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War of Words

Greens see red over Varadkar's remarks on roads and rail plan

FG backbenchers have renewed calls for a meeting with Minister Eamon Ryan over road projects.

GREEN PARTY POLITICIANS are seeing red this week over remarks Taoiseach Leo Varadkar made about Ireland’s all-island rail review plan. 

The plan recommends a series of new train routes and increased capacity, however, on the day of the plan’s publication on Tuesday, Varadkar spoke about how the review makes the case for more investment in roads

The report shows that even with an overhaul of train infrastructure in Ireland,  90% of freight and 94% of passenger journeys will still be by road, said Varadkar. 

“So, I think the case for further investment in roads is really strong,” he said. 

The split between investment in roads and public transport has long been a contentious issue between the Greens and Fine Gael, with backbenchers in Varadkar’s party only two months ago launching a series of attacks at a parliamentary party meeting over scrapped or delayed road projects.

It was agreed at a Fine Gael parliamentary party meeting this month that Ryan would be invited to meet with party members to discuss the issue of road projects. 

While FG politicians want a sit down chat with Ryan on roads, Varadkar’s comments this week have not gone down well with his coalition colleagues. 

Green Party TD Patrick Costello hit out against the remarks, stating: 

“We have under invested in public transport for most of the history of our State and we cannot continue to do so. Building sustainable transport infrastructure is about fighting the climate crisis now and for future generations!”

He said building more roads when there are still so many fossil-fuel cars will only increase emissions, pointing out that Ireland has a commitment to meet its legal-binding targets.

Dublin Green MEP Ciaran Cuffe said yesterday that the Taoiseach’s call for more road investment at the launch of an all-island rail plan “is at best disheartening”.

“In the midst of a climate crisis a whole-government approach to reducing emissions is crucial. It can not be left to the Greens alone,” he said on Twitter. 

Green Party Chairperson Pauline O’Reilly said people in rural Ireland are worried, but added that public transport expansion allows people choices and does not mean no roads and no cars. 

“But some road projects will have to be put on the backburner,” she said. 

Wicklow TD Stephen Matthews said: “It was car dependent development, motordom and big shiny new roads undermining public transport that nearly killed off rail. A bit bizarre to want to repeat that All-island rail plan ‘makes the case’ for more road projects, Taoiseach says.”

The overall feeling within the Green Party is that it was “frustrating to say the least” that on the day of the launch of the all-island rail review, which was two years in the making, it was used by the Taoiseach as an opportunity to push for greater investment in roads. 

It has yet to be confirmed if and when Ryan will meet with Fine Gael ministers and TDs over road issues. 

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