the impact Project Ireland 2040 and the national development plan, NDP, will have on climate change we estimate that implementing the NDP will get us approximately one third of the way to meeting our climate change targets. The rest will have to be met through measures such as carbon tax and changes to regulations and rules. The third will be achieved mainly through what is provided in the plan for retrofitting and insulating homes and public buildings, investment in renewable energy and in the electric vehicle charging infrastructures and afforestation. There is quite a considerable investment in afforestation, to answer Deputy Boyd Barrett's question.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Well below target.

The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar Yes of course there are people who will argue that some aspects of the national development plan will contribute to climate change such as, for example, the expansion under way at our regional airports and at Dublin Airport, and the roads programme such as the construction of the motorway between Cork and Limerick. I would argue that we need to balance economic development and social need with climate action. It cannot be all climate action. We have to provide for jobs in the economy and for investment too. We have to take a holistic view of these things.

Derry and Letterkenny developing together as a city region is very much a feature of Project Ireland 2040. The Government has provided funding already to the North West Strategic Growth Partnership, which involves Donegal County Council and Derry City and Strabane District Council. I have had an opportunity to engage with them and I imagine we will be able to provide additional funding in the future too. We would be very keen to continue to support the development of Derry working with Letterkenny as the region for the north west.

On the reprofiling of capital projects, or savings, whatever people want to call them, I am happy to clarify again, roughly €100 million has been reprofiled out of a capital budget this year of more than €7,000 million. We invest approximately €140 million a week in infrastructure and approximately €100 million of that €7,000 million has been reprofiled. Thankfully it did not require that any projects had to be delayed or paused. The money comes from a €25 million payment in respect of the A5 which we do not have to make this year because the project has not started although if it does start, we will make that payment. It also comes from a deferred payment relating to the forensic science laboratory of approximately €10 million while another €10 million is being provided from the Department of Education and Skills for the school at the new children's hospital. That has been brought forward and that explains the difference between the €35 million and the €25 million on health. I think €24 million of the €25 million specifically for health comes out of a fund that is there for refurbishments, minor capital works, replacing equipment and so on. That fund was €94 million but it is being reduced by €24 million to €70 million but that is still an increase on last year. There may well be plenty of projects and developments around the country that are delayed for one reason or another but none is delayed as a consequence of the national children's hospital, notwithstanding that people will claim otherwise.

  Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.

  Sitting suspended at 2.45 p.m. and resumed at 3.45 p.m.  

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