Ireland 2040: ​Building ​a national framework ​for the future

Ireland 2040 is an ambitious blueprint to develop the Ireland in which we will live and work and to put in place the services underpinning our society.

The Boom is back, and this time it will be boomier. Construction cranes at South Mall, Cork. Pic; Larry Cummins.

  • Sponsored content in partnership with Project Ireland 2040, an initiative of The Government of Ireland

AS the country emerges from recession, the Government is looking to the short, medium, and long term future of the country with its National Planning Framework, which was unveiled last week.

Ireland 2040 is its plan to use the gains gleaned from the nascent economic growth to develop the Ireland in which we will live and work, and to put in place the services underpinning our society.

It is an ambitious blueprint that will see public capital investment transformed from the low levels of the post-crash years to being amongst the highest in the EU.

Tasked with providing the framework for the social, economic, and cultural infrastructure for the entire country in 2040, the plan caters for an Ireland over twenty years from now, when one million more people live here, two-thirds of which be at work.

It is a vision for a time when our population will be older, and our family sizes smaller — changes that will bring with it new demands on our public services and a different emphases on the requirements of our State supports.

This population growth will need to be balanced, and Ireland 2040 seeks to ensure that rather than have excessive population growth focused on Dublin — as is the current trend — that 75% of all population growth occurs in the rest of the country.

  • Quick fact … €116bn: Spend on infrastructure by 2027

Cork, Limerick, Galway, and Waterford will each grow by at least 50% over the next 22 years, and the plan identifies towns such as Sligo, Athlone, Letterkenny and Drogheda-Dundalk as centres of potential.

It both strives to reverse the decline in towns, villages, and rural areas while also seeking to contain and concentrate the growth in housing within existing built-up areas.

The investment behind all this is a €116bn fund, drawn from €91bn in exchequer funding and almost €25bn from State-owned commercial companies.

“This marks a significant milestone in our country’s development, the point at which we put a lost decade behind us and move forward into a new decade of expansion,” Taoiseach Leo Vardkar said at the Ireland 2040 launch.

“This is a plan for all our citizens — the old, the young, and the yet to be born, living in towns, in cities and in the countryside. It follows the spirit of Collins and Lemass, people who always strove to raise the prospects of every Irish citizen.

“It’s about ensuring that all parts of Ireland fulfil their potential. As we approach our 100th anniversary as a sovereign nation, it’s about investing to ensure our country is insulated against any possible challenges like Brexit. It’s a path to a positive, sustainable future,” he said.

Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Leo Varadkar speaking at the Cabinet meeting and launch of Project Ireland 2040 at IT Sligo. Photo: James Connolly

The success of Ireland 2040 hangs on the framework’s ability to meet ten strategic outcomes that will deliver wellbeing, equality, and opportunity to all living and working in the country over 20 years from now.

Population growth demands 25,000 new homes a year over the next two years, and as many as 35,000 a year for the next seven years after that.

Of those new homes introduced over the next decade, 112,000 will be social housing.

Ireland 2040 seeks to prevent sprawl beyond our suburbs by focussing 40% of future housing development within established cities, towns, and villages.

  • Quick fact … €75%: Planned population growth outside of Dublin by 2040

Meanwhile, €2bn has been earmarked for an Urban Regeneration and Development fund to meet this goal, and a newly established National Regeneration and Development Agency will manage the development of lands within urban centres to deliver compact growth.

Ireland 2040 divides the country into three regions — the North and West; the South; and the East and Midlands.

Growing these at comparable rates, and delivering 75% of the country’s growth outside the capital, are strategic outcomes of the plan that will benefit from a €1bn Rural Regeneration and Development Fund, and a commitment to delivering broadband to these areas in the short-term.

The development of tourism, agriculture, greenways, the Gaeltacht, islands, fisheries and forestry will all come under the attention of this fund.

Spreading growth around the country demands access to these locations, and another outcome by which Ireland 2040 will be measured will be its ability to connect urban areas to each other, with the North West highlighted as a region in particular need of focus in this regard.

The Atlantic Corridor — the road network linking Cork to Sligo via Limerick and Galway — is a priority, as is investment in the rail network and bus services.

  • Quick fact … 40%: Of future housing to be within or near existing built up areas

Investment in our public transport needs to be environmentally sustainable, and another result expected under Ireland 2040 is a network that both enables economic growth while also helping meet the country’s low-carbon demands.

Metro North, Dart expansion, and an overhaul of the nation’s bus fleet are all identified as targets, as are segregated cycling networks.

Meanwhile, another outcome identified by Ireland 2040 is continued investment in Ireland’s international connectivity through our ports and airports. A new runway for Dublin Airport, development of Cork and Shannon Airports, investment in the Ireland West Airport in Knock, and continued progress in linking our ports are all identified as desired goals.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade with responsibility for Brexit Simon Coveney, posing for pictures with James Wall at the Cabinet meeting and launch of Project Ireland 2040 at IT Sligo. Photo: James Connolly

Those living and travelling in Ireland 2040 will need jobs — an extra 660,000 are expected to be in employment by then — and the plan makes provision to reduce unemployment rates in all regions to within 1% of the national average, while giving local enterprise the same level of priority as attracting foreign investment.

A Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund will invest €500m into driving collaboration between research, education, and enterprise sectors.

The population growth will need adequate cultural and sporting amenities to service it.

A national cultural infrastructure plan will deliver the aims of the Creative Ireland programme into both urban centres and smaller towns, and the Sport Capital Programme will inject investment into clubs and organisations across the country.

The country has both environmental targets to meet, and the challenges posed by climate change.

To this end, a €500m Climate Action Fund will be established, and there will be further investment in flood relief schemes.

Some 45,000 homes a year will be upgraded from 2021, a Renewable Heat Support Scheme will be introduced, and public transport will transition to low-emission vehicles.

Ireland 2040 sees the prioritisation of a new water supply source for the eastern and midland region, and increased capacity in waste facilities to meet future needs.

The plan also targets 50 large scale school projects every year over the next three years, increasing school places by 20,000 a year. It champions the expansion of the capacity across Institutes of Technology, and sustained capital investment across the school system.

  • Quick fact … €2bn: Urban Regeneration and Development Fund

The health needs of the people of Ireland 2040 will be met by a health service that will be reoriented towards primary and community care to cater for patients locally.

While some of the detail of Ireland 2040 has been previously announced, the plan itself is an ambitious new framework that seeks to balance the growth in the country over the next 20 years in a sustainable way that meets the challenges posed by the years ahead.

It establishes targets met when the wellbeing of the people of Ireland 2040 is enhanced and aims to develop a fairer society.

“Ireland stands on the cusp of great change,” Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government, Eoghan Murphy said.

“In the next 20 years we will grow by an extra 1m people. This raises a series of important questions for our consideration, the most basic being where will all these people live and work, what kind of quality of life will we each enjoy, and how will a country of almost 6m people impact on our communities and on our built and natural environment?

“We have a responsibility to answer these questions; we have a responsibility to plan for the changes that we face — to manage our future growth in a productive and sustainable way.

“This is a challenge certainly, but it is also a great opportunity for a new generation to imagine, and implement, a shared vision for each community on this island.”

Ireland 2040: Cork has central role in delivering balanced growth

The long awaited M20, a €200m revamp of the city’s bus service, and investments in amenities, research, and housing have all been promised for Cork in the Ireland 2040 plan.

As the second largest city in the State, Cork is to play a central role in delivering balanced growth over the next twenty years.

“I think about what Cork City looked like 20 years ago when I got into politics,” Tánaiste Simon Coveney said after the unveiling of Ireland 2040.

“Yes, there are some exceptional buildings around like the maternity hospital. But essentially it doesn’t look that different to what it did then.

“In 20 years’ time, our city will look dramatically different and, in my view, 25% of the city’s footprint has yet to be built. Hopefully, we can spend billions of euro to transform this city for the better,” he said.

  • Quick fact … 1m: Extra people expected to be living in Ireland by 2040

Limerick, too, will play its part in driving growth outside the capital, and it and Cork will be linked by a €900m motorway which will improve travel times and increase safety on the route.

Other earmarked improvements to Cork’s road network include the N22 Ballyvourney Macroom Project, the N8/N25 Dunkettle Interchange, the Mallow Relief road, and the N25 Carraigtwohill to Midleton project.

The BusConnects programme — a €200m overhaul of Cork’s public transport — will be completed within a decade and will deliver bus corridors and enhanced services. New urban cycling and walking routes will be developed and the appraisal, planning and design of a light rail corridor for Cork will be carried out.

The Tyndall institute at UCC will be upgraded to maintain its status as a leader of innovation and research. A number of research centres in the Cork region — such as Enterprise Ireland, IDA and Science Foundation Ireland centres — will be strengthened so as to attract international research talent and funding such as European Union research and development funds.

  • Quick fact … 20,000: Permanent school places to be created annually

Cork Institute of Technology is set to be on of 11 major infrastructure projects nationally to benefit from a €200m public-private partnership programme for the higher education sector.

Parks and nature reserves — such as the Gearagh Nature Reserve, Lough Hyne Nature Reserve, Knockomagh Wood Nature Reserve, Kilcolman Bog Nature Reserve, Glengarriff Woods Nature Reserve, Capel Island, and Knockadoon Head Nature Reserve — will all receive investment under Ireland 2040, as will the Crawford Art Gallery.

Claire White from Dublin pictured with Sean Keating’s Men of the West in the Crawford Art Gallery, Cork. Pic Daragh Mc Sweeney/Provision

It is set for a €22m investment and redevelopment, which will start this year to conclude in 2025 over the period 2018 to 2025. The complete refurbishment of the building takes part under these plans, and will get under way from 2022. The goal is to transform the gallery into a fit-for- purpose, state of the art public museum, for Cork City and county and the wider region.

Ireland 2040 promises delivery of the Cork Event Centre. A public-private partnership project will bring about the construction of the centre, with Cork City Council responsible for the management and delivery of the project.

  • Quick fact … €150m: Shannon Group capital investment to 2022

“We are close to making that happen,” Minister Coveney said.

“I’ve been saying that for some time, but BAM, Live Nation, and ourselves are all going through a final approval to all put more money into the process.

“This is going to cost between €75m and €80m to build. The developers and future owner will put more money in and we have an agreement in principle. Hopefully, we will have an announcement on that very shortly.”

Once delivered, the centre will be capable of accommodating concerts, festivals, family entertainments, cultural, sports, exhibitions, conferences and trade shows.

Heineken BAM Ireland plans for a conference centre and regeneration plan for former Beamish and Crawford site.

The growth in population means more homes are needed, and already some 2,000 additional social housing units are being delivered through projects in Cork City such as on White St, Church Rd and the regeneration of the north west of the city.

Outside the city, the Crann Ard development in Fermoy will deliver 52 homes, and the newly announced Kilnagleary, Carraigaline, project will bring a further 49.

In health, primary care centres will continue to be developed across the region, while community nursing units across the region will be replaced and upgraded.

A new hospital for Cork and new dedicated ambulatory elective-only hospital facilities will be introduced and replacement and additional radiation oncology facilities will be provided at Cork University Hospital.

Towns across Co Cork will benefit from the €1bn Rural Regeneration and Development Fund and there is a commitment to increased investment in order to enable the creation of 1,000 jobs every year in Gaeltacht areas including in Cork.

The marine plays a key role in Cork’s economy.

  • Quick fact … €1bn: Rural Regeneration and Development Fund

To this end the €90m Port of Cork redevelopment project, costing circa €90m, will bring about improvements to the port infrastructure and connectivity, and will enable the port to accommodate larger vessels, further developing it as an international gateway for trade.

The €55m investment in the Cork Lower Harbour Main Drainage Project will enhance the water quality in Cork Harbour, thus protecting the environment, facilitating economic development and providing for a growing population in the Cork area.

Castletownbere is set to benefit from the capital investment programme across all six Fisheries Harbour Centres. This will provide suitable, safe, efficient and hygienic facilities to further develop a modern offshore Irish fishing fleet and and increase landings into the country’s Fishery Harbour Centres.

The relocation of the Port of Cork will allow development on in the city.

“It clears the way for significant Docklands development over the next 10 years,” said Mr Coveney. “It creates space, growth and oxygen for the city to grow outwards and upwards.”

Ireland 2040: Kerry to be better connected than ever before

As a self-sustaining county that is both an international tourism draw and a thriving business eco-system, Ireland 2040 marks Kerry out as the key driver for the South-West, and the region is set to benefit from roads, rural regeneration, and investment in amenities under the National Framework plan.

Kerry is set to be better connected to the rest of the country than ever before, and the Construction Industry Federation have described the plans outlined in Ireland 2040 as a “potential game changer” for Munster.

“The N22 Ballyvourney By Pass and the Adare By Pass will allow for easier access to Kerry, one of the country’s most important centres for the tourism sector,” said Regional CIF Director, Conor O’Connell.

“For the first time places like Killarney will be less than one hour from an Airport with transatlantic connections. Furthermore companies like Fexco and Liebher in Kerry have been calling for a greater connectivity for their businesses and these projects will help ensure these jobs remain in Kerry and facilitate further expansion of their activities,” he said.

  • Quick fact … 600,000: Extra workers expected in Ireland by 2040

Other road projects include the Tralee Northern Relief Road scheme, due for completion by the end of 2021, which will provide a new link to join the completed N22/N69 Tralee bypass to the Bracker O’Regan Road — completing the Relief Road project.

The N69 Listowel Bypass, currently at contract stage, will ease congestion through Listowel town and crossing the River Feale and improve access to Shannon Foynes Port.

The Dingle Relief Road project is ready to commence construction on its fourth phase, which is likely to be completed by the end of next year.

Beyond roads, Killarney National Park, Skellig Michael and Valentia Cable Station will all see investment from the a €285m national heritage fund outlined in Project Ireland 2040, and Kerry Airport will continue to receive financial support via the Regional Airports Programme.

Skellig Michael, Co Kerry.

Ireland 2040 will deliver 7,000 social houses across the South-West by 2021. More than two thirds of this will be through new build and 2,000 units are already completed, on site or progressing through approval stages.

Of the 2,000 additional social housing units in current delivery, specific examples include projects at Rathmore/Barraduff, The Park, Killarney, and Ardbhearna, Kenmare.

Towns and villages in Kerry with populations of less than 10,000 benefit from the new €1bn Rural Regeneration and Development Fund which will help towns, villages and rural areas to grow in a sustainable way.

This fund has already seen ten local authorities — including Kerry County Council — awarded €30,000 each to support the designation of an Atlantic Economic Corridor (AEC) officer.

“The development of the Atlantic Economic Corridor is central to both the Northern and Western Region and the Southern Region and features prominently in both the National Planning Framework and the National Development Plan,” said Seán Kyne, minister of state at the Department of Rural and Community Development.

“With the AEC we are working with stakeholders to develop the strengths and assets of our communities along the Atlantic Coast to contribute to the regional development objectives of the National Planning Framework.

“The development of the AEC is a clear signal of the intent of Government to support regional and rural development and builds on the work to date including the creation of a dedicated Government Department for Rural Development and the allocation, as part of Project Ireland 2040 and confirmed by my colleague, Michael Ring, of the new €1bn Rural Regeneration and Development Fund,” he said.

  • Quick fact … €900m: On the M20 Cork to Limerick motorway

Some 62,000 homes in the region are on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Remedial Action List.

This will come to an end when the Kerry Central Regional Water Supply Scheme invests €33m to build a new water treatment plant for Central Kerry which, when complete, will provide treated water to communities including Tralee, Killarney, Castleisland and Castlemaine.

The Institute of Technology Tralee will see a major infrastructure project as part of a public- private partnership programme for the higher education sector.

Dingle has been earmarked for capital investment to increase landings in its Fishery Harbour Centre.

Investment in Gaeltacht areas has been prioritised under Ireland 2040, and the Sli Chorca Dhuibhne walking route in Co Kerry will be developed further as part of a strategy that will enable the creation of 1,000 jobs every year in Gaeltacht areas across the country including Kerry.

Ireland 2040: Waterford sits at heart of the strategy for the South-East

Image of the proposed development on Waterford’s North Quays

Regeneration of the north quays, investment in transport infrastructure, and a commitment to research and innovation are some of the ways Ireland 2040 will seek to transform Waterford, and manage the city’s growth by some 50% over the next 20 years.

The National Framework Plan identifies the South-East region as being characterised by a network of strong county and market towns and wider rural environs — a major asset for the implementation of Project Ireland 2040 and its aim to balance growth across the country.

Waterford sits at the centre of this regional strategy, and Ireland 2040’s goal will be achieved by enhancing the area’s national and international connectivity, especially via ports with proximity to continental Europe such as Belview and Rosslare-Europort.

The blueprint for Waterford’s future is built upon the strengthening of Higher Education Institutes in the region, and further balanced employment and housing development in key settlements and county towns.

Establishing the Technological University for the South-East (TUSE) consortium, made up of of Waterford WIT and IT Carlow, will deepen the talent pool for distinctive regional sectoral clusters and drive applied research and innovation.

  • Quick fact … 112,000: Families to have social housing needs met over next decade

To help support employment and enterprise, new Regional Sectoral Clusters will be developed. Led by industry, these clusters will involve regional SMEs and multinationals collaborating with research centres and third-level institutions, with the aim of scaling and internationalising enterprise in all regions.

Waterford Institute of Technology will be the site of one of 11 major infrastructure projects to be delivered around the country as part of a public-private partnership programme for the higher education sector.

The provision of healthcare services is an issue of key importance to the people of Waterford, and aside from the national policy of developing primary care centres and the upgrading and replacement of community nursing units, Ireland 2040 identifies the need for a new patient accommodation block, to include replacement inpatient beds and a palliative care unit for Waterford Regional Hospital.

Ireland 2040 identifies transformative approaches to urban regeneration in Waterford. The €2bn urban regeneration fund will offer financial support to the Waterford North Quays SDZ regeneration project.

  • Quick fact … €500m: Climate Action Fund

For social housing, the target across the 2016-2021 period is to deliver approximately 3,500 additional social homes for the South-East region.

Of the 1,500 additional social housing units in current delivery, specific examples include projects at Portlaw, Dungarvan and Wadding Manor, Ferrybank.

The framework will deliver a sustainable transport projects to Waterford to complement increased capacity and faster higher quality public transport in the city. These will include traffic management, bus priority and other smarter travel projects along with new urban cycling and walking routes to allow transport infrastructure to function more effectively and to relieve congestion.

Waterford Airport will receive investment via the Regional Airports Programme, while Dunmore East’s Fisheries Harbour Centre will benefit from the investment programme tasked with improving safety and maintaining six such centres around the country.

Ireland 2040: Limerick will be a key city, driving development in the Mid-West

Limerick CIty from the air

Ireland 2040 aims to grow Limerick by at least 50% in the next 22 years. Its location singles it out as the key city to drive development in the Mid-West through the already established Limerick 2030 initiative.

The blueprint for the region has been welcomed by Conn Murray, Chief Executive of Limerick City and County Council.

“Limerick City and County Council welcomes the commitment by the government to fund our ambitious plans to develop and enhance the city and county,” he said.

“While a strong city is crucial to the development of the region, we recognise and welcome the plans to revitalise rural towns and villages.

“We look forward to working with our colleagues in Cork, Galway and Waterford to further develop the regions and continue to make them even more attractive for investment and growth,” he said.

Central to plans for the region is to improve its connectivity, particularly through improvements in the road network.

While the M20 motorway to Cork is a noteworthy project that will benefit Limerick, further works are earmarked that will support the region.

  • Quick fact … 112,000: Families to have social housing needs met over next decade

The Coonagh to Knockalisheen road development project, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2021, will improve connectivity and support urban renewal in Limerick.

The Shannon Crossing / Killaloe Bypass / R494 upgrade project is expected to be completed a year later.

Ir will relieve congestion in Killaloe, provide an additional crossing of the Shannon and significantly improve the alignment of the R494.

The 33km N21/N69 Limerick to Adare to Foynes scheme provides the last link in the network serving the port of Foynes and provides a bypass for Adare.

The N21 part of the route will be motorway and the link section will be a protected road.

The M7 Naas to Newbridge bypass widening will improve its capacity, and involves the widening of 13km of the M7 to three lanes in both directions from its interchange with the M7/M9 (Waterford) to Johnstown.

The expected growth in Limerick will result in an increase in housing developments, and the plan targets 3,500 additional social homes across the Mid-West over the five years up to 2021.

Of these 1,200 have already been completed, two thirds of the target will be achieved through new build housing.

  • Quick fact … €285m: On national heritage investment including Killaryney National Park

Examples of delivered units include projects in Limerick City and Lisheen Park, Patrickswell, while the regeneration programme for target areas in Limerick City will also continue, including major new housing projects in Churchfield, Cosgrave and Palm Court.

This Limerick Regeneration Programme, supported through Ireland 2040, follows plans identified in the 2013 Limerick Regeneration Framework Implementation Plan. It aims to deliver around 400 new homes and upgrade 900 homes across the areas of Moyross, Southill, Ballinacurra Weston and St Mary’s Park.

In education, a major infrastructure project with an emphasis on STEM disciplines will be delivered to the Limerick Institute of Technology as part of the €200m Public-Private Partnership Programme for the Higher Education sector.

The Town and Village Renewal Scheme, LEADER, the Rural Recreation Scheme, the CLÁR Programme, the RAPID Programme and further libraries investment and other programmes will be utilised to support rural and community development in Limerick.

In agriculture the Targeted Agriculture Modernisation Scheme will offer support for on-farm facilities and equipment in the Mid-West Region. The obvious benefits to competitiveness aside, this has the potential to address climate and environmental issues, improve animal welfare and farm safety.

The Shannon Group will invest over €150m in its capital programme over the next four years through its subsidiaries; the Shannon Airport Authority, Shannon Commercial Enterprises and Shannon Heritage). This includes building a hangar at Shannon Airport, developing its tourist attractions, and developing its property portfolio.

  • Quick fact … 50%: Targeted population growth in both Limerick and Waterford cities

The plan’s investment in health services includes a new ambulance base for Limerick, new patient accommodation will be at University Hospital Limerick, and the transfer of Limerick University Maternity Hospital to the University Hospital Limerick site in line with the National Maternity Strategy.

“Limerick is going to benefit from real investment and proper planning thanks to Project Ireland 2040,” Limierick TD and Minister Patrick O’Donovan said.

“This sustainable planning for Limerick, backed by real investment, will support families and strengthen communities here.

“What’s good for Limerick is also good for the surrounding region.”

  • Brought to you by Project Ireland 2040, an initiative of The Government of Ireland

Reference list: The Goverment of Ireland. 2018. Retrieved from


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