Dáil debates

Tuesday, 9 July 2024

Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

 

2:35 pm

Photo of Matt ShanahanMatt Shanahan (Waterford, Independent)

As the Taoiseach and the Government contemplate the budget, which one way or another will be the last budget before we all face the people, I ask him again to attend to the parts of the country left behind. Reflecting on the French election, which has a kernel of learning for us in Ireland, like Macron's coalition of the centre ground, since 2016, we have effectively had the traditional parties of government, Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, sticking together to hold out what the centre perceives as the fringes. In France, it is the far right, and here it has been Sinn Féin and the hard left. In this political Faustian pact between old foes, parts of the country and society in France and in Ireland are left behind in their anger. I hear politicians in this House decrying hate speech and the coarsening of political life, wondering, gormlessly, where all this anger is coming from, without once considering their own part in whipping it up by leaving parts of the country and society to stew in their own juices without the hope and economic progress they so desire. Our farmers were told by Fine Gael Ministers to increase the herd, to drive on and scale up. They were also told new regulations would be brought forward so that rather than preparing, we now have a whole sector of the economy exposed to one bad year. Many farm families are questioning their economic futures.

In my region, just like every other region apart from Dublin and Cork, all strategic projects are stuck in departmental reviews. When the Taoiseach came into office, I asked him to advance three things promised by this Government which he now leads.

All I asked the Government to do was to provide funding to implement the 24-7 south-east cardiac care that was promised by the Tánaiste, Deputy Micheál Martin, in that infamous photo. I asked for funding to be provided to deliver the long-promised runway extension at Waterford Airport, and to address the public private partnership engineering build at SETU, which has been promised since 2009. The Taoiseach reaffirmed, as others have for years, that these are priorities for him and the Government, but none are done despite four and a half years of promises to add to so many previous promises. To my mind, these are fundamental breaches of the Government's political compact with the people. Irish people want and deserve excellent public services such as schools, hospitals, childcare, airports, public transport, roads and accommodation. We see many countries with these things and wonder why we cannot have them. These are the things that make ordinary life so much better and more liveable.

As we face another giveaway budget, will the Taoiseach make an attempt to keep his promises and make sure that more than 70% of the capital allocation in the budget is spent outside Dublin and Cork? Will the Government address the places and the people it has ignored for a generation? Waterford and the south east expect delivery in the upcoming budget. Although the efforts to date have been laudable, they have fallen far and dismally short.

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