Opposition TDs demand changes to ‘Ireland 2040’ draft plan

A group of prominent opposition TDs have united in protest over the Government’s soon-to-be-published National Planning Framework – Ireland 2040.

The group – called the ‘Coalition Against the National Planning Framework’ – consists of Labour Party Health spokesperson Alan Kelly, independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice, Fianna Fail Rural Affairs spokesman Eamon O’Ciuv and Sinn Fein Housing spokesman Eoin O Broin.

The group members have come together over the last month due to “shared frustrations and concerns” over the 20-year infrastructure investment plan for the country – which is being prepared by the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government.

This plan will decide on investment, infrastructure and spatial strategies around Ireland up to 2040.

The group – which will hold a public meeting at the Hudson Bay Hotel in Athlone tonight at 8:00pm – insists it will not support the plan in its current draft format and is calling for it to be “considerably altered”.

Speaking to AgriLand, Fitzmaurice, a representative of the Galway-Roscommon constituency, claimed that the plan presents a “flawed outlook” of capital infrastructure needs in rural and urban areas.

“If we want a vision for the next 20 years; the reality is, it is not in this plan.

“When you draw a line from Galway to Dublin, everything north of that is excluded including Sligo and Donegal. Does the Government basically want to it as a wild theme park?

“There is nothing in it on where we are going with public transport. For Mayo to develop we need a dual carriageway from Mullingar to Westport,” he said.

“And from Letterkenny to Derry we need joined-up thinking. For people in Letterkenny to at least have a chance of getting business into the county we need to make sure there is a proper road infrastructure.”

Fitzmaurice also raised concerns over “a lack of clarity” on future plans for rail nationwide; additionally he takes issue with “shortcomings” on future plans for Cork, Shannon and Limerick airports.

The class of 2018 of politicians have a policy to leave a legacy for the next generation and if we do this wrong you won’t have a rural Ireland in 50 years. It will be a disaster.

Fitzmaurice said the ‘Ireland 2040’ is also weak on urban development. “It’s not good for cities either; there is deprivation in cities and there is no plan for future sustainability.

“Dublin is bursting. We know that the population will increase; but where are the structural plans for the city? If we don’t alter this plan we won’t have functional cities.”

Although the group is not opposed to the entire plan, Fitzmaurice stresses that there is a huge responsibility on every politician to ensure the “best possible plan” is voted through by the Dail.

“We want to get a very clear message to Government, and officials, who are putting this plan together. That is: It won’t be allowed to get through the Dail unless it’s right,” he said.

Over the coming weeks the new coalition group will hold a series of meetings in each of the provinces to raise awareness of the forthcoming national plan.

“The main aim is to make sure that this plan is good for everyone in the country. We’re going to drum up support because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get things right,” he concluded.