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Senator Rose Conway-Walsh

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Order of Business
Snippet Contents:

I ask that the Leader provide time for a debate on the summer economic statement. It is vital that Senators have an opportunity to discuss the statement in detail with the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, and examine the direction the Government is taking. The Minister, Deputy Donohoe, attended the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach last week to discuss his meeting this week in Brussels. What concerns me is that the narrative being used to form economic policy is that we have almost reached full employment yet in the area I come from and in other areas in the west and rural Ireland in general, unemployment stands at over 30%. It is important we discuss this in terms of the economic statement.
The current visit being undertaken by the IMF to advise on capital investment indicates that the Government now faces a choice between tax cuts and capital investment. Several groups and think tanks have openly asked for the Government to abandon the tax cuts agenda and focus on investment in key areas such as infrastructure and education. It is estimated that we are currently under-spending on capital investment by up to €3 billion per annum. Per capita spend on infrastructure between 2013 and 2016 was 86% of the European comparator group. We need massive investment in this area to make up for the years of neglect, especially in the west of Ireland. Sinn Féin has long argued for targeted investment to increase employment in the west so it is made more attractive for further investment. We have included many of these measures in our document, A New Deal for the West, which the Government is more than welcome to use as a guide.
There are studies that point out that the lack of investment in basic infrastructure such as transport and communications can render other Government supports such as social welfare and pension payments insufficient. We have a road network in dire need of investment, which means major hospitals in the west remain many hours away by ambulance for those they serve. I invite anybody who is in any doubt about this to travel the R312, which is the road connecting the Erris Peninsula and Erris with the main hospital in Castlebar. I travelled it last week. There are so many parts of it in need of repair that by the time one gets from one end of it to the other one is physically sick.
We need investment in infrastructure. Sinn Féin has a plan to ensure that we get the best return in this regard. Before the Leader responds, I would like to remind him-----