Investment in transport projects such as ports, airports and roads will be increased to ensure Ireland has adequate infrastructure to cope with new trading arrangements after Brexit.
A revision of the Government’s capital investment programme up to 2021 will see €2.6 billion in unallocated money given to projects designed to improve Ireland’s economic competitiveness.
Minister for Public Expenditure Paschal Donohoe and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan on Tuesday announced the opening stages of the revision, which will be completed in time for the October budget.
Mr Donohoe confirmed that speeding up the construction of Metro North, as reported by The Irish Times, is under consideration.
Mr Donohoe said there is an additional €2.6 billion available up to 2021 that has yet to be allocated to any specific projects.
The initial capital programme contained €27 billion in direct exchequer funding for infrastructure spending, and this rose to €42 billion when semi-State and public private partnerships were taken into account.
Mr Donohoe added an additional €5.1 billion to this in last year’s summer economic statement, although some of this has been allocated to specific areas already such as €2.2 billion to housing. The review will focus on allocating the remaining €2.6 billion.
Mr Noonan also said he is in talks with the European Investment Bank (EIB) to secure even more funding, which can then be kept off the State balance sheet. He said he hoped to be in a position to announce further details in late summer.
On specific investment projects, Mr Noonan said “we will have to pay more attention to ports”.
“If we live by trade, we need to increase the capacity of ports and if there are inhibitions on trading with the UK as a result of the Brexit negotiations, we’ll need to expand the ports. Our tourist industry is going very well so airports will be important.”
Mr Donohoe also indicated airports are likely to be a priority, and said Dublin Airport is “working very hard on the delivery of the second parallel runway”.
"This offers an unbelievable opportunity to this airport to build on its current status as the sixth-busiest airport in Europe and further deepen connectivity."
Mr Donohoe, a TD for Dublin Central, also said Dublin Port would soon be able to deal with the largest vessels in the world and further investments around Cork Port were likely to connect it to the national roads network.
“What we now have to address is, in the light of Brexit, how we can better link up pieces of infrastructure like that so that they are operating in a more integrated manner and supporting the competitive advantages Ireland will have to deliver in a more competitive world.”
A rising population would also mean further investment in public transport, as well as schools and hospitals, Mr Noonan said.