Post-pandemic innovation opportunities
Sir, – Sam McConkey suggests that publicly funded projects should be considered to aid economic recovery (“Post-pandemic economy offers opportunities for innovation”, Opinion & Analysis, May 23rd).
In making his argument, he notes the essential parts of the economy and lists water as one of these. The recent warning given by Irish Water should help to heighten the awareness of the almost total lack of satisfactory standby measures in our cities with regard to water supply. The proposed Shannon scheme, with a probable cost of €2 billion, would appear to many to be unaffordable. In response, I would refer to the immediate post-Famine period in Dublin when Sir John Gray, whose statue is in O’Connell Street, had the vision to deliver the Vartry water scheme, which saved countless thousands of lives in bringing safe drinking water to the city.
As a further and probably more significant example of public capital spending, we only have to look at the Ardnacrusha electricity scheme from 1925 which also transformed life in Ireland. At that stage, the Irish economy was in a very fragile state, but somehow Thomas McLaughlin, then a young electrical engineer from Co Louth, managed to persuade the newly independent State to spend a huge percentage of the annual budget on the electrification scheme. If an opinion poll were taken at the time, it is likely that only a small minority of people would have supported the scheme.
We may be at a similar point today and, apart from the shortfall in water infrastructure, we have approved schemes, including Dart underground, which could transform public transport.
The point to be made is that, as a country, we have been too slow to progress necessary public capital schemes. If we look to history, we can see the continuing positive impact of schemes carried out at times when economic conditions were even bleaker than at present. – Yours, etc,