Welcoming the Government’s major strategic vision for the next 20 years, Fine Gael Deputy Joe Carey said Project Ireland 2040 will support families and strengthen communities throughout Clare by ensuring sustainable growth for the future.

According to Deputy Carey, Project Ireland 2040 seeks to enhance regional connectivity and competitiveness, improve environmental sustainability and build a fairer, more equal Ireland.

Deputy Carey believes that towns and villages throughout Clare will gain in terms of tourism development and attracting foreign direct investment because of the county’s strategic position adjacent to city regions of Limerick and Galway.

Highlighting potential benefits for Clare in Project Ireland 2040, Deputy Carey pointed to a number of funding schemes for rural development. In addition towns and villages with populations under 10,000will benefit from a new €1 bn Rural Regeneration and Development Fund over the next ten years.

Deputy Carey says the airport and Free Zone will act as key drivers of national and international connectivity under Project 2040, establishing employment and securing strategic investment.

“For the first time in the history of the State,” he said, “our spatial planning is backed up with solid investment and it will deliver for our citizens.”

Deputy Carey said that Project Ireland 2040 is backed and supported up by a €115 billion National Development Plan.

The Taoiseach described Project Ireland 2040 as “a significant milestone in our country’s development”. Mr Varadkar said “this is the point at which we put a lost decade behind us and move forward into a new decade of expansion.

“This is a plan for all our citizens – the old, the young, and the yet to be born, living in towns, in cities and in the countryside. It follows the spirit of Collins and Lemass, people who always strove to raise the prospects of every Irish citizen.

“As we approach our 100th anniversary as a sovereign nation, it’s about investing to ensure our country is insulated against any possible challenges like Brexit. It’s a path to a positive, sustainable future.”

Irish Planning Institute

However, the Irish Planning Institute (IPI) has taken a more nuanced view on Project Ireland 2040. While welcoming the National Planning Framework (NPF) and investment in key infrastructure, IPI president Joe Corr said it raises questions “about our ability to learn from our past”.

Mr Corr noted that the NPF sets out four cities and five towns outside Dublin as growth centres. “That,” he said, “is one more than the eight gateway cities in the Spatial Strategy of 2002. The evidence of the past 15 years is that this didn’t work.”

“From a professional planning perspective, Project Ireland 2040 is not following the evidence as we hoped it would in order to become a robust enabling tool to shape and enable future investment in the growth of our society and its economy by both public and private sectors.

In particular, he questioned the funding support for five metropolitan areas where land values are significantly greater than in rural areas.

Mr Corr said the IPI would like assurances that funds for rural area development will go to the regeneration of essential infrastructure in villages and small towns and not on rural roads which encourages further one-off housing.

Climate Change

One important feature of the NDP relevant to County Clare is the commitment to convert Moneypoint away from burning coal by 2025. At present, Moneypoint is the largest source of CO2 emissions in Ireland, spewing out 4.5m tonnes each year.

The plan states, “Depending on the decision made in relation to the future of the plant, a significant investment will be required. For example, to replace the existing plant with an equal-size plant fired by gas would cost up to €1 billion.”

Despite this, Fianna Fáil Deputy Timmy Dooley remains sceptical of the plan’s climate change proposals. As his party’s spokesperson on Communications, Climate Action and Energy, Deputy Dooley said that the Government has such a poor record on broadband and climate action, that he is not hopeful about the commitments in the National Development Plan.

He commented, “The €22 billion that has been promised may just be enough to cover the fines over the next 10 years that the EU Commission will slap down on the Irish State for failing to meet its 2020 targets.

“Ministers Naughten and Donohoe need to spell out how these fines will be paid, and from which budget lines the money will come from.

“The challenges we face, including the failure to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels as a source of energy and heat, need action today, not in 10 years.

“I am very concerned that many of the promises made will not come to pass, and all we will do over the next decade is pay fines for the Government’s failure to address the damage we are doing to our environment,” said Timmy Dooley.