UCC President Professor John O’Halloran, with Minister for Environment, Climate and Communications Eamon Ryan met with UCC student and climate activist Alicia O’Sullivan. Photos: Provision

Divergent views on M20

A motorway connecting Cork and Limerick should not be a top priority in the revised National Development Plan (NDP).

That’s according to senior UCC economics lecturer Dr Declan Jordan who believes traffic and road safety issues could be solved by bypassing towns and upgrading existing road infrastructure between the two cities.

Speaking to the Cork Independent, Dr Jordan said it is important to establish exactly what we need the M20 motorway for and not build one simply because there is a motorway connecting Cork to Dublin.

He said: “I think the better return would be to upgrade the road and bypass the towns of Charleville and Buttevant, not to speed up the journey time necessarily, but to allow the towns to be thriving towns where you might want to live.”

Dr Jordan said bypassing those two towns would straighten the route and would speed up the journey by at least ten minutes, as well as freeing up money to invest in engineering works to make the road safer.

“I drive the road quite a bit and some of the driving you see on it is absolutely crazy. I think the danger is people trying to make up time because they’re stuck in traffic jams in Charleville and Buttevant,” he said.

According to Dr Jordan, who is originally from Limerick, a motorway would also increase sprawl as people move farther and farther from towns and workplaces.

“All it will do is spread us out more. Have we not learned that sprawl costs us dearly and that we already have too much sprawl?” he said.

Dr Jordan said he believes Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael politicians in Limerick and Cork, including Minister Simon Coveney and An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, have staked a lot of political capital on the motorway being built.

He said: “If this motorway doesn’t happen, they feel that there’s going to be a backlash against them. It takes leadership to say, ‘no we’re not going to put this road in place because we’re going to prioritise other things first’.

“I can see lots of other things that I would rather spend that money on,” Dr Jordan concluded.

His comments come after a showdown between Sinn Féin TD for Cork South-Central Donnchadh Ó Laoghaire and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence Simon Coveney in the Dáil on Tuesday.

During the debate, a frustrated Deputy Ó Laoghaire demanded a clear answer from the Government regarding the building of the M20.

He said: “I’m asking you not to squander another opportunity to get this done. The wording in the NDP raises very serious questions about whether the Government is committed to the M20 motorway.

“I don’t think you could find another developed European country where there isn’t a motorway between the second and third cities.

“We have had too many false dawns when it comes to this project.”

In his response, Minister Coveney said the revised NDP is a continuation of the development plan and that it does, in fact, commit to certain projects.

“The M20 is a project that you have heard me speak about many times. I’m absolutely committed to delivering a quality motorway between Cork and Limerick. I think that Ireland’s second and third cities need to be linked with a proper road corridor,” said the minister. He added: “The truth is that this is an enormous project and it is going to take time to plan. It will need to go through the various permitting systems which is what is currently happening. Route selection hasn’t even been finalised yet.”

UCC cabinet meeting

The NDP was launched in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Monday after UCC was the setting for a cabinet meeting in the historic Aula Maxima.

Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, and Minister Eamon Ryan were greeted upon arrival in the Quad by UCC President Professor John O’Halloran who escorted them to the President’s Office for the signing of the visitor’s book and the presentation of a gift of UCC Alma Nectar honey, which is produced at the UCC apiary on campus.

UCC student and climate activist Alicia O’Sullivan met with political leaders during the visit by the Government.

The second-year law student from Skibbereen represented Ireland at the first UN youth climate summit in New York in 2019 and is a delegate to the upcoming United Nations Climate Change conference which commences on 31 October.