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Speech of An Taoiseach, Project Ireland 2040 First Annual Report Launch, University of Limerick

Last updated: 3 May 2019
Published: 2 May 2019
Ó: Roinn an Taoisigh

Issued by the Government Information Service

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First of all, good afternoon everyone.

And thanks very much, Mary, for the kind introduction. I am delighted to be joined here by so many colleagues, members of Limerick council, also MEP Seán Kelly and Senators, Ciaran O’ Donnell and Anne-Marie Burn.

It was 15 months ago in Sligo IT that we launched Project Ireland 2040 - our plan for ensuring the future development and prosperity of all parts of our country.

Project Ireland 2040 is unique, it’s not the first time we have had a National Development Plan, it’s not the first time we have had a National Spatial Strategy. But it is the first time that we’ve, in a really genuine way, put the two together.

A National Spatial Plan backed up by real money and a real Development Plan behind it.

It’s a bold and ambitious vision for the future of the country. And today, one year later, we can confirm that this vision is being delivered.


I think the most important thing about Project Ireland 2040 is that it’s not one single project. It’s made up of hundreds and thousands of individual projects all over the country, in every city and every county. Its €116 billion being invested over ten years, in balanced regional development, in strengthening our rural economies and communities, and ensuring compact growth in our major cities including Limerick and, also, enhanced regional accessibility, making sure that we can get from the one place to the next.

And I think you can see some of the result in that investment vision in this campus. Here today in the Glucksman Library, where one third of the cost, €10 million, came from the public capital program. A library which is easily the most impressive and the most modern of any University Library in Ireland. With an ARC system using innovative new technology to store and retrieve books, that is an impressive sight for anyone to see the way the books are stored and retrieved here.

And, of course, in every county in Ireland we have similar examples. The names are different, but the message and the concept is the exact same. Project Ireland 2040 is happening, and it is changing communities. The sods are being turned, the shovels are in the ground, in some cases ribbons have been cut. And we’re building for the future.


This year, about 3.5% of our national income, of all the money that we earn as a country, is being invested on public infrastructure. So as a country that for many years and for lots of different reasons, under invested in public infrastructure, we’re now up to the mid-range by European standards. And we’ll be up to about 4%, in the high range by European standards when it comes to investment in public infrastructure quite soon.

We also launched four funds, €4 billion game-changing funds, collaborative and competitive projects to achieve these goals. Those funds as you know, are the Urban Regeneration fund, the Rural Regeneration fund, the Climate Action fund and the Disruptive Technologies fund. And already 200 projects have been awarded funding from those four funds.

Regenerating villages, towns, and cities, but also investing in climate action and new technologies.


Here, for example, in University of Limerick three-quarters of a million has been invested in the Digital District project. Going slightly further afield, €2 million has been invested in the Opera Project in this city.

With €22 billion being invested in Climate Action over the next ten years.

And an additional €8.6 billion in sustainable transport, it’ll help us to reduce substantially our greenhouse gas emissions, which are so important for our planet and also to reduce congestion, which is so important for the quality of our lives, allowing people more time with their families and less time in their cars.

A lot has changed in the last 15 months, for example long promised projects are well underway, whether it’s the north runway at Dublin airport, now under construction or the new road to Sligo, now under construction.


And just this morning, I had the pleasure of being in attendance at Limerick Council, where we signed the design contract for the new M50 – a €15 million contract to connect Cork and Limerick with a high-quality motorway, all part of a new transport corridor connecting Cork to Limerick and Shannon on to Galway and further north building a genuine economic corridor along our western seaboard. Some of it is done, the next big project has now gone to design, the contract signed this morning.

This biggest single road project in Ireland for the next decade, and the biggest single project in Munster under Project Ireland 2040.

Project Ireland 2040 is also about building new homes. With a rising population, a population anticipated to hit 6 million by 2040, we’re going to need to build a lot more homes and apartments in Ireland.

Last year, 18,000 new houses and apartments were built in Ireland. That is more than any other year this decade.

But it’s still not enough.


We need to be up around 30,000 – 35,000 a year to meet the pent up demand for housing that exists in our country. It can’t be done overnight, I wish it could be. Given what happened to the country 9 years ago, it was always going to take some time to rebuild our construction sector.

Our target is to be up around 25,000 new homes this year, rising to 30,000 and 35,000 in the years there after that.

Also with our demographics, we are building new school projects. And I think some of you who have seen the quality of the new school builds around the country, know just how impressive some of those new buildings are. We need to find school buildings to accommodate 40,000 new students over the next couple of years, replacing over 600 prefabs with state-of-the art buildings.


There is also Land Development Agency which is ensuring a more effective and strategic approach to planning and land assembly, using state lands and buying private lands to bring about sustainable urban growth, as well as being instrumental in the regeneration and development of our towns and cities. Something that, in many ways, Limerick is giving leadership on through the Limerick 2030 project. We think also better management of land will stabilise land values and flatten the extreme peaks in the land and troughs in the property market that Ireland has experienced for decades.

Boom and bust cycles in housing, boom and bust cycles in property marketing, something we really need to break out of, and this policy is central to that.

The LDA will also have an immediate focus on delivering affordable housing, including on state-owned land, and it has been given the job building 150,000 new homes over the next 20 years.


In terms of regional connectivity, two major road projects will shortly be completed: the N11 Gorey to Enniscorthy and the N25 New Ross Bypass. Also, work has now advanced on the much needed Foynes to Limerick Road Scheme, connecting that crucial Foynes port to the major road network, including, of course, the Bypass of Adare. And that is why I mentioned this morning that we signed the design contract for the M20 which will bring that to an Bord Pleanála stage. And we are going to build the M20, a major piece of national infrastructure vitally needed to connect Limerick and Cork.

I think, as well, International connectivity is increasingly important, particularly in light of Brexit. So we are investing in areas that are critically important, such as our major state ports, Dublin, Cork and Shannon Foynes. But also our airports as well, and I am glad to see that the annual accounts for Shannon airport show increased passenger numbers and increased revenues last year. We anticipate further growth in 2019 as well.


Here in the UL, we can see the benefits of investing in higher education. I know how successful UL has been and how it’s made such a huge difference for this city.

Allowing more students from the city to stay here, attracting students from other parts of the country and overseas, helping us attract investment and jobs into the mid-west and also spinning off loads of companies. We want to do something similar in the south-east, with the development of a technological university there in Waterford. We are very keen to get that project over the line very soon.

Other projects, of course, in other parts of the country include the Tech University in Dublin with the Central and Eastern Quads at Grangegorman being developed.

€15 million is going towards the refurbishment and fit-out of the Coonagh project at LIT not too far from here.


As I mentioned, the single biggest area of investment under Project Ireland is perhaps the one that’s most important for the future, and that is in Climate Action. Over the past year we have made really significant investments in that. ESB, for example, has invested €250 million in renewable generation projects and that’s essential if we are going to meet our obligations when it comes to Climate Action. About 30% or 40% of the energy produced in Ireland is renewable now, but we really need to get to about 70% and that requires major investment by both ESB and Eirgrid.

Part of what Eirgrid is doing now is a €1 billion sub-sea Interconnector between Ireland and France, connecting our electricity system here in Ireland to that on continental Europe. So we are not just connected to Britain, which is so important for lots of reasons.

Also, there is a major investment programme in Irish Water. €2 billion being invested by that state company in our water network, making sure that the quality of our drinking water improves, that there are many fewer boil notices, which I am sure there are many fewer I am sure of now, that much less water leaks from the system and also that we stop discharging untreated human waste into our seas.


I think as well when it comes to culture and heritage, the Opera project in the heart of Limerick city is a landmark piece that will lift cultural offering of this city. The same applies to other projects like the Yeats Trail in Sligo or Swan Park in Buncrana, which have all been awarded money under the Rural Fund.

Perhaps the story of Project Ireland 2040 could best be told by looking at a map of our country. You could pick any two towns and draw a line between them. And along the way you would find examples of towns and villages and communities who have benefitted and will benefit in the near future from the work that is going on. Whether it is additional housing or new schools or the sports capital fund or the town and village renewal.


There is no going back. After many years of retrenchment in Ireland, we are very much back on our feet again. The economy is growing, unemployment is at an eleven year low, incomes are rising again, and the budget is in balance.

So for the first time in a long time, we have money that we can invest, and that’s exactly what we are going to do.

The momentum is with us and the wind is at our back. We have a Project that is working for all our people, now and into the future.

Thank you very much.