Government plans promise €14bn for health projects

Multibillion-euro projects to support rural areas, build new hospitals and to fund start-up businesses will be unveiled today under the long-awaited national development plan.

Some €14bn will go on health projects, including €250m for Cork hospitals, €900m for maternity relocation strategies, and almost €200m for new units in Galway and Beaumont among places.

The Irish Examiner can also reveal the Government will announce a new €500m technology innovation fund, to help support start-ups in health sciences, artificial intelligence and energy.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar will hold a a special Cabinet meeting in Sligo, after which Project Ireland 2040 will be launched.

This will include the national planning framework (NPF) and 10-year national development plan (NPD).

The NPF will chart plans for where people live, work and how they travel for the next 20 years.

The Government will put the rural and urban plans on a statutory footing, guaranteeing completion. The NDP outlines €115bn for major projects and infrastructure over the next decade.

Rows have already broken out though over the framework plan for rural Ireland, with disagreement over prioritising areas of the midlands. Restrictions for housing in rural areas is also a concern.

A number of high-profile projects will be unveiled under the NDP, including the M20 between Limerick and Cork, plans for a second runway at Dublin Airport, and the Metro North.

Other routes which will feature include the Macroom bypass in North Cork, which is considered key to improving access to Tralee, as well as improvements to the N86 road from Tralee to Dingle.

Health projects, including new hospitals, primary care projects, and upgraded units around the country will get some €14bn under the NDP.

There will be new ambulance bases at Ardee, Mullingar, Limerick, Cork, and Galway, and an upgrading of fleets. Some 90 community nursing homes will either be replaced or refurbished.

A special €500m technology fund from next year will allow start-ups compete for resources in areas such artificial intelligence, the sciences, and financial services.

Firms will be encouraged to team up with educational institutions and research bodies and attract private funding.

A climate change fund will include €1bn for flood defences and funds for home retrofits and reforestation.

The Irish Examiner also understands that under the planning framework, childcare will be prioritised.

Between now and 2040, the document will say the current €7m a year grants budget for childcare providers will rise to €50m, allowing major upgrades of creche and other facilities

In housing, the Government is expected to set the target of building 12,000 social homes a year from 2021.

Other proposals expected include a €1bn rural regeneration fund for rural towns.

Further initiatives, some already been announced, will include the National Children’s Hospital and the National Maternity Hospital, extra bed spaces in hospitals nationwide, a special Garda ICT programme and a primary, and post primary school building programme.

Regional airports and technology universities will also be included for upgrades or extra funding schemes under the plans.

Some critics of the future funding and planning are fearful that a strong focus on cities could result in smaller towns, villages and rural communities being overlooked for infrastructural needs and public investment over the next two decades while larger urban areas are encouraged to flourish.

However, Mr Varadkar and ministers maintain 75% of population growth will be outside Dublin, with 50% in rural towns and villages and say this will be catered for in Project Ireland 2040.

Cork will particularly benefit from new hospitals, major road networks, arts and events funding.

A new hospital will be announced, merging existing facilities. Cork will also get a standalone elective-only facility, along with Galway and Dublin. 

These will cater solely for patients on public waiting lists for surgeries such as knee replacements.

There will also be a new dental hospital for UCC. Extra money will also be injected into plans for the 6,000 event centre.


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