‘Another cock-up’ or ‘visionary’? Politicians and industry react to the NDP

There is a clear divide between the business and industry sectors and the political sphere

Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice and Green Party leader Eamon Ryan discuss the needs of rural Ireland versus Dublin as the National Plan 2040 is released by the government. Video: Enda O'Dowd

 

As reaction to the National Development Plan emerges, there is a clear divide between the business and industry sectors which have broadly welcomed news of investment, and political claims of a cynical recasting of old ideas that fall short of expectations. Here are some of those initial perspectives:

Fianna Fáil, Dara Calleary: The party’s spokesperson on public expenditure and reform said the plan was an exercise in repackaging previous schemes, and claimed 179 earlier projects, and over €40 billion in funding, had simply been rolled in.

“Today’s launch is nothing more than a major marketing campaign,” he said. “[IT] looks good on paper, but the real test is in the delivery,” he said.

Labour, Jan O’Sullivan: The party’s spokeswoman on housing and local government, enterprise and innovation said the strategy was “another cock-up”.

“How can this plan be on a statutory basis if it is agreed and published before the law to put it on a statutory basis is passed?” she asked.

Social Democrats, Catherine Murphy: The party’s co-leader said much of the plan was “laudable” but questioned the Government’s ability to deliver.

“Ambitious housing targets are being set in the plan but Government has an appalling track record on delivery including a complete inability to even accurately count house completion numbers,” she said.

Green Party, Eamon Ryan: The party’s leader said it has concerns around public transport and housing. “The loosening of restrictions on one-off housing will see up to 60 per cent of future housing development outside villages, towns, and cities,” he said. “This, without real, tangible plans for public transport, is a recipe for further sprawl and traffic chaos.”

People Before Profit, Bríd Smith: The TD said the plan was a “fantasy and a fraud”.

“We are being promised pie in the sky, but only by 2040, we will have new hospitals, houses and trains, but only by 2040. This National Development Plan is simply a pre-election gimmick by Varadkar’s spin team,” she said.

Ibec, Danny McCoy: The business representative group said Project Ireland 2040 is a “new era for ambition and investment”.

“For some time now, Ibec has identified a lack of investment in the economy as a major constraint to progress,” its chief executive said . “The €116 billion 10 year investment plan, which will see capital spending exceed 4 per cent of economic output, is visionary and comprehensive.”

Construction Industry Federation (CIF), Tom Parlon: The organisation’s director general said the plan was a “potential game changer” and could give construction companies the confidence to invest.

“Many of the projects outlined in Ireland 2040 will take a decade to complete,” said Parlon. “Forward planning and engagement must begin as soon as possible; this could be the difference between major projects starting in two years instead of five.”

The Irish Congress of Trade Unions’: The Construction Industry Committee (CIC) said the plan must prioritise high standards of training, work and pay.

CIC spokesperson Billy Wall said the investment plan “requires high standards of training and employment to ensure we create and develop the necessary skills.”

Chambers Ireland said it welcomed the fact that submissions made by chambers of commerce around the country “have significantly impacted upon the final Project Ireland 2040”.

“The National Planning Framework is an ambitious plan for growth and the coordination of the National Development Plan with it sets out a clear, long-term vision for the future development of the country and puts solid funding commitments behind it,” it said.

Dublin Chamber, Mary Rose Burke: The organisation’s chief executive said the comprehensive plan is “much-needed to ensure Ireland is able to handle the growth and opportunities that are coming its way over the coming two decades and beyond”.

“The potential is there for Project 2040 to transform Ireland and to ensure that the country grows in a structured and sustainable way,” she said . “We particularly welcome the emphasis in Project 2040 on growing Ireland’s main cities. This is in keeping with global trends and very much in line with the submissions made by Dublin Chamber.”

The Irish Hospital Consultants Association (IHCA), Dr Tom Ryan: The organisation’s president said €10.9 billion in capital funding for the health services is “an important first step in addressing the overwhelming acute hospital capacity deficits”.

He said the current hospital crisis was due to inpatient beds being cut by 1,400 in the past decade. However, he said the NDP proposal to supply 2,600 acute beds fell short of requirements.

Irish Cancer Society, Donal Buggy: Head of services and advocacy said the plan will bring about “significant change in how cancer is treated” if capital funding is provided for the appropriate facilities.

“Investment in a comprehensive cancer centre would mean better treatment, better quality of life and better outcomes for patients,” he said.

Irish Farmers Association (IFA), Joe Healy: The organisation’s president welcomed the allocation of €1 billion for a new Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.

He said many of the recommendations submitted by the IFA had been taken onboard, particularly the need for rural housing, renewable energy, the regeneration of rural towns and villages, and the urgent need to deliver on the National Broadband Strategy.

Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), Pat McCormack: The ICMSA president said while additional funding for rural areas is welcome, the plan will ultimately be judged on the level of implementation organisations actually see.

“The €1 billion Rural Regeneration Fund is a real step in the right direction but looked at over a 10-year period will that sum be sufficient given the massive need for investment in rural areas?”

Irish Planning Institute (IPI), Joe Corr: The president said, “Good planning is evidence based. The framework proposed today sets out four cities and five towns outside Dublin as growth centres.”

“That is one more than the eight gateway cities in the Spatial Strategy of 2002. The evidence of the past 15 years is that this didn’t work.”

Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI) said Ireland could not afford to take actions that result in any poor quality development decisions. “It is imperative that procurement, planning and regulatory systems are focused on championing quality in the built environment that positions Ireland as a leader in international best practice in sustainable, quality, value driven development,” it said.

Engineers Ireland, Caroline Spillane: The organisation’s director general described the plan as a “critically important framework” for the sustainable development of the country.

She said Engineers Ireland had long advocated planning that is evidence-based, long-term and divorced from the electoral cycle but said the Government should establish a single infrastructure authority to oversee its implementation, placed on a statutory footing.

Irish Universities Association (IUA), representing seven institutions, welcomed the pledge to invest €2.2 billion in capital expenditure in the higher education sector over the next decade.

“This marks a significant milestone for the sector following almost a decade of under-investment in the building facilities programme during the recession years,” it said. The expansion in research funding was also welcomed.

Peter McVerry Trust, Pat Doyle: The chief executive welcomed the goal of 550,000 new homes by 2040.

“This plan provides a long term vision to invest in housing and other critical areas such as education which ultimately will have a positive impact on efforts to tackle homelessness,” he said. “It’s important that within the 550,000 homes to be provided that the appropriate amount of social and affordable homes be provided.”