News Politics

Wednesday 22 November 2017

Alan Kelly hits out at Sinn Fein's 'utopia' of welfare-for-life

Minister also reveals plans for radical review of An Bord Pleanala in bid to reverse 'rural decline'

Environment Minister Alan Kelly
Environment Minister Alan Kelly
John Drennan

John Drennan

Environment Minister Alan Kelly has said Labour does not favour social welfare "at all costs" but supports people who "want to work".

In an interview with the Sunday Independent, Mr Kelly also revealed an international expert was being headhunted to conduct a review of the planning appeals board An Bord Pleanala.

In a move designed to distance Labour from Sinn Fein and the far Left, Mr Kelly said: "Everyone has to make a contribution to society."

''I believe in welfare, but it will have to be fair welfare," he said. ''You have to be reasonable, there cannot be utopia where you provide all the welfare..."

He said Labour had been "tagged unfairly as supporting those who think they can get everything they want on welfare without making a fair contribution to society."

But he said the party's "main steer has to be towards people who are looking for work", adding that Labour was a "party of workers that support people who want to work, people who are unemployed, but want to work''.

He warned that the economic policies of Sinn Fein and the far Left would condemn the unemployed to a lifetime on social welfare.

"Sinn Fein and the hard Left will create a State where no one will work," he said. "The economics of the hard Left and Sinn Fein is off the wall. It is unacceptable to be so populist that you say everyone can get anything they want."

He warned that Sinn Fein and the far Left were planning to ''lead people up to the top of the hill and then flagrantly abandon them."

''Honest politicians have to call a stop to this, which is our job," he added.

The Environment Minister, and deputy leader of Labour, who is the party's Director of Elections, is also to announce the terms of a review of An Bord Pleanala later this month with "issues of transparency and communications'' to be addressed.

The move comes as part of a series of events where Mr Kelly plans to ''reverse the process of rural decline under Fianna Fail with one of rural regeneration under Labour."

''Rural Ireland is in my DNA," he said. "There will be a series of announcements in the next number of weeks detailing how we are going to re-energise rural communities''.

Following the growth in opposition to wind farms and pylons, Mr Kelly also said: ''Wind farm guidelines are being reviewed right now.

"We can't continue in the way that we have, this is a huge issue in rural Ireland and must be completely addressed."

It is expected the review will also examine the expected increase in strategic infrastructure proposals such as major roads, electricity transmission lines, planning consents for key cross-border energy infrastructure projects and wind farms. Mr Kelly also revealed that he plans to reform building regulations as a priority.

The minister said that when it came to small developments, houses and extensions, the current rules were ''like using a mallet to crack a nut."

''We cannot continue with the present regulations for one off houses, extensions and small developments," Mr Kelly said. "Regulations need to be simpler to understand and comply with for people in the countryside who want to build their own houses; you don't want them facing unexpected costs.

''Building regulations are important, but you don't need the same conditions for an eight-storey apartment as an extension to a three-bedroomed house''.

The Bord Pleanala review will examine the anticipated increase in construction activity and the related increase of planning applications and appeals in the coming years as the economy recovers.

The minister intends in a new Planning Bill to also "crack down on large multiples that are holding vacant sites".

Sunday Independent

Promoted Links

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Promoted Links

Also in this section