IRELAND’S INFRASTRUCTURE IS completely mediocre.
From transport to telecommunications, from waste supply to water quality. Even our energy is mediocre.
That is the finding of an Engineers Ireland report The State of Ireland 2017 which was launched this week.
The report gives a C grade to nearly everything in Ireland, excluding the ports, the airports and connectivity of communications, which get a B.
However, while a C might have been an honour in your Leaving Cert, it is not in the real world.
Engineers Ireland says a C means “mediocre and inadequately maintained”.
That grade goes across the board for most facets of Irish infrastructure, but why?
At the launch of the report, Tony Hanaway of Virgin Media said that the issue lay in a “legacy of lousy planning”.
“There’s a ten-year backlog in capital investment. And it’s going to take a while to clear it.”
Hanaway said that from his point of view, the National Broadband Plan was crucial. He added that a €1.5 billion capital spending pot promised from 2019-2021 would be wanted by all manner of suitors.”
“We have better than the EU average in terms of broadband penetration. Our customers use more data than anyone in the EU.
“But there’s multiple years of catch up to be done. There’s been no money for a decade and it will take the wisdom of King Solomon to dole out the money that is there.”
Another speaker on the panel, University of Limerick economist Stephen Kinsella, said that Ireland didn’t generally know how to do capital spending.
“The greatest risk is the status quo. Investing in capital is about 40% where it was in 2016 and a lot of the investment is both small and far away.
“As a state we have prioritised current spending over capital all the time.
“We’re good at reacting to the problem. But capital spending isn’t like that.”
Kinsella went on to say that much of Ireland’s stasis was to do with short-sighted politicians who ran a “NIMT” mindset – Not In My Time – when it came to planning.
“It’s a mindset of ‘can I post this to my Facebook page right now?’”
The Engineers Ireland report recommends that the government:
- Accelerate the development of Metro North, the DART Expansion Programme, M20 and Luas line extensions
- Incentivise consumers and private car operators to purchase electric vehicles (EVs) and plan for the electrification of the heavy rail network
- Encourage car-sharing to discourage multicar households and on-street urban parking
- Improve connectivity of the north-west and the Atlantic Corridor to Ireland’s seaports
- New housing developments should include provision for infrastructure to support broadband rollout
- Award the contract for the National Broadband Plan without delay