Monday 23 September 2019

I'll be in my late 40s in Ireland 2040, does it sound like a place I'd like to live?

Paschal Donohoe and Leo Varadkar. Photo: Claire Godkin
Kathy Armstrong

Kathy Armstrong

Thousands of extra hospital beds, some 500,000 new homes and significant improvements to our public transport and roads - Project Ireland 2040 really does offer something for everyone.

I'll be close to hitting the 'big 5-0' in 2040. It'd be hard to fault the optimistic and much-anticipated €115 billion National Planning Framework that the Government unveiled this afternoon.

Shiny new schools, enhanced flood defences, a €22bn investment in initiatives to tackle climate change, who wouldn't want to live in such a progressive and efficient society?

But before we crack open the bubbly though and toast to the "best small country in the world", is it all really as it seems?

I would love to welcome this plan of packed full of positivity with open arms and believe every point will be checked off the list (and completed on time and according to plan) but this would be naive at best.

Who couldn't have some doubts about the reality of this very ambitious project? And why are we talking about Ireland in 2040?

There are so many areas that desperately need investment now.

Also, we have a Government that seems to lurch from one crisis to the next. I don't have much faith in them to get the ball rolling.

The optimist in me would love to believe everything listed in the Project Ireland 2040 plan will become a reality, but we haven't exactly got a great record when it comes to targets.

This year alone the government is set to miss their social housing target by almost 620 homes, the Citizens' Assembly has also been told that we will miss our 2020 emissions target by more than expected.

The new national children's hospital won't be opening its doors until later than expected and even the roll out of the national broadband plan has been stalled.

Plus, if we fall into another recession I could see a lot of the promised investment being re-assessed as we try to tighten our purse strings once again.

Why doesn't the Government put some thought into a short-term plan as well?

Think of the trolley crisis. There are thousands of patients lying on hospital trolleys in busy corridors, stripped of dignity and decent care by a health service that is over stretched. Just this morning, the Irish Independent reported how Temple Street Hospital was hit last night as they struggled to cope with an influx of youngsters with infectious winter illnesses.

A worried father, whose newborn son was in the A&E in Temple St for nearly 24 hours, said: "It's chaos in there."

He said the little boy, who was in a cot, has a "chest infection and is so young they cannot give him anything".

Over the last few weeks we have heard distressing stories from some of the 25,000 people who suffer from chronic pain and who can no longer receive Versatis patches under the Drugs Payment Scheme. The scheme hasn't been deemed "value for money".

And then there are the thousands of people who are homeless, children who are growing up in emergency accommodation and parents who just want to keep a roof over their heads.

As a 27-year-old living and working in Dublin, at a time when previous generations were already making their first steps on the property ladder, the idea of becoming a homeowner seems like a luxurious notion.

Housing prices are soaring as the bubble gets bigger and ever-increasing rents are making it almost impossible to save for a deposit.

Borrowing "from the bank of mum and dad" isn't an option for many who don't have a pot of gold waiting for them at home.

Moving back to your family's house also isn't viable for many young people who have relocated to larger towns and cities so we can pursue a career in our chosen field. Living at my mam's while I save for a place of my own is a nice idea, the four hour daily commute isn't exactly going to work out.

This is before you think about other ongoing issues such as the thousands of schools that have "temporary" prefabs for decades and have to fundraise to fix crumbling facilities.

Or communities that no longer have garda stations, post offices, bus services or even roads that aren't checkered with potholes.

The Ireland 2040 Plan has measures that would go a long way towards fixing many of the problems... but I'm just not sure if I buy it.

Who knows where I'll be in 2040 on the countdown to my fifties.

I would love to live in that promised Ireland with all those promised initiatives, but right now I wouldn't hold my breath.

Online Editors

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