A WAR OF WORDS has erupted between Fine Gael Minister for State Michael Ring and former Fianna Fáil Minister Dara Calleary over the fact that last week’s €2.25 billion government stimulus plan largely left County Mayo out in the cold.
In a stinging attack, Deputy Calleary accused the government of staging ‘a shameless PR stunt’ by re-announcing investments first announced by the previous coalition government and later shelved by the present Fine Gael and Labour coalition.
There are no major road projects for Mayo in the plan, which includes the development of the N17/N18 Gort to Tuam motorway and bypasses of Clarinbridge, Claregalway and Tuam.
The only announcement for Mayo was the proposed opening of primary-care centres in Westport and Claremorris.
Speaking to The Mayo News yesterday, Michael Ring threw the ball right back at Fianna Fáil and the last government, saying it was their inaction that led to no Mayo road projects being included in the new plan.
Minister Ring said: “It is very hard to be listening to nonsense and diktats from Dara Calleary and Fianna Fáil after the state they left the country. This is the party that brought the IMF into this country and we are now trying to regain our sovereignty with this stimulus package.”
In a statement, Dara Calleary said there was no guarantee that the two primary-care centres would go ahead, as they were subject to further HSE agreement
He said: “The plan includes 35 primary-care centres, two of which are in Claremorris and Westport. However, the fine print clearly states that only 20 of these will actually be built and only if local GPs agree. There is no guarantee if and when our centres will be built.”
He continued: “While it will come as a relief that the Government has seen the error of its ways in shelving key projects in the West like the Gort to Tuam motorway, this plan provides little comfort to 13,424 people in Mayo who are currently on the Live Register. There will be very few new jobs in Mayo or in any part of the country for at least two years. The earliest we will see any of these projects commence is 2014, with some work scheduled for 2017 and beyond.”
Mr Calleary said this plan would ‘go nowhere towards filling the gap left by the massive cuts in capital expenditure announced by Minister Howlin last November’.
Responding to the major road works situation, Michael Ring said: “In relation to the N5 between Westport and Castlebar, and the N26 between Ballina and Bohola, these projects needed to be shovel-ready to be included in the stimulus plan. If the previous government had done their pre-planning work properly they would have been ready now.”
On the other hand, he said ‘there was an opportunity now in both Westport and Claremorris for new state-of-the-art primary-care centres’.
Referring to the proposed centre in Westport, he said: “The new facility will replace the current Health Centre, which is not in a good condition and has outlived its usefulness. The new primary-care centre will cost in the region of €4 million and HSE is currently in discussions with Westport Town Council in relation to a suitable site.”
He explained that the next step was to negotiate with the relevant general practitioners about the projects.
The Mayo News understands the site for the proposed centre is on the former Convent of Mercy grounds.
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