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National Development Plan: Motion [Private Members] (Continued)

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 983 No. 4

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Margaret Murphy O'Mahony: Information on Margaret Murphy O'Mahony Zoom on Margaret Murphy O'Mahony] We have nothing more than confirmation that it will cost six times more than the initial price. I genuinely believe some Ministers do not appreciate how detached the Government has become from rural Ireland. I know of areas in which there is no broadband coverage and no mobile phone coverage. I know of areas in which one might send an email in the hope it may be delivered 30 minutes later. How can we expect to attract investment into places like west Cork, areas which have great things going for them, if we cannot even offer basic broadband coverage?

If I may once again refer to Bantry General Hospital, its staff attempt to run high-tech equipment in the course of their daily duties but the IT infrastructure available to them does not lend itself to same. We are talking about people's livelihoods and, in this case, people's lives. It is simply unacceptable.

Today I heard members of Government continuously make reference to the fact that the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council is only an advisory body. If the Government is not willing to take its advice on board, is its existence surplus to the Government's requirements? This haphazard approach has to stop. As stated previously, it is for this reason we will be supporting this motion and the amendments.

Deputy Jackie Cahill: Information on Jackie Cahill Zoom on Jackie Cahill The spin and marketing around the launch of the national planning framework and national development plan, Project Ireland 2040, demonstrated exactly how the Taoiseach and those around him view their role in government. It was, and is, an exercise in style over substance. The spend on the marketing that ran alongside the launch was truly shocking. The choreography and presentations by Ministers told us clearly what the Government's mindset is. All the film launch was missing was canned laughter and applause.

All of this would have been fine if the country was not in the middle of an unprecedented homelessness crisis. It would have been mildly amusing if the housing crisis that grips the country was not running out of control month by month while the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government offers launch and relaunch of failed policies. It would have been amusing if our health service was not on its knees and if the Government's handling of the national children's hospital was not resulting in a spend overrun that will see health projects in my county delayed while patients suffer. I refer to projects such as St. Patrick's Hospital in Cashel, where badly needed investment has been promised but where, because of ineffective government, serious doubts remain as to whether the timeframe for delivery will be met. I also refer to the acknowledged need for acute mental health beds in County Tipperary. This need has been accepted by the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, but his hands will now be tied by the lack of funding arising from this Taoiseach and his senior Ministers being more interested in their image than in bringing forward effective Government policies that would see major problems in our economy resolved.

The serious issue of proper regional development has also been lost in the fanfare. The plan tells us that regional development is a priority but the failure to deliver on rural broadband tells the real story of the Government. It is solely a matter of individuals being more important than the facts. The facts in respect of regional development and rural broadband are clear; one is impossible without the other. This important fact has been lost in this plan and by the Government.

I will make a final comment about the objective in this plan to support and develop town centres in rural counties. Again we see a clear disconnect between the plan and Government policy. In my home town of Thurles the local authority will invest millions of euro in developing Liberty Square in the coming years, but the Government has allowed a State-owned company, An Post, to abandon its central location in that same square.

Deputy Lisa Chambers: Information on Lisa Chambers Zoom on Lisa Chambers I am happy to support the motion and speak in favour of it. The launch of the national planning framework and national development plan was one of the most cynical the State has ever witnessed. An unprecedented marketing campaign followed. Deputy Cassells is correct; it was like a bag of goodies being given to Deputies to take back to their constituencies as though they had delivered something enormous when they had delivered nothing at all. We look to overspends on the two biggest capital projects the State is facing into: the national broadband plan, which is seeing an overspend of €2.5 billion on its original estimate of €500 million; and the national children's hospital, the cost of which has increased by €447 million from the spend originally announced. It is not credible to suggest that this will have no impact on funding for other capital projects. It simply does not add up.

It is not only Fianna Fáil or other Opposition parties saying this. The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council today released a report in which Seamus Coffey had the same message for the Government, which is that its budgetary plans for later years lack credibility - a scathing assessment if ever there was one. I cannot understand why the Minister would not want to immediately identify the projects which he cannot fund and to be honest with citizens and with this House. I cannot understand why he would not also want to identify projects that will be delayed, because it is not possible to continue on the same trajectory when his budget and resources have been significantly impacted upon. It simply does not make sense.

The council also calls for recognition of the climate emergency, a call supported by this House. Clearly the national development plan, Project Ireland 2040, does not account for this. Surely it would be prudent on the part of the Government to assess those plans to see where they stand and how they need to change, because it is obvious that they do need to change. This motion makes sense and it would be unwise not to act on it and not to look back over those plans. To suggest that projects planned for the end of 2040 will be delivered in 20 years' time simply lacks credibility. We discussed the local property tax earlier. The suggestion that local authorities would take in the same amount of local property tax while new changes result in 80% of people paying increased taxes and only 20% paying reduced property taxes does not add up. I happily support the motion and urge the Government to act.

Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív: Information on Éamon Ó Cuív Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív I will be very brief. As the Minister is probably aware, I never agreed with the approach taken in the national development plan. It is just a list of projects put down on a sheet of paper. It seems that three big problems arise in everything the Government does. The first is the total inability to make planning decisions in any coherent way. The second is the failure to deliver projects on budget. The third is the failure to deal with the housing crisis. Since I only have less than half a minute left, I would like to say I do not understand a plan that states there will be 40,000 extra people in Galway when we cannot house the people who are in the city. In fact, we are housing people in emergency accommodation outside the city because it literally does not have enough buildings for the present population. This whole plan is bizarre and should be rewritten. It was never brought to the Dáil for debate and it is non-functional.

Deputy Eugene Murphy: Information on Eugene Murphy Zoom on Eugene Murphy I have no option but to be brief. I will concentrate on my constituency because I have limited time to support this motion. My colleagues have made the case in respect of the overspend on the children's hospital and broadband, but I will tell the Minister about the type of things that are happening in my part of the world with regard to broadband. People who are trying to fill out passport applications online see their connection break down. Such occurrences have caused untold trouble for families in my region. People can be paying wages online on a Thursday evening only for the system to break down. These are the difficulties we are having.

I will also refer to health issues in my area. On many occasions I have questioned the Taoiseach regarding the absolute need for work to commence on the emergency department at Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe. It is shovel ready - if I can use that phrase - but it is not being given the go-ahead. Those projects are being deliberately held up by the Government. There is another one at the Sacred Heart Hospital in Roscommon and another in Carrick-on-Shannon. Those projects are not moving and I believe they are being deliberately held up as a result of this plan in which, I am sorry to say, I have never believed.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien I am not going to criticise the way in which the plan was launched. Some of those who have levelled criticism at the Government with regard to how it was launched would have done exactly the same thing had they been in the Minister's position. That is the reality. I am not going to play politics in that regard. What I want to get into is the plan and what the motion calls for. What it calls for is not something at which any Government should turn up its nose. Nobody is asking for the plan to be completely stopped.


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