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Finance Act 2004 (section 91) (Deferred Surrender to the Central Fund) Order 2020: Motion (Continued)

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 1003 No. 7

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  2 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mairéad Farrell: Information on Mairéad  Farrell Zoom on Mairéad  Farrell] One example of substandard infrastructure that is not fit for purpose and is extremely dangerous for local people is the pier at Inis Oírr. Last Sunday night the passenger boat could not dock at the pier because of heavy swelling and overtopping. The boat attempted to dock again on Monday morning to bring the doctor who serves both Inis Oírr and Inis Meáin to the latter but could not do so. As a result, Inis Meáin was left without a doctor in the middle of a pandemic. I have seen footage of this overtopping, with waves coming over the pier wall onto local residents who were attempting to get the boat. This is extremely dangerous. Those people could have easily been swept into the sea and there could have been fatalities. I will send copies of that video to the Minister so that nobody in Government can claim they did not know anything about it. The weather was bad this week but it has been a lot worse previously.

This development was promised in 2015. I have written to the Minister for Community and Rural Development and the Islands, Deputy Humphreys, about this and have raised it with her previously. I urge the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to work with her on this as a matter of urgency. The Government must communicate with the islanders who have been left in the dark and must ensure that funds are made available for this development before someone is seriously injured or killed. Nobody here can say that they did not know.

Tá contúirt mhór ag baint leis an gcéibh, rud a chonaic muid arís ag an deireadh seachtaine. Ní raibh an bád farantóireachta in ann dul i dtír oíche Domhnaigh agus arís maidin Dé Luain nuair a rinne sé iarracht eile. Mar gheall air sin, ní raibh an dochtúir in ann dul ó Inis Oírr go hInis Meáin agus ní raibh dochtúir ag muintir Inis Meáin i lár géarchéim sláinte. Bhí éirí mór san fharraige agus bhí an taoide ag dul trasna na céibhe. Chonaic mé físeán dó agus tá mé chun é a sheol chuig an Aire. Bhí beirt ag siúl chuig an mbád agus chuaigh an taoide os cionn balla na céibhe agus thar na daoine sin. Ba éasca go dtitfeadh duine isteach san fharraige mar gheall air sin. Tá sé fíor-chontúirteach. Gealladh céibh nua in 2015 agus táim ag impí ar an Aire anois é seo a phlé lena chomhghleacaí, an Teachta Humphreys, agus a cinntiú go bhfuil an t-airgead ar fáil agus go dtógtar an céibh nua sula ngortófar duine go dona nó níos measa fós, go maraítear duine. The Minister has no excuse. He must speak to his colleague, Deputy Humphreys, and make sure that this development happens.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty As mentioned by my colleague, Deputy Mairéad Farrell, the motion pertains to capital carryover from one year to another and is required before the Minister can make an order for the spending of the carryover. In that regard, the motion and the order itself are essentially technical in nature as the decision on the amount of carryover by Vote has already been determined in the 2020 Appropriations Act, with the carryover allocations by Vote and subhead already set out in the Revised Estimates that were published in December. The motion and the order before us do not involve any new policy decisions or specific funding allocations. The motion is concerned with money included in the 2020 allocations voted by the Dáil that has gone unspent. Rather than going back to the Exchequer, the 2004 Act allows for unspent allocations to be carried forward up to a maximum of 10% of capital allocation by Vote. This was an important and welcome development, ensuring our economy is not starved of investment due to delays in a given calendar year. This is particularly important in the context of Covid-19.

Under the rules, Dáil approval of the draft order is required before any carryover amounts can become a first charge against the subheads concerned, which allows for the spending of capital carryovers. This provides the kind of flexibility that is needed now, more than ever before. The capital underspend was just under €710 million for 2020 with the equivalent capital carryover for 2021. That represents 7.2% of the total capital allocation for 2020. I recognise that the primary reason for this level of underspending is Covid-19 and the associated restrictions. The underspend is both understandable and unavoidable. However, we have suffered from an infrastructure deficit as a result of years of underinvestment by successive Fine Gael Governments which really underscores the need for sustained levels of capital investment in the years ahead in major transport, housing and health infrastructure as well as local projects.

On 22 January the Central Bank in its quarterly bulletin estimated that unemployment will not return to pre-pandemic levels until after 2022. We all know that capital expenditure is a key driver and lever in supporting employment and it will be absolutely crucial in the years ahead. Capital investment by the Government can ensure jobs are supported State-wide, including in Donegal and other regions that have been forgotten. These are regions which the figures show clearly have the highest levels of deprivation and unemployment and the lowest levels of disposable income. We need policy development that is based on facts and figures and data shows that Donegal is one of the hardest hit counties in terms of job losses as a result of Covid-19. The Minister and the Government cannot allow some bureaucratic blockages to delay projects that would provide jobs for Donegal. Many such projects have been proposed by myself, my colleague Deputy MacLochlainn and other Members from the area.

As the motion relates to the Appropriations Bill I will again raise a project in Donegal that I have raised on numerous occasions with the Minister, most recently last December when the aforementioned Bill was before the Dáil. I refer to the new Finn Harps stadium. Tá an tionscnamh seo geallta agus tá muintir Bhealach Féich agus Srath an Urláir ag fanacht agus ag fanacht leis. Tá an coiste áitiúil, na himreoirí agus an lucht tacaíochta fágtha ag fanacht. Leis an toil cheart pholaitiúil tá an deis ann an rud ceart a dhéanamh. Seo tionscnamh atá ina shuí ansin, réidh le dul chun cinn. Dá dtabharfaí an cead dó, bheadh poist á gcruthú sa cheantar agus bheadh dul chun cinn i dteannta chúrsaí spóirt sa chontae. Seo an t-am anois le solas glas a thabhairt don tionscnamh seo. As I said before, the Finn Harps stadium is a shining example of how we can get shovel-ready projects moving. It is a project that can create employment in one of the counties worst hit by unemployment as a result of Covid-19, a county that was already starved of employment before the pandemic. It is a shovel-ready project that would create jobs locally and enrich the sporting community in Donegal. A total of €1.2 million was spent by the State on this project over a decade ago but it has been left sitting idle, with work stalled since 2014. The project has planning permission and is ready to go ahead. Commitments were made by the Department previously and now it is time to deliver. As I said, this is a shovel-ready project that would support jobs and serve the local community. I urge the Minister to ensure that funding is provided to move the Finn Harps stadium project forward in 2021.

There are many other projects in need of funding and I note that the Minister said that walking projects will be part of this new capital allocation. In that context, I draw his attention to the main street in Glenties. As I pointed out previously to the Minister for Transport, Deputy Ryan, people are regularly tripping and falling and are, unfortunately, taking cases against the local authority. There are many other projects that could be funded with this money.

Deputy Ged Nash: Information on Ged Nash Zoom on Ged Nash As we know, this is a technical matter in many senses. Indeed, a similar motion last March attracted no debate or real attention at all. However, the sheer scale of the carryover and the magnitude of State spending last year and this year warrants debate and further examination.

There are now 607,000 people, or 25% of the labour force, out of work, all of whom have their own stories, circumstances and struggles. Hundreds of thousand more are having their wages paid through State subsidies. They are all looking for some sense of hope, some sense that even in this dark time they can look forward to a future where jobs, businesses and prospects are secure. They long for a signal of a brighter, fairer future.

The sense that increased spending by the State will drive better value and more equal outcomes is often missing from the dry, detached analyses we are treated to here. The long-promised national economic recovery plan has been postponed twice already and many of the much vaunted initiatives like the stay and spend scheme have plainly flopped. Do not get me wrong - the additional investment is essential. Services, supports and inputs into those are both welcome and necessary but now the debate must shift to how we use the resources we have to set out our vision for a better Ireland. We know that strategic capital investment in areas such as housing, healthcare, childcare, climate and transport will not only provide jobs and sustainable growth but will also drastically improve our quality of life by finally building the type of public services in this country that have been the basic norm for decades across Europe. We were already playing catch up, with the lowest level of Government expenditure in the EU and OECD and this crisis must be a catalyst for lasting change.

In recent weeks the IMF advised governments across the world to spend "as much as you can and then spend a little bit more", citing evidence which suggests that investment in green infrastructure in particular provides two thirds more in terms of growth, which is exceptional value. We must ensure that we spend in the right areas so that we get the biggest bang for our buck, economically and socially.

Last Updated: 22/03/2021 09:55:43 First Page Previous Page Page of 93 Next Page Last Page