Tuesday, 8 October 2019
Budget 2020: Statements
We hope never to have to spend a substantial portion of the money allocated in this budget. That money has been provided assist people in coping with a no-deal Brexit. I welcome that the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, identified areas in which support will be provided. Agriculture, enterprise and tourism are at the top of the list. Unfortunately, in the west and north west, where I am based, those industries will be most severely impacted. We do not want that to be the case but this is the reality and we have to plan for it.
The Minister of State has mentioned many good things in the budget relating to education, health, younger children and the extension of healthcare provisions such as general practitioner visit cards to older people over 70. It would not be right for me to list it all again but these are very welcome measures that will have a positive impact on citizens' daily lives, whether they are accessing education or healthcare.
I am especially happy with the provision for the Office of Public Works in respect of the construction of flood defences in Crossmolina in the coming year. This announcement has been warmly welcomed by the people of Crossmolina. I pay tribute to them because they have shown great patience. They have had their homes and businesses flooded and now have no insurance on their properties. If one cannot get insurance on property and it is liable to flooding, one cannot sell it and it is difficult to get a loan in order to do anything with it. The town centre in Crossmolina will be in limbo until this is done. It was flagged in the €430 million Government capital programme and money is to be spent on it in the coming year. The most significant issue for us is that planning permission was required before the money could be spent.Environmental designation is a major stumbling block in achieving timely development, be it of flood defences or roads. We really are unduly burdened. I would not advocate being reckless about the environment but a call has to be made and a balance has to be struck. Right now, whether under the birds directive or the habitats directive, the balance is in favour of wildlife, habitats and species. That is reality. We are not talking about remote, isolated areas, as people in cities might sometimes believe but places where people are living. It seems their socioeconomic objectives cannot be reconciled with conservation objectives. The people seem to be last on the list. These are realities.
The Crossmolina initiative is very good news and we want to drive on with it. The consultants and OPW are being closely watched regarding how they deal with overcoming the environmental investigation on this matter. I had many hard conversations about this with the responsible Minister of State, Deputy Moran, privately and in this Chamber. I am glad that it is on his watch and under his budget that we will see the money spent. I pay tribute to his predecessors, one of whom was the current Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris. Before that-----