Taoiseach rules out further railway line closures in Dáil

Fianna Fáil leader challenges Government’s record on rural development

Passengers at  Heuston station in  Dublin.  Photograph: Eric Luke

Passengers at Heuston station in Dublin. Photograph: Eric Luke

 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has ruled out the closure of rural rail lines due to budget cuts.

Mr Varadkar told the Dáil on Tuesday the Government could now invest in rail lines and had increased its subvention to Iarnroid Eireann.

“In the past 10 years, much of which involved a very difficult period of budget cutbacks, rail lines were not closed down,’’ he said

Defending the Government’s record on rural development, he said he had appointed Michael Ring as Minister for Rural & Community Development.

He said 80 per cent of jobs created in the last quarter were outside the Dublin area, exceeding the Government’s 68 per cent target.

“I don’t think there is anything more you can do for rural Ireland than to make sure there is employment, because that is what sustains communities,’’ he added.

He was replying to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, who said the Government appeared to be incapable of doing “the here and now in a week in which all sorts of promises were being made about the new National Development Plan”.

He said there was a need for a reality check on the lack of delivery by the Government relating to promises made to rural Ireland.

He said a previously Fine Gael-led government had “undermined, and arguably destroyed”, a very good model for rural development in the form of the then Leader programme which had been lauded by the EU.

“It was designed to revitalise rural areas and create jobs and so on,’’ he added.

He said rural crime was also a real issue.