The decision to yet again shelve the motorway project for the N20, which is the main route between Cork and Limerick was strongly criticised by Limerick and Cork Senators in the Upper House.
“Anybody who has travelled this route will be aware that there are a number of dangerous accident blackspots - O’Rourkes Cross, Rockhill and Banogue come to mind,” said Limerick Senator James Heffernan.
“I travel it quite often. There is always bumper-to-bumper traffic in Charleville, Buttevant, Mallow, you name it. It is a disaster. That it has been shelved again is a poor reflection on efforts made by members of the Government from both Limerick and Cork.”
Senator Heffernan said the idea that senior members of Cabinet do not see this as an important project for the area is not acceptable.
“In all fairness, and meaning no offence to the people of Clare and Galway, it is a joke that we can connect Crusheen and Gort via motorway yet we cannot connect Limerick and Cork via motorway,” he said.
Renua Senator Paul Bradford said people in the Cork and Limerick region are bemused, surprised but, above all, bitterly disappointed that the news in regard to the Cork-Limerick motorway currently appears so negative.
This project, which is urgently required from a regional balance point of view, a job creation point of view and a safety point of view, has been on the planning shelves for quite some time, he said.
“It was back in 2011 when the Minister’s predecessor (Leo Varadkar), again due to the economic difficulties then facing the country and the new Government, took the decision to put the project into cold storage,” he said.
“As the economy begins to develop and grow, as the Government begins to work on projects such as the Action Plan for Jobs, as the Minister, Deputy Bruton, talks about regional development, as the prospect of building new industrial sites across the country improves and as regional growth strategies are being considered, it is urgent that this idea of a new Cork-Limerick motorway be put back on track, if the House will excuse the pun.”
Senator Bradford said the two very large centres of population, Cork and Limerick, could be brought much closer together from a transport perspective if this project was delivered.
This would be a major boost to the towns of Mallow, Buttevant, Charleville and Macroom, and places like Cork Airport would come back on the agenda very much strengthened.
“For those reasons and much more, this is something the Minister has to reflect deeply upon,” he said.
“However, it is a question of value for money and what is the long-term positive consequence of putting this project back on track.”
In reply, Transport Minister Paschal Donohoe said given the national financial position, there have been large reductions in the Exchequer funding available for roads expenditure over recent years.
In 2008, we were investing €2.3 billion in roads. This year, the funding is approximately €730 million.
“The challenge I face is that the funds available to my Department at present do not match the amount of work that needs to be undertaken,” he said. “For this reason, only a small number of road improvement projects, including PPP projects in the Government’s 2012 infrastructure stimulus programme, are being progressed to construction stage.”
The Minister said his predecessor had to decide in 2011 that the M20 scheme should be withdrawn from An Bord Pleanála because budgetary constraints meant that there was no prospect of the scheme going to construction within a reasonable period of time and approval of the then plan by the Board would have triggered land acquisition costs of the order of between €90 million and €100 million.
“When the NRA raised the possibility of restarting planning on a Cork to Limerick motorway, I was conscious that capital funding is still very constrained presenting real difficulties in relation to the scale of the M20 - an 80 km road with a projected cost of €800 million,” he said.
“I was also conscious of the continuing need to prioritise expenditure on maintenance and renewal, not only for roads but also for public transport.”
Dementia should not control people’s lives - Neville
Dementia or old age should not control people’s lives and rob them of what is so valuable to them, privacy and dignity, Limerick Deputy Dan Neville told the Dáil. Central to the strategy announced by the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and Minister of State Kathleen Lynch last December he said is something that is characteristically taken away from people living with dementia - awareness.
“We want to increase awareness of dementia in the community so that we can act faster and more smartly to ensure early diagnosis, treatment and all-important supports, particularly with community-based services,” he said.
It is estimated that there are approximately 50,000 people with dementia in Ireland today, he said. These numbers are expected to increase to more than 140,000 by 2041 as the number of older people rises.