Thursday, 1 April 2021
Project Ireland 2040: Motion [Private Members]
Danny Healy-Rae (Kerry, Independent)
The Minister, Deputy Michael McGrath, and the Minister of State in attendance, Deputy Ossian Smyth, should note that nothing I have to say about the Government or Project Ireland 2040 is in any way personal. I am glad to have the opportunity to talk about the plan because it is a very serious matter. It will affect many in rural Ireland. It is a laugh to think that we are considering a plan for 20 years when the Government does not actually know what is going to happen in four or three weeks' time. I believe it does not really know what is going to happen next week. That is how it appears to the people, with one Minister contradicting another and one professor in NPHET contradicting another. They all have a different story. It is hard for the people from rural areas or any other part of Ireland to believe what is now being said over the airwaves. The plan is going to hurt people in rural Ireland in a very negative way. It was introduced by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil two or three years ago and now it is being continued by those two parties and the Green Party. This is all about boosting five cities to the detriment of rural towns and villages. Self-employed people, businesspeople, farmers, housewives and everyone who is paying and will have to pay carbon tax will be affected more. The Government wants to stop us cutting turf and eating meat and it wants to close more of the rural pubs and more post offices. It is letting the banks walk out of the towns even though it has a share in them. That is what is happening. The Government has closed the churches to an unnecessary extent, and we all know that. The Government wants to stop granting planning permission in rural areas. It is telling people they should and could work from home but many of them do not have a home. They would have a home if they could get planning permission but they cannot. The planning regulator is now told to direct people to the five cities. That is what we read in the 2040 plan.
The Government is hell-bent on following the Green Party line to stay in power. It seems it does not matter if, as a result, it is hurting the people, the grand people of rural Ireland. They have been and are being blackguarded, and if this plan is implemented they will be hurt even more. The plan will hurt them like they were never hurt before. The Government continues with spin. We saw what it did this week with the massive plan for rural towns. There is no penny of money for any project. We are told the money is available. The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Humphreys, put up a very good show on the television, on the news or whatever, but no matter how she was pressed, there was no penny of money for any project. She still got away with it.
Then the Government Chief Whip came to the Chamber this morning and orchestrated a spin of praise for An Tánaiste, Deputy Varadkar. He took away most of the slot from ordinary Deputies from throughout the country, while seven or eight Fine Gael Deputies praised the Tánaiste all morning. They are good at blathering, boasting and spinning but they are hurting the people.
The Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Eamon Ryan, seems to think he is responsible for the environment or that he is the environment, but there is more to the environment than carbon emissions. Sewage treatment plants are needed in several parts of our county. They include Scartaglin, Kilcummin, which has been waiting for 20 years, Curra, Brosna and Beaufort. They say it is possible to get planning permission in these towns but the applicant will have to wait until it is connected to a public treatment plant. I found documents in my shed the other night dating from when my father made representations to build an extension to the sewer in Castleisland, where all the homes are connected to septic tanks. That was 40 years ago. I found the documents in a box in the old shed and that is God's gospel truth.
In Brosna, a man sought permission to build four houses but the application was cut down to two. He wanted to knock down two old houses and got permission to replace those two, but he will not get to build the other two until the treatment plant is brought up to scratch. In Kenmare, a developer applied for permission to build 55 houses and the planning regulator stated that the density was too low and he would have to add a further 30%, or 20 houses. When he did that, Kerry County Council told him he could not build the houses until the Kenmare treatment plant had been upgraded.
A county development plan is being developed for Kerry and the regulator has told us we can zone more land in Killarney but we must keep the same acreage of land throughout the Killarney municipal area. We will have to cut down places such as Gneevgullia and Rathmore, and it will be the same in Tralee and north Kerry. Tralee can be expanded but the people out in the country cannot get planning permission. There are also young people who are not able to get onto a county council housing list or a local authority housing list. They want to build houses for themselves. It is atrociously difficult to get permission but we believe that, because of this 2040 plan, it will become much worse and much more difficult to get permission in rural areas. If land is being zoned in one place, it will have to be dezoned in another place. That is totally unfair. I do not who the Planning Regulator is or where he is from and I do not believe he knows any part of Kerry. He is going by figures and he does not understand the reality and the issues that people have to contend with there.
Dairy farmers are being told they will have to cut their numbers. The Minister's colleague in Cork South-Central, the then Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Coveney, told farmers in 2013 that they would have to increase dairy production, that milk was the new white gold and that the Chinese would drink more milk. Now he and the Government are telling us that we must reduce the number of cows in our yards. It is the same with the suckler herd. After fellows broke their backs to increase the numbers to try to live, having been told by Teagasc and the farming organisations to build up their herds, they are now being told to switch off the lights and reduce the numbers. The very same scientist who gave the figures on methane gas 15 years ago and said farmers were destroying the environment has admitted he was 70% wrong. This is what is being done to poor farmers. They get up in the morning and work seven days of the week, 365 days a year, and they are being thrown around like this. The Minister has to understand they are being wronged.
Every man and woman on the road will from here on have to pay more in carbon tax, whether that is the young fella with the slats in his nose going to work at 6.30 a.m. or 7 a.m., the housewife taking the children to school, the employer employing people or the businessperson with a van. They will all suffer from carbon tax, all because the Government wants to stay in power and to keep following what the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications is telling us to do. He told us in 2007 to buy diesel cars and said they were the answer. While they may be durable, economical cars, now he wants us to get electric cars that have no durability and are not as carbon friendly as he says they are. He has been torn apart on that issue. Electric cars are not reliable or durable and they would not carry somebody as far as Killarney with the windscreen wipers, the radio and the lights turned on at the same time because they all draw energy from the battery. The driver would be stuck on the side of the road with his or her thumb out, asking some fella for a lift.