By Eugene McGloin
THE TAOISEACH Leo Varadkar will this week lead his Government into Sligo town, with goodies on a scale never seen before.
The Cabinet ‘conflab’ on Friday will also formally launch the €115 billion National Development Plan to cover the next decade.
Sligo is now confidently predicted to be promoted as ‘capital’ of the north west, said The Sunday Times in its main story yesterday.
This ‘top tier’ status would confirm recent predictions by Sligo TD, Tony McLoughlin, the Government’s Assistant Whip.
It may be a ‘national’ plan but there will be much focus on big-ticket local items promised by Deputy McLoughlin.
Notable among these will the timeframe for delivery of the new Garda headquarters.
building, on the corner of Chapel Street and Teeling Street, has faced
multiple significant health and safety issues in recent years.
stationed there have staged walkouts in recent months while the
prosp3dt of a sod-turning on the new Garda HQ in Sligo stays stagnant.
Sligo Garda Station
other big-ticket items being watched by local politicians includes
annual funding shortfalls at Sligo University Hospital, plus service
Three potential service enhancements at the hospital are under watchful waiting this week.
include (a) include trauma care — no regional centre has yet been
designated — (b) future configurations for maternity services and (c)
the much-sought Cath Lab.
The ‘local’ elements of the plan will also test whether Fine Gael can stage any recovery in Sligo politics.
It was all but wiped out in the May 2014 elections to the newly revised Sligo County Council and since then lost a TD.
The party’s sitting councillors were swept aside as it scraped three seats on the new 18 seat Council.
Gael was seen to the forefront of controversy which forced the closure,
for a period, of Lissadell and repeatedly misled local electorate on
the eastern bridge.
In Sligo’s west and south electoral areas, Fine Gael has a sole representative.
An impression of the completed Eastern Bridge
decline of Sligo town over the past 20 years was reinforced by some
photos published at the weekend on the History & Heritage Facebook page.
The site, which has 10,000 active members, showed several photos of a once thriving High Street.
High Street is pockmarked with premises under threat of collapse, half
finished projects and a multi faceted string of closed businesses.
the proposed new national plan has been heavily revised and rewritten
in recent weeks after reported backbench revolts in the main parties.
Public representatives from across Ireland met in private session in the midlands last week to push for a revised Plan.
RTÉ’s main TV news predicted last night that “horse trading” on the National Plan’s content could continue as late as next Thursday.
original draft, unpublished, concentrated on ‘upping’ the status of
major cities outside Dublin as growth centres over the next decade.
As yet, it is uncertain if a motorway will be built between Sligo and Mullingar.
Fáil TDs raised the issue in the Dail last year and Taoiseach Leo
Varadkar appeared to lend Sligo support later during his leadership
campaign. See link below.
Some prospective industrialists have given Sligo the ‘thumbs down’ in the absence of motorway, the Dail heard in 2017.
On motorways, the expected new National Plan has already drawn fire, according to The Sunday Times yesterday.
researcher for the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) has
criticised proposals to spend €850 million on a Cork to Limerick
Such a motorway would undermine the Plan’s objective to create strong regional cities, said researcher Edgar Morgenroth.
The newspaper also suggests the motorway from Mullingar might only be included as far as Longford in the new National Plan.
The case for a Mullingar to Sligo motorway in the Plan was forcefully put by TD Eamon Scanlon in the Dail in May 2017:-
I spoke to the IDA, I was told that when it brings people to the north
west, those who make decisions are not interested once they reach
Mullingar and find there is only a single carriageway road.
''They are not interested in travelling to Sligo or the north west because of the lack of a proper road structure.
''Unfortunately, that is the reality. It is not the fault of the IDA either,'' said Scanlon.
He added: ''The people who make decisions on location are company executives.
“Whatever chance one has with proper infrastructure, one has no chance without it.
''That is why the Government should reconsider its approach,'' said Scanlon last May.
The Sligo meeting of Cabinet will be held in the Institute of Technology, Ballinode.
The nearby Knocknarea Arena — due to host “American Pie” star Don McLean in June — will be used to launch the National Plan.
It is unclear if interest groups, local or national, plan to picket the Sligo meeting.
Former Taoiseach Enda Kenny faced protests from cancer service campaigners on several visits to Sligo.
May 2015 visit to the IT site by Prince Charles, first heir to the UK
throne, showed that security has been tried and tested on the sprawling
Prince Charles visits IT Sligo in 2015
Meanwhile, interest groups will also watch the new National Plan to see what it proposes as the population ages.
Apart from annual State funding of Sligo University Hospital, other incentives arise as Ireland’s population ages.
incentives could include the building of retirement villages with
services for older citizens and planned spending for several step-down
Simon Coveney specifically mentioned Sligo as a growth centre in his
leadership opening bid, on the hustings in Dublin in May 2017.
He also argued against Leo Varadkar’s 20 year timeframe for the National Plan.
Coveney was emphatic he wanted the timeframe set at just one decade.