I welcome the opportunity to speak in the debate. Over the past four years, the Government has made significant progress in transforming the economy from the basket case of Europe to the fastest-growing economy in Europe. Maintaining fiscal prudence and stability is critical to the ongoing recovery as we emerge from the recession. This is why the plan is important. It is based on what we can deliver, as other Government speakers have said. We certainly do not want to make the mistakes we made in the past again.
Deputy Creed and previous speakers spoke about broadband. Broadband is one of the most important issues facing the country and needs to be delivered to every part of the country. I hope the investment put into broadband will deliver, because it is the future for rural Ireland. We talk about sustaining rural Ireland. The only thing that will sustain rural Ireland is broadband, so that people can work at home in their houses. The other day I heard an auctioneer say the first thing asked by a person who wants to buy a house in the country is whether the area has a broadband service. If there is broadband people will work from home. They will buy houses in the country. It is obviously important for people to live in the country. Their children will go to school. It is critical that we invest in broadband and I hope we have high-speed broadband in every part of Ireland by 2020.
Transport is an important part of the plan, and it is important to know there is much work ongoing. In the Leas-Cheann Comhairle’s constituency, the N17-N18 Tuam-Gort bypass is making huge and fast progress, and it will open up the entire west of Ireland. It is also creating many jobs at present, and this is extremely important. Most economists who have spoken about the plan have said it will deliver and that it is unlike other plans, particularly the previous Government’s plans, with Bertie bowls and things we could not afford.
As Deputy Creed said, €3.8 billion will be invested in education, and I welcome the fact that two schools in Ennis have been included. These are the Christian Brothers national school and Scoil Chríost Rí in Cloughleigh. I hope that Sixmilebridge national school can also be included. Huge money has been invested in schools, and this is important.
More money is going into health care. Limerick Regional Maternity Hospital is being transferred to the University Hospital Limerick, which is an important factor because experts throughout the world believe it is important to have the two hospitals alongside each other.
Today, in my own constituency, over €1.4 million has been allocated by the Office of Public Works to Clare County Council for agricultural land embankments, etc., damaged during the flooding and storms in 2014. That is a significant amount of money going into west Clare. Never before has that kind of money been put into embankments and coastal protection measures for agricultural land by a Government.
There is much happening. I have mentioned the health services. There is also the Shannon bridge crossing at Killaloe, which is most welcome. Killaloe has a strong reputation as a tourist town and the current bridge is unable to handle the high volume of traffic going over the bridge to Ballina. The construction of a new crossing will be a major boost for east Clare and particularly for the tourism sector. I hope it will come about as soon as possible.
There is much in this plan, and significant investment has been put into hospitals in Clare, including Regina House in Kilrush and Ennistymon community hospital. The Minister will be down on 19 October to lay the foundation stone for phase two at Raheen hospital. The whole of society will benefit from this plan. From an education perspective, new facilities will be provided at primary, secondary and third levels. There will be improved road infrastructure in the country, although there is one project that is not in the plan, which disappoints me - the motorway from Limerick to Cork, which would have completed the loop and linked all of our cities.
I hope there might be a change of heart and the project could be included in the plan. It would be very important for the mid-west and south of Ireland. Nevertheless, this is a good plan and, as I mentioned, most economists have welcomed it because they see the possibility of its completion. I have no doubt that the country will be much better off as a result of this. Jobs will be created in the construction phases of the plan. It is realistic, affordable and prioritises what is really needed in our road, rail, health, education and broadband infrastructures. It will make a difference to many communities across the island.