Issues

€165 billion National Development Plan launched

The Government has launched its €165 billion National Development Plan (NDP). The plan, which covers the years from 2021 to 2030, represents a “unique opportunity to shape the future of our country” according to Taoiseach Micheál Martin TD.

The new NDP “will play an essential role in shaping our responses to the challenges of the present, and also prepare us for the challenges of the future” according to the foreword of Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Michael McGrath TD. Formulated following a review conducted over two phases, which commenced in October 2020 and included public consultation and analysis led by the National Investment Office, the NDP sets out a vision where it is “estimated that an annual average of up to approximately 47,000 direct and 33,000 indirect construction jobs will be sustained by the investment” and “increased GDP, employment and wages out to 2030”.

Jobs and education

The NDP states that its delivery will sustain an annual average of 81,000 direct and indirect construction jobs over its course. It also estimates an increase of 1.6 per cent in GDP by 2030 compared to a scenario of investment remaining constant at 2021 levels. Employment and wages are expected to increase by 3 per cent and 3.1 per cent respectively when compared with the same scenario.

Through the Large Scale Projects Programme, the NDP plans to deliver extra primary and secondary school places to satisfy an increasing population. 1,200 school building projects are said to be in the current pipeline, with the majority of them to be completed by 2025, with an average of 150-200 to be delivered per year until then.

Health

The Taoiseach has said that the NDP will deliver the transformation of the health sector, in part by putting in place the investment framework necessary for the implementation of Sláintecare, which has had doubt cast over it by the resignations of recent times. The plan states that “capital investment has a key role to play in enhancing service provision, ensuring the delivery of high quality and safe health and social care, and as an enabler of the reforms set out in Sláintecare”.

The continued rollout of primary care centres across the State is one of the projects pointed to within the NDP as enabling the delivery of Sláintecare. The National Children’s Hospital, repeatedly delayed and subject to controversy over rising costs, is listed in the plan with a commission completion of 2024 and as part of cost category F, meaning over €1 billion. The move of the National Maternity Hospital from Holles Street to the St Vincent’s Hospital campus is included within the plan as the “the first of the new maternity hospitals to be developed, with the other relocation projects to follow in time” under the National Maternity Strategy.

Transport

That €35 billion will be invested in the transport sector, with the inclusion of all of the previous NDP’s major road building programmes, is one of the more commented upon aspects of the plan given Ireland’s emissions targets. Minister Eamon Ryan TD, whose multiple portfolios include transport, has offered no guarantee that all of the roads included in the NDP will go ahead, but for now five national road projects are under construction, including the introduction of variable speeds on the M50, the N56 from An Clochán Liath to Glenties and the N22 from Baile Bhúirne to Macroom. Three projects – the N5 Ballaghderreen to Scramoge project, the N59 Maigh Cuilinn bypass and the N69 Listowel bypass – are fully approved and due to start construction in the next six months. There are 31 road projects listed as “subject to further approvals” including the N6 Galway City Ring Road, the N/M20 Cork to Limerick road and the cross-border N14 from Manorcunningham to Strabane.

In terms of public transport, few details are offered about the delivery of the MetroLink project, with the estimated completion date stated as “TBC” and the estimated cost placed at over €1 billion. The project, when completed, will “consist of a 19km north-south, carbon-neutral railway service that will run between Swords and Dublin City Centre, connecting key destinations including Dublin Airport and the city centre, serving 15 stations, with a journey time of approximately 25 minutes from Swords to the city centre”. The project, according to the plan, as recently submitted its preliminary business case, approval of which will allow the project to enter the statutory planning process in 2022.

With expansion of the Luas lines under construction, the NDP also includes a commitment to funding light rail in Cork, with a phase one completion phase of 2026 given at an estimated cost of €185 million. BusConnects is also to be “substantially complete” by 2030 and the goal of almost one million electric vehicles on Irish roads by 2030 is reaffirmed within the plan, with constant references to additional charging infrastructure, although no specifics are outlined other than a €6.4 million spend of EU PEACE funding on cross-border charging infrastructure.

Climate

The Taoiseach has referred to this as the “most environmentally conscious” NDP in the State’s history and has backed up this assertion by including a commitment to raise carbon tax to €100 per tonne by 2030, generating an additional €9.5 billion in revenue out to 2030, €5 billion of which is expected to be invested in energy efficiency, including the National Retrofit Plan.

€3 billion will go towards tackling fuel poverty and providing a just transition, while the remaining €1.5 billion is to be committed towards schemes that assist farmers with decarbonisation in the agricultural sector. The plan states that the €35 billion invested in transport will be weighted on a 2:1 ratio in favour of public and active transport against new roads.

Water

Almost €6 billion of investment is pledged to Irish Water by 2025 under the NDP, with three themes determining how that money will be spent: quality; conservation; and future proofing. The major project included in the plan for the water sector is the delivery of the long-discussed Water Supply Project – Easter and Midlands Region (WSP-EMR).

The WSP-EMR will “help meet the future water supply needs for housing, commercial, and industrial growth in an area comprising 40 per cent of Ireland’s population”; the project comprises an abstraction of water from the Parteen Basin in Tipperary, with water treatment in nearby Birdhill, and the transport of the treated water to the Greater Dublin Area via a 10km pipeline that terminates at a reservoir in Peamount.

The project will also “facilitate options to reinforce supplies of treated water to communities such as Newport, Borrisokane, Cloughjordan, Mullingar, Carlow, Portlaosie, Navan and Drogheda in the future”.

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