The Cork to Limerick road was not currently an approved project under the Government’s capital expenditure plans but was nonetheless cited in the Luxembourg talks as the type of scheme that could be unlocked with “innovative” support from the European Investment Bank, a spokesman for the finance minister said.
The talks involved ways the bank could lend support possibly leading to the costs of projects such as the Cork to Limerick road being kept off the national balance sheet.
Business groups have long called for a significant upgrade in the Cork to Limerick road, saying it is the type of infrastructural spending that is needed to help Munster compete with the Dublin region for foreign investments.
Speaking before the meeting, Werner Hoyer bank president said the bank, which funds projects across Europe, was starting to engage with Ireland in new ways. “The two-day visit to the European Investment Bank headquarters by ministers Noonan and Donohoe comes at a turning point for the EU Bank’s engagement in Ireland.
“In recent years the European Investment Bank has supported Ireland’s impressive recovery across key sectors, with projects around the country, and we look forward to working closely to ensure a strong future for the country by backing small business and tackling infrastructure needs.
“The broad focus of the European Investment Bank’s involvement in Ireland would not have been possible without the firm resolve of Minister Noonan to ensure that no opportunities were lost to overcome challenges and unlock transformational new investment,” Mr Hoyer said.
The Irish ministers said the meeting was designed “to explore new funding opportunities for Irish infrastructure”.
They said the bank already funds projects across Ireland in transport, education, housing, and healthcare, as well as helping SMEs and exporters.
Mr Noonan said the talks covered firms and industries here that will need extra support because of Brexit. They also discussed using public-private partnerships to fund projects.