Tuesday, 11 June 2019
National Development Plan: Motion [Private Members]
Not only has County Donegal been left out of national infrastructure projects but it is also becoming very clear that persistent cost overruns on specific projects provided with funding under the national development plan will have a negative financial impact on smaller projects across the country, particularly in County Donegal. For County Donegal, the concerns about the national development plan include concerns about funding commitments in respect of a number of local community hospitals, including St. Joseph's in Stranorlar and Sheil Community Hospital in Ballyshannon. The Taoiseach has denied the fact that cost overruns associated with the national children's hospital have anything to do with this but doubts remain. There are very strong doubts in the community in County Donegal. Doubts also remain about funding for flood defences which have has been called into question by local residents, particularly in Buncrana. To date, there have been no commitments made by the Government or the local authority, suggesting future funding is uncertain. This is particularly worrying as a provisional timeline of ten years, given in the national development plan, is already ten years too late for the communities affected.
The much awaited upgrade of the A5, a vital infrastructural project and a key economic driver for the regeneration of the north west, had its funding deferred to address cost overruns at the national children's hospital. A pattern is emerging. There is a history of cost overruns associated with pretty much every large-scale project proposed in the history of the State, including various motorways, the Luas, metro underground, the national children's hospital and, of course, the national broadband plan. Clearly, there is a conflict of interest when Ministers announce projects for political reasons, yet ignore the financial and regulatory realities of implementing them. The evaluation of projects should not be made by people who propose them. Conflicts of interest can lead to underestimating costs. It is clear that incompetent Governments need to be stopped before crises such as the homelessness and health crises recur. This is not to mention climate change and the need for the national development plan to address climate change issues which it completely ignores. The Government states it has factored climate change measures into some of the plan but not all of it.
Much more needs to be happening at this stage and the Government needs to realise that, wake up and smell the coffee and ensure it can meet the targets necessary for all of us for the climate future.
The national development plan is out of date and needs to be revised to take into account cost overruns and climate change responsibilities. Any compensation to address the cost deficit will need to be looked at in detail in order that funding can be secured in a fair and transparent manner and to ensure that rural areas such as County Donegal, which have not benefited from any of the developments in the past, are addressed. Climate responsibility needs to be reflected in public projects, infrastructure and transport. That is what will deliver for people.