Independent Clare Deputy, Dr Michael Harty, has strongly criticised the draft National Framework Plan and the Government’s “unbalanced” aviation policy.
Just a week ago the country faced the prospect of a Christmas election, the resignation of Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald prevented that outcome. Prior to this, Independent Deputy, Dr Michael Harty, crossed swords with the former Tánaiste in relation to the National Framework Plan drafted by her Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation.
Reminding the Dáil that the Partnership for Government that he and other independents signed up to had promised to bring the benefits of recovery to every community, Dr Harty said, “far from moving towards that aim of balanced regional development, we are going in the opposite direction.”
Dr Harty strongly criticised the draft national planning framework, as it relates to the Midwest, which was drafted by the former Minister’s Dept.
Describing the Government’s aviation policy as “unbalanced”, Dr Harty also insisted that the “uncontrolled development of Dublin into a city-state must not be inadvertently enshrined in our national planning framework.”
In his view, the National Framework Plan has failed to adequately address balanced regional development and it fails to harness the potential of the Midwest as a driver of national growth.
He told the Dáil there is still an unhealthy dominance by the greater Dublin area and the draft plan does not fully harness infrastructure in the Midwest including Shannon Airport, UL, the Estuary and the Ennis-Limerick economic corridor.
Dr Harty believes the framework plan, “must provide for population and economic growth on a scale that will deliver balance in our economic recovery”.
“To date,” he said, “this has been a Dublin-centric model. The greater Dublin area will attract 50% of the estimated national population growth by 2040. This does not reflect equitable or effective regional balanced development.”
Responding to the deputy, Minister Fitzgerald said the Midwest is one of the fastest growing regions in the country. She said the national planning framework will set out a long-term strategic planning and investment context for the next 20 years.
Frances Fitzgerald was undergoing a tremendously stressful week leading up to her resignation that may have caused her to mistakenly refer to Shannon Development and, “Shannon Holdings”.
Speaking about the Midwest Region and the role of Shannon Airport, Minister Fitzgerald said, “Shannon Development and the Shannon-Foynes Port Company will, it is hoped, build on recent successes and add to the overall vision for counties Limerick and Clare.”
Referring to the forthcoming Action Plan for Jobs, Minister Fitzgerald said this will refer to Shannon as a centre of excellence in aviation and added, “Shannon leasing and the work of Shannon Holdings have developed considerably.”
Shannon Development no longer exists after being subsumed into the Shannon Group plc, the body set up by Leo Varadkar when he was Transport Minister in late 2014.
For his part, Dr Harty said, “the lack of balance in our development is best illustrated by the Government’s aviation policy. Dublin Airport had a market share of 72% in 2005 and a market share of 87% today. Shannon Airport has huge untapped potential in regard to development as an airport, yet only 5% of the market.”
He said it is not acceptable that aviation policy is leaving the airport at the mercy of market forces. Dr Harty insisted, “The uncontrolled development of Dublin into a city-state must not be inadvertently enshrined in our national planning framework.”
Furthermore, Dr Harty stated, “The unbalanced aviation policy illustrates the difficulties our regions are encountering in attracting development, jobs and infrastructure that would allow them to grow effectively and contribute to our economic development.”