Tuesday 22 January 2019

New agencies lined up to keep vital Ireland 2040 projects on target and land prices in check

Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe
Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe
Wayne O'Connor

Wayne O'Connor

A new agency will be established to improve land use around the country, making sure it is valued correctly and fully utilised by Government.

The agency will work in conjunction with a second body to ensure the initiatives promised under the Ireland 2040 banner are delivered.

An Infrastructure Projects Office is being established in Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe's department to drive reform on how projects are assessed and delivered.

He said this would help Government use State-owned lands efficiently.

This body will also report on the National Development Plan (NDP).

A construction sector working group is also being established.

Mr Donohoe wants this to inform policy makers and builders about issues that may affect the successful delivery of the NDP or hit the value-for-money aspect of proposed State projects.

The minister said it was important these bodies were established to make sure Ireland 2040 timelines were met and the money promised for projects was delivered.

"We will transform this into a reality by making it clear when funds will be available," said Mr Donohoe.

"We are going to put in place a unit whose job it will be to oversee its delivery of critical infrastructure projects to make sure the timings that are set, and the funding to be made available, actually happens.

"Finally, what we will put in place is an agency whose job it will be to look at how we can use land better, particularly land that is owned by the State.

"We have to integrate the supply and pricing of land into the ambition of Ireland 2040."

Mr Donohoe announced the creation of the bodies in University College Cork yesterday with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar.

Mr Varadkar used the event to say he wanted to make sure Ireland was ready for a worst-case Brexit.

He said if negotiations did not work out as planned, the country must have the crucial infrastructure to make sure Ireland can export to the continent without using Britain as a "land-bridge" with the rest of the EU.

These concerns could be addressed by developing the Port of Cork and Rosslare Harbour.

He also said he wanted to see other critical infrastructure delivered to the region, including high-speed trains.

"There are plans to invest in the Port of Cork which are really important - especially if Brexit goes the wrong way.

"I hope it doesn't but if Brexit does go the wrong way we are going to need to be able to get goods in and out of Ireland without necessarily having to use the land-bridge with Britain.

"That is where Cork, and Rosslare in particular, will be very important.

"We are also going to look at the Cork-Dublin trainline.

"[Tánaiste] Simon Coveney and I are very ambitious about the idea of a high-speed rail between Belfast and Dublin and on to Cork.

"We don't really know if it is viable in Ireland, but it might be and we need to examine that.

"What certainly is viable, if that is not, is improving the line speeds on existing lines."

Irish Independent

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