Minister of State Patrick O’Donovan with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe in Limerick Picture: Sean Curtin/True Media
THE Junior Minister at the Department of Finance, local TD Patrick O’Donovan says the government’s prioritising of the M20 project “offers certainty” all around.
Mr O’Donovan was with Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe in City Hall for a briefing on Budget 2018 where he faced questions on the Limerick to Cork motorway, which could potentially cut journey times between the two cities to 47 minutes.
While former Transport Minister Mr Donohoe declined to give a timeframe in when he anticipated the link would be completed, Mr O’Donovan said the government’s commitment means Limerick Council and Cork Council can start work and landowners potentially affected can also prepare.
His comments come after Taoiseach Leo Varadkar confirmed the M20 would be in December’s capital plan, and €5m had been set aside to begin the work of planning and tendering.
“The Limerick/Cork route is the only infrastructural project we signalled which has been announced by the Taoiseach and Paschal. All the other ones anticipated are in a pipeline that may or may not be announced. This is being done in advance of any national framework. The fact that there is a very clear commitment means Conn Murray [Limerick council manager] and his opposite number in Cork can start the work which was delayed for so long. It gives certainty to the landowners who need to know what, if anything, is happening to this road,” he told the audience.
At the briefing, Chamber chief executive Dr James Ring questioned the Finance Minister on when he anticipates the Limerick to Cork motorway will be complete.
Although he affirmed governmental commitment, Mr Donohoe declined to provide a timeframe as to when he hopes it will be finished. Some commentators have raised the possibility of 2023 in time for a potentially successful Irish Rugby World Cup bid.
He said: “Experience has taught me as Minister for Transport that if I begin to put in place construction or start dates in relation to when the project will begin and end before it gets planning permission, it can create difficulties in the planning process.
“What I want to emphasise is the government is committed to the completion of the road. We think it is a vital part of our response back not only to Brexit, but how we realise the potential of our country. That’s why in the aftermath of the budget, myself and the Taoiseach named that project as one we wanted to see more progress on.”
There was criticism of the fact Mr Donohoe did not reference the M20 in his maiden budget speech, with an announcement made later.
He said: “We cannot make an announcement on every project on budget day. I think it is more appropriate the Taoiseach or the minister involved in the area does it in the aftermath. That’s what happened.”
The motorway plan will be in the government’s ten-year capital plan, due to be unveiled in December.
Asked if he will be able to escalate the project, Mr Donohoe added: “If I was to appear in front of you here today and announce it would be built in 18 months time, we know it wouldn’t be the case.”
Earlier this week, city Green party representative Rachel Bermingham suggested instead of a Limerick-Cork motorway, Shannonside should be linked to Waterford via the M8.