Councillors ready to take on Ireland 2040 plan

The message that came from the November meeting of the Mayo County Council this week was that not only the lack of major infrastructure projects in the region in the draft Ireland 2040 plan - but the small print of the plan itself is going to affect Mayo in a bad way for the next 20 years.

The plan was raised by Fianna Fáil councillor Damien Ryan who told the meeting that this particular document which takes us towards 2040 has serious implications for every local authority in this country, "I think as a local authority we need to discuss it and discuss it in detail," and, "There are parts of it that cover national spatial planning, but the detail that is in the minor aspects could have huge implications for every rural town and village in Mayo."

His party colleague Cllr Al McDonnell said; "It has now come to our attention there are far more serious and sinister motives behind the small print of this plan away from the headline issues, what this means is that nobody in this county, regardless of where they live, will be in a position to apply for planning permission to build house in any part of rural Ireland. What has become clear is there is an ongoing sinister campaign to destroy rural Ireland. We've been involved and taken them on in the past. The people who are determined to destroy rural Ireland and Mayo are behind this document, some of it is disguised but it is quite clear what it is. Those of us who have been campaigning to save rural Ireland will have to continue this fight, and if this document becomes the final document we can forget about it, it has taken it out of our hands."

On the large projects ignored by the plan, Sinn Fein councillor Gerry Murray said, "My understanding is that there is very serious resistance to certain critical infrastructure projects west of the Shannon from some in the Department of Transport - I understand that the resistance is that if some of the projects make it into the final draft they will qualify for 50 per cent EU funding, but these are projects some in the Department of Transport do want to see happen. It is a very sad day that if you can get 50 per cent funding from Europe, there is still huge resistance from those in Dublin to pick up the tab."

Later on in the meeting he added; "Going in tandem with this national planning framework is going to be a national investment plan, and the intention is that anything that is in this plan will have a fiscal commitment through the investment plan. Why there is huge resistance to including Ireland West Airport Knock and the Western Rail Corridor is that if they get into this plan then they will have a statutory entitlement to be funded and that is where the resistance is coming from - we were briefed on and off the record about this."

The chief executive of Mayo County Council, Peter Hynes, told the meeting: "On the plan itself, if you see the map itself with the growth centres drawn as they are, where we live north of the Galway to Dublin line it's just blank and we can't allow for it to be blank. It is imperative that we get a growth centre in this region, it's not one for everyone in the audience, it's not one for every parish; it's one in each region, and the northwest needs one to drive it, so we can contribute to balance on the island - we're not against Dublin, we're not against anywhere else, it's about being able to contribute to making the island a better place. We made the submission initially - that so little of it made it into the first draft, the submission that went in last Friday, was a redrawing of that and reinforcement of those points.

"There are a number of detailed prescriptive elements in the plan that I didn't expect to be there. I expected it to remain at much higher level, but they are there and they are important and need to be debated here. It is also Government intent that this will get the backing of the Oireachtas so it will have legislative strength - which is something the National Spatial Strategy never had. To do that the draft will have to consider it, so it is the members who will amend or disagree with the final versions. Anyone who has a view needs to let that be known to the Oireachtas members who will adopt the plan. This is hugely important for the future of this county for the next 20 years."

Cllr Ryan added that "any national document that ignores 38 per cent of the land mass of the country is not a national document - there are options available to the members of the Oireachtas but no plan is better than a bad plan, as it stands the finer detail and small print is the one we have serious problems with - the bigger projects are hugely important and there is resistance within the Department of Transport, and on the smaller things there is resistance from within the Department of Environment and Local Government, and we have met them before and we are back to fight this battle again and fight them we will."

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