By aligning the Irish State's much-needed infrastructure investment with a plan which guides public and private investment, Project Ireland 2040 aims to accomplish ten strategic outcomes.
Compact urban and rural settlements, supported by jobs and services rather than further sprawl will be encouraged. A new €2 billion Urban Regeneration and Development Fund and a new National Regeneration and Development Agency will be established to promote a collaborative approach to development by the public and private sectors.
Enhancing and upgrading accessibility between urban centres of population and their regions to maximise the growth potential of the regional urban centres and in particular the North-West of Ireland.
Strengthened rural economies and communities
A Rural Regeneration and Development Fund of €1 billion will be created. This is intended to foster co-ordinated investment between State departments, agencies, local authorities, public bodies and the private sector where appropriate.
Environmentally sustainable public transport systems will be favoured. Investment in public transport infrastructure will be accelerated. Projects proposed for delivery during the period to 2027 include the Metro Link, the DART Expansion Programme and BusConnects.
A strong economy, supported by enterprise, innovation and skills
The plan will also deliver a programme that is intended to strengthen growth and employment potential. The programme's focus is on balanced regional development through a number of initiatives including Technology and Innovation Poles and IDA property solutions, strategic sites and grants. This will be afforded to all regions in order to attract Foreign Direct Investment. A €500 million Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund will be established to encourage collaboration between Ireland's research base and industry.
High-quality international connectivity
Significant investment in Ireland's airports and ports is central to the plan in the context of Brexit. This includes the current development of Dublin, Cork and Shannon Foynes ports and the second runway at Dublin Airport.
Enhanced amenity and heritage
The value of cultural heritage to attracting private investment and retaining talent is recognised and over €1 billion of funding is allocated to strategic investment priorities in this area.
Transition to a low carbon and climate resilient society
Public investment will be influenced by the objective of transitioning by 2050 to a competitive, low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally sustainable economy.
The North-South interconnector and EirGrid's continued assessment of opportunities for interconnection with other electricity markets including the Celtic Interconnector at an estimated cost of €1 billion are specifically referenced.
Sustainable management of water and other environmental resources
The long overdue and critical investment required in Ireland's water and wastewater services is identified in the plan. In addition, the plan references the €8.5 billion to be invested by Irish Water in order to deliver efficient and robust infrastructure and services.
Access to quality childcare, education and health services
Significant public investment in education and health infrastructure to address current and predicted population growth is cited in the plan. This will include 50 large scale school projects annually to 2021 and the expansion of our Institutes of Technology. It also includes reorienting our health services towards primary and community care together with high quality acute and emergency care provided in the appropriate acute hospital settings.
We welcome Project Ireland 2040 and, in particular, the joined-up thinking which aligns the State's much-needed infrastructure investment with a plan which guides public and private investment. While this is undoubtedly an ambitious plan, long overdue infrastructure investment in a planned way to develop Ireland's full economic potential requires ambition.
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