National plan based on a 'worst-case Brexit'
The €116bn national development plan is based on Ireland being able to cope with a hard Brexit, Housing Minister Eoghan Murphy has said.
Speaking at a British Irish Chamber of Commerce (BICC) briefing, the minister said the spending plan was based on a "prudent assessment" of growth rates, adding infrastructure investment was required to boost the State's competitiveness.
The briefing heard that investing in ports, airports, railways, water, healthcare and broadband would prove "critical" to protecting exports to the UK, with some 400,000 jobs dependent on having the necessary infrastructure in place to facilitate trade.
"In preparing for Brexit, it is essential that both the UK and Ireland have the necessary infrastructure in place to support out exporting capacity," director general of the BICC John McGrane said.
"400,000 jobs on our islands depend on this. With this in mind, we need to have a look carefully at how infrastructure expenditure can help Brexit-proof our economy in the medium to long-term."
The National Development Plan sets out spending priorities over the next decade, with €11.6bn earmarked for social housing, up to €1.3bn on a new water supply project for Dublin, €10.9bn in health, €4.8bn in ports and airports, and more than €7bn on roads.
The Government insists the plan takes into account the need to protect communities in the Border areas and north-west against Brexit, with the housing minister saying it was affordable.
"In terms of our projections for growth, we've taken a very prudent assessment of the average rate of growth. We've taken a harder scenario than what might be realised," he said.
"We haven't based our infrastructure investment or growth targets on the best-case scenario, we've based it on a mid-level range on what might be achievable. Regardless of whether it's a hard Brexit or soft Brexit, or an orderly Brexit or disorderly Brexit, we will make sure we are investing in key pieces of infrastructure which will not just protect us from those types of scenarios, but which will enhance our competitiveness generally."