The Government is set to ignore expert calls not to build a motorway between Cork and Limerick amid claims its multi-billion euro national framework plan is an electioneering attempt to “give something to everyone” and win over voters.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar yesterday confirmed the long-awaited motorway will be included in the national framework plan when it is published on Friday, despite report expert Edgar Morgenroth saying it makes “no economic sense” to do so.
ESRI researcher Mr Morgenroth — whose work has formed the basis of the Government’s national framework plan on how to help spread economic growth over the next two decades — said that while projects such as the Cork-Limerick motorway are wanted, they carry serious drawbacks.
Saying the motorway is “exactly the wrong thing” to develop because it will risk increasing population sprawl and “undermine” the wider national investment plan, he said it and other projects are “parish pump politics” that are “totally counter-productive”.
“Einstein once said stupidity is doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different outcome and that’s exactly where we are,” said Mr Morgenroth.
However, despite the criticism, the Taoiseach insisted that the Cork-Limerick motorway will still go ahead.
“We are going to link Cork and Limerick,” he said. “We think that makes sense. Galway and Limerick are already linked together and, for the first time, all motorways do not lead to Dublin. Connecting Limerick to Cork will enable them to grow faster than Dublin in the years ahead.
“Think of the towns around the way that will benefit.”
He added that the national framework plan is not designed to give “something for everyone” but is about making “real decisions”.
The €850m Cork to Limerick motorway has been repeatedly called for by west coast politicians due to the benefits it will bring to cities outside of Ireland.
It will be included in this week’s €115bn national framework plan report, which has undergone a number of changes since backbench TD concerns were raised over an initial draft last year.
While the changes are expected to see investment in all areas of the country, former finance department secretary general John Moran raised concerns over altering initial plans yesterday, saying: “If somebody has spent a year and a half coming up with a single plan and figuring out how you would get that to operate, and when you suddenly, in the last week or two, start adding in new things without proper consideration, that’s incredibly worrying.”
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