Dáil after midnight - a train station for Raheen
Deputy Brian Leddin I ask the Minister if he will report on the initiatives he has facilitated or plans to facilitate to encourage the engagement of IDA Ireland with Irish Rail and the National Transport Authority to provide public transport services to IDA Ireland parks, such as Raheen industrial estate in my constituency of Limerick city, and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Deputy Leo Varadkar As the Deputy may be aware, IDA Ireland released annual results yesterday. More than 24,000 net new jobs were created – the highest year on record. More than half of new investments went to locations outside of Dublin. Employment was up in every part of the country, including the mid-west, where it grew by 3.6%. Total employment in IDA Ireland client companies now stands at more than 300,000 for the first time. IDA Ireland is placing an increased focus on sustainability and its current strategy targets 60 sustainability investments, that is, investments by client companies that contribute towards decarbonisation and the green transition. We secured 21 of these in 2022. It is essential that there are serviceable sites with appropriate zoning, planning and the required infrastructure in all parts of Ireland to attract foreign direct investment, FDI. IDA Ireland's regional property programme uses leadership in energy and environmental design, LEED, accreditation to reduce carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency in its building programme. Successful initiatives to date include simple yet impactful steps, such as the installation of more efficient public lighting and an enhanced focus on sustainable models of transport, for example, public transport links to business parks. It has invested in and installed bus and cycle infrastructure, where possible, in flagship parks. I am advised that IDA Ireland's property division is working with Limerick City and County Council in designing a new cycle lane along the banks of the River Shannon and River Mulcair to the north and east of the national technology park in Castletroy. In addition, I am informed that IDA Ireland made a written submission to the draft Limerick Shannon metropolitan area transport study in relation to transport links in the city. The submission advocated for high-quality, connected and accessible transport infrastructure, be that through active travel facilities, public transport or road infrastructure.
Deputy Brian Leddin I thank the Tánaiste for his answer. He will be pleased to know that the draft strategy is no longer a draft but has been across the line as of last week. It is a very good strategy. As the Tánaiste will know, there is a very ambitious plan for development of bus and rail networks in Limerick city as well as active travel networks. He will also know that the Government is reopening the Limerick to Foynes railway line. One of the major industrial estates in the country, not only in the mid-west, is the Raheen industrial estate. I have met IDA Ireland, the chief executives of some major companies located in the industrial estate and companies such as Eli Lilly, which has a very exciting plan to set up in it. It has secured planning permission and will commence development of its plant in the next few weeks. There is a fantastic opportunity to develop rail, particularly around this industrial estate. As I mentioned previously to the Minister, we could build a train station in it and I encourage him to keep that in mind as he takes up his new role. This is a matter we will come to in the years ahead.
Deputy Leo Varadkar I am glad to hear the draft strategy is now a strategy. I know the Minister for Transport, Deputy Eamon Ryan, is very enthusiastic about metropolitan rail, particularly around Limerick and Cork. I have been to Raheen industrial park through Regeneron. I hope to see the Eli Lilly plant under way very soon now that the planning permission has been secured. I do not know the exact geography but I understand it would be possible to provide a railway station there as part of the Limerick-Foynes line. That would be a huge boost to have Limerick metropolitan rail serving Ennis in County Clare all the way to Adare and Foynes.
Having stations along the way makes a lot of sense and would allow us to have much more sustainable and centralised development rather than the sprawl we have seen in pretty much all of the other cities.
Deputy Brian Leddin I agree and a train station in Raheen is in phase 2 of the plan. The question is when phase 2 will happen. We can make a case for it to begin sooner rather than later. There is a role for IDA Ireland to be proactive and work with the NTA and the local authority to make that happen. It is genuinely a very exciting plan for Limerick and the whole mid-west region. It will also help rebalance investment towards the west and mid-west, which is critically important and is supported by the Government. I realise I am the last Deputy to ask the Tánaiste an oral parliamentary question in his tenure as Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment. He has had a very successful few years in the Department. I wish him the best in his new role as Taoiseach, which I think will be a very successful one.
Deputy Leo Varadkar I appreciate the Deputy’s kind words. I have enjoyed being the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment for the past two and a half years and working with IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the local enterprise offices, LEOs, to create jobs around the country and improve workers' rights. I have enjoyed working with the three Ministers of State who have served with me in introducing some major legislative reforms in the areas of competition, company law and consumer law, establishing the Corporate Enforcement Authority, reforming the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, and doing many others things in that period, which has really flown. I will be around tomorrow and will be taking Leaders' Questions on Thursday so I have a number of Dáil appearances before Saturday. To answer the question, which is the most important thing, IDA Ireland has a role to play when it comes to promoting better rail access and better public transport to industrial parks. IDA Ireland gets very involved in air connectivity, which we all know is very important. Perhaps it needs to get a little more involved in thinking about how people get in and out of industrial sites because they do not always travel by car. There is definitely an opportunity in that regard and I will make sure it is on my agenda for future discussions with the agency.