Minister for Finance Michael Noonan has backed in principle a strategy by Mallow TD Seán Sherlock highlighting the potential funding opportunities for Mallow and North Cork to build the M20.
“Increasingly what we are seeing in respect of the Stability and Growth Pact is that there is a lot of focus on the stability but very little on the growth,” said Deputy Sherlock this week in the Oireáchtas Finance Committee. “If we are looking at growth in our own economy and capital spending, obviously there is going to be a turf war on the capital spend. The Minister and I both inhabit the great province of Munster. We would be looking at regional economic development between Cork, Limerick and Galway and that Atlantic corridor. If we are to be realistic about proper investment in projects of this nature, there needs to be some degree of flexibility built into, or a revision of, the Stability and Growth Pact because I think it is actually impeding the potential for growth.  There cannot be growth without proper regional infra-structure.”
Speaking on the issue, Minister Noonan observed that Ireland is underinvested in both social and economic infrastructure.  “In terms of economic infrastructure we need to work on completion of the roads programme, investment in the ports, airports and broadband and investment in social infrastructure in terms of refurbishment of schools, including prefab replacement, health centres and so on,” the Minister said, and he highlighted the potential benefit of public private partnerships.
“Transferring the risk means transfer of the fin-ancial liability to the entity that is building the road, school and so on.  We have just started this initiative but we have already discovered that we can expect the EIB to look favourably on projects that generate an income stream. For example, if we proposed to undertake a project in the public transport arena which resulted in the fares accruing from that being sufficient to service the loan, we could get it off-balance sheet,” Minister Noonan added.
Deputy Sherlock confirmed that the Minister was referring to the M20. “I’ll continue to push for this project for Mallow, North Cork and the entire region, whatever the funding avenue eventually agreed.”