Saturday 14 June 2008

Revealed: O'Rourke lost bid to link Luas

FORMER GOVERNMENT minister Mary O'Rourke was forced to change her plans to join the two Luas lines due to internal opposition, the first Cabinet papers ever released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal.

The papers, which are being released after 10 years rather than the usual 30, show that as far back as April 1998, the then Public Enterprise Minister, Ms O'Rourke, outlined concrete proposals to Cabinet about linking the two lines.

It would have run from the Luas Green Line at St Stephen's Green down Dawson Street and over O'Connell Bridge to join the Red Line.

A memorandum for former Taoiseach Bertie Ahern's Cabinet confirms what had been long suspected -- that Ms O'Rourke backed a consultants' report in favour of a surface Luas system with two joined-up lines.

"The Minister for Public Enterprise requests the Government to ... without prejudice accept the consultants' recommendation that the proposed surface system for two lines from Tallaght to city centre and Dundrum to city centre is the preferred option," it stated.

The map of the surface routes supplied at the cabinet meeting on April 28, 1998, clearly shows the Red and Green lines being joined. Ms O'Rourke had even prepared a draft press release on the link-up but it was never issued, nor made public, until now.

The Government decision on Ms O'Rourke's memorandum is partly blacked out and only reveals that the cabinet authorised her to "publish" the consultants' report.


But it is known that the decision on the Luas system was deferred due to fears from ministers that an on-street, joined- up light rail system would cause traffic chaos in the city centre.

The Progressive Democrats in particular were in favour of putting the entire light rail system under ground -- which never happened.

Ten years on, the Government is now considering the possibility of finally joining the lines at a cost of more than €70m.

The memorandum prepared by Ms O'Rourke clearly shows that the government was in danger of missing out on £IR114m (€145m) of EU funding due to proscrastination on the Luas project.

Michael Brennan
Irish Independent

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