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Michael O'Doherty: It took 23 years and €1bn to get the M50 right. A great day indeed, Mr Dempsey

So Dublin's M50 is complete.

The 32km stretch of motorway was finished yesterday, and predictably Noel Dempsey TD was there to bask in the glory, describing it as "a marvellous day for Ireland" congratulating himself on the fact that it came in under its €1bn budget, and ahead of time.

Which is all fine and dandy, except for one small fact -- it's all absolute bollox.

Far from being a triumph, the M50 is a disgrace, a symbol of everything that is wrong with Irish government.

A decades-long catalogue of incompetence and botched planning, which has just pissed away another €1bn of taxpayers' money.

That €1bn budget, in case you didn't realise, wasn't to build the motorway -- it was simply to fix the damn thing because such an unholy mess was made of it.

Clogging

It beggars belief, but construction began on this project in 1987.

A mind-boggling 18 years later, the M50 was finally completed. And within a few months of that, they started all over again, as they didn't make it wide enough in the first place.

Why? Because the 'brains' behind the scheme estimated that 1,000 cars a day would use the motorway, but by the time it was finished, 10 times that amount were clogging it up.

But it was done 'the Irish way'.

Witless, self-serving politicians, not wanting to spend a penny more than necessary as it wouldn't be completed before the next General Election, so there was no guarantee they'd be there to take the plaudits. The €1bn that has been spent in the intervening time is wasted money.

With a bit of forethought, the M50 could have been originally built with three lanes, and properly free-flowing interchanges, at a tiny fraction of the cost that has been borne in the 'upgrade' of the past four years.

And let's not forget the additional €600m spent to buy back the West link toll plaza, the cost of more idiotic planning back when Padraig Flynn was Minister for the Environment and George Redmond was City Manager. Heady days indeed...

In six years in the early 90s, Hong Kong built itself a similar stretch of road - a 30 km motorway from downtown to its new airport .

Except it simultaneously built the airport from scratch, a new island to locate it on, a high-speed train link with a tunnel under Hong Kong Harbour, and two giant bridges to link the mainland.

All in a quarter of the time it took us to build one lousy stretch of road.

Yeah.

As you said yourself, Minister Dempsey -- marvellous.

Blair will have our Tubbers for breakfast

The Late Late Show returns tomorrow, and already Ryan Tubridy and his team have pulled off a coup by getting Tony Blair on as their main guest. Or have they?

RTE have said that they don't allow guests to approve questions beforehand, but I find it hard to believe that Tony's path to Studio One in Montrose has not been greased with a heads-up as to what kind of grenades Ryan is going to lob in his direction. Blair isn't doing this out of the goodness of his heart -- he's got a book to plug, and anything that doesn't perform that task is irrelevant to him.

And let's not forget, he's the king of spin, a man who practically invented the idea of presentation over substance, and the importance of controlling people's perception of him and his government.

Try as he may, I suspect Blair will have Tubbers worked out, and bore us to death with a succession of platitudes, deflections and self-serving defences of his policies.

You think that Ryan is going to have a Frost/Nixon moment on Friday night, and suddenly get Blair to let his guard down and reveal something in a moment of weakness?

Dream on...


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