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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 Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle] Much more needs to be happening at this stage and the Government needs to realise that, wake up and smell the coffee and ensure it can meet the targets necessary for all of us for the climate future.

The national development plan is out of date and needs to be revised to take into account cost overruns and climate change responsibilities. Any compensation to address the cost deficit will need to be looked at in detail in order that funding can be secured in a fair and transparent manner and to ensure that rural areas such as County Donegal, which have not benefited from any of the developments in the past, are addressed. Climate responsibility needs to be reflected in public projects, infrastructure and transport. That is what will deliver for people.

Deputy Catherine Connolly: Information on Catherine Connolly Zoom on Catherine Connolly I welcome the opportunity to take part in this debate and thank the Social Democrats for introducing this sensible motion. I cannot imagine why the Government would amend the motion and it is welcome that Fianna Fáil will support it. We are simply asking that the projects to be delayed are identified, which is the least the people of Ireland deserve. The motion asks for recognition that a climate emergency has been declared and seeks an urgent revision of the national development plan, NDP, and national planning framework, NPF, to properly reflect current spending levels. In addition, the Green Party is asking for a climate impact assessment of Project Ireland 2040.

When the Minister is finished talking, perhaps he will note that this is a serious matter and that the Deputies speaking at this time of the night are doing our best not to be negative and to come up with solutions. I realise there are many things a Minister must do but, as has been said, the NDP and the NPF began in spin, continue in spin and bear no relationship to the reality of a declared climate emergency.

The Taoiseach, in response to a question from me following the declaration of a climate emergency, said in this House that the declaration was simply symbolic. While he tried to clarify that statement afterwards, the declaration is anything but symbolic. The Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan, addressing the Dáil on 29 May, pointed out that we are losing biodiversity around the globe at a rate unprecedented in human history. Report after report from the United Nations and organisations in Ireland have stated we must face the climate emergency and do something about it. It would be sensible to say at this point that we need to review the NDP and the NPF for that reason. Some of the language used in the plans is good and I liked the repeated references in them to sustainability. I thought these were not bad plans when I read them first but, when I looked in more detail, I realised there is complete policy incoherence in both plans. I do not know how many sides of its mouth the Government can talk from but these incoherent policies suggest it is certainly more than two. We talk about sustainability and regional development while, at the same, promoting the unsustainable development of our cities without public transport, continuing with the type of development that is leading to more climate change and talking about investment in more fossil fuels. There is total policy incoherence in both plans.

It is time to take our leadership from the children of the country and across the world who have asked that damage to the climate is not done in their name. This is a sensible and rational motion that is asking us to stop and reflect. Let us look at where we are, given the climate change emergency and the overspend on two projects. Like my colleague, Deputy Catherine Murphy, I sit on the Committee of Public Accounts and, to my horror, the business case for the national children's hospital by a private company - we await information on the cost of that and who carried it out - was deemed by another private company not to be credible. This was after the event. I will be careful because I may have the language wrong but the words used to describe that business plan were along the lines of "not credible" or "faulty". Deputy Murphy might be able to help me with the words used.

The Minister stated nobody in this Dáil had ever asked him to reduce spending. That is true, but we have all asked him to spend more efficiently, more effectively and in a different way and to spend public money on public buildings, infrastructure and transport. We have asked the Government not to waste money on projects such as the national children's hospital by using the distancing mechanism of setting up a board comprised ostensibly of private people with expertise. We have been left with a cost of almost €2 billion for a children's hospital that will not have any accommodation for families and will not deal with research. We are dependent on charity and philanthropists to fund those two areas.

Something is seriously amiss with the Government's view of the economy given the rate of child poverty in the country and the housing crisis. I was at the launch of a Simon Community campaign marking 40 years in Galway. The figures show that in the past four years average rents in Galway city and county have increased by 42% and 49%, respectively. This is in a city where rent caps are in place.

Deputy Michael Collins: Information on Michael Collins Zoom on Michael Collins By 2040, it is anticipated that Ireland will approach the pre-Famine population level of 8 million. In the intervening period, it is estimated that an additional 660,000 employment opportunities will be required. It is vital that we have a strategic approach to public capital investment. The national development plan has committed to a capital spend of €116 billion. This all sounds great on paper but I have big concerns about the plans of the Government and the reality that it will deliver. Since the publication of Project Ireland 2040, there have been significant cost overruns on three projects, namely, the national broadband plan, the national children's hospital and the new metro plan. It is scary that the Government will spend €10 billion on these three projects alone. I doubt the credibility of the national development plan.

The Government must realise the impact of spending €10 billion on three projects which have all suffered cost overruns. These overrun projects have cost the average, hard-working taxpayer in more ways than one. Not only is it disgusting for a taxpayer to see his or her money being spent in a reckless fashion but these taxpayers also have to suffer the knock-on impact on funding that is available for other planned projects. That inevitably impacts on the hard-working taxpayer. Are these overruns the reason we have found out, in the past two weeks, that there is an embargo on home help hours? This embargo is causing major stress for families in west Cork whose elderly loved ones will not get a home help service. It is also a considerable test for the great home help providers in west Cork who are under great pressure to deliver a service.

I would also like to see how west Cork will do in the national development plan. What has the Government planned for us? Will it be anything like the rural regeneration programme under which 43 projects, most of them in west Cork, did not get a brown cent? What are the Government's plans? Will west Cork be excluded again? I am calling on the Government to immediately identify which projects that were planned for in the NDP will be delayed or cancelled as a result of a lack of funding.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae I thank the Social Democrats for introducing this important motion for debate tonight. While we are talking about the national development plan, I want to remind this House that there are people providing home help in County Kerry today who are not being paid for their mileage. They have to pay for petrol for their cars to go and give home help. When we are talking about millions and billions of euro, I am thinking of those people who are going out today, giving home help and who have to pay for their own petrol because they are not being given their petrol allowance.

We have seen what the Government has done with overruns on major projects but I want to talk about projects that we are waiting for in County Kerry. We desperately need more beds to be provided in Kerry University Hospital, KUH. We desperately need more room in that hospital. We need it to be extended and investment in it. We desperately need our new community hospital to be built in the great town of Killarney. We desperately need what I call a bypass for the bypass in Killarney and a connecting road from the main Killarney-Cork road to the Muckross Road which would, in turn, service Ireland's National Event Centre, INEC, owned by the O'Donoghue family, which has provided entertainment and much needed employment in Killarney for decades.

We must also ensure the bypass for Macroom and Ballyvourney will go ahead as scheduled. We urgently require major investment in Cahersiveen Community Hospital or for a new hospital to be built.

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