Donegal, Derry and the North West has been put at the heart of Irish national public policy for the first time today with hundreds of millions of euro earmarked for spending here, Government Chief Whip and Fine Gael TD Joe McHugh said.
Key commitments over the development of the A5 Derry and Donegal to Dublin dual carriageway project have been secured along with a host of other infrastructure projects and investment in Inishowen, Letterkenny and Glenveagh National Park among others.
Speaking in Sligo today, where he is attending a special Cabinet meeting to publish Project Ireland 2040, Donegal TD Minister McHugh also hailed the vision of a Letterkenny city status region, along with Derry and Strabane as a cross-border city region, designed to drive further investment and create even more jobs in the area.
“Almost a century since partition, since Donegal was cut off from Northern Ireland and cut off geographically from the rest of the Republic, this Government is putting my home county back on the map.
“Today is a recognition of how far we have come in past 20 years with respect to the peace process. There is now a formal recognition in national policy for cross-border co-operation.
Speaking about the A5 Derry to Dublin project, Minister McHugh said: “This announcement today will see the funding of the first phase of £150 million sterling jointly approved by British and Irish Governments on the A5 route connecting Dublin to Derry.
“On top of that a further €30M has been earmarked for a new bridge for the A5 link connecting the A5 to the N14 – and €200M for a brand new N14 route from there to Letterkenny, bypassing Lifford.
“A further €60M has been set aside for the Bonagee Link in Letterkenny which was a key issue for me and important for the continued growth of Donegal. These infrastructure plans will allow dual carriageway and/or four lane carriageway travel from Donegal to Dublin, either from Letterkenny or Inishowen.
“I am delighted to see specific reference to Greencastle in the plan along as well as multi-million euro spends on the State owned harbour in Killybegs – to help both the tourism and fishing industries at the ports.
The Minister also announced a wide range of capital investments including:
*Schools, Social & Affordable Housing and county hospital and acute hospital beds
* Investment in National Heritage including new facilities at Glenveagh National Park
* New radiological Services under construction in Letterkenny University Hospital ; €11.7M rebuild, completion due first quarter 2019, as we continue building on the extensive work that has been carried out at LUH since the floods in 2013/2014.
* Investment in new Tourism Facilities in Sliabh Liag, An Earagail & Fanad Lighthouse
* Letterkenny Institute of Technology to benefit from infrastructure investment in Higher Education
*Acceleration of the National Broadband strategy
* Investment in Tory Island including improvement of the pier infrastructure at Machaire Rabhartaigh pier and the provision of a new passenger ferry for the island
* Investment in the Irish language both within the Gaeltacht and outside traditional Gaeltacht areas - €178 million Capital Investment over 10 years – a 71 per cent increase.
Minister McHugh said: “The National Development Plan sets out how the Government, using taxpayers money, will invest €116 billion over the next ten years and I am delighted that Donegal and the North West is at the heart of those plans.
“This will allow our county to finally play its part on the national stage. This is a fantastic day for Donegal. We have so much going for us in this county and I know that working together with all stakeholders my county is now on a trajectory to an even better place to live and work in the years ahead.”
The Donegal TD went on: “There will be a massive investment in schools includes a nationwide school building programme as well as increased support for Physical Education facilities in Post Primary schools.
“The entire thrust of the plan is about regional and rural regeneration with a €1Billion Rural Development Fund. An extra 2600 acute hospital beds will be made available nationally, and I will be working with my cabinet colleague Minister Harris to ensure LUH gets its fair share.
“There will be extra funding too for Donegal airport at Carrickfin as well as Ireland West Airport at Knock.
“On a cross-border basis we will also develop north south research and innovation capability with €53 million being spent over four years and a further Interreg fund of €18 million over the same period.”
Minister McHugh thanked all those groups in the North West who made submissions after the first draft of the plan was published last year, in particular Donegal County Council, Letterkenny Chamber, and the Donegal Dublin Business Network.
“This Government is delivering for Donegal. Our Taoiseach Leo Varadkar knows this county better than any leader before him and he knows exactly what this sort of investment will do for us. As a Minister in previous roles, it was he who kept Malin Head coastguard station open, invested in cancer care and cardiology services at Altnagelvin and kept the A5 Project on track. It was he who sanctioned the Wild Atlantic Way initiative which has proven so lucrative for our rural communities. And it is Leo Varadkar who is listening to my voice in Cabinet, my voice for Donegal.
“Mar Aire don Ghaeltacht agus don Ghaeilge, leanfaidh mé ar aghaidh ag obair le grúpaí taobh istigh agus lasmuigh den Ghaeltacht. Aithníonn an plean seo an tábhacht reachtúil atá ag Acht na Gaeltachta 2012. Déanfaidh muid forbairt ar infreastruchtúr nua i gcomhar le Foras na Gaeilge agus le hÚdarás na Gaeltachta chun an teanga a choinneáil beo agus a chinntiú go mbainfidh an ghlúin seo agus an chéad ghlúin eile leas as an oidhreacht agus an traidisiún saibhir seo..tiocfaidh muid le chéile lenár dteanga.”
“This is a great day for Donegal and its people. I look forward to seeing my Dáil constituency colleagues supporting this plan.”