Tuesday 23 January 2018

Axe hovers over more projects unless private funding is found

Paul Melia and  Treacy Hogan

MAJOR question marks remain over the funding of high-profile projects which appeared to escape the axe yesterday.

The Government plans to attract private-sector funding to pay for a variety of projects over the next five years -- but there is little detail on where the money will be found.

Among the projects which survived the cuts in capital spending yesterday were: the National Children's Hospital; linking of Dublin's Luas lines; 40 schools; a new Central Mental Hospital and the Ballaghaderreen bypass in Co Roscommon.

Gone are Metro North; DART Underground; Navan rail line; Western Rail Corridor; Thornton Hall Prison; National Sports Campus in Abbotstown and the M20 Cork-to-Limerick road.

Among the projects to be funded using private money are two roads, schools and a new university campus for the Dublin Institute of Technology at Grangegorman.


But the Government admitted that private investors -- who are needed to bankroll big capital projects -- had turned their back on Ireland because of our dire financial situation.

Launching its 'Infrastructure and Capital Investment 2012-2016' plan yesterday, Public Expenditure Minister Brendan Howlin also revealed that the future of the National Children's Hospital hangs on a jackpot windfall from the sale of the National Lottery licence early next year.

The Coalition plans to extract an up-front payment to cover the €650m cost of the hospital, but Mr Howlin insisted that he was "absolutely confident" the money could be secured.

Mr Kenny said the plan for the next four years was "realistic" based on the current situation, adding: "This is about choosing what the country needs most in the next few years and deferring others until resources become available."

But the Government could not say how many jobs would be created under its €17bn plan, leading to sharp criticism from the Construction Industry Federation (CIF), which said it "lacked credibility".

The two final bidders hoping to build Metro North will receive €1m each in compensation after the project was axed. Some 40 roads projects have already been cut and yesterday it emerged that the M20 Cork-to-Limerick road had also been shelved because the land alone would have cost €100m.

High-profile third-level building projects and funding for schools to carry out small building works are the victims of education cutbacks, but 40 new primary and post-primary schools and extensions to 180 others will be built.

Projects with no funding include the UCD School of Law; medical facilities at UCD and NUI Galway; UCD's Confucius Institute and development at St Angela's College, Sligo.

There is no money allocated for the roll-out of water meters to more than 1.5 million homes, but ministers insisted that funding for the project would be announced in the coming weeks. Water charges have to be in place before the end of 2013 to comply with the IMF bailout.

A total €1.6bn will be spent on the water system over five years. A further €45m is earmarked for flood defences, with major schemes to continue in Clonmel, Mallow, Fermoy, Ennis, Waterford and Carlow.

Some €156m will be available to fund 3,000 science researchers, but the amounts will fall over the coming years.

A savage cut of 30pc in the justice sector capital spending budget has scuppered the prospects of building major new jails at Thornton Hall in north Dublin and Kilworth in Cork.

Irish Independent

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