Taoiseach hails ‘unprecedented’ development plan

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Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA) (PA Wire)
Taoiseach Micheal Martin (Brian Lawless/PA) (PA Wire)

The Taoiseach has described Ireland’s new national development plan as “unprecedented in scale” and one that will shape Ireland’s response to the housing crisis and the challenge of climate change.

The new plan, described by ministers on Monday as “gigantic”, promises 165 billion euro (£141.4 billion) in funding for a range of projects over a 10-year-period.

Taoiseach Micheal Martin said: “This is an important day in what has been an exhaustive and comprehensive review.”

He added: “The plan gives clarity about Government investment over the next decade.

“We will respond to the housing crisis, we will react to the climate emergency.”

Mr Martin promised that the national development plan would “drive the next stage of our post-pandemic recovery”.

He said that Ireland’s revised development plan was the “largest and most environmentally conscious development plan in the history of the state”.

“We will enable the transformation of our health service, delivering the investment framework necessary for the implementation of Slaintecare,” he said.

He also announced fresh funding to support cross-border projects on the island of Ireland up to 2030.

The Irish premier said the plan would deliver “regionally balanced growth” to the country.

In recent days focus has been on certain road projects, as well as whether there would be clarity in the plan on when the stalled Dublin MetroLink project might be completed.

The plan says that the completion date for the project, which will consist of a 19km railway service between Swords and Dublin city centre, still has to be confirmed.

Tanaiste Leo Varadkar said that significant progress had already been made on various projects, even against the backdrop of a pandemic.

“This isn’t simply an updating of the last NDP. Rather, it’s a strengthening of the plan,” he said.

“We will borrow to invest in public infrastructure, in schools and healthcare and housing.

“In climate action, trains, buses and roads. And I’m convinced that this is the right approach.”

He said the plan would deliver new opportunities to rural Ireland.

“I think the pandemic has illustrated the real potential that rural Ireland has for the 21st century.”

Earlier, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform told RTE radio that the Government will “honour” its commitment to a two-to-one spending ratio on public transport to roads as part of its national development plan.

Michael McGrath said public transport needs “transformative change”, which he said is provided for in the Government’s revised plan.

Speaking at the press conference on Monday afternoon, Mr McGrath said it is the “largest and the greenest” capital investment plan in the history of the state.

He said the 165 billion euro the Government has committed is an increase of 50 billion euro on its previous plan.

“We will spend, over the next four years in the lifetime of this government, direct exchequer capital funding of almost 50 billion euro,” Mr McGrath said.

“So, the ambitions here are on a scale the like of which we have never seen before, record levels of investment.

“We believe it is a plan that is achievable and that, when implemented, it will make a major difference in many areas in the life of our country and our people.

“The economic benefits of this plan will be very considerable. The employment impact, as set out in the analysis carried out by my department, estimates an annual average job total of about 81,000 people working in direct and indirect construction jobs to implement this national development plan.

“Through supporting the largest public housing programme in the history of the state, the NDP will deliver an average of 6,000 affordable homes each year.”

Ministers also insisted on Monday that the aim was to see all projects have the necessary oversight in place to ensure they deliver “value for money”.

Mr Martin also rejected the idea, when asked by reporters, that the plan was simply a “wish list” of projects.

“We need to modernise our infrastructure, we need to modernise our country,” he said.

“It is not a wish list, it was a very determined approach to modernising our country.”

However, he did say that the plan had to be “flexible”.

Asked about the plan’s 30 roads projects, Mr Martin said: “A lot depends on the journey of those individual projects through the planning processes, through the statutory process.”

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