PUBLIC TRANSPORT should be a priority of next month's budget, Minister for the Environment and Green Party leader John Gormley has said.
Speaking to reporters at his party's annual strategy session in Tralee yesterday, Mr Gormely said: "We have to protect the most vulnerable in society but also we have to ensure that major environmental infrastructural projects continue.
"We have to ensure that we get the balance right so that the ratio between public transport and roadways is kept intact and that public transport is given priority."
Mr Gormley was speaking after a meeting of Green Party Ministers and TDs with local election candidates.
Describing the current economic situation as unprecedented, he said: "It's clear now that some very tough decisions have to be made, that there will be adjustments in certain key areas.
"However, as far as the Green Party is concerned, we do have to protect the more vulnerable people in our society, we do have to ensure that major infrastructural projects such as waste-water treatment plants that are absolutely vital in terms of compliance with EU directives, that they continue and that we continue the progress in relation to environmental protection.
"So these are all the areas that we feel are a priority and we will ensure during the very tough negotiations that these major issues are actually explored and that we get commitments on those."
When asked if projects such as Metro North were in jeopardy, he replied: "All of these issues are being discussed with the Minister for Finance.
"There are priorities as far as we are concerned, in terms of public transport.
"Obviously from a Green perspective, there are issues such as the major motorways which are committed to but there are other road projects which we feel are of less priority and they need to be looked at because, as far as we're concerned, public transport should be given a greater priority."
He continued: "As you may know, we have set up an inter-party structure, meeting pre-Cabinet every week in the run-up to the budget and that will give us the opportunity to discuss these issues in greater detail."
When asked about his stance on suggestions that third-level college fees could be reintroduced, he said: "There is no Government decision at all in relation to college fees.
"I am not in the habit of giving personal views nor am I in the habit of answering hypothetical questions. These are issues that have to be discussed in detail," Mr Gormley said.
He continued: "Across a range of issues we have very difficult budgetary decisions that have to be made.
"I haven't discussed it yet with the Minister for Education so therefore I'm not in position to say yet what the Government position is."
When asked if the Green Party would welcome disaffected members of the Progressive Democrats, he said: "Those members of the PDs who are looking for a home will find a very good home in the Green Party."
The Irish Times