Leo Varadkar - "But it’s important to say two things. The big single investment that happened in transport in Ireland in the last seven years was the Gort to Tuam motorway … Anyone that is saying that rural Ireland was somehow mistreated compared to other parts of the country really isn’t speaking on the basis of facts …
“There is also a misunderstanding about Ten-T. Some people seem to think that Ten-T is a big pot of money that we can draw down money for roads and railways. It’s not like structural funds. If you include something on the core network of Ten-T you have to build it and you might get a bit of money from the European Union for it. However, the chances are that the projects that get funding are ones that are trans-European, ones that are cross-border projects for example ports and airports. There isn’t a pot of European money to invest in Irish roads and railways anymore. That era is over."
" However, Kealan Flynn, a leading authority on the matter and a former Government advisor, said the Taoiseach’s comments are contradictory. It was Mr Flynn’s Freedom of Information request which revealed, earlier this year, that Mr Varadkar had removed the Western Arc from the Core network in 2011 and brought the issue to national prominence.
“The Taoiseach seems to be at sixes and sevens on the Ten-T,” he told The Mayo News. “On the one hand, he’s saying, mistakenly as it happens, that there is no pot of European money for road and rail infrastructure. On the other, he’s promising to keep the pledge in the Programme for Government, to reapply to get the Western Arc/Atlantic Corridor put back on the EU’s Ten-T Core road, rail, port and airport network map. Which is it? And why is the application still sitting in Dublin two years after it was meant to be sent to Brussels?
“The EU is investing €500 billion in multi-modal (road, rail, airport and sea port) transport infrastructure from 2014-2020, with a further €250 billion needed to finish the Ten-T Core Corridors by 2030. It’s worrying to hear the Taoiseach say the cross-border element doesn’t exist because Northern Ireland is not a trans-European route. It is. And what is the Brexit backstop for, if it isn’t to protect and defend the special relationship and the all-island economy that requires these trans-European links?
“Europe is joining the dots – and handing Ireland the pencil. Last May, Ten-T leader Brian Simpson said funding rules were being rewritten for peripheral regions. The EU is now proposing an investment package for a new maritime route to Europe via Cork and Waterford or Rosslare, as the UK will no longer be a common transit area after Brexit. This is to upgrade port and supporting infrastructure, including rail and road. On funding opportunities, Mr Simpson said: “The reality for Ireland now is, in order to get EU money, you have to apply for it. You’re pushing an open door with me. If you do not apply for the funding you will not get it, so please apply.”
“For the Taoiseach to say there is no more EU funding, is to miss both the point and the opportunity. Ireland should grab, not spurn, the opportunities and partnerships,” said Mr Flynn."