Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The road to perdition

With oil prices continuing to rise, our economy keeling over, and the obvious effects of global climate change manifesting itself on this increasingly rain-swept island of ours, this might be a good moment for Dáil Éireann to reflect. One cannot deny the necessity of our new motorways connecting key nodal points on the island, but certain projects defy rationality. The most notorious of these is the controversial M3 motorway which will dissect the Tara Valley . Apart from the irrevocable damage such a motorway will cause to the valley’s archeological heritage- much of which has yet to be excavated and studied- the motorway is itself superfluous and it is unlikely to ease congestion for motorists connecting to the M50. Since its pompous unveiling of the Transport 20 national plan, the Government has concentrated heavily on motorways, but in this case, the obvious environmentally friendly and efficient solution would be to re-open and upgrade the Dublin to Kells railway. If the Government had the prescience and competence to create a comprehensive transport system, our excessive dependence on oil and deplorable record on CO2 emissions could be reduced. Why, then, have the voices of reason calling for the re-opening of the Dublin to Kells railway been ignored, and why has the Government drawn international opprobrium upon itself in its insistent destruction of our national heritage?
According to a new press release from the Tara Watch campaign, the answer lies in the internal power-politics of Fianna Fáil. Since the inception of the M3 project in 1999, its chief proponent has been An t-Aire Iompair Noal Dempsey, and all of the compulsory purchase orders have been handled by his brother Loman. Loman Dempsey is directory of Potterton Auctioneers based in Meath. The Government has plans to invest billions of Euro in property investment schemes for the Meath area, ergo, Noel and his brother have, one might say, a personal interest in this project. As for the once vociferous, once progressive-sounding Greens? There is a rare word in the English language to describe them: obmutescence, obstinate silence. This was the party that had futuristic ideas for a twenty-first century transport system before their election to the Dáil. Does anyone remember their plans for Cork ? They proposed to construct a water-schuttle project, whereby commuters could use the River Lee to connect to the city centre. I haven’t heard a word about this plan since.

To return to the Tara project, Vincent Salafia, says in Tara Watch press release of September 4th
“"The M3 is a perfect example of Irish 'pork-barrel' spending. There is simply no need for a fifth motorway in the small county of Meath, running only five kilometres from the M2. Minister Dempsey’s local supporters will have to do with just four motorways in one county. "Tax-payers cannot afford to pay for the construction costs over the next three years and then turn around and spend another twelve euros a day to drive on it, before they even hit the M50."The M3 is sucking money from badly needed public transport projects, such as re-opening the Dublin to Kells railway, not to mention health and education projects”

Interesting phrase that, ‘pork barrel spending’. It certainly encapsulates the ruinously incompetent infrastructural planning of our present political incumbents. But personal interest and short-term gain are concerned, Fianna Fáil have always shown them selves to be determinedly inflexible. This is unlikely to change unless, of course, proposed property contracts fall through and the economy goes into free fall. In a country that relies so helplessly on volatile multi-nationals, whose bottom-line is profit, it might be prudent to think of the only indigenous industry we can rely on: tourism; and what a shame if the only way for tourists to access the Tara Valley was through a motorway which destroyed its unique ambience.

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