FG investment and stimulus plans for non-urban areas criticised by TDs

No guarantees for regional investment, deputies claim

Waterford Fine Gael TD John Deasy: “Efforts to balance investment throughout the country have failed. We now have a two-tier recovery.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Waterford Fine Gael TD John Deasy: “Efforts to balance investment throughout the country have failed. We now have a two-tier recovery.” Photograph: Cyril Byrne

 


The Government’s key stimulus plan is facing criticism from Fine Gael TDs for not allocating exact levels of investment to regions outside the major cities, with funding decided on a commercial basis instead.

The Irish Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) will be established in the coming months, and will match funding from the National Pension Reserve Fund with private capital.

There have been calls from deputies outside the major urban areas of Dublin, Cork and Galway for measures which would help benefit less-developed regions. The Department of Finance has said all decisions will be made on a commercial basis and will be treated the same. It pointed out projects from every region will be able to compete for funding.

Achieving a commercial return will be one of the principles of the investment fund, but Waterford Fine Gael TD John Deasy said this approach makes “a joke” of Government policy.

“Efforts to balance investment throughout the country have failed. We now have a two-tier recovery,” Mr Deasy said. “Based on the presentations given so far, the strategic fund has been designed with little or no consideration given to regional deficits.

“It’s the creation of a Dublin mindset, for Dublin, at the expense of almost everyone else. The only stimulus package this country will see for years has already been farmed out to private equity fund companies that have no conception of balanced development.”

Legislation establishing the ISIF, which will eventually replace the NPRF, is due to be published in the coming weeks.

Some €6.8 billion from the NPRF will be invested in commercial projects, and this will occur in tandem with private sector investment, which is expected to be of a similar size.

Fine Gael parliamentary party chairman Charlie Flanagan, a TD for Laois-Offaly, said a portion of the ISIF needs to be “ring-fenced for regions of prime importance”. He said “if you strip away Cork, Galway and Limerick” regional employment strategies have been a failure.


Midlands life
“Unemployment is a real feature of midlands life. Figures show the consistent net loss of jobs, year on year. The midlands is commuter belt, and the legacy of the Celtic Tiger has been houses, houses and more houses. Thousands commute to Dublin on a daily basis but we need to change policy, we need to bring jobs to the people, instead of people to jobs,” said Mr Flanagan. “There has been little IDA investment outside of the gateway town of Athlone and it sometimes seems as though the IDA has given up.

Donegal North-East TD Joe McHugh said it is “Government policy” there should be strategic investment in the northwest. “It is not a case of whether they should or there should or shouldn’t be – there has to be.”