Government faces Dáil grilling over €116bn plan

The Government is facing into three days of Dáil questioning on its Ireland 2040 plan unveiled on Friday.

Government faces Dáil grilling over €116bn plan

The €116bn plan to “re-imagine Ireland” will invest in infrastructure, housing, health and the environment over the next two decades.

It includes a €2bn urban regeneration and development fund, €1bn rural development fund, and €500m climate fund. However, the Government has been harshly criticised for not seeking a Dáil vote on the plan, which addresses how the country will cope as the population increases by one million in the next 20 years.

The high-profile launch in Sligo IT and a publicity campaign around Ireland 2040 has also been slammed by opposition parties.

Speaking ahead of the debate which begins tonight, Fianna Fáil spokesman on public expenditure Dara Calleary said: “If the Government were confident about the plan they would have announced it without spin and glitz in the Dáil. But they needed the spin and the glitz.”

He pointed to the €1bn which had been set aside for rural regeneration under the plan which he said contained only “vague promises”, adding that this and many other elements of the framework would have to be teased out in the Dáil.

However, Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring said money set aside for rural regeneration “is a game changer” for those living outside of urban areas.

“Let me make it clear that the rural regeneration fund represents €1bn in additional government investment in our rural towns, villages, and outlying rural areas to be administered by the Department of Rural and Community Development,” said Mr Ring.

“The additional investment under the rural regeneration and development fund will commence in 2019 and will ramp up incrementally over the first four years before reaching a steady level of investment. This will see a 60% increase in departmental funding next year and a doubling of expenditure within four years.”

Fianna Fáil housing spokesman Barry Cowen said the plan is “not what it says on the tin” and would be scrutinised by the opposition this week.

Separately, Children’s Minister Katherine Zappone is to bring changes to Cabinet to ensure the rights of children are fully protected in the courts.

Ms Zappone has already put forward new legislation which will see legal guardians appointed to vulnerable children who are affected by court cases.

However, she will ask her cabinet colleagues to approve further changes to the new rules that seek to tackle shortcomings in the system, which Ms Zappone has previously said is “not fit for purpose”.

The Department of Children hope the legislation will come before the Dáil before the summer recess.

The current Child Care Act 1991, does not set out the basic criteria for appointing guardians.

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