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Varadkar decision cost Mayo 1,430 jobs – expert

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Edwin McGreal

The decision of the then Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar to remove the west and north west from the Core network of the Trans European Network - Transport (TEN-T) has potentially cost Mayo 1,430 jobs.
That’s the analysis of the man whose Freedom of Information request saw the story break last month that it was the current Taoiseach Varadkar who removed the Western Arc – running from Belfast to Cork via Derry, Sligo, Galway and Limerick – from the Core network.
Only projects on the Core network have access to the vast majority of European funding for transport.
Claremorris native Kealan Flynn is a former minister’s advisor and civil servant who now works as a consultant and a university lecturer in Galway.
Using European Union calculation models for such funding tranches, Mr Flynn has deduced that the decision to remove the Western Arc in 2011 has cost the entire Border, Midlands and Western (BMW) Region 14,279 jobs.
What’s more, Mr Flynn argues that the Taoiseach’s defence of the decision being that Ireland would be exposed to ‘the vast majority’ of the costs of such projects does not hold true.
He said that 80 percent of the costs of such projects can come from the EU and, primarily, private sector investment, as per the European Union’s Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funding model, which finances the Ten-T.
Mr Flynn says the decision made in 2011 by Leo Varardkar continues a long-time neglect of the west by successive governments.
“Wiping the west off the Ten-T map delays or derails vital investment in critical infrastructure in this region,” Mr Flynn told The Mayo News.
“It means that the M17 motorway can’t be extended from Tuam to Turlough, where it would join an upgraded N5 to Castlebar and Westport, putting Mayo within easy reach of Galway, Limerick and Dublin.
“It keeps the Western Rail Corridor mothballed when it could be used to get Galway-bound commuters out of their cars, and to move freight direct from the west and north-west to Foynes, Cork and Waterford Ports instead of taking the long way through Portarlington.
“It means a poor quality connecting road along a good part of the route from Shannon to Knock and Sligo, and no direct rail link between Limerick and Sligo. That makes it harder to attract and scale industry and logistics in the west and north-west and to grow rail tourism through a Wild Atlantic Railway. It also delays the rollout of high-speed broadband. Investment delayed is opportunity denied,” he added.
Mr Flynn was a minister’s advisor to Michael Woods in various departments including Agriculture, Health and Social Welfare in Fianna Fáil led Governments in the 1990s.
However, he points out his comments are not a party political broadside at Fine Gael but reflective of the failure of successive Governments, together with the civil service, to address the west in a meaningful way.
“The plain truth is the entire political class and civil service are both in the dock,” said Mr Flynn.
“In 2015, Dublin, with 28 percent of the population, got 47 percent of IDA-backed jobs. The rest of Ireland, with 72 percent of the population, got 53 percent of the jobs. The west and north-west are poor for a reason. Neglected by successive governments, who think only election to election. Thrown to the wolves by the civil service, which treats the regions like a reservation.
“And if we’re honest, we the citizens, the voters, have let them away with murder. Would Fianna Fáil be much different? As I see it, our elected and appointed officials have been too cosy for too long. Ministers need to man up, read up, question and challenge, especially when they are being bounced. You can’t have civil servants running amok, politicians wheeled out to defend the indefensible, and citizens and their needs being sent to hell in a handcart. That’s the story of the Ten-T and much else in Ireland.”

MORE Ten-T: How the west was done

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