Dublin is 'eating into Ireland' - and Government is 'not geared' to combat growth right now
Taoiseach says Ireland has 'different set of obstacles' today - including Brexit
The Government is not prepared to meet the “massive infrastructural requirements” needed to promote balanced regional development and combat the growth of Dublin, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has admitted.
Launching a public consultation on a long-term plan to allow balanced development across the State and avoid the creation of new commuter towns, Mr Kenny said the 'Ireland 2040 – Our Plan' document was designed to “unlock the potential” of the regions.
Speaking in Maynooth University, he said while the Government was committed to a capital investment plan out to 2021, it was a “short term” analysis of needs but “we need to look beyond that”.
“We want to unlock the potential of our regions. It's about reducing disparities, and there are so many,” he said.
“There are glorious opportunities if we can grasp that. This is the start of a major consultation.
“That's (capital investment plan) a short-term analysis of capital monies we have already voted in principle for various projects and priorities. We need to look beyond that.
“Our population is rising. Demand for rehabilitative places, hospitals, hospices, schools, third-level... these are massive infrastructural requirements over the next 30 years and we're not geared for that now.”
He said there was a “different set of obstacles” today, not least of which was the challenge posed by Brexit.
Referencing Brexit, the election of US President Donald Trump and elections in the EU including France and Germany, he said: “If Governments don't listen to people, strange things can happen.”
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The 'Ireland 2040 – Our Plan', setting out the issues which must be addressed under a new National Planning Framework out to 2040, was formally launched by the Taoiseach and Housing Minister Simon Coveney.
It aims on how best to provide housing, jobs and essential services including schools and healthcare facilities to cater for a projected population increase of one million by 2040, of which 20pc will be over 65 years old.
More than 500,000 additional people at work, and half a million homes will be needed.
The focus of the plan is avoiding the continued influence of Dublin, which now stretches into 11 counties and accounts for almost half of all economic activity in the State.
The draft report warns that if 'business as usual' is continued, it will result in the growth of commuter towns serving Dublin, with congested roads and city centres.
While regional cities such as Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford will continue to grow, it will not be at the scale needed to counteract the influence of Dublin.
Irish Planning Institute president Deirdre Fallon said the plan represented a “major opportunity” to prepare effective and evidence-based policy to address many of the issues which will affect the long term future development of Ireland.
They included climate change, the landscape, the roles of our cities, towns and villages and rural development.”
The Construction Industry Federation said that balanced regional development could only be delivered by a “thriving construction sector”, with Director General Tom Parlon noting that the plan was a “hugely ambitious vision” for the future.
Full details are available on www.Ireland2040.ie, and views are sought by March 16 next. A draft copy of the plan will be prepared, and go back out for a second round of consultation before the summer. A final version will be submitted to the Government by the autumn.