By Juno McEnroe, Political Correspondent
Leo Varadkar and the Government have launched a €116bn plan to prepare Ireland for the future following a special Cabinet meeting at the Institute of Technology in Sligo.
Multi-billion euro projects to support rural areas, build new hospitals and to fund start-up businesses have been unveiled today under the long-awaited national development plan (NDP).
A website NPF.ie has been set up to provide more information.
Project Ireland 2040 is planning for a future society which will have an additional one million people, and 660,000 more people at work.
It says three quarters of new growth will be outside Dublin, with 50% of the projected population growth planned for our towns, villages and rural areas and 50% for cities.
A number of high-profile projects are in the NDP, including the M20 between Limerick and Cork, plans for a second runway at Dublin Airport, and the Metro project in Dublin.
Health projects, including new hospitals, primary care projects, and upgraded units around the country will get some €14bn under the NDP.
€22bn is set aside for measures to tackle climate change, including plans to ban all non-zero emissions cars by 2030 and changing bus fleets to hybrids, and €500m to incentivise people to become more climate friendly by upgrading their homes and cars.
More than €8bn is being put towards developing the roads network including motorway upgrades and a dedicated Atlantic corridor to run from Donegal to Waterford.
€1bn is earmarked for the country's cultural institutions.
Transport initiatives include four new Luas lines (to Bray, Lucan, Finglas and Poolbeg) and a DART extension to Drogheda, Dunboyne and Maynooth.
Some of the key features of Project Ireland 2040 include:
- €8.4bn investment in primary and post primary schools, 50 large scale school projects annually with an additional 15,000 schools places annually;
- 2,600 extra acute hospital beds and three new dedicated ambulatory elective-only hospitals in Dublin, Cork and Galway to specifically tackle waiting lists;
- Extra primary care centres and more residential accommodation for mental health services and people with disabilities;
- €7.3bn for regional road accessibility investing in national roads across Ireland, plus €4.5 billion for regional and local, improving links to the north west and across the country;
- Building at least 25,000 homes a year by 2020, rising to 30-35,000 annually up to 2027;
- Providing social housing for 112,000 households over the next decade;
- Developing the Atlantic Corridor high-quality road network linking Cork, Limerick, Galway and Sligo;
- €2.2 billion investment in higher education infrastructure, including Public Private Partnership investment in 11 Institutes of Technology;
- Significant investment in bus and rail fleets, overhauling bus networks through the BusConnects programme in our cities, and transitioning to low emission buses;
- Investment in our airports and ports, including a second runway for Dublin Airport, a Regional Airports Programme and dedicated investment in Dublin, Cork and Shannon Foynes Port;
- A major investment programme in cultural institutions, regional arts centres, national parks and sports capital programme;
- Vacant or under-used land in villages, towns and cities will be put into use through a National Regeneration and Development Agency;
- Short-term delivery of the National Broadband Strategy ensuring coverage in villages, rural areas and islands;
- Develop the Metro Link in Dublin, expand DART to Drogheda, Celbridge, Maynooth and Greystones, and planning for the expansion of Luas;
- New segregated cycling and walking facilities and networks, especially in cities and towns;
- Bring unemployment rates in all regions down to within 1% of the national average;
- Ongoing focus on Foreign Direct Investment but giving equal priority to a local enterprise economy and setting up an Advanced Manufacturing Centre;
- Expanding the IDA Regional Property Programme;
- A particular focus on cooperation and joint development of border areas that open up potential for an all-island economy;
- A new runway for Dublin Airport, investment in Cork, Shannon Airports, and Ireland West Airport Knock, and for smaller airports;
- Major development of Dublin, Cork, Shannon-Foynes and other Ports,
- Upgrading energy insulation in 45,000 homes per annum from 2021;
- Significant investment in national cultural institutions.
Speaking at the launch, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said: “This marks a significant milestone in our country’s development, the point at which we put a lost decade behind us and move forward into a new decade of expansion. This is a plan for all our citizens – the old, the young, and the yet to be born, living in towns, in cities and in the countryside.
“It follows the spirit of Collins and Lemass, people who always strove to raise the prospects of every Irish citizen. It’s about ensuring that all parts of Ireland fulfil their potential. As we approach our 100th anniversary as a sovereign nation, it’s about investing to ensure our country is insulated against any possible challenges like Brexit. It’s a path to a positive, sustainable future.”
Two reports will come out of the launch today. While the €116bn National Development Plan sets out projects and infrastructure for the next decade, the National Planning Framework looks at rebalancing growth over the next two decades in rural and urban areas. The NPF will be put on a statutory footing, therefor ensuring local authorities follow up on the new spatial strategy.
However, Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin claimed many of the projects were being re-released, including hospital ad transport announcements. Mr Martin claimed the Project Ireland 2040 launch was a “hugely expensive marketing exercise” to essentially fund the an election manifesto for the Fine Gael government.
Some Opposition TDs also want to see the plans put before the Dail for a vote while there are also concerns that ministers and government backbenchers forced last minute changes to ensure their local areas are protected.