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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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  9 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton] This has been a Government of spin rather than substance. We have heard a considerable amount of conversation, declamation and declaration on the national development plan, the first aspect being the decision to push the timespan of the plan out from a normal one of five, seven or ten years to 22. In effect, this means that everything in the wide world can get done but maybe in year 19 or 22. Will Fine Gael still be in government then? Who knows? It will certainly be at least three to four general elections after the next general election. It is part of the craft of spinning to have a timeline that is so long that one can say one has committed to everything and will have done everything. Who will know?

On what the Minister was talking about, I would like to ask him a couple of questions about the broader Dublin area. Where in the national development plan is the electrification of the railway line from Dublin to Maynooth which runs through both of our constituencies? If the railway lines to Maynooth, Portarlington and Portlaoise were to be electrified, which should be achievable in about ten to 15 years under the plan, it would result in the transformation about which the previous speaker was talking, thereby benefiting much of rural and central Ireland. The greater Dublin area would be put on a footing with places such as London and Paris, to which it is quite reasonable to commute by train or some other very speedy mode of transport from a distance of 70 or 80 miles. It allows for much stronger towns farther out. There could be a viable, independent string of towns with both local attractions and the capacity for fast commuting. That would reduce road congestion and very long, slow commutes. Many individuals, including couples with children, are forced, because of the extraordinary price of houses in the big cities, to make extremely long commutes to and from their places of work.

Where is the Luas to Lucan and the metro to Swords? I have seen so many cost evaluations and descriptions of underground and overground options that, even though I know the route quite well, I am confused about what the Government's real intentions are.

Fine Gael has developed a serious problem over the question of competency in managing and organising the implementation of the projects needed for the State's normal functioning and growth. In the discussions today the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council featured again the overrun associated with the national children's hospital and the enormous uncertainty over and considerable increase in the ticket price of broadband. We all want to see broadband extended to every home in the country. We know that rural broadband is an essential resource for most people, wherever they are living in Ireland. It allows those in politically and geographically remote areas to develop enterprise, do more work from home and run businesses from their home areas.

In many ways, however, we have a national development plan that is all things to all men and women and that has a massive timeline that almost makes one doubt whether any of it will be implemented. The opening parts of the plan, covering the years 2018, 2019 and so on, have all been inherited from the previous Government. There is very little that is different. I am glad that the Minister has referred to the further development of Grangegorman, but, as he knows, this work has been ongoing for well over ten years. Construction began during the term of the last Government. It is good that the work is continuing, but the Government did not invent the project. That is why there are such questions over competency in the case of the national children's hospital. Where are the additional projects?

The plan is deeply disappointing when it comes to dealing with climate change. Where is the vision that will decarbonise the economy and provide transition employment for those who will be affected by decarbonisation? I refer to the workers who have been working in Bord na Móna on the bogs and perhaps the staff at the Moneypoint plant, one of the biggest polluters in Ireland. Action in that regard has been pushed out to 2027. There has been some talk about bringing the date forward by a year or two, but there is no definitive date.

In the aftermath of the Dáil declaring a climate change emergency, we should pause. All of us, including members of the Government, have something to contribute in that regard. We should sit down and work out a serious climate change plan to address the most polluting areas in the economy such as the Moneypoint plant. We should set out a coherent plan such that, within a maximum of six or seven years, we would take the polluters out of the equation and replace them with renewable energy sources that will allow us to achieve our climate change targets. I am disappointed that climate change is not really touched on.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle Not only has County Donegal been left out of national infrastructure projects but it is also becoming very clear that persistent cost overruns on specific projects provided with funding under the national development plan will have a negative financial impact on smaller projects across the country, particularly in County Donegal. For County Donegal, the concerns about the national development plan include concerns about funding commitments in respect of a number of local community hospitals, including St. Joseph's in Stranorlar and Sheil Community Hospital in Ballyshannon. The Taoiseach has denied the fact that cost overruns associated with the national children's hospital have anything to do with this but doubts remain. There are very strong doubts in the community in County Donegal. Doubts also remain about funding for flood defences which have has been called into question by local residents, particularly in Buncrana. To date, there have been no commitments made by the Government or the local authority, suggesting future funding is uncertain. This is particularly worrying as a provisional timeline of ten years, given in the national development plan, is already ten years too late for the communities affected.

The much awaited upgrade of the A5, a vital infrastructural project and a key economic driver for the regeneration of the north west, had its funding deferred to address cost overruns at the national children's hospital. A pattern is emerging. There is a history of cost overruns associated with pretty much every large-scale project proposed in the history of the State, including various motorways, the Luas, metro underground, the national children's hospital and, of course, the national broadband plan. Clearly, there is a conflict of interest when Ministers announce projects for political reasons, yet ignore the financial and regulatory realities of implementing them. The evaluation of projects should not be made by people who propose them. Conflicts of interest can lead to underestimating costs. It is clear that incompetent Governments need to be stopped before crises such as the homelessness and health crises recur. This is not to mention climate change and the need for the national development plan to address climate change issues which it completely ignores. The Government states it has factored climate change measures into some of the plan but not all of it.


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