Tuesday 22 January 2019

How Government's €116bn master-plan hopes to make Ireland 'the best country in the world'

The Luas
The Luas
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

IT’S going to be a tough day for Opposition TDs.

There was a buzz of positivity around Leo Varadkar’s merry band of ministers last night that is usually reserved for the summer holidays.

Some were practically giddy at the idea of an ‘away day’ in Sligo to launch Project Ireland 2040.

Who doesn’t enjoy announcing money for trains, trams, planes, schools, roads, hospitals, houses, airports, libraries and sports centres.

And while they’ve all been briefed to remember the dual threats of Brexit and climate change, there’s no doubt the Government believes today is a landmark.

We are joining those clever Nordics who create long-term plans for development – and better still Paschal Donohoe has a wad of cash to fund the first 10 years of growth.

From here on in when people complain about the state of our roads or the hospital trolley crisis, ministers will be able to say ‘we have this great plan to fix Ireland’.

The ‘big reveal’ in Sligo today is being compared with Budget Day without the need to allow the Opposition stand-up in the Dáil and say everything is rubbish.

Of course, Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Labour Party will do their best to find fault with the National Planning Framework (NPF) and National Development Plan (NDP) – but their cries will for the next 24 hours at least be drowned out by media analysis of who got what.

There were fears the north-west was becoming the forgotten corner of the country but now Sligo and Letterkenny are become regional centres.

The completion of the Atlantic Road Corridor is a priority and there is a big bundle of cash to help the region fight back against Brexit.

Then there was the argument that rural Ireland as a whole was being left behind while all the infrastructure was directed towards Dublin, Cork, Galway, Waterford and Limerick.

As a result there’s a €1bn fund to help small towns, while plans to massively rein in the construction of one-off houses so beloved by country families have been reversed.

But what about the capital?

The past few weeks have been dominated by talk of city gridlock and rising rents.

Well there’s going to be houses, lots of them apparently. Finally there’ll be a metro to the airport and planning will even start on a Luas to Finglas, Lucan, Bray and Poolbeg.

If that’s not enough, the air is even going to be cleaner once we get rid of all those diesel buses and switch to electric cars.

Mr Varadkar will today unveil his vision of compact growth in a sustainable economy.

Between now and 2040 the population will increase by one million people. We’ll need an extra 600,000 jobs and more than half a million new homes.

Indeed it seems that Ireland 2040 will be a utopia.

It’s likely Carlsberg will relocate here from Denmark because Ireland will probably be the best country in the world.

So you’ll understand why the Government has shrugged off complaints from Opposition parties in recent days about the plans.

They are betting that we’ll be blinded by the Strategic Communications Unit’s glitzy rollout of videos and graphics.

And for a little while everybody will dip in to find out what’s in it for them.

If it’s not a primary care centre, there’s a good chance it’s school or a garda station.

But the real test will come in the weeks, months, years and decades ahead. Delivery is what matters.

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