M20 support: Leo Varadkar, pictured at last year's Chamber awards dinner in the Strand Picture: Shauna Kennedy
THE man likely to be Ireland’s next Taoiseach has said the Limerick-Cork motorway will be prioritised in a new capital plan.
In what is being seen as a U-turn following his move to axe the road plan in 2011, social protection minister Leo Varadkar launched his policy document this Monday, where he pledged to “substantially increase capital spend” above what is already planned through a new national plan.
The news has been hailed by Senator Kieran O’Donnell as “hugely important and significant” for the region.
But Limerick Chamber chief executive Dr James Ring has expressed caution, pointing out it was Mr Varadkar as Transport Minister who abandoned the project at an advanced stage, effectively putting the process back to square one.
Mr Varadkar confirmed: “The new capital plan will allow us to bring forward long delayed projects like Dublin Metro and the M20 between Cork and Limerick.”
Mr O’Donnell – who has pledged his support to Mr Varadkar in the Fine Gael leadership race – said: “I believe he is a politician of his word, and it’s something I will look towards being built as quickly as possible. It’s vital for regional development and cuts to commuter time.”
Dr Ring, who has been working with his counterparts in Cork Chamber to produce an economic benefit study of the road, said: “It’s positive that he’s saying the M20 is back on the agenda. But I'm guarding it with the fact he has also said the Dublin metro is there, plus motorways into the west and north-west. So he’s sort of saying: ‘I’m going to do everything’. We all know he doesn’t have the money to do everything.”
He called on the Fine Gael leadership frontrunner to make a statement outlining exactly which projects are his ultimate priorities.
However, Mr O’Donnell said the reactivation of the M20 is the only capital project he has mentioned outside Dublin.
“It’s an infrastructural priority for Limerick and the region. Now we have a policy document showing it is the number one priority outside Dublin,” the senator added.
Separately, Mr Varadkar has also said if elected Fine Gael leader and Taoiseach, he will establish a Commission on Traffic Congestion to report on possible solutions for worsening problems in Limerick.
This, he said, may include giving more responsibility to Limerick City and County Council in the area of transportation.
The Dublin West TD is the clear favourite to take the crown of Taoiseach, having secured the support of the majority of Fine Gael’s parliamentary party.