Monday 4 October 2010

Divisions in Labour over Metro

Metro North should proceed as planned, former Labour transport spokesman and TD for Dublin North East Tommy Broughan has said, despite comments by party Leader Eamon Gilmore that Labour in power would not go ahead with the project "in the short term".

Mr Gilmore was speaking on the Marian Finucane Show on RTÉ Radio on Saturday.

He said Labour would "redo" the National Development Plan and prioritise those projects likely to create the most jobs. "Metro North would be shot back," he said.

His comments have been supported by Joan Burton and Róisín Shortall, Labour TDs representing north Dublin.

Work to build the line from St Stephen's Green to Dublin airport and the north of the county is set to begin next April pending approval from An Bord Pleanála later this month.

Mr Broughan, who was Labour transport spokesman until last summer when he lost the party whip after absenting himself from a vote on the legislation to ban stag hunting, said he had not heard the interview with Marian Finucane, but that the construction of the Metro had clear economic benefits.

"I think it's a very important investment in the economy. It's vital to bring Dublin's transport infrastructure up to 20th century standards, let alone 21st century. It should go ahead as planned."

The fact that the Metro would be built through a Public Private Partnership (PPP) with private investment repaid over a long-term period, meant it would not worsen the current economic situation, Mr Broughan said.

"I don't see what it has to do with the current economic circumstances. It's like a hire purchase agreement, it's paid over a long-term period," he added.

However, the party's finance spokeswoman Joan Burton, who last year said proceeding with Metro North "as soon as possible" was a "no-brainer", yesterday said availability of funding for the project would have to be examined.

"I am a well-known supporter of the Metro, but it is now a question of phasing . . . Clearly just right now the availability of funding and the ranking of funding in order is something that has to be looked at."

Mr Gilmore's comments were made in the context of the funding "crisis" in which the Fianna Fáil-led Government had left the country, Ms Burton said.

"Eamon was just saying that we have to look realistically at the Metro in terms of the crises we have been left in."

In a statement last year Ms Burton said construction would likely be "revenue neutral" to the taxpayer.

Dublin North West TD Róisín Shortall said she remained a strong supporter of the Metro but that it "may have to be put back" for financial reasons. "I think what Eamon Gilmore said was that the Metro is up for review. Everything in the National Development Plan is up for review."

The project was reliant on private sector funding which was unlikely to be forthcoming in the short to medium term.

"There seems to be very little interest from the private at the moment . . . The private sector isn't likely to want to get involved and so it's very hard to see it happening this year or next year."

Joe Costello, who took over from Mr Broughan as transport spokesman and represents Dublin Central could not be contacted yesterday.

Fine Gael and the Green north Dublin TDs strongly criticised Mr Gilmore's comments and said postponing the project would jeopardise jobs.

Fine Gael health spokesman Dr James Reilly said he was shocked by Labour's attitude to the project. "They claim they will invest in jobs and critical infrastructure . . . Now is the time to invest in jobs in Dublin North."

Former Green Party leader Trevor Sargent said Mr Gilmore did not understand how economic recovery was achieved.

"It is abundantly clear that Labour will cause more damage to the economy by making short-termist decisions that will be counterproductive to job creation," he said.

Irish Times

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