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NTR has Made a Monkey of the Minister for Transport

Posted on: February 8th, 2006

The Minister, in a fiasco of a statement last week, announced that the plaza on the West Link toll bridge would be opened. Apparently, we were all meant to applaud but why should we do so?

It will only be opened in two years’ time. The significance of the date is that it will be on the other side of an election and the Government hopes, by reassuring people at the hustings this time next year that the plaza will be gone fairly soon, it will be able once again to make monkeys of the electorate. What will happen during those two years? Everybody knows that NTR will continue to milk motorists and the M50 will get worse. The Government will merely whisper sweet nothings in the ears of big business and say, “Do not worry, it will be all over in two years.”

It is not satisfactory because more could have been done much earlier. This problem did not arise suddenly this year but has been building up over a long time and is the result of the original deal, a matter remarked upon today by a number of speakers.

This deal sets standards which would not be acceptable today in any toll company and, as we heard from the NRA last week, it also sets down certain legally unenforceable terms. It was flawed and careless and it granted a monopoly. Let us stop saying the Government negotiated a good deal because the principles, standards and traffic forecasts were all wrong, although it should not necessarily be blamed for the latter and I concur with the Senator on the economy. The flaws in the deal were so fundamental that they should have been foreseen and prevented.

A lot of passing the parcel has been conducted by people trying to disown the deal by blaming either the then coalition Government or Fianna Fáil. We should determine who signed the agreement because people who sign deals should take responsibility for them. It was signed by George Redmond for Dublin County Council and by Pádraig Flynn for his party.

It is all very well to say that he was only one week in office, as I heard recently on a radio programme, but that is not true because he had served for at least six months. The deal was signed in October but he had been in office since the previous March.

Did the then Minister sign this deal without knowing its contents or giving it due consideration? He must take responsibility and the Government of the day should say it signed the deal but got it wrong.

This is not just about money, it is a human problem. I am sick and tired of people talking about how much it will cost to do A or B, with projections on traffic volumes and the economy. This is a problem which must be resolved and there are two ways of doing so. The first is a temporary way — let us see who is responsible for the congestion by opening the gates now. The Minister can do that and, second, he can set the toll at zero today. There is no need for a two year delay.