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Friday 23 March 2018

3,000 new building jobs in pipeline as Coalition pledges to spend €150m

Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

The Coalition claims €150m being pumped into "stimulus" projects could create up to 3,000 construction jobs.

The money will be split evenly between upgrades for 28 schools, repair of an extra 600km of local roads and a scheme to insulate 25,000 of the least energy-efficient local authority houses in the country.

The first of the mostly small-scale projects are due to get under way as early as this summer. Unlike public private partnerships (PPP), the schemes will be entirely financed by the State and therefore have much shorter lead-in periods.

The cash will come from the sale of companies that the State is selling under the bailout agreement, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin said.

It comes after year-long negotiations with the troika of European institutions including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), he said.

Following those talks, half the money raised will be used to pay off a share of the national debt with the rest to be ploughed back into the economy.

No money has yet been received from the sell-offs but Mr Howlin said he had given the go-ahead for the €150m of spending because he was confident there would be "significant resources from the sale of state assets" in the public purse by the end of this year.

That should include proceeds from the sale of Bord Gais Energy for as much as €1.5bn.

Yesterday the Cabinet approved the Gas Regulation Bill, which allows the sale of Bord Gais Energy to go ahead.

Bids for BGE are due in next week and the sale looks set to close this year. A sale of the licence to operate the National Lottery is also under way.

The ESB has been told to raise €400m for the State by selling power stations in the UK and in Spain but that money is unlikely to filter through until 2014. A planned sale of state forestry company Coilte looks unlikely to go ahead.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said his Department's €50m share of the money would be allocated to county councils across the country and will be used to repair local roads.

Twenty eight primary and secondary schools will share a separate €50m package.

The final €50m allocation will go to the Department of the Environment, which will insulate 25,000 local authority houses over the next three years.


Upgrading attic and wall insulation will save an average of €400 a year for tenants, housing minister Jan O'Sullivan said.

The small scale of the work means it is likely to be done by local and community-based employers, she said. There is evidence they are more likely to hire people who are currently on the live register, she said.

However, at a press conference in Dublin, ministers said it was not possible to force businesses that win the €150m of contracts to hire people who are unemployed.

In addition to the money just allocated, the Government has agreed to new public private partnership projects that will cost around €250m.

Plans are expected to be unveiled next week on breaking open the €6.4bn of state savings in the National Pension Reserve Fund that was not used to shore up the banks.

Irish Independent

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