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miMick took the opportunity to speak in the Dáil regarding the Infrastrucutre and Capital Investment plan 2012-2016 on Wednesday, November 16th. In his exchange with Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin, Mick raises the issue of expenditure regarding water leakages as well as unnecessary land purchases for motorway projects in Wexford while suggesting the Metro North project should go ahead. You can watch the footage here.

Mick Wallace I hope there are more people in the Hungarian Parliament than there are here. Does the Minister not think the metro north would have been a major positive investment for the State? It would have been a great move on the part of the Government for a number of reasons. The Minister said that €1.6 million would be spent on water between now and 2016.
Brendan Howlin It is €1.6 billion.
Mick Wallace
Sorry, €1.6 billion. I hope the money will first be spent on fixing the pipes, given that 45% of treated water in Dublin city is lost through leakage. To fix those pipes would be labour-intensive and create a lot of employment. It would also be a good investment for the State. I hope the Government does not spend too much money on putting in water meters just to make the water saleable. I realise the State will be short of money for a long time. It will not be able to build the New Ross bypass, at an envisaged €350 million, for the next 20 years. I am shocked the Government did not move more quickly to stop Wexford County Council from buying the land for something that we cannot afford to build. The county council talks about spending over €12 million on land for that project before Christmas, although we cannot actually build the bypass. We are well aware of the fact that there is a shortage of money. It is pure nonsense to spend €12 million on land now. We have better things to be doing with €12 million. This project cannot go ahead in the next 20 years. If we are going to spend any money on this, we should consider an inner relief bridge, which will do the job, and forget completely about the 14 kilometre bypass. Clare Daly The Minister made the point that his revised programme is based on the need to deal with the economic constraints we are facing. Even if I accept that logic, I cannot see why the Government has axed the metro north project. I would like the Minister to give us some more detail on this. The cutting of this project does not save billions. In fact, it is the only transport project that is ready to go; within a matter of weeks or a couple of months we could have hundreds of people employed on the enabling works. The cost to the State over the next five years is only about €700 million, which is not excessive given that it would put to work thousands of construction workers. This is true; the Minister’s staff can advise him. It is the State’s contribution. The project is a public private partnership with two operators still in the pipeline. How can the Minister justify this given the impact it would have on the northside of Dublin in terms of job creation, economic stimulus and so on? It seems absolutely bizarre. In the same context, what revisions is the Minister making in light of the new economic projections? We can save him money out in the north county - money that could be spent on the metro north - by revisiting the greater Dublin strategic drainage study. The Minister has confirmed his Government’s desire to spend €2.5 billion on a new monster sewage treatment plant for north County Dublin based on projections made a number of years ago for dealing with waste water up to 2040. It is the assertion of many residents and environmentalists in the area that cheaper alternatives could be found through the development of more localised plants. Why is the Government confirming that this project is to go ahead when it could save money and have a greater environmental impact by treating waste water on a more sustainable basis? We would prefer the Minister to revisit that and divert the moneys back to the metro north. Brendan Howlin I was hoping we could broaden the debate. Anybody can come in here and advocate for projects. I can give the Deputies another list of projects they could add to that. It is great, and they can read about it in the local papers if they want to. We are all advocates for everything. I had hoped that we might move to a different kind of debate - a debate about economic sustainability and making real choices. There are people who are concerned about cuts on the current expenditure side. I have heard some loud voices over the last number of weeks arguing for deeper cuts in current expenditure - in social welfare, health and education - to lessen the cuts that must be made on the capital side. However, all the voices I have heard here are saying they want everything. People want to spend on every single project and cut back on none. Nobody has stood up and said that one particular project is the one we should----- Clare Daly Maybe we could get a few Anglo Irish Bank bondholders. Brendan Howlin We can have the mantra of Tommy Cooper economics: “Just like that.” It will go away “just like that”. Tell the bondholders to go away. Tell the ECB we do not need its money. The problem is that we do need its money. There is nobody else funding us. People are not fools; they want realistic debate. They will come to any committee to hear realistic debate. It is not an option, as the people of Greece and Portugal know, to tell the only people who are funding our gardaí, nurses and doctors to take a hike. That is not an option. Let us be realistic about making choices. Let me deal with the specifics. We cannot afford the metro north in the medium term. We made choices in that regard. Of course it is a laudable project; we would love it. I would love to stand up, as some people in the past stood at these benches, and announced hundreds of millions here and hundreds of millions there. There was no end to what could be announced. However, we are living in different times. We have made strategic decisions to focus limited capital on jobs, schools and health care. For that reason, we are building 40 additional schools. Deputy McDonald says that is a drop in the ocean. We would love to build more, but we have not the wherewithal to do it, unless the Deputies would like us to cut deeper or tax more, because we cannot borrow more. These are the choices that people understand we are facing. Specific points were made about the metro north. It is not affordable in the medium term, but it is on hold. People say we have spent a lot of money to date. Yes, we have. The previous Governments did, but we are not in a position to go ahead with it in the short term. Of the three big infrastructural projects - the metro north, the DART interconnector and the Luas line BXD - the Luas project, which will link the two Luas lines, will go ahead, but the metro north is not affordable, as we have said. We are spending €1.6 billion on water. I agree entirely with the point made by Deputy Wallace. When I was Minister for the Environment I made a specific instruction on the matter. While engineers seek to build more dams and carry out more big projects, blocking the leaks is the priority. It is shocking and unacceptable that even after spending more than €1 billion we still have leakage from our mains of the order of 40%. I hope this will be the priority. I will discuss local issues, including the New Ross bypass, with Deputy Wallace separately. I have made clear to my colleagues from the minute I went into my current Department that they should not spend money on projects that will not go ahead. I will examine specifically the lanDeputies would like us to cut deeper or tax more, because we cannot borrow more. These are the choices that people understand we are facing. Specific points were made about the metro north. It is not affordable in the medium term, but it is on hold. People say we have spent a lot of money to date. Yes, we have. The previous Governments did, but we are not in a position to go ahead with it in the short term. Of the three big infrastructural projects - the metro north, the DART interconnector and the Luas line BXD - the Luas project, which will link the two Luas lines, will go ahead, but the metro north is not affordable, as we have said. %are the choices that people understand we are facing. Specific points were made about the metro north. It is not affordable in the medium term, but it is on hold. People say we have spent a lot of money to date. Yes, we have. The previous Governments did, but we are not in a position to go ahead with it in the short term. Of the three big infrastructural projects - the metro north, the DART interconnector and the Luas line BXD - the Luas project, which will link the two Luas lines, will go ahead, but the metro north is not affordable, as we have said. We are spending €1.6 billion on water. I agree entirely with the point made by Deputy Wallace. When I was Minister for the Environment I made a specific instruction on the matter. While engineers seek to build more dams and carry out more big projects, blocking the leaks is the priority. It is shocking and unacceptable that even after spending more than €1 billion we still have leakage from our mains of the order of 40%. I hope this will be the priority. I will discuss local issues, including the New Ross bypass, with Deputy Wallace separately. I have made clear to my colleagues from the minute I went into my current Department that they should not spend money on projects that will not go ahead. I will examine specifically the lanDeputies would like us to cut deeper or tax more, because we cannot borrow more. These are the choices that people understand we are facing. Specific points were made about the metro north. It is not affordable in the medium term, but it is on hold. People say we have spent a lot of money to date. Yes, we have. The previous Governments did, but we are not in a position to go ahead with it in the short term. Of the three big infrastructural projects - the metro north, the DART interconnector and the Luas line BXD - the Luas project, which will link the two Luas lines, will go ahead, but the metro north is not affordable, as we have said. We are spending €1.6 billion on water. I agree entirely with the point made by Deputy Wallace. When I was Minister for the Environment I made a specific instruction on the matter. While engineers seek to build more dams and carry out more big projects, blocking the leaks is the priority. It is shocking and unacceptable that even after spending more than €1 billion we still have leakage from our mains of the order of 40%. I hope this will be the priority. I will discuss local issues, including the New Ross bypass, with Deputy Wallace separately. I have made clear to my colleagues from the minute I went into my current Department that they should not spend money on projects that will not go ahead. I will examine specifically the land purchase issue to which Deputy Wallace referred and perhaps I will respond to him privately. I have answered the issue raised by Deputy Daly on the metro north project. I do not have an answer on the specifics of the alternatives of various engineering solutions to deal with waste. That is an appropriate question to pursue with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

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