Thursday, 1 April 2021
Project Ireland 2040: Motion [Private Members]
Mairead Farrell (Galway West, Sinn Fein)
I am sharing time with Deputies Carthy, Munster and Ó Laoghaire. I feel under a bit of pressure because I do not think I will be able to top the previous contribution. I ask Deputies not to judge me.
I commend the Rural Independent Group on bringing forward the motion and allowing us to have this debate. It is really important, as is the issue of development on a regionally balanced basis for all of us who live west of the River Shannon in particular, although I would say that because I am a Galway woman. Since the launch of Project Ireland 2040 and the NDP, the socioeconomic environment that underpinned both has changed drastically . We have seen that in terms of the chronic under-delivery of public housing. There is a severe housing crisis throughout the country, as Deputy Healy-Rae pointed out in regard to rural areas. There have been massive cost overruns on key projects such as the national children's hospital and others, which has severely impacted on the delivery of those projects as well as the commencement of other key projects.
Alongside this, we are dealing with the economic consequences of a global pandemic coupled with Brexit and other factors, including the fact that the Oireachtas having since declared a climate emergency means our economy faces a three-fold threat. The call to review the NDP, therefore, was timely and welcome. I have been harping on about the following point over the past year since I was elected. Ireland's stock and quality of public infrastructure is very poor by international standards. As was highlighted this week when we were debating the rural plan, the infrastructure in rural areas simply is not there. The quality of roads is totally inadequate, as is that of the water infrastructure, the sewerage system and, of course, broadband. The quality is simply not there for people. There is also a lack of schools and hospitals, compounded by the fact that poorly balanced regional development has diminished so many people's standard of living and negatively affected the economy's capacity to grow in a more balanced, sustainable and equitable manner.
We see this especially in the EU's designation of the Border, midlands and western area, which has lost its developed status as it relates to EU regional development and has been downgraded to the status of "in transition". Project Ireland 2040 proposes to redress many of these deficiencies by committing to €116 billion in capital spending for the period from 2018 to 2027. Exchequer funding allocated for public capital investment over that period amounts to €91 billion, with the remainder coming from State-owned enterprises. This works out at approximately €760 million per annum in additional funding from the Exchequer over the ten-year period. This level of investment in capital infrastructure is wholly inadequate to deal with the level of challenge we face in key areas, some of which I have mentioned, such as the areas of housing, healthcare, education and childcare, especially if one is to look at it in terms of regionally balanced development. Sinn Féin has continuously called for extra money to be put into capital expenditure to act as a stimulus over and above what has been already committed.
We hear from the Central Bank that the country will face high levels of unemployment in the long term and we hear from the business sector that many business people are very concerned that they will not be able to return to work after the pandemic. We really need a regionally balanced injection of money into capital investment. We know the jobs multiplier effect that arises from such investment is high and that the benefits are great. We are not stuck for capital investment projects that need attention. Táim chun Céibh Ros an Mhíl a ardú leis an Aire arís eile. Is infreastruchtúr fíorthábhachtach é don cheantar. Dúradh go soiléir sa tuairisc anailíse agus tairbhe maidir leis an gcéibh domhainmhara i Ros an Mhíl in 2017 gur togra fiúntach a bhí ann agus go mbeadh tairbhe suntasach agus dearfach ann don phobal agus don gheilleagar mórthimpeall ag gabháil leis. Sa straitéis nua do cheantair thuaithe a sheol an Rialtas le gairid, is ar chianobair sna réigiúin atá an bhéim ar fad. In éindí leis sin, caithfimid tógáil ar na hacmhainní nádúrtha atá ag pobail thuaithe agus infheistíocht chuí a dhéanamh chun fostaíocht seasta fadtéarmach a chruthú. Tá súil agam go mbreathnóidh an tAire air sin.