Tuesday, 11 June 2019
National Development Plan: Motion [Private Members]
I am happy to support the motion and speak in favour of it. The launch of the national planning framework and national development plan was one of the most cynical the State has ever witnessed. An unprecedented marketing campaign followed. Deputy Cassells is correct; it was like a bag of goodies being given to Deputies to take back to their constituencies as though they had delivered something enormous when they had delivered nothing at all. We look to overspends on the two biggest capital projects the State is facing into: the national broadband plan, which is seeing an overspend of €2.5 billion on its original estimate of €500 million; and the national children's hospital, the cost of which has increased by €447 million from the spend originally announced. It is not credible to suggest that this will have no impact on funding for other capital projects. It simply does not add up.
It is not only Fianna Fáil or other Opposition parties saying this. The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council today released a report in which Seamus Coffey had the same message for the Government, which is that its budgetary plans for later years lack credibility - a scathing assessment if ever there was one. I cannot understand why the Minister would not want to immediately identify the projects which he cannot fund and to be honest with citizens and with this House. I cannot understand why he would not also want to identify projects that will be delayed, because it is not possible to continue on the same trajectory when his budget and resources have been significantly impacted upon. It simply does not make sense.
The council also calls for recognition of the climate emergency, a call supported by this House. Clearly the national development plan, Project Ireland 2040, does not account for this. Surely it would be prudent on the part of the Government to assess those plans to see where they stand and how they need to change, because it is obvious that they do need to change. This motion makes sense and it would be unwise not to act on it and not to look back over those plans. To suggest that projects planned for the end of 2040 will be delivered in 20 years' time simply lacks credibility. We discussed the local property tax earlier. The suggestion that local authorities would take in the same amount of local property tax while new changes result in 80% of people paying increased taxes and only 20% paying reduced property taxes does not add up. I happily support the motion and urge the Government to act.