Speech to Fine Gael National Conference 2019 – Vibrant Communities across Ireland – Project Ireland 2040, Agriculture and Jobs’

23rd March, 2019

Friends and viewers,


Our economy is growing. Ireland is at work. We can look ahead with a spirit of ambition for our country.


We know the risks, we know the challenges. However we also know the many opportunities that an open, agile and resilient Ireland can pursue.


This is why Fine Gael alone has and is implementing an ambitious plan for the future.


By 2040 over 6 million people will be living, working and growing up in this country.


Under previous governments, population growth led to unbalanced and uneven development that overloaded Dublin and left the rest of the country behind.


To avoid repeating these mistakes, Fine Gael in Government brought forward our national development plan, Project Ireland 2040.


Unlike the failed plans of previous governments, this is not one for everyone in the audience that spreads investment too thin.


It doesn’t pay lip service to the needs of our towns, villages and rural areas while ignoring the fact that only sustained long-term investment can enable them to prosper.


It is not a plan that pits urban Ireland against rural Ireland.


It is instead a plan for ‘One Ireland’ – the Ireland that we will build together by 2040.


A plan to raise the whole country up so that every region can face the future with optimism.


Much has been achieved to make this vision a reality since we last came together.


In the Budget, I increased spending on capital investment by almost a quarter for this year to over €7 billion.


This brings us in line with mainstream European levels of capital investment.


And this spending is delivering on the ground in cities, towns and communities across the country:


  • Over 18,000 new homes were built last year with the three quarter of those in urban areas where demand is most acute. We want every family, every child to have a home.
  • 88 projects across the country have been approved from the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund of €100 million. To take one specific example, funding has been provided for the new bridge in Waterford which will open up the North Quays for significant social and economic development.
  • Completing the N25 New Ross Bypass and also in Wexford, the long-planned M11 Gordy – Enniscorthy motorway which will be delivered this year.
  • In addition three major projects are due to commence work this year including the Dunkettle Interchange and N22 Ballyvourney to Macroom in Cork, as well as the N5 Westport to Turlough in Mayo.

We are making these investments to deliver balanced population and economic growth so that cities like Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Galway can develop at a scale to counterbalance the continued growth of Dublin and its surrounding region.


We will build up these cities as viable alternatives to Dublin, with each being targeted for population growth of more than 50%, twice the growth projected for Dublin.


And Project Ireland 2040 will also provide for the growth of our major towns, in particular key regional locations such as Athlone in the midlands, Sligo in the north-west, as well as the cross border city-regions of the future like Letterkenny-Derry and Drogheda-Dundalk-Newry.



And to secure the continued vitality of our rural areas, a significant proportion of national population and economic growth will be targeted at building up the fabric of smaller towns, villages and rural areas, with much of that happening by redeveloping land inside small towns and villages.


The result will be a more effective balance of growth across our country. Our objective is that all the regions grow at similar rates, and all grow faster than Dublin.


The reason we can deliver such an ambitious vision for the country is because of the decisions we have made in Project Ireland 2040 to link our planning and investment plans for the first time in our history.


The money follows the plan.


No more strokes or gimmicks.


No more half-baked decentralisation.


No more ghost estates.


Instead responsible, ambitious and long-term policies for the whole country.


For One Ireland.


This is economic competence.


This is ambition for our country.


Because of the responsible and ambitious political choices we have made we will better meet the current and future needs of our society while protecting the economy against the risks on our horizon, particularly Brexit.


And it is precisely because we are planning for the future in a responsible and sustainable way that the opposition, who initially opposed Project Ireland 2040, now don’t want to talk about it at all.


Fine Gael will always put the national interest first.


Safety with our finances. Investment in our future.


This is the foundation upon which we will deliver lasting prosperity for our country.