On Monday, the Government launched its revised National Development Plan (NDP), setting out €165 billion worth of investment for 2021 to 2030. The Taoiseach, Micheál Martin stated that the plan represents “a unique opportunity to shape the future” of Ireland.
The NDP states a focus on prioritising on solutions that strengthen housing, climate ambitions, transport, healthcare, jobs growth, and economic renewal. The aim being to prepare Ireland for the population growth of roughly 1 million expected over the next two decades, and to tackle new and ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19 and Brexit.
For climate action, the plan allocates €12.9 billion to the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications, underpinning Ireland’s commitment to achieving sustainable, digitally connected, and climate neutral Ireland. The plan reiterates that up to 80% of electricity generated countrywide will be from renewable sources by 2030 and commits funds raised through gradually increasing carbon taxes toward projects targeting the retrofitting of homes and other initiatives.
The NDP also reiterates the goals of the Government’s recently launched €4 billion a year Housing for All plan, including its commitments to delivering 33,000 homes on average over the next nine years. The plan also sets out projections for growth of the Irish economy with an anticipated increased GDP of 1.6% by 2030, compared to 2030 GDP should investments remain constant at existing levels. Employment, as per the NDP, is also expected to increase by 3% by 2030, as well as wages at 3.1%.
While the NDP inevitable makes significant commitments to sectors across Irish society, including education and health, transport reflects a particularly contentious aspect of the plan. While €35 billion has been made available to the Department of Transport to invest in making Ireland’s public transport more sustainable, active, and accessible and reinforces commitments related to EV use on Irish roads, other commitments or projects in the transport sphere are far more ambiguous under the plan and consequently, invited staunch critique.
Most critiques from external experts and elected representatives have focused on the lack of concrete timelines provided under the plan related to the various projects proposed. Projects including the Dublin Metro Link or the N/M20 road between Limerick and Cork have been acknowledged in the plan, but no clear timeline or funding assigned. Some opposition TDs have dismissed the NDP as a “work of fiction” and “hopelessly vague”. Labour Party leader, Alan Kelly noted that the NDP brings more uncertainty around projects and represents no more than a wish-list with no timeline for clear delivery. Other opposition TDs argued the plan lacked substance, while even some TDs within the governing parties have expressed disappointment in the Oireachtas over the lack of concrete timelines.
Fianna Fáil TD, James O’Connor, made headlines this week with his threat to resign from the party over the lack of clarity being provided on road projects, claiming he had been misled. Indeed, over the past week, there has been a lack of clarity surrounding road projects in government rhetoric. While Taoiseach Micheál Martin suggests that road projects listed in the plan will go ahead, Green Party leader and Minister for Transport, Eamon Ryan states that some projects might not.
This viewpoint divide extends beyond the party leaders to their respective parties overall. As it stands, it appears that the coalition parties cannot fully agree to back the aspirations relating to road projects set out in the NDP. On these projects, a clear fault line exists between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael on one side, and the Green Party on the other. How this mismatch in views over road projects and the plan for transport over the next decade is worth monitoring.