Work on Metro linking Dublin city and airport to take a decade

Capital plan projects include children’s hospital, maternity services, motorway upgrades

The Government has said it will take a decade before Metro North, the centre-piece of its new capital plan, will begin operations.

The six-year plan, which involves €27 billion in spending, identifies all the major State infrastructure projects from 2016 to 2021.

It was announced on Tuesday in Heuston Station by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, Tánaiste Joan Burton, Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin and Minister for Transport Paschal Donohoe.

The multi-annual investment programme was drawn up by Mr Howlin.  He emphasised the importance of a transport network to move goods and allow people to move quickly and safely throughout the country.

“We also need to provide public services efficiently and effectively. Well designed facilities is a key enabler for this,” he said.

It was disclosed that Mr Donohoe’s department will be allotted €8billion, or almost a third of the budget. Its single biggest project, the €2.4 billion 16.5km Metro North, will connect the city centre with the airport and Swords and will include two underground sections. Construction will start around 2021 with a view to completion by 2026.

Other big projects include the children’s hospital, modernised maternity facilities in Dublin, motorway improvements, flood defences and a €3.8 billion package for education.

The Taoiseach emphasised the program was sensible, sustainable and economically viable. He also dismissed any suggestion that there was bias towards Dublin at the expense of rural Ireland.

He and Ms Burton emphasised that 45,000 jobs would be created, most during the construction phase.

Mr Kenny accepted that the programme could not cater for everything that the Government wanted to do.

"I can give a political thesaurus from Malin Head to Wexford of things that could have been included," he said. "One of the most important things you have to say when you're in a government that's serious about the recovery of the country is: 'No'."

Mr Kenny said he had to turn down requests “from many Ministers, from many departments” as “the money is simply not there”.

“I am not placing Ireland back in hock again. This is an affordable, realistic plan.”

Ms Burton said it was one further all indication that the economy was on the road to recovery.

She said the plan was worth €42 billion when private investment raised by State-backed companies was included. In addition to the 45,000 jobs the plan would generate, she said, it would also lead to huge improvement in the quality of life for Irish citizens.

Among the major road projects are:

- Improvements to the N5 between Westport and Turlough, Co Mayo

- M7 Naas to Newbridge Bypass widening

- N22 Ballyvourney to Macroom

- Moycullen Bypass in Co Galway

- Sallins Bypass in Co Kildare

- Improvements to the N56 between Dungloe and Glenties, Co Donegal

- Improvements to the N4 from Colooney to Castlebaldwin, Co Sligo.

- The N8/N25 Dunkettle Interchange in Co Cork.

Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald has been allocated more than €1 billion including money for two public private partnership projects - the new family law and children’s court complex in Hammond Lane, Dublin, and a project to build new Garda stations. In addition, around €205 million will be allotted to Garda technology as well as €46 million for renewal of the Garda transport fleet.

In education, much of the €3.8 billion funding will be spent on school buildings to accommodate a further 19,000 places in primary schools until 2018 and a further 43,000 in post-primary schools until 2022.

Some of the €3 billion healthcare provisions will be spent on the children’s hospital (€650 million in total) and on new maternity hospital facilities in Dublin, replacing the Rotunda, Coombe and Holles Street.

Ms Burton said the plan will make an additional €100 million available to fund the relocation of the remaining two Dublin maternity hospitals - the Coombe to St James’s, and the Rotunda to Blanchardstown.

A total of €300 million has been approved for heritage and culture projects, Minster for the Arts and Heritage Heather Humphreys confirmed. They include some €30 million for 1916 centenary projects such as the GPO, Moore Street and the Tenement Museum.

A total of €275 million has also been approved for the first phase of the National Broadband Scheme, overseen by Minister for Communications Alex White.

Harry McGee

Harry McGee

Harry McGee is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times