Contracts signed for road projects, government formation talks told

Party negotiators discussed plans in Project Ireland 2040 policy

Project Ireland 2040 was one the flagship initiatives of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s time at the helm of the Fine Gael-Independent minority government in the last Dáil. Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall

Project Ireland 2040 was one the flagship initiatives of Taoiseach Leo Varadkar’s time at the helm of the Fine Gael-Independent minority government in the last Dáil. Photograph: Leon Farrell/Photocall

Your Web Browser may be out of date. If you are using Internet Explorer 9, 10 or 11 our Audio player will not work properly.
For a better experience use Google Chrome, Firefox or Microsoft Edge.

 

A significant number of roads projects committed to by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar must go ahead because contracts have already been signed to build them, the government-formation talks have been told.

Negotiators from Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party discussed the plans contained in Mr Varadkar’s flagship Project Ireland 2040 policy in one of the sessions on the economy earlier this week.

The Greens have previously criticised the plan as allocating the bulk of State investment towards roads, which the party claimed would lead to longer commute times and urban sprawl.

Party figures had suggested it would seek to rebalance investment away from roads and towards more environmentally sustainable transport options such as cycling and public transport.

However, it is understood the Greens have largely accepted that contracts which have been signed cannot be broken.

Sources close to the talks said a session on Project Ireland 2040 earlier this week was told that contracts for a significant number of the roads projects in the plan have been signed, and that the projects must go ahead.

It is understood that the N5 road project linking Turlough outside Castlebar to Westport in Co Mayo was specifically cited.

Land Development Agency

Among the other concerns held by some Greens are over the Land Development Agency (LDA), which key figures in Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Greens envisage playing a major role in increasing the supply of homes.

Some Greens believe, however, that the LDA, which aims to encourage the development of State-owned lands, would effectively see the State hand land over to private developers. This charge is rejected by those close to Fine Gael, and Fianna Fáil sources have said the party’s main concern is increasing the supply of homes.

Project Ireland 2040 was one the flagship initiatives of Mr Varadkar’s time at the helm of the Fine Gael-Independent minority government in the last Dáil.

Launched in February 2018, it envisaged €5.7 billion being spent on national road schemes, including the €0.9 billion Cork to Limerick motorway as well a further €4.5 billion on local and regional roads.

In a letter to the National Bus and Rail Union earlier this month, Mr Varadkar said that the MetroLink and BusConnects projects in the plan would go ahead, adding: “The new government will want to review Project Ireland 2040 and, as part of that, consideration will be given to further investment in cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, the Navan-Dunboyne rail line, investment in electric and hydrogen-fuelled buses, among other suggestions.”

Fianna Fáil sources have also said that Project Ireland 2040 would be reviewed.

The talks are continuing, with negotiations on social protection – including whether to raise the pension age, a key issue in the general election campaign – expected to take place later in the week.

Prior to its last term in government between 2007 and 2011, the Greens campaigned on rerouting the M3 motorway away from the Hill of Tara.

However, the party failed to get this commitment from Fianna Fáil before it entered office.