Government urged to proceed with LRT

THE Government has been urged by An Taisce to proceed "without delay" on a light rail transit (LRT) network for Dublin, so that…

THE Government has been urged by An Taisce to proceed "without delay" on a light rail transit (LRT) network for Dublin, so that there would be a real alternative to private cars in providing access to the city centre.

Prof Frank Convery, An Taisce's chairman, described as "unwise" a promise made by the Minister for Transport, Mr Lowry, last week to look again at an underground option because of the temporary disruption to business during the installation of an LRT system.

He said the allegation that many businesses would "go to the wall" was not borne out by experience in other cities.

In his latest environmental commentary, Prof Con very also denied that An Taisce's opposition to unrestricted road building came from having "an anti car bias just for the hell of it, a sort of self indulgence born out of a love of sandals, bicycles and lentils".

Responding to recent criticism, he cited a 1995 OECD study which concluded that more balance was needed in transportation policy and that building more roads in urban areas would encourage more traffic, leading in turn to more congestion.

He also accused the Government of "delinquency" over, its failure to produce a list of sites for protection under the EU Habitats Directive, as it was obliged to do last June. This directive was regarded by An Taisce as "an anchor of Ireland's conservation strategy".

It was also "bizarre in the extreme" that the Minister for Arts and Culture, Mr Higgins, was not prepared to publish the report of an inter departmental working group on listed buildings, he said.

Turning to Mutton Island, Prof Convery said the Minister for the Environment's decision to proceed with the controversial Galway Bay sewage treatment plant in defiance of the European Commission's objections "gets to the very heart" of its role in allocating EU grant aid.

He said EU treaties would have to be changed if Mr Howlin was correct in his contention that the Commission did not have the right to vet major infrastructural projects in Ireland and elsewhere, funded by European taxpayers, and was confined merely to "procedural matters".

Prof Convery queried whether Ireland's "total envelope" of aid from, the Cohesion Fund would remain the same, with the Government able to switch money to other projects, or if it would actually be cut by an amount equivalent to the aid earmarked for Mutton Island.

Though he could understand Mr Howlin's "frustration" at having the £25 million project subjected to scrutiny by the Commission, Prof Convery said he believed it was "untenable" for the Minister to suggest that the Commission did not have any authority to carry out such an audit.

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald

Frank McDonald, a contributor to The Irish Times, is the newspaper's former environment editor