PROJECT 2040 WILL SEE THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF RURAL DECLINE  

PROJECT 2040 WILL SEE THE BEGINNING OF THE END OF RURAL DECLINE  

Ireland is building again …. And it is building across the country.

In Health, for the first time since the last century, we are building new hospitals that offer new services. As Minister for Older People I am particularly pleased with plans for three new elective-only hospitals, one which will be located in Cork. These hospitals will at long last rid us of the waiting lists for elective procedures that are by in large required by older people.

Significantly the National Planning Framework will across Ireland, commit to building a vast network of Primary Care centres. It will add 4,500 additional long and short term beds in community nursing homes in the public system. Over the next five years agreement has been secured to replace and upgrade ninety community nursing units across the country.

We will see 2,600 acute hospital beds added to the system, this will greatly benefit on-going plans I have been working on with management of Bantry General Hospital to upgrade and expand the vital services provided at this essential facility for the people of west cork. As the capacity plan has now been confirmed it will be up to each hospital group to make the case for the individual hospital and Cork is well advanced in this regard.

These are solid plans backed by finance and are an example of governance looking to the future for our next generation, infrastructure in practice rather than theory.

Others talk about rural decline and talk again. By contrast this government acts. We must all accept that rural Ireland has changed, we are rural Ireland, each one of us, and our needs and habits have changed. Our public services must change to address our needs, not hold on to a fanciful fairy land we want to keep for precious sentiment.

Project 2040 is only the beginning of the end of rural decline in the sense that we have many more plans and many more ideas.

Today is just the start. A decade after a different party and Government drove the country into a desert and created ghost estates and living tombs where towns one existed we are engaged in a great act of national refurbishment.

And this capital injection is balanced towards the country rather than city by a margin of three to one.

The age of mend and make do is over.

Those who claim this plan is anti-rural are the permanent cloud punchers in politics, constantly running around in the same circle claiming the sky is going to fall in.

Instead their contribution validates the truism about empty vessels making the most noise.

This government is by contrast busy preparing to rebuild rural Ireland with a €115 billion capital plan for investment in the people’s new roads, greenways, railways, schools, hospitals and health care.

Project Ireland 2040 signals the return of ambition about how we govern our country.

After an age of austerity, we are entering a new progressive age of state-building.

‘No can do’ has been replaced by ‘Yes we can’.

Those who oppose this project are guilty of the vice of seeing opportunity as a threat.

This Plan by contrast marries opportunity with ambition.

We see it as ambition where we will ensure 200,000 more people live in in rural Ireland by 2040 and where Cork, Limerick, Galway and Waterford and most important still their hinterlands grow at twice the rate of Dublin.

Our agenda in beginning the end of rural decline is not anti-Dublin.

It instead will allow Dublin to breathe.

Project 2040 is a vision for the country of the future built from tar bricks and mortar.

That is why an Opposition who only build with words are so terrified of it.