Tuesday, 11 June 2019
National Development Plan: Motion [Private Members]
I welcome the opportunity to debate the call for a review of the national development plan. There is no doubt that Government's behaviour in the context of the national development plan, Project Ireland 2040 and, in particular, the national planning framework, was disgraceful and showed the contempt with which the national Parliament is held by this Government. The Parliament was bypassed in terms of a proper debate and, crucially, an actual vote on the endorsement or otherwise of the national planning framework. I have heard members of the Government claim in this House and in the media that a vote actually happened when it blatantly did not. Instead, straight after the bypassing of that vote, we had the around-Ireland roadshow, with goodies for certain constituencies and certain Deputies. A bit like the spin unit that was spinning that news, the strategic communications unit, SCU, is gone and a lot of the money needed to deliver these projects is vanishing as well, most of it into the crater at St. James' Hospital. Now we come to the crux of the matter. A significant part of the planning framework relates to where the population will be dispersed and centred in the next 20 years but is contingent on the supporting infrastructure being in place to allow people to live in areas that have the physical and social amenities that they need. We have seen all this before. The overarching document gives the green light to the regional and, subsequently, the county plans but with the obvious demand for new housing, sites will start to be developed. What will not keep pace is the supporting infrastructure necessary for people in these areas to live quality lives, especially on the east coast. Lest we are accused tonight of cheap political digs for a debate, the facts speak for themselves. Take the issue of education as an example. Even before the publication of the national development plan, scores of new schools were announced on the eve of the last general election. There were half a dozen announced for my own town alone but not one of those schools has been developed. We have asked questions about them in this House but there is still no sign of them. If the goodies announced prior to the last election have not been delivered, how is it credible that the projects in this plan will happen? The Minister cherry-picked a number of items in the plan and cherry-picking is what is being done in terms of deliverability.
The Green Party has tabled an amendment seeking a climate impact assessment as part of the review, which we are supporting. In my constituency there is a proposal that gets just a fleeting reference in this plan but it could assist greatly in the reduction of car emissions in a county of 200,000 people. I refer to the development of the Navan to Dublin rail line. The Government is saying that it will throw its eye over the viability of that project in a few years' time. The Taoiseach travels that road and must see the backlog of traffic each morning at 6 a.m. He should back the rail line project which could help in terms of climate change, as well as improving the lives of the decent people of County Meath.