Tuesday, 11 June 2019
National Development Plan: Motion [Private Members]
The spin and marketing around the launch of the national planning framework and national development plan, Project Ireland 2040, demonstrated exactly how the Taoiseach and those around him view their role in government. It was, and is, an exercise in style over substance. The spend on the marketing that ran alongside the launch was truly shocking. The choreography and presentations by Ministers told us clearly what the Government's mindset is. All the film launch was missing was canned laughter and applause.
All of this would have been fine if the country was not in the middle of an unprecedented homelessness crisis. It would have been mildly amusing if the housing crisis that grips the country was not running out of control month by month while the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government offers launch and relaunch of failed policies. It would have been amusing if our health service was not on its knees and if the Government's handling of the national children's hospital was not resulting in a spend overrun that will see health projects in my county delayed while patients suffer. I refer to projects such as St. Patrick's Hospital in Cashel, where badly needed investment has been promised but where, because of ineffective government, serious doubts remain as to whether the timeframe for delivery will be met. I also refer to the acknowledged need for acute mental health beds in County Tipperary. This need has been accepted by the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, but his hands will now be tied by the lack of funding arising from this Taoiseach and his senior Ministers being more interested in their image than in bringing forward effective Government policies that would see major problems in our economy resolved.
The serious issue of proper regional development has also been lost in the fanfare. The plan tells us that regional development is a priority but the failure to deliver on rural broadband tells the real story of the Government. It is solely a matter of individuals being more important than the facts. The facts in respect of regional development and rural broadband are clear; one is impossible without the other. This important fact has been lost in this plan and by the Government.
I will make a final comment about the objective in this plan to support and develop town centres in rural counties. Again we see a clear disconnect between the plan and Government policy. In my home town of Thurles the local authority will invest millions of euro in developing Liberty Square in the coming years, but the Government has allowed a State-owned company, An Post, to abandon its central location in that same square.