13 November 2003 Edition
Punchestown project shows scandalous financial mismanagement
Sinn Féin Dáil Finance spokesperson Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin has described as "a blast of hot air" the spin being put on Finance Minister McCreevy's address to the Construction Industry Federation where he 'warned' over the spiralling cost of infrastructure projects. Ó Caoláin said the Minister had no intention of challenging the industry which had so many "friends of Fianna Fáil" within it. He said the government's "scandalous mismanagement" was shown by the Minister's pet project at Punchestown.
"The Minister was attempting to talk tough when he addressed the Construction Industry Federation. He took them to task for the massive cost over-runs in infrastructure projects," said Ó Caoláin last Friday. "But the question is what is Minister McCreevy going to do about it? Does he really think they are going to respond positively to an appeal to 'take more positive steps to improve productivity and to get price levels down further'?
"Incredibly, the Minister actually asked advice on housing from this gathering of developers and speculators, many of them no doubt, big donors to the Fianna Fáil party. It is about time the Minister listened to the advice of Members of the Dáil about the housing crisis. He and his colleagues have certainly listened to the developers, not least when they emasculated Section 5 of the Planning Act 2000, with its requirement of 20% social and affordable housing in all developments.
"There is astonishment and anger among the public about the scandalous Punchestown Racecourse project in the Minister's own constituency, which was fully funded by the government at double the original projected cost. The Comptroller and Auditor General found conditions governing the State's financial support had not been referred to the Department of Agriculture and Food's legal advisers to ensure they were properly constructed and legally sound. The Minister ran away from the issue in the Dáil.
"It is a scandal that a centre that will cater to a sporting sector swimming in wealth has such a commitment from the government and the Minister personally while other sporting and voluntary organisations are competing for a limited fund under the Sports Capital Programme and are being ignored."