Roads Maintenance: Motion [Private Members]

I move:

"That Dáil Éireann:

notes:

— that Ireland's network of regional and local roads is almost 91,000 kilometres in length, accounts for 94 per cent of Ireland’s road network and carries about 54 per cent of all road traffic;

— that the local and regional road network serves as the main connection between homes and businesses in much of Ireland, including Dublin and other urban areas, and plays a vital role in balanced regional economic development;

— that according to the latest National Oversight and Audit Commission, almost 70 per cent of regional roads have structural or surface defects and that ten per cent or more of local primary roads were structurally distressed in 12 local authorities;

— that well-maintained and good quality local and regional roads facilitate strong links between and among communities;

— that the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has, on average over the past five years, provided local councils with less than half the amount of funding that is deemed necessary to maintain roads in a steady state condition;

— that repeated incidences of flooding and other extreme weather events have caused considerable damage to many local and regional roads;

— that many local authorities have too few outdoor council staff and have not been granted sufficient resources to hire additional staff;

— the importance of the speedy delivery of the planned upgrading of our national road network, for both the economy and a more balanced spatial distribution; and

— the considerable safety concerns arising from roads with structural or surface defects and that the presence of such defects increases the frequency of road collisions;

recognises that:

— the Programme for a Partnership Government commits to increasing the capital budget for regional and local roads by approximately 50 per cent, which has yet to be delivered; and

— the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has estimated, in its Strategic Framework for Investment in Land Transport, that an annual investment of €580 million is required to maintain the current regional and local road network, €163 million more than has been allocated this year; and

calls on the Government to:

— significantly increase the regional and local roads budget in the context of the Capital Investment Plan 2016-2021;

— publish a full response to the findings of the National Oversight and Audit Commission, with a detailed plan to address the issues and defects identified in this report, within three months;

— review the management of funds at local authority levels to ensure that funds are being used in the most efficient and effective manner possible and provide additional administrative supports where they are needed; and

— provide biannual reports to the Houses of the Oireachtas on the implementation progress of this plan, with the first update provided no later than six months following the passing of this motion."

Given the importance of this motion and its relevance to every constituency the length and breadth of this country I wish to share time with many of my colleagues.

Local and regional roads account for 94% of our road network, carrying 54% of traffic throughout the country. A recent report by the National Oversight and Audit Commission confirmed what many of us know from travelling the roads, namely, that 70% of our regional and local roads have serious structural and surface defects. The Programme for A Partnership Government, which the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is a co-author of, committed to increasing the capital budget by 50% but he has failed to do that in the first two budgets he has signed off on. Last year, during a debate on a Private Members' motion similar to this one, tabled by the Rural Independent Group, he confirmed his commitment to increasing road funding by 50%. I acknowledge that there has been an increase in funding this year but that does not match the 50% the Minister signed up for in the programme for Government.

That increase came at a time when Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, sent a letter to every chief executive in the country, before Christmas. It stated:

At this point it is envisaged that the 2018 Ordinary Maintenance allocations to local authorities will be reduced by approx. 30% from 2017 levels. This reduction will, however, be mitigated somewhat by the availability of additional funds which can be drawn down via the Geo App, but will, nevertheless be significant at approx. 17% overall.

While there is an increase from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport there has been a significant decrease in the funding provided to local authorities by TII.

The increase this year comes against a backdrop of years of significant underfunding. When the Minister got his ministerial briefing in 2016 the Department said that the clear risk in the continued underfunding of transport investment over the next three years is that it becomes a significant impediment to economic growth. Only last February the Secretary General of the Department when he appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts, PAC, said that the shortfall between the funding the Department believes should be provided to maintain the network and what is provided is very significant.

This is impeding economic growth across the regions. Anecdotal evidence from colleagues on both sides of the House is that there has been a sharp increase in the number of public liability claims made against local authorities because of road defects. Only last week, Westmeath County Council, which scored very high in the national audit report with, I think, the second best roads in the country, levied a young couple €5,000 for the pleasure of building their own home. This is not because the construction traffic has broken down the road. They have not even got their permission but because the road is so substandard the council is using a young couple, both working and paying tax, to make up a deficit to bring up the standard of the local road. I am sure many of my colleagues will list roads that need improvement, and some on the other side of the House, if they come in to support the Minister. The councils in Westmeath and Longford do not even fill the potholes in culs-de-sac. I spoke to Councillor Flaherty today who told me that Longford County Council made a submission for €895,000 to carry out low cost safety improvement measures but it got €175,000 from the Minister.

I am calling on all Members of this House to support our motion. I understand the Minister is going to accept it, just as he accepted the motion last year. The difference between this year's and last year's motion is that the Minister is signing up to report every six months on the progress to make sure he is achieving the targets he set in the Programme for A Partnership Government.

Yesterday I made my way to my clinic in Oldcastle and passed over the mountain that acts as the gateway to the heart of the capital of north Meath. Snow covered the area, it was a scenic wonderland but it was clear that the roads were crumbling. As I left the town and drove to Ballinacree the theme was the same, crumbling roads. These are not some kind of rural backwaters just because they are further away than the Minister's base in south Dublin. They represent the industrial heartland of north Meath where major exporting companies, such as Kelletts and Briody Bedding, employ hundreds of people. The Luas cross-city system that the Minister mentions means damn all to them.

The Minister recently conducted a photo shoot with the Minister of State with responsibility for European affairs, Deputy McEntee, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, and the county manager for Meath in his office, where he listened to their concerns about roads in Meath. It is a pity he did not invite some of the three non-Government Deputies to get their perspective on how things work, or better still, honour his solemn pledge, made to me in this Chamber twice in November 2016 to see how we do things in Meath. He would see the horrendous roads. Thank God the Minister is smiling because that kind of arrogance will be his undoing. Then he might come and meet us on issues such as the Navan rail line which would reduce the pressure on the tens of thousands of people commuting into the capital each day.

While I have mentioned Meath, in my capacity as local government spokesperson for Fianna Fáil I have to say this is a nationwide issue because the entire local government system is starved of funding. There needs to be a simple engagement between the Minister, members of the AILG, councillors and local government officials, and by that I mean engineers, not the county managers who will tell the Minister what he wants to hear but the engineers who tell councillors they cannot do this or that road because they have not got enough money from central government.

In the report by PAC, of which I am a member, the chief executive officer of TII, Michael Nolan, spoke about underfunding of €100 million per annum. The Minister might face up to that because buses, rail and roads do not seem to be his problem. It is his responsibility. Well he may laugh but he should face up to his responsibility and do his job for the little time he has left to do it.

In the brief time available to me, I want to reaffirm what has been said by my colleagues and what will be said by others about the Minister's responsibility to deal with this issue and the lack of accountability to date regarding how he has handled the matter. The gravest issues facing us today as representatives are housing, health, broadband and roads. Roads throughout the country are in absolute rag order. The Minister has made a dog's dinner of a few things in recent weeks that have come to the public's realisation. Having met me and local councillors in my constituency in Edenderry towards the end of last year, the Minister is well aware that the representations made by those members and that local authority are based on fact-based analysis. They are based on the fact that 40% of their roads are built on peat foundations, the fact that Edenderry needs an inner relief road for it to survive and because of the funding for the link road that was put in place and provided for six or seven years ago with regard to the N6 and Tullamore. The Minister took all those on board and gave the impression that there would be success but it did not happen. The Minister might think a 10% increase is something to be proud of, despite the neglect over the previous six or seven years. It is not like Stepaside where the Minister can walk into a Cabinet meeting and get what he wants. It is not like the appointment of judges where the Minister can get what he wants. It is not about the capital of a region that might be based on the representations of a certain Minister. We like to deal in fact-based analysis and real criteria that can stand up. The Minister needs to exert his muscles the way he likes to give the impression he can by making an intervention at this stage to make up for the failings over the past six or seven years by those who lead the Government. It is incumbent on him to do so. As Deputy Troy said, he gave a commitment to a 50% increase initially as part of the programme for Government and he now thinks that 10% over two years will solve the problem. It will not solve the problem. If the Minister really wants balanced and sustainable regional development and the regions beyond the east to compete on a level playing pitch, he should at least allow them to have the infrastructure to allow them to compete at the level at which they want to compete. I implore the Minister to use his good offices to such an effect and call the Government to account on this issue and insist that there be a once-off investment in regional, county and local roads in order that those areas will have the opportunity to compete on a level playing pitch. We saw the investment in the national primary network ten or 12 years ago and the success it brought the regions. They are now crying out for similar help to allow them to become connected to those specific roads that will allow them to compete on a level playing pitch.

I compliment Deputy Troy on bringing this motion before us this evening. In the one minute available to me, I will give the Minister a synopsis of my life as a rural Deputy in east Galway. Yesterday afternoon, I went out to visit people in a place called Drim, Ballinakill, Kylebrack, Loughrea, County Galway. There are 130 houses on a stretch of road between the R351 and the R353. When I came off the Gort road to meet them in the local national school, I had to drive on the wrong side of the road - I am telling the Minister not one word of a lie - because of the unbelievable depth of the potholes on the left-hand side of the road arising the run off from the Slieve Aughty Mountains. The Minister might not believe me but when I arrived at the local national school, 53 families were there to meet me. It was one of the biggest crowds I have met on a Monday afternoon at 3 p.m. Those families were protesting about the lack of investment in the roads. I ask the Minister to listen to the wishes of Deputy Troy and all my colleagues because emergency funding is urgently needed not just for Drim and Kylebrack but for all of east Galway.

I will cut straight to the chase. There are exactly 5,000 km of secondary, tertiary and regional roads in my constituency of Kerry. While this represents approximately 6% of the overall national network, its funding falls far short of most constituencies. In the Listowel electoral area alone, which I used to represent as a councillor, there are 4,000 km of rural road. In 2018, €1.29 million was received but it will be necessary to quadruple that over a five-year period to get the roads back to where they were in 2008. I joined the council in 1999 and from 1999 to 2008, due to substantial investment by the Fianna Fáil-led Governments of the time, we brought the road network up to an acceptable state. That is the type of commitment that is needed. If the Minister does not give it, what is left of the road network will disintegrate and fall apart in the coming years. I ask the Minister to look at a €20 million rolling programme for the north Kerry area alone over five years. I ask him to pay specific attention to one road, the R551, which is known as the Dale Road, which links Tralee to Ballybunion. During the summer, that road brings bus loads of tourists, particularly US tourists, to the golf course in Ballybunion but driving on it is a danger to their health. Rather than going up to Sligo next Friday for his all-dancing, all-singing, bell-ringing announcement relating to the national planning framework, I ask the Minister to announce something practical that will bring real change, namely, an investment in the rural roads of Kerry. Instead of giving us €1.8 million, he should give us €4 million per year over the next five years.

The road situation has reached a critical point in my county. Whether they be from Lorrha to Carrick-on-Suir or from Ballingarry to Solohead, the roads are in a dreadful state. Public meetings are being called in all areas across the county where people are venting their frustration at us as politicians for our failure to deliver a reasonable road structure. The Minister does not realise the anger and frustration in rural Ireland at the state of roads. There are 5,493 km of road in my native county and €17 million is provided to maintain them. I have been reliably informed by engineers that it will take 40 years to carry out maintenance on those roads on a rotational basis. In respect of those roads that have been done in the past year or two, can the Minister imagine having to wait another 35 years before they will be maintained? It is further proof of the failure of the Government's policy on roads over the past seven years.

I put it to the Minister that the evidence is clear. We cannot continue on this current path. The Minister must work with Fianna Fáil and accept our motion. More importantly, I urge the Taoiseach to accept and understand the reality of this Dáil. He will not be allowed to plough on as though there is no major crisis with our roads. We do not intend to accept that the people in rural Ireland must accept the state of the roads on which they must travel. We will not accept it, we will force the Government to take action and we will force proper investment in the roads of rural Ireland.

I compliment Deputy Troy on bringing forward this important motion. It is very important in my own constituency for one main reason, which is that we have no motorways in counties Cavan or Monaghan. The motorway stops on the Meath border. We are the forgotten counties when it comes to motorways. The N2, which is a death trap and has had numerous fatalities, needs to be upgraded to motorway status. We have no rail lines. When all this is laid out, the Minister can understand why we are completely dependent on our regional and rural road network. Our local authorities are put to the pin of their collar because of the degree to which the roads are falling apart. They are fire fighting. It is a case of sticking-plaster jobs just to keep us going until the next heavy rainfall when we are completely flooded and the road surface is gone completely. I am not exaggerating when I say that roads in the constituency of Cavan-Monaghan are deplorable. I will give the Minister a snapshot.

In my office in Bailieborough in the first five working days in January I received 52 complaints about roads and potholes. In one case a woman came into my constituency office. Her child is going to the Holy Family school which is the only one in the constituency for children with disabilities and special needs. That child took a seizure on the road to school and that parent put it down specifically to the potholes in the road and the disturbance the children face as they try to get to school every day.

I urge the Minister to accept the motion and give our local authorities the funding they need to provide the basics of proper roads in our constituencies.

Tá ollfhadhb ann maidir leis na bóithre i láthair na huaire. Ocht mbliana ó shin is beag poll a bhí sna bóithre ach tá na bóithre ag titim óna chéile i láthair na huaire. We have a major problem because the roads are literally falling apart. In some sections of the road there is just pothole after pothole. Without an urgent input of money now, the roads will be impassable soon. I have never seen as rapid a deterioration in roads as I have seen this winter.

We also need to stop filling the roads with tar and chips. Where a section of road is disintegrating, macadam over the lot will last, but tar and chips only last a week or two.

The Minister needs to provide money to take the water of the roads. It is a major problem. Water lying on the roads combined with frosty and wet weather is doing total destruction. The Minister was in Galway recently. The local authorities will tell him they do not have the money to pay the staff to keep the water off the roads. The Minister knows the saying: a stitch in time saves nine.

I thank the Deputies for raising what is a very serious and very important topic. I know it is very important to people outside Dublin. I want to address it in a very serious manner. The first indication of that is we have accepted the Fianna Fáil motion tonight. We are not opposing it because we recognise the difficulties. We recognise that we are accountable for what is happening. We are very willing to be accountable on a frequent basis to the report referred to. We will do that. We will comply with what the Deputies want and we will report on a regular basis. We will respond to that report in the timing they would like and which we would like to do. We have no problem with that and we recognise it. That is absolutely clear evidence of our recognition of that.

Deputies opposite might recognise the seriousness with which this Government and I personally have treated this problem. The Deputies spoke with sincerity this evening. When I listened to them, I suddenly recognised that I have personally addressed - either by receiving people or by visiting - the particular problems in their constituencies they are raising tonight. Deputy Troy will be the first to acknowledge that I have been in his constituency on many occasions, many times looking at the roads. The Deputy has been helpful to me in doing that, as have other people in his constituency. I met Deputy Cowen in his constituency looking at roads there. Deputy Rabbitte knows I have been to her constituency. I have been to Galway West and Galway East on several occasions. Roads have been top of the agenda on every occasion. Deputy Brassil is aware that I spent two days in Kerry; I met him there. Part of that time was spent looking at the roads. He cannot tell me I am not aware of the difficulties there; I acknowledge them. Nobody can tell me I have not paid attention to that.

Deputy Smyth knows I was in Cavan-Monaghan, her constituency. Indeed, I let her know when I was coming. I looked at the roads there as well. Deputy Ó Cuív mentioned that I met him last week. I have been to Galway looking at the roads there on many occasions.

I apologise to Deputy Cassells that he was not invited to the delegation to talk to me about the roads in his constituency, but I was not in charge of those invitations.

The delegation asked to see me about the roads in Meath and I was delighted-----

That is fine, but the Minister and I have a plan.

I was delighted to receive that delegation. I have not been to-----

-----his constituency yet - he is the only one. However, I have received delegations from there and I will go.

I thank the Minister.

However, it is difficult for Ministers to make time to go. If one takes a cross section, I have been to every one of the constituencies of those who are complaining today and I have received a delegation from Deputy Cassells's constituency. Nobody can tell me-----

(Interruptions).

We are not interested in visits, but in money.

He is lecturing me.

They cannot tell me I am not taking it seriously. The money is difficult, as the Deputies know.

That is the solution.

They know what has happened in recent weeks. Everyone here today knows the importance of the road network in supporting the economic and social fabric of the country. The challenge for Government in recent years was how to address the very real concerns about the condition of the network while operating within severe fiscal constraints and dealing with the many competing demands for limited resources.

Deputies will argue that the financial crisis is well in the past but I must emphasise once again the major impact on the maintenance and improvement of our national, regional and local road network of the funding cutbacks after 2008, associated with the recession. Overall funding dropped from €2.3 billion in 2008 to €753 million in 2015. It will take a long time to recover from this.

As the motion notes, analysis undertaken by my Department for the Strategic Framework for Investment in Land Transport, published in 2015, estimated on a conservative basis that expenditure of €580 million per annum is needed to keep the regional and local road network in a steady-state condition. In order to avoid deterioration in the condition of the regional and local road network, each year 5% of the network needs to be strengthened and 5% needs to be sealed by way of surface-dressing works.

The reality is that expenditure is still falling short of that. For the national road network the steady-state analysis includes the cost of pavement works, signs and lines, safety works, bridge works, routine maintenance, small works, and costs associated with programme support and network management. In addition to these network costs, there are also capital budget commitments requiring provision to be made for schemes at closeout and construction, and also for ongoing commitments in respect of PPP projects. The analysis conducted determined that, on average, the gross steady-state requirement for national roads is approximately €580 million per annum, using 2015 as the basis.

Against the backdrop of funding constraints, Transport Infrastructure Ireland and my Department have been focused on maintaining the network in as serviceable a condition as possible. In the case of regional and local roads this has meant concentrating resources on the maintenance and renewal of the public road network rather than new projects. The main grant programmes operated by the Department have been targeted at specific policy objectives - pavement sealing to protect the road surface from water damage and road strengthening based on pavement condition rating to lengthen the life of road pavements, and a discretionary grant which allows for a range of activities including pothole repairs, edge strengthening, renewal of signs and lines, and winter maintenance. These three grant programmes account for most of the grant funding and are allocated based on the length of the road network in a particular local authority area.

Local authorities can also apply each year for bridge rehabilitation grants based on condition ratings and for safety improvement schemes to address particular hazards.

As State grants are intended to supplement local authority funding, my Department continues to emphasise to local authorities the importance of prioritising roads maintenance when allocating their own resources. Since the revision of the arrangements for the retention of local property tax in 2015, the Dublin councils no longer receive any grant assistance from my Department under the main grant categories. In this context while the motion correctly refers to the fact that €580 million is required each year to maintain the regional and local network in a steady-state condition, it states that there is a funding shortfall of €163 million given my Department's total allocation of €417 million this year.

However, the shortfall is less when account is taken of funding from the resources of councils. Having acknowledged the very real pressures on the road network, it is also important to look at the progress that is being made. With regard to current funding levels, the Building on Recovery capital plan for 2016 to 2021 marked a significant step forward in restoring funding to the levels needed to maintain the road network in a steady-state condition and allowing for some investment in road improvement schemes. In this context, the capital plan provided for a gradual build up in capital funding from a relatively low base in 2016 towards the levels needed to support maintenance and improvement works. This plan recognised that it was going to take time to restore funding to the level required to maintain and renew the network adequately.

As Minister, I put forward a strong case for additional investment in transport infrastructure during the capital plan review process and I have secured a significantly enhanced road investment programme for the period 2018 to 2021. Overall, an additional €486 million was secured for roads, bringing total roads investment for that four-year period to €4.26 billion. With this increase, I will be able to support a package of extra measures including minor improvement works, drainage works and community involvement programmes together with the assessment of potential future projects. Last month, I announced a 29% increase in grant funding for regional and local roads. One would think that nobody here had ever heard of that. The grant allocations include an 18% increase for the key road strengthening programme. I have also taken important initiatives in the area of community involvement schemes and drainage. While local authorities were able to use general grants for such schemes in recent years, ring-fenced funding is being provided this year. These are two areas where I am very glad to be able to take action this year. I fully recognise that there needs to be an increased focus on measures to improve the resilience of the road network in the face of climate change and I envisage that a separate drainage grant will continue in future years.

The size of the road network, at around 99,000 km, twice the European average per capita, will always generate funding pressures for both the Exchequer and local authorities. This means there needs to be a focus on managing resources as effectively as possible. In this context, I wish to clarify the position regarding the basis for the figures published in the National Oversight and Audit Commission performance reports mentioned in the motion. My Department has been supporting the development of a road asset management system for regional and local roads over the last number of years. The Road Management Office, RMO, has been established as a shared service between 31 local authorities. The RMO and the Department have been working with local authorities to ensure that the MapRoad pavement management system includes an up-to-date road schedule of public roads, a record of all pavement-related works, information on road surface types and road pavement conditions.

I am sorry, but the Minister will deprive other Members of time.

That is fine. It will be in the record.

The Minister will have another opportunity to speak if he wishes.

I move amendment No. 1:

To insert the following after “calls on the Government to”:

“— reinstate the Specific Improvement Grants to local authorities this year;

— prioritise, with their partners in the confidence and supply agreement, the funding of local and regional roads in Budget 2019, to ensure that the commitment made under the Programme for a Partnership Government to increase funding to local and regional roads by 50 per cent is honoured.”

I never cease to be amazed at the games that Fianna Fáil plays. It never ceases to amaze me and I have been here for just under two years. When I refer to games, I refer to the game of pretending to be an Opposition party. One could be forgiven for thinking that Fianna Fáil has not spent almost two years in a confidence and supply arrangement with Fine Gael or that it has not allowed two budgets to pass, and here we are this evening, crying about it.

There is much to be amazed about in Sinn Féin, that is for sure.

In 2016, I said that the Government's policy would weaken our regional and local road network.

Hypocrisy knows no bounds.

That was when the Minister, Deputy Ross, announced a measly €25 million in additional funding for maintenance and repair. I told the House that the Minister's allocation would ensure that our roads continued to deteriorate after almost a decade of neglect. I said this was another example of the Minister's lack of interest in the maintenance and provision of infrastructure outside of his own domain, Dublin city, and that this bias was indeed very worrying for all road users, given the dramatic deterioration of our road safety record in recent times. Considering all of that, did that stop Fianna Fáil from supporting the Government? Did it impress on Fianna Fáil the need to ensure that it used its confidence and supply arrangement with the Government to protect our regional and local roads? Of course it did not. Here we are, almost two years later and we are in a worse position than we ever were before.

The 2018 budget for the maintenance of our roads is approximately €100 million less than what is required. Councils were informed a couple of months ago that the budget to maintain 5,000 km of national and secondary roads was going to be cut. Transport Infrastructure Ireland has stated it is obliged to honour existing funding commitments to motorway and bridge maintenance. That means that the bulk of cuts will come from the roads maintenance budget. That is expected to be an approximately 30% drop in funding for maintenance of our roads. Louth County Council was told that its maintenance grant was going to be cut by 30% and that that would result in an 18% reduction in road works. That is disgraceful, considering the amount of road works, particularly road safety improvement works, that need to be carried out in Louth. The Minister has claimed that road allocations have increased for 2018. However, this cut is further evidence that the budget is totally insufficient. The road maintenance budget, as we know, has been dramatically reduced in the past decade. The Minister, Deputy Ross, has been aware of the issues and underfunding since he took office. He continued to ignore the funding issues in this sector. The Committee of Public Accounts recently heard that road maintenance is underfunded to the tune of between €90 million and €100 million per annum, and with only 130 km of the necessary 400 km of annual maintenance being carried out, that is a disgraceful record. The road network will deteriorate by €1 billion per annum without investment. That is shocking.

Given the Minister's current attitude, we are leaving ourselves open to significant issues with our roads and potentially major road safety issues unless these matters are addressed and serious effort and commitment given to address them. On top of that, I have been told the Minister is lowering the level of lighting on motorways, at motorway junctions and on regional roads. He is doing that to cut costs but at what cost to safety? That is a direct result of the €6 million cut to the roads budget this year. Serious road safety concerns arise when one starts to reduce lighting on the public road network to cut costs. On top of that, there has been the failure to reinstate specific improvement grants. It is incredible that no moneys have been allocated, given that we are continuously told that we are in a recovery. The Minister had announced a range of projects funded by this grant but these were either projects that were previously committed to or which had started and were signed off on. I know this because I have spoken to officials in Louth County Council. That is why Sinn Féin tabled the amendment for the reinstatement of the specific improvement grant. It was a grant which started at around €50,000 and went up to €200,000. It covered serious road safety issues, particularly at junctions and sight lines where roads need to be aligned because of serious road safety concerns. Instead, we have the safety improvement grant, which only covers minor works costing between €2,000 and €40,000. That is a pittance of a roads budget.

I have moved the amendment and hope that it is accepted and that specific improvement grants are reinstated. I also want to talk about the poor quality. There is not a town or village in this State that could not speak to the desperately poor quality of resurfacing materials. I know somebody else touched on it earlier. One waits years for roads to be resurfaced but then such inferior quality products are used that within six months, the roads are back to the state of disrepair they were in prior to being worked on. It is like the old saying, buy cheap, pay twice.

This is what we have seen. Road maintenance is under-funded to the tune of €100 million per annum, which is very serious. The Minister knows this and I do not think he cares as long as the problem is outside Dublin city. I question whether he does care. The fight he put up for his roads budget was obviously meek given the allocation he received.

There is nothing wrong with the content of this motion. The only problem I have with it is that is signed by the great pretenders, Fianna Fáil. It has been propping up and endorsing the roads budget for the past two years and it is now calling for the funding which it did not push for only a couple of months ago. Fianna Fáil members are here now whining about it. If Fianna Fáil did not support the transport budget for all the reasons outlined in this motion, it should not have backed it. There is no point in Fianna Fáil tabling a Private Members' motion that it knows has no legal standing.

Sinn Féin votes against all the county council budgets in the country.

I had hoped we were long past this type of sleeveen politics. Fianna Fáil is fooling nobody.

Sinn Féin are the pretenders.

Deputy Cassells, allow Deputy Munster to continue.

Fianna Fáil had the opportunity at budget time to voice its concern about roads crumbling, road safety and so on. Despite all its whining and crying, it endorsed the Government's policies. While there is nothing wrong with the content of this motion, I do have a problem with the cynical politics-----

The Deputy should vote against it then.

Vote against it.

Deputies Troy and Cassells are annoyed.

No, I am not annoyed. I am in great form.

Deputy Cassells looks annoyed.

Time is of the essence.

The Deputies are trying to shout me down. They should relax and take it easy. If they were that annoyed, they would not have rubber-stamped the very budget they are complaining has resulted in damage to our regional and local roads.

There are only four minutes remaining to be shared between three Deputies.

The state and neglect of our local and regional road network is disgraceful. The impact that the disrepair of our roads has on small towns and rural business, education and social lives is horrendous. We need more investment in the building, improvement, maintenance and repair of our road system. This is essential if we are to improve the standards and conditions of living in rural Ireland, including in its urban centres. This investment is needed if we are to arrest the decline in the population of so many rural communities.

As stated in the motion, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has, on average over the past five years, provided local councils with less than half the amount of funding that is deemed necessary to maintain roads. I believe there is a further problem in addition to funding. The abolition of town councils by Fine Gael's former Minister Phil Hogan has left a deep democratic deficit. It was at this level of our then democratic system that many of these roads or small town streets were maintained over the years.

The motion also states that an annual investment of €580 million is required to maintain the current regional and local road network, €163 million more than has been allocated this year. It also calls on the Government to significantly increase the regional and local roads budget in the context of the Capital Investment Plan 2016-2021. In 2017, just over €319 million was spent on regional and local roads, of which 2.8%, or €9 million, was spent on the roads in County Cavan which is one half of my constituency. Only 2.4%, or €7.6 million, was spent on the roads in County Monaghan, which is the other half of my constituency and my home county. There was no money provided in specific improvement grant payments or strategic regional or local road payments in 2017 in the constituency of Cavan-Monaghan. It is clear to me that Cavan-Monaghan is way down the pecking order when it comes to the provision of funding. This will have to end and the situation needs to be addressed. I hope that this will be signalled and that the impending national planning framework will be the first assurance in that regard.

A basic for rural Ireland should be a proper transport infrastructure but instead people travel daily on substandard and often dangerous roads. We need an effective public transport network. Without public transport, people must travel on roads that, owing, in part, to the collapse in the economy but also years of cutbacks to grant payments, have not been maintained in a proper state of repair. Roads in County Laois are among the worst in the country. I have seen at first hand the appalling state of the roads in Ballacolla, Roskelton, Rathdowney, Clonaslee, Luggacurren, Wolfhill, Vicarstown and Attanagh. The road from Attanagh to Abbeyleix has not been tarred in over 40 years. I have been trying for some time to have it included in the roads programme. The roads in the Mountrath and Mountmellick areas are similarly appalling.

As a result of the recent bad weather and the heavy rain this winter, combined with a great deal of frost, many holes have opened up in the roads. Despite this, the Government has slashed funding. County Laois has the third worst regional roads in the State. According to the National Oversight and Audit Commission, 11% of roads are showing severe structural distress. Funding for regional and local roads in Laois has been cut by €1.092 million. Funding for national and secondary roads was cut by €423,000, including funding for ordinary maintenance and resurfacing work. Recent announcements of funding are welcome and I particularly welcome the announcement of €3.1 million in funding for completion of the Portlaoise orbital route.

Two weeks ago we heard that the procurement process for the national broadband plan is in disarray, causing more uncertainty for rural Ireland in terms of high speed broadband provision. We are now speaking about the dreadful state of our regional and local roads. Under this Government, the gap between rural and urban Ireland is widening such that counties such as Laois can forget about ever having basic modern communications or transport.

Deputy Stanley, your time has expired.

The Government needs to start taking the needs of rural Ireland seriously.

I have to be fair. Deputy Louise O'Reilly was left without a speaking slot.

Given the bad state of the roads in County Laois following the recent bad weather, I ask that the Minister consider a further allocation for the county.

Deputy Stanley, show some respect for the Chair. There were 13 minutes in the Sinn Féin slot and I did not deprive anybody.

I welcome this motion, which I support. The roads budget is a major problem. We know that from 2008 up to now, most counties received only 55% of what they received in 2008. We are wasting a lot of money. The day of the 804 and tar and chip on top of it is over because, unfortunately the 804 is disintegrating underneath it. We need to go down the road of DPM macadam. It currently costs approximately €9.50 per metre to tar and chip. The cost of filling potholes on our roads every five to seven years, because these roads are falling apart over those years, is approximately €13 per metre. There are two options. On small roads, we could put three inches of macadam on top of the chip and then put tar on top of that, which is a 15 to 18 year road guarantee, or we could do a better job at a cost of €20 per metre which would bring us to a 25 year cycle. We need to front load the budget for the next ten years. Previously, we had a programme of one in ten years in relation to the repair of roads but it is now one in 20 years.

The Minister needs to double the budget for the next ten years. If he does that, we will not have to spend nearly as much money on roads because they will be in a 25 year cycle and in good condition. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport is not listening to what Deputies are saying about roads and how they are disintegrating. All we are doing is putting on a patch where we need a tube.

I am sharing time with Deputy Louise O'Reilly. The Labour Party supports this Fianna Fáil motion but we take issue with some of what is called for in it.

I will deal with those at the end.

In the past two decades, the motorway network has come on in leaps and bounds, drastically cutting journey times between Dublin and major towns and cities. That has to be acknowledged. More needs to be done to connect other cities with one another but it can be said that great progress has been made on our motorway network. In many ways, we can be proud of this today.

Unfortunately, however, the focus on our large motorway system has been to the detriment of our local and rural road networks. Local and rural roads are the roads used by local people undertaking ordinary, everyday tasks, such as going to work, going to the shops, attending church, dropping the kids to school and socialising. These roads are deteriorating year on year. Councils remain under-resourced in tackling these problems, and people living in the regions and rural communities feel further isolated and left behind as they see resources going towards the capital and being devoted to connectivity to the major cities.

My constituency in Dublin, Fingal, is a microcosm of the disparity between major transport infrastructure and the roads in many rural areas, which are neglected. We have one motorway, the M1. We have the DART and suburban rail. I hope that, in the not-too-distant future, we will see work on metro north begin. These are all big pieces of transport infrastructure. They are vital and, in the case of metro north, essential. There are rural areas in Fingal, however. They include Moonlone Lane, Killalane, Tobergregan, Pluckhimin and Magillstown. These are rural areas that one might see in rural counties such as Cork and Donegal and elsewhere in the country - areas where the road network is neglected, suffering from under-investment and left behind. The road safety concerns relating to these defects-ridden roads cannot be underestimated, nor can damage to motor vehicles. In most of the affected areas, there is no public transport.

As with all Deputies who represent rural areas, I am contacted regularly by residents regarding potholes and poor road surfaces. The council may be able to fill in and patch up potholes but any wet or icy weather can undo that work. People see it as the council throwing good money after bad, and this can go on for many years before the council is in a financial position to carry out proper remedial works. These essential, longer-term road-surfacing works always seem too far down the priority list in the affected communities. This is why we need increased funding.

People whose families have been living for generations in the rural areas in question expect and deserve a fair crack of the whip. There is scope for expanding the local improvement scheme, a very welcome scheme introduced by the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Michael Ring, in the past year. There is scope to expand it particularly in the area of flood relief. The financial benefit for the taxpayer would be very good. We believe the scheme is worthy of further investment and development. I realise it is under the remit of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

With regard to the motion, we recognise the importance of the speedy delivery of the planned upgrade of our national road network for the economy and more balanced spatial distribution. The N24 links ports at Foynes, Waterford, Cork and Limerick. This is crucial national road infrastructure that needs to be upgraded and developed. The Government needs to take a strategic approach to this investment. We have not seen this approach yet.

While we support the call to increase the regional and local roads budget in the context of the capital investment plan, we question the call to review the management of funds at local authority level. This, according to the motion, is to "ensure that funds are being used in the most efficient and effective manner possible and provide additional administrative supports where they are needed". In our experience, local authorities are the best authorities and have the best administrative resources for road repair and maintenance. We should trust local authorities in this regard. The Government looking over their shoulders regarding their area of expertise would be a waste of its resources. It should just fund the local authorities to do the work. They were always able to do it once the resources were provided. Reporting mechanisms within local authority democratic structures are sufficient to allow us to know where the money is being spent. I have yet to see a local area committee within a local authority let any under-expenditure on roads maintenance get past it. I trust my council, Fingal County Council, to improve the network without the micro-management envisaged in this motion.

The Department, in its strategic framework for investment in land transport, has estimated that an annual investment of €580 million is required each year to do the job in question. If it has fallen short in the order of €163 million this year, it will require €580 million plus €163 million next year. Each year it falls behind, we will fall further behind. Therefore, we need to put a stop to the shortfall, catch up quickly and increase the expenditure.

We support the motion. I have not read the Sinn Féin amendment but I am sure we will look favourably on that also.

I thank Deputy Brendan Ryan for sharing some time with me.

This issue is of great concern for many of the people present. I welcome the Fianna Fáil motion but I am as puzzled as my colleague Deputy Munster over the manner in which that party rubber-stamped the budget on a Monday and then came in on a Tuesday and gave out about it. That is its own business and it will answer to the electorate for it when the time comes.

The Minister spoke earlier about the need to discuss roads outside Dublin. When it comes to the road network, however, he should also consider those rural roads in Dublin, including those in north County Dublin, where Deputy Brendan Ryan and I represent constituents. There are serious issues with regard to connectivity and safety in such areas. If the Minister goes to Naul tomorrow morning, he will see parents out on the road on a bad bend by the school trying to mind their children and ensure they can get safely to that school. It is an extremely busy road. We live in and represent the constituency with one of the youngest populations in the State. It has a rapidly growing population. People want the opportunity to live in rural areas of north County Dublin but the road network and the attitude of the Government, supported by its very best friends in Fianna Fáil, really lead them to believe the Government does not want them to live there but instead wants them to crowd into the cities, which Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have come together to ensure are practically unaffordable for most people.

My constituency is only up the road from here but it might as well be Timbuktu for all the attention it receives. The projected development in Fingal is far higher than in almost all other local authority areas but the lack of tangible investment in the road network is hampering our capacity to develop and grow sustainably. Smaller communities in Fingal, such as Ballyboughal, Garritstown, Oldtown and Naul, find themselves left behind. They find that the road network is deteriorating. There is ever-increasing traffic heading for the M1, which, as the Minister knows, is like a carpark most mornings and causing motorists extreme difficulty. We want to live in a county, County Dublin, that is sustainable and well served and where families can grow and thrive. To achieve this, we need a serious plan for transport, the road network and infrastructure. I urge the Minister to take seriously the transport needs of north County Dublin because we have a rapidly expanding population. This is good and Fingal is a fantastic place to live but people cannot move around unless there is investment in the road network.

I wish to share my time with Deputies Eamon Scanlon and Kevin O'Keeffe. I thank Solidarity-People Before Profit for allowing us time from its slot.

I wish to talk about transport in so far as it pertains to my constituency, Kildare North, and the wider commuter belt. The motion is on local and regional roads. There are many such roads that need attention in Kildare but they would not need so much today if the commuter system were working and if the public transport corridors and public transport system in which we were supposed to be investing over many years were able to cope with the demand.

Kildare North spans the M4 and N7 motorways, both of which are operating at maximum capacity.

Train carriages are full coming through stations and the car parks at those stations are also full. Irish Rail figures recently confirmed to me that the Sallins station car park is at 165% occupancy on a daily basis. This means that two thirds more cars are squeezing into the car park than are permitted under health and safety regulations. When I asked the Minister a parliamentary question about investment in the rail network and carriages, he confirmed that no rolling stock has been purchased by him in the three years since he took office. He has spent absolutely nothing on rolling stock. When I asked about the industrial disputes relating to Bus Éireann and services through Kildare, Meath and elsewhere, which also affect rail services, the Minister told me they were operational issues. When I asked him about issues such as the ten-minute DART service, which is a programme to fast-track the delivery of DART and Arrow services across the commuter belt and the Phoenix Park tunnel, and is a pivotal piece of the greater Dublin area infrastructure, he again told me they were operational issues of which he could not possibly be expected to have any awareness. I find it staggering that a Minister for transport would not know about the jewels in the crown of transport infrastructure in the greater Dublin area.

These are the flagship projects and initiatives. The capital plan is to be announced. The interconnector is at risk. I refer to the circle line, which is the missing link in all the rail connections.

Deputy Cassells spoke about photo opportunities in Meath recently. There was a very famous photo opportunity in north Dublin when the Minister, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, and the Taoiseach stood smiling side by side as they welcomed the new shiny toy that is the cross-city Luas. When we open our newspapers, we see the disarray that is being caused on College Green every day. Chaos has ensued due to the lack of planning provision and joined-up thinking. We now hear talk of banning buses, the workhorses of the public transport fleet, from the central plaza. Bicycles will be next to go and then pedestrians and soon we will have nothing left except a shiny Luas going up and down. Is that the best the Minister can offer? It is not too late for him to change his script. I hope he gets real about the problems and gets real about the investment that is required in rural and urban areas and that he does so very soon.

The allocation of spending on roads in each county from 2013 to 2016 was, on average, 48% less than what was needed to keep roads in good condition. That is according to the steady-state estimates from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. In its strategic framework for investment in land transport, the Department estimates that an annual investment of €580 million is required to maintain the current regional and local road network. This year's funding allocation is €163 million, or approximately one third, below the level required to repair the network to an acceptable standard. If current levels of funding are not increased, the deterioration in the condition and capital value of the road network will increase. If routine maintenance is not adequately funded, roads and other assets will deteriorate more quickly and will have to be replaced earlier than otherwise would have been the case.

The weather this winter has caused havoc, particularly with regional and secondary roads in more rural parts of the country. The roads in my constituency are a case in point. Potholes are back with a vengeance. The National Oversight and Audit Commission has said many regional and local roads have "large and deep potholes" and show signs of "disintegration of road surface" and "extensive loss of pavement" with "cracking" across more than half the road surface. Our motion calls on the Government to publish a full response to the findings of the National Oversight and Audit Commission, with a detailed plan to address the issues and defects identified in this report within three months.

I have frequently called on the Taoiseach for significant investment and for the upgrading of the N4 and the N17 in the capital programme. On occasion, I speak to IDA Ireland and it has made it very clear that companies have no interest in investing in an area that does not even have a proper road network. Not everybody wants to live in Dublin but the short-sighted policies being implemented by the Government and that which preceded it are seriously limiting the options for people who want to live in the north west. Residents along class 2 and class 3 roads are being treated like third-class citizens because repairs on those tertiary roads have been neglected for years. Regardless of whether they are in Dublin or elsewhere, people who reside along those roads pay motor tax, tractor tax and property tax the same as everybody else. Restoration improvement and restoration maintenance allocations need to be doubled or tripled over a five or six-year period to return some networks in my constituency to a satisfactory condition.

The local improvement scheme was an important source of funds for isolated, neglected roads and lanes not taken in charge by local authorities. The scheme provided funding for private roads and laneways, the maintenance and improvement of which is often essential as they provide access routes for the public in rural areas. Since the previous Government abolished the local improvement scheme, there has been a serious deterioration in the quality of those routes. Many people are being forced to travel on substandard roads in order to get to and from their homes.

According to the National Oversight and Audit Commission, almost 70% of regional roads have structural or surface defects. The Minister has become God's gift to the automobile industry and, in particular, to motor factor and auto spares providers. One could ask why that is so. It is because the more the roads deteriorate, the more damage is being done to motor vehicles. What is even more important is that vehicles which may have been damaged could be considered a health and safety risk for drivers. As a result of the cost involved, motorists cannot be expected to have their own private NCTs done on a regular basis. The Minister has left the Chamber. Many of his reports and deliberations on the causes of road accidents appear to play down vehicle roadworthiness as a factor.

I commend my local authority on the surface work repairs it undertakes on rural roads. Too often, however, local authorities work with scarce resources. Extra spend and manpower is required. Loss of life is occurring on rural roads due to bad surfaces among other reasons but the Minister seems to play that down. Even Transport Infrastructure Ireland is negligent in the maintenance of national primary roads in rural areas. I will provide two simple examples. The first is the N72 between Fermoy and Mallow. At Kilcanway, there are ruts on the road as big as potholes and I know that from experience. Another example is the N73 between Mitchelstown and Mallow on which there have been potholes at Skahanagh in recent months.

Every time Transport Infrastructure Ireland comes to my county with funding, it must be welcomed. However, that should not be at the expense of rural roads or, for that matter, rural communities. If one takes the N25 in east Cork, which is a busy primary road from Cork to Waterford and Rosslare, the result of prolonged and delayed works at Killeagh have resulted in minor roads in the area becoming rat runs. In turn, they have been left in such a poor condition that they are now like muddy passages. I urge the Minister to please not let the same happen with Castlemartyr, which is currently being streetscaped. Supplementary funding must also be made available for the maintenance of rural roads which are impacted by the ongoing work in nearby towns.

Ba mhaith liom mo thacaíocht a thabhairt don rún seo agus mo buíochas a ghabháil le Fianna Fáil, go háirithe Teachta Robert Troy, as ucht an rúin seo a chur os comhair na Dála. Is rún thar a bheith tábhachtach agus praiticiúil é. Cuirtear in iúl leis an rún seo an rud atá ráite ag an gcomisiún náisiúnta a dhéanann monatóireachta ar stádas na mbóithre sa tír, is é sin, chomh dona is atá sé maidir le bóithre réigiúnacha. Tá droch-chaoi ar 70% de na bóithre. Tá 10% de na bóithre áitiúla thíos freisin agus droch-chaoi orthu. Ní hamháin sin ach cuireann an rún in iúl an méid atá ráite sa Chlár do Rialtas Comhpháirtíochta. Tá sé geallta sa chlár sin go mbeidh méadú sa bhuiséad caipitil suas go dtí 50%, méadú nach bhfuil tugtha fós. Chomh maith leis sin, tá foráil praiticiúil sa rún seo go mbeidh freagra dó seo laistigh de thrí mhí agus go mbeidh fócas ar na húdaráis áitiúla maidir le cé chomh héifeachtach atá siad ag bainistiú airgid. Cuirim fáilte roimh an rún agus níl drogall ar bith agam mo thacaíocht a thabhairt dó. Ar ndóigh, d'fhreastal mé féin agus comhghleacaí an Aire, an Teachta Seán Kyne, ar chruinniú ar an gCeathrú Rua Dé hAoine seo caite. Ba é bun agus barr na hoíche sin ná an droch-chaoi uafásach atá ar na bóithre i gConamara. Bhí siad ag caint faoi sheirbhísí otharchairr freisin, ach bhí an droch-chaoi atá ar na bóithre ar bharr an liosta. Chuir bean amháin in iúl gur chaill sí lá oibre uilig. Ní raibh sí in ann an bóthar a úsáid de bharr na tuilte agus, i ndáiríre, an bóthar ag titim as a chéile.

Chomh maith leis sin, tá ceist Bhóthar Dhoirefhearta ardaithe go mion minic agam sa Seomra seo. Táim ag scríobh litreacha ó bhliain ó shin ag iarraidh airgid maidir le caoi a chur ar Bhóthar Dhoirefhearta. Is bóthar tábhachtach é taobh leis an gCeathrú Rua. Baineann na busanna scoile - más féidir leis an Aire éisteacht liom - úsáid as an mbóthar sin agus tá sé dáinséarach. Tá litir faighte agam ó innealtóir sinsearach. Athróidh mé ar ais go Béarla mar níl na cluasáin ar an Aire Stáit. I will change back to English for the Minister of State. I will read from a letter that the senior engineer has written from the county council. He was appealing to us to put pressure on the Government for funding. The Minister of State will be able to hear this now i mBéarla. The letter states that Galway County Council is aware of the effects that recent severe weather events have had on the road network in Galway, including the R336 road. An increased level of funding is urgently required for works to the road network by the council. The engineer said he would be grateful for our help in highlighting this issue. Council staff are doing their best under difficult circumstances and budgetary restraints.

On the day I was at the meeting in Carraroe I read The Irish Times. I would not say that it was to my amusement - chuir sé ionadh orm - but I read that the economy is again growing at one of the fastest rates in Europe. I was out in Connemara where practically every road is in trouble. People told stories of the difficulties they are experiencing in living, working and keeping a car on the road.

I will not use all my time because the points have been made repeatedly by other Deputies. Anyway, I am pleased that the Government is accepting the motion. I am pleased that the Government is not contesting it. I am pleased that the Government is complying completely with the three-month review and that the Minister will come back to the House.

If we are seriously interested in a balanced economy in Dublin and the rural areas, then the most basic requirement is that our roads are useable, especially in areas where the public transport is not up to scratch notwithstanding the efforts of the drivers of the buses. For example, in Connemara one bus goes from Carna to Galway and one goes back from Galway to Carna. There are many other examples of this limited public bus service. Consequently, people are utterly reliant on cars and a road system that is not fit for purpose in the 21st century. Mar a dúirt mé, níl drogall ar bith agam mo thacaíocht a thabairt don rún seo.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on this important matter. I suppose I do not have much time.

You have nine minutes, Deputy.

We are sharing time. The biggest trouble in our roads is water on the roads. There has been no drainage programme in Kerry like we used to have for many years. I will only talk about my own place. What is happening is the side drains are not being opened. The related inlets used to play a pivotal role in times gone by. They used to let the water run in off the road into a drain or somewhere. They took it off the road anyway but that is not happening anymore. Where water stays continuously on the road, we finish up with a pothole. The surface finishes up torn and broken and then we try to patch it.

I have another gripe with the patching of potholes. Now, our local authority is so reduced in numbers, including general operatives and foremen, that the crews are barely filling the potholes with black tar or tarmacadam. It is a cod of a job. Before, they were able to do a perfect job with a thing called a DuraPatcher. A crew would clean out the pothole, put in some tar, put chips on top of that, put tar on top of that and put chips on top again until they levelled it up properly. That is not happening anymore because the crews are so depleted. In one area, the Killarney electoral area, there were six crews. I will only mention that place. There were six crews there to keep the drains open and the potholes filled. Now, we are down to two crews. We simply do not have the staff. The story from Kerry County Council is that the council does not have the funding to pay more staff.

We got no money for cul-de-sac roads or class 3 roads since 2011. Until then, there was discretionary funding that usually came around August or September. Each county councillor was allowed to nominate a road or two. If we assigned two roads in Kerry to each councillor, that would be 66 roads. It would be grand if we even got one road for each of them. I am asking the Minister of State to give his Minister this message. The Minister should restore the discretionary grant that used to be spent on class 3 roads and cul-de-sac roads. It is important but we have not had it since 2011. That is why so many of our minor and cul-de-sac roads are in the state they are in. If the Minister can get his head around that and get funding, it would sort out many of the problems in our county anyway.

I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak on the motion. I thank my colleagues in the Fianna Fáil party for bringing forward the motion. The motorway infrastructure in Ireland at the moment is excellent. Every week I travel along the M8 and M7 towards Dublin. However, the road network in my constituency of Cork South-West has not experienced similar investment.

The programme for partnership Government vowed not only to increase funding on the road network throughout the county by approximately 50% but to spread the apparent economic recovery beyond the M50 through the creation of jobs in all parts of Ireland as well. To achieve this objective, we must have a decent road network to connect west Cork to the main markets throughout the country. We have seen extraordinary underspend in west Cork from the current and previous Governments. If west Cork roads are to be brought up to any standard, it is estimated that the cost could be up to €500 million. Funding was made available some weeks ago by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, but it was only 10% of what is required. Deputies and councillors are besieged by requests from the taxpaying public. I pity local area engineers because they are under immense pressure. They are trying in vain to find funds to repair our depleted roads.

Many people ask whether sand is going into potholes because as soon as the potholes are filled, they are back open again and cars are being damaged. The Southern Star newspaper ran a report last week or two weeks ago. The newspaper reported that €26,000 was spent in compensation to motorists who had their cars damaged in 2015. The figure was up to €40,000 in 2016. God only knows what the figure will be in 2017. We should remember that approximately 80% of people do not even claim at all.

There is a bypass in Bandon and it lies unfinished. Innishannon is a bottleneck. The road from Clonakilty to Skibbereen is another example. A motorist cannot pass on the N71 road. It is a completely farcical situation. Continuously, little or no money is spent on our roads. The main road from Dunmanway to Bantry has continuous white lines that prevent motorists from passing. The road from Ballydehob to Bantry would burst every shock and spring in any car in the land. The N71 road is in an appalling state. I have to travel on the other side of the road if I want to take that road safely rather than go off the road with the height of bumps and hollows and whatever.

We have reported this to the National Roads Authority in recent years. I was talking to a local workman who drove his van through the route last week. He said his tools, which were neatly in the back, were turned up all over the van afterwards. The way this is being left is criminal. There are major potholes in Leap, Drimoleague and Bandon. The roads are underfunded and I appeal to the Minister of State to turn this decision around and give money to rural communities.

I am delighted to speak on this motion on behalf of the Rural Independent Group. I compliment Fianna Fáil on putting down this motion. Our motion was submitted for next week on this topic but now we find that it has been disallowed because of repetition. This is so important that every Deputy from rural Ireland has to talk about it.

The Minister of State, who lives in the south east, must also know this. While there is a motorway from Dublin to Waterford city, he will know what the roads around Dungarvan and other areas in County Waterford are like. The roads in my constituency, from Carrick-on-Suir to Kilsheelan and Clonmel, from Cahir to Tipperary town, Bansha, Thurles and Kilcommon, in the mountains and everywhere else, are in a deplorable state. We lobbied hard in the talks on the programme for Government - the Minister of State was present on some of the days - to have money front-loaded for roads. We were told that ample funds would be allocated for roads in the Government's second budget. The less we invest in roads every year, the more we will have to spend because they are deteriorating fast. Funding is needed. It is pointless trying to attract tourists or companies to locate in my local area, which does not have broadband services either. The bridge and streets of Thurles are in an appalling state. Traffic calming measures such as dangerous traffic islands are destroying the place. I wonder who has these brainwaves.

I salute the area engineers who must divvy up and try to manage the money that is available. We are taking a sticking plaster approach. This is a particularly inclement winter and the large amounts of rain and frost have left roads disintegrating, which is not fair to motorists.

I fully support the requirement to have all cars older than ten years pass the national car test, NCT. However, insurance companies are refusing to insure people who have valid NCT certificates for their vehicles. This is fraud, blackguarding and downright robbery of people in rural areas.

I will make a point about the brainwave the Taoiseach had when he made an announcement in Cork some months ago. Unfortunately, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport is not present to listen to it. We lobbied to have a motorway built from Limerick to Cahir to link the M8 motorway between Cork and Dublin with Waterford via Piltown, where people are being slaughtered on the roads. "Dr. Spin", as I call the Taoiseach, on a recent visit to Cork, made an announcement, before the Minister had arrived, that he would proceed with the motorway from Limerick to Cork. It would make more sense to extend the M8 to Mitchelstown as that would serve all of us. However, the Taoiseach wanted to make an announcement for some of his people in Cork in an early morning raid. Maybe he had this harebrained idea when he got up that morning. It would cost €380 million less to build a motorway from Limerick to Cahir than it would to build a motorway from Limerick to Cork. I have no issue with extending the motorway to Cork but it would be sensible to first build a motorway from Limerick to Cahir and then Waterford to connect the Port of Waterford with Galway and Limerick, cities that need infrastructure. The Minister did not have the patience, interest in or respect for rural Ireland to spend two hours listening to us. That is a shame and disgrace.

I omitted to say something in my contribution.

That will be a lesson to the Deputy not to do so the next time he speaks.

I declare an interest as a small plant hire contractor. Some people could argue I am furthering my interests, which would not be the truth.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae has declared an interest.

I am sharing time with Deputy Seamus Healy. I do not support the Fianna Fáil Party for the simple reason that the Green Party believes we must substantially increase funding for public transport and investment in cycling and walking, which would not be possible in the context of an increase in the roads budget of €4.25 billion for the next four years. Investment in public transport is only a fraction of this amount.

Investing all our money in roads, as we are doing again, is the wrong strategy in terms of climate emissions and building communities. The system and economy will simply not work and we will have gridlock. I agree with the point made on radio this morning by DCU Professor Edgar Morgenroth who was behind the national planning framework when he stated the framework had been thrown away and we were pursuing the same old approach of building more and more roads. This will not develop urban centres or reduce commuting and will cause further gridlock. We tried it before and it will not work this time either.

I remember, while campaigning on transport about 25 years ago, the findings of one of the best engineers in the country when he examined what was being done in Galway. He stated the ringroads and roundabouts being built in the city at the time would not work and it was madness to believe we could move large numbers of people from one side of Galway to the other by road. He has been proved right.

In 1999, the Dublin platform for change looked at proper modelling of transport. I remember as if it was yesterday that the clear message from the best modellers and engineers was that the public transport infrastructure, including a metro and DART interconnector, had to be built first. What did we do? We first widened the M50 and built the motorway network leading to Dublin. As a result, the capital is starting to grid-lock and is already crippled by our excessive dependence on roads and the absence of public transport.

This is not a rural versus urban issue because rural areas also need public transport. A large chunk of the €4.25 billion in roads funding should be allocated for rural bus services and we must invest in rural towns to stop the sprawl. We must stop the incredibly expensive and unsustainable approach of building housing everywhere and having everyone travelling by car. The end point is that this simply does not work but it is the direction in which we are moving again.

It is incredibly frustrating that the Minister does not appear to understand the basic lessons we should have learned from the past 30 or 40 years. Deputies have spoken about road conditions. The Minister should go down to College Green and see what he has done on the ground in terms of safety. Potholes are a major concern in rural areas but they are also a concern in urban areas. It is clear the Government does not care about cyclists, pedestrians and bus users. All the Minister does is open up motorways in an open top, dressed up car and tell us how great everything is. This approach will not work because it is out of date. We need a change in approach to one that will benefit citizens. I did not hear the Minister say anything on that issue. I will not support the Fianna Fáil motion because the party does not appear to have learned that lesson either.

Deputy Ryan clearly did not read it.

I welcome the motion, which I will support. I will also support the Sinn Féin amendment. It is fine for Deputies living in Dublin and other major cities but if they had to drive around rural constituencies every week, as rural Deputies must, they would find that local and regional roads are in an atrocious condition. It is barely possible to drive on many of them and the rural bus service about which Deputy Eamon Ryan spoke cannot operate on some of them because they are so bad. From Carrick-on-Suir to Gortnahoe and Littleton, from Ballingarry to Hollyford and Upperchurch and from Clogheen to Lower Ormond, the roads are in a disgraceful condition. As a former Ceann Comhairle and Tipperary man, the former Deputy Séan Treacy, once said, one could bury one of Burke's pigs in the potholes in Tipperary. One could now bury a lorry load of Burke's pigs in the potholes of the county's local and regional roads. The position is so bad the chief executive officer of Tipperary County Council, Mr. Joe MacGrath, wrote to Deputies about two weeks ago stating the following:

[I]t is acknowledged that there has been an accelerating deterioration in regional and local roads which is directly attributable to the deficit in investment on these roads over successive years during the economic downturn. The investment deficit on roads (ie the amount of spend necessary to restore these roads to an acceptable standard and within an acceptable timeframe) in Tipperary is estimated at €180 million.

Mr. MacGrath was referring to regional and local roads as opposed to motorways. The condition of these roads is exacerbated by repeated incidence of flooding and extreme weather events. Mr. McGrath also noted that for comparison purposes, "the total national allocation of €416.8 million for 2018 is still only about two thirds of the Non National roads Allocation in 2008". We have a serious problem with local and regional roads.

We should remember that these are the roads on which people living locally go to work and school, do their business, farm, shop and go to sports fixtures or religious events. They use them in normal daily living and in very many cases their cars are being damaged, with people hardly able to drive on some of the roads because they are so bad. We need an emergency allocation of funding for these roads immediately. We need the Minister and his Government to honour the commitment made in the programme for Government to increase funding for these roads by 50%.

In the minute or so left to me, I want to refer to the N24. As the Minister knows very well, the N24 is a social and economic lifeline for the south east, including Tipperary, Kilkenny and Waterford city and county. It is not fit for purpose and despite its importance, the N24 suffers from slow journey times and is substandard in its design and alignment. It is congested where it is routed through a number of towns and villages, including Tipperary town, Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir. The vitality and growth of those towns and villages on that route is also dependent on the removal of heavy traffic from them. For example, thousands of vehicles, including huge lorries, are going straight through the main street in Tipperary town on a daily basis. They are destroying businesses, roads and the town. We have been seeking a bypass of the town for over 20 years and it is now time to deliver on it. We certainly hope it will be in the capital programme to be announced next Friday. The N24 is substandard but it is vital to the south-east area. A bypass is also needed for Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir.

We need an emergency allocation for the local and regional roads and we want the 50% increase that was promised delivered immediately. When the chief executive of the local authority wrote to us, he said he had written to the Minister, Deputy Ross, seeking agreement to meet to outline the accelerated deterioration in parts of the road network, with particular emphasis on non-national roads.

The Deputy has exceeded his time. We will move to the Fianna Fáil slot.

I ask the Minister to accede to the request to meet a deputation from Tipperary.

I thank Deputy Robert Troy for putting down this motion, which is very important. I notice Deputy Eamon Ryan is leaving the Chamber but this is not just about urban Ireland versus rural Ireland. This is about developing each and every corner of the country. If one travels on rural roads, one can see how secondary and regional roads have all been neglected. We can listen to the contributions made by people in the House tonight; they are speaking from their heart on the matter.

The Minister mentioned earlier that he visited many of the constituencies but Cork North-West is one he has not visited. In the few minutes available to me, I will speak about the position that has developed in Ballydesmond. There has been much development there and, for example, EirGrid got a road opening licence for putting a line through. It has left Ballydesmond in a deplorable state. This is a result of road works, so it must be very clear from the top down, from the Department through to local authorities, that if a road opening licence is issued, the road must be repaired so that people are not left living on a building site. I will also mention Ballymaquirk cross on the Mallow to Killarney road. It is an absolutely lethal junction and a number of accidents have occurred there. A petition has been circulated over a number of months to get something done with it. I appeal to the Minister to examine this junction on the Mallow to Killarney road outside Kanturk heading for Banteer. It is absolutely lethal.

There is no doubt but that the funding coming right through from the Department down to local authorities is not sufficient to meet the needs of maintaining the roads. We can all cite different ways in which roads have been maintained but unfortunately they are not being maintained. Water is lodging on them and damage is being done to cars. People living in rural Ireland expect and deserve the same right to have roads to home and to work as anybody else on the island of Ireland.

This very important motion is a matter of serious concern throughout rural Ireland. One can consider that 94% of the road network nationally comes under the classification of regional and local roads, and that network carries 54% of all traffic. Unfortunately, over the past number of years we have witnessed a deterioration in the standard of roads. Fortunately, from the late 1990s until 2011, there was major investment in a very well-targeted programme that literally rebuilt our local and regional roads. Unfortunately, with the very substantial cut in funding to local authorities since 2012 in particular, that investment has not been protected. There was good investment but the roads did not get enough maintenance and investment on an annual basis to ensure we protected them.

Many of the enterprises in my constituency of Cavan-Monaghan are sited along local roads in particular. Many of the enterprises are now major international companies providing very valuable employment both locally, nationally and internationally. They started as small enterprises along local roads, so we can never underestimate the importance of the local road network. People deserve a proper standard of road going to their homes or place of work. There must be a major increase in investment to try to stop the accelerating decline of the road network throughout all of rural Ireland.

So much of the road network in rural areas is potholed and damaged that it is very difficult for residents to travel to and from work or even do an ordinary school run. In many places, the potholes are so big that even the adventurer Bear Grylls would struggle to make his way through. Right beside them there might be a great piece of road; it is a checker board right around the place and much more work needs to be done. There has been much underinvestment over years in this regard. The Department estimates €580 million should be spent each year but since 2011 barely half of that has been spent. Even at €417 million, this year's funding still falls well short. In Cork, for example, which has the largest road network, the road manager estimates he must resurface a road every ten years. With the funding made available to him, he would only be able to resurface a road every 50 to 55 years. It is clearly inadequate.

It is not just about the level of funding, as the Minister is restricting the way the councils can spend their money. For example, the discretionary fund cannot be spent on local improvements from this year and the Minister is proposing to stop topping up the discretionary fund from the restoration improvement grant from next year. He is removing flexibility from local authorities and the ability to spend money where they see issues.

It is a good move to reintroduce the local improvement scheme and it will make a big difference in so many rural communities. Releasing the funding so late in the year means we are not getting the best value. The Minister should release it much earlier in the year as it would not cost anything to do so. If it was released earlier, councils could plan better and get better value for money, making the road networks so much better than they are now.

In all counties, local and regional roads serves as the main connection between homes, schools and business. In the past few weeks, our focus has been on the national planning framework and connectivity between the regions, which is very important. We also need connectivity at a local level. The local authorities do fantastic work with their engineers and outdoor staff to keep the road network in the best condition they can. They need investment to do this and with all the storms, floods and other extreme weather events in recent years, much good work has been undone and moneys allocated for road improvements end up being spent on repairs.

I was shocked when Transport Infrastructure Ireland took the extraordinary step of writing to all local authorities in December last to warn them that the ordinary maintenance allocation for roads would plummet by 30% in 2018. This is truly shocking and a cut of this nature will only worsen the already poor road network in the country. Waterford roads, especially those in rural parts of the county, which the Minister of State, Deputy Halligan would know, such as Ballymacarbry, the Nire, Tooraneena and Modeligo, are in a severe state of repair. They are patched and repaired year on year but the only solution is capital expenditure to carry out proper repair work and have full sections replaced. The Minister needs to review the issue as a matter of urgency. Where is the additional money that was secured in budget 2018 going? It is clear that it is not going to the roads maintenance budget.

I thank Deputy Robert Troy for tabling this timely and important motion. Taxpayers pay their motor taxes and their property taxes, yet their roads are in a disgraceful state. Road users are angry, frustrated and fed up. Their cars are regularly damaged and they want to know where their money is going. Our regional and local roads account for 94% of all roads in the country - not just in rural Ireland but in our towns and cities.

Wexford has almost 3,473 km of roads in need of repair, reconstruction and maintenance. In the last three national roads surveys, Wexford finished in the bottom 5% or 10% for the state of our roads. This is self-evident by the state of the roads in Gorey, New Ross, Wexford, Enniscorthy and Riverchapel, to name but a few, and I challenge the Minister of State to go down to Wexford and see them. There is a running joke in some parts of Wexford that the potholes are so big they are fighting over the fishing rights. No one is laughing about the state of those roads, however.

The surface dressing cycle for a basic level of maintenance and safety requirement is for a road to be done once in every eight years. Currently, in Wexford it is once in every 40 years. The State has €1 million to waste on an unopened service station outside Gorey. The N11 is a carpark at peak time for commuters who cannot get housing in Dublin. Despite all this, there is a proposal to shut down the railway line south of Gorey. For health and safety reasons, economic reasons and the sake of fair play, fix the roads.

I listened to Sinn Féin moaning about Fianna Fáil. As usual, instead of holding the Government to account, it obsesses about Fianna Fáil. I remind Sinn Féin that we need a Government. While the rest of this Dáil made every effort to put a Government together, those in Sinn Féin took a ten-week holiday, preferring protest over responsibility.

We now move on to the Government slot. I call the Minister of State at the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy John Halligan.

Is any Fine Gael Deputy speaking tonight?

I can only call those who are present.

Shall I continue?

I will start again. First, I take the opportunity to acknowledge and welcome the points made by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Shane Ross, and the other contributors to this debate. Our road network plays an integral part in society and in our economic recovery in terms of, for example, supporting the lives of those socialising and working in rural communities, job creation, health and education, and creating balance in regional and local development. This is a serious and constructive motion that has been considered and accepted by the Government.

As outlined by the Minister, Deputy Ross, the financial crisis and resulting funding cutbacks in previous years has had major and tangible impacts on the maintenance and upgrading of our road network. In the circumstances, I understand why the focus of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and local authorities has been on maintaining both the existing regional and road networks for the past number of years. Therefore, despite the considerable funding constraints for our roads network over many years, it must be acknowledged that considerable efforts have been made and continue to be made to best manage what is a difficult situation.

The necessity to target scarce resources towards maintenance and rehabilitation works has meant that in the past two years more than 90% of regional and local road funding has been directed towards such works. In that context, I very much welcome the increase in funding under the capital review of the Building on Recovery capital plan for 2016 to 2021 which will allow maintenance and rehabilitation moneys to increase to the required steady State level of funding over the period of the plan and will also include moneys for targeted road improvement schemes. I add my support to the stated aim by the Minister, Deputy Ross that the additional funding allocated under the capital review for the period 2018 to 2021 of €486 million will be distributed to secure a balance between servicing the existing network while at the same time examining the potential for improving and expanding the network.

Given the scale of the economic crisis and subsequent funding constraints for many years, it must be acknowledged that it will take some time to remedy the cumulative deterioration of the network and to make the improvements required. With all respect to Fianna Fáil which has tabled the motion, some of the roads we are travelling on today were in as bad a condition as when it was in government as they are today.

What about the motorway to Waterford?

In 2008, €160 million was spent on regional roads.

It is all very well to come along and criticise the Government but let me remind those in Fianna Fáil of the state in which they put the country in the first place that meant we were not able to spend the money where we wanted to spend it.

What did the Government do to get around it?

As I said, given the scale of the economic crisis and subsequent funding constraints for many years, it must be acknowledged that it will take some time.

Where is the Government party?

However, given the size of our roads network, I echo the Minister’s point that it will be important to ensure resources are managed as effectively as possible so that the best value with the greatest impact may be achieved. I am sure that the combined efforts of the Department, the road management office and local authorities will greatly contribute to this objective.

Planning for future investment is also a key objective. The national planning framework and the ten-year national development plan, to which the Minister referred, will provide for continued investment in the maintenance of the existing network as well as improvements in the network which will be linked to regional and local development. For example, as I previously mentioned, our roads network is vital to regional and local development. Consequently, the 29%, or €100 million, increase in grant funding for regional and local roads is of particular importance in that regard. The increased funding will create the potential to improve the lives of those living in rural communities, increasing opportunities in those communities.

At the outset I noted that this is a serious and constructive motion which has been considered by the Government. It must be acknowledged, however, that we were in deep recession for six years and that, under the circumstances, every effort is being made to deal with what is a serious situation, that is, the seriousness of the roads network.

We do not need a Fine Gael Minister. The Minister of State is giving us the Fine Gael speech.

It would be folly of me to say that we do not have a problem with the road network. Do not forget that Fianna Fáil was in government for approximately 20 years but did not do much about it.

Fourteen actually, and we will be back.

Where is the Government party?

Fianna Fáil has ten minutes. I call Deputy Dara Calleary who is sharing time with Deputies Margaret Murphy O'Mahony, Eugene Murphy and Robert Troy.

All the Murphys.

At the risk of being beaten up by my colleagues, I have some sympathy for the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, on the issue. Yes, there is a much reduced budget that is below where it needs to be but there are other issues also. There is a lack of staff, particularly outdoor staff, in local authorities and a lack of funding to replace them. There is also an issue around drainage. The community employment, CE, scheme was mentioned earlier but the Government has not provided extra materials or resources to the CE schemes to do it. The issue around drainage and lack of drainage is currently the biggest issue for the condition of roads.

There is also the issue of the disparate funding which I have previously discussed with the Minister. Do we know how much of the money is going into tar and how much is kept for administration, management and other matters? Is there consistency? The big issue is funding. We are not appropriately addressing what is needed. When we consider the level of expenditure needed throughout the country, the Minister admitted himself that it is still falling far short. There is a commitment in the programme for Government to deal with it and I ask the Minister to do so urgently.

I heard the Minister discussing his tour of the country earlier. I notice it took in areas represented by many of his Independent colleagues. The people trying to undermine him most are the ones he is trying to entertain. We had that discussion previously as well.

I invite the Minister to County Mayo. I want him to travel the R312 from Belmullet in the very north of Mayo to Castlebar. It is a route often taken by people in ambulances because it is the main route to Mayo University Hospital. Taking that journey in a car is hard enough but taking it in an ambulance is nigh on impossible. If an ambulance is trying to get to the hospital at high speed on that route, the damage done to the patient, the driver and the vehicle is appalling. It is typical of roads all over County Mayo.

It is 48 hours before the Minister's big announcement in Sligo. He should not pass up on the opportunity for regional transport that the western rail corridor represents. I know various Members are lobbying the Minister. However, in respect of regional connectivity that is a good value for money proposition in as much as regional roads are as well. He should not ignore it.

I commend my colleague, Deputy Troy, on bringing forward this motion. It is a pity, however, that he and we had to do this in order to highlight the sorry state of the road network and to try to increase investment in it. There is a post doing the rounds on social media which says that in Ireland we used to drive on the left but now we drive on whatever is left. This may seem funny but in many parts of west Cork it is reality. This is our daily life.

I could stand here for an hour naming the different roads in a bad and dangerous condition in my constituency, Cork South-West. The N71 is in a terrible state, especially the sections from Ballydehob to Bantry and from Clonakilty to Skibbereen. There are large potholes in Bandon that a person could nearly swim in. I know the Minister saw some of the roads on a visit to west Cork. Having seen them, however, it is a pity that the funding provided subsequently did not go far enough. Indeed, it does not go one tenth far enough. It is estimated that it would take €500 million to fix the roads in west Cork, yet only 10% of this amount was allocated.

This is not on. My former colleagues in Cork County Council have set down a motion for next Monday's meeting. They are demanding more money for road maintenance in Cork South-West. I commend them on this. A poorly maintained road is an unsafe road. The reality is that the shoddy state of the regional roads in west Cork will increase the frequency of road collisions and car damage. It is unfair for the motorist in west Cork to have to pay such high motor tax and yet have to pay to fix their cars day in and day out. When the Government makes its big announcement on Friday, with the much anticipated and at this stage predictable and boring bells, whistles and bows, will the Minister please remember what he heard here.

Like all of my colleagues, I reiterate the difficulties we have in rural Ireland. I hope the Minister and the Minister of State are taking this motion seriously. I hope that listening to the passionate way we have put the representations on behalf of our people - I am about to make them on behalf of my people in Roscommon Galway - will ensure that this is taken as a major and serious issue. I have on my mobile phone hundreds of pictures of roads that have been sent to me. I am going to show them to the Minister later. They show roads that are similar to those one might see in Haiti. The Minister may not believe that. I have seen pictures from Haiti and some of the roads I have gone through in south Roscommon are in a worse state. That is true. I want the same for my people in the constituency of Roscommon-Galway as the Healy-Raes get for theirs in Kerry. I want our roads looked after.

The Minister must remember that when people in rural Ireland step out of their houses, there are no footpaths or public lighting. Remember, though, when they get their planning permissions, €4,000, €5,000 or €6,000 is stopped and when they ask for a breakdown of what that money is for, they are told it is to maintain roads, public lighting or footpaths. We are not going to have public lighting or footpaths out in the middle of the country so they cannot get the money spent on the roads. I am pleading with the Minister to do better. We need more. What Deputy Troy said echoes what is being said by people all over this country, namely, that the roads are in an appalling state.

I have heard the Government boasting repeatedly that it took in €51 billion in taxes last year. Well, by God, when it is taking in that type of money, the Government should be well able to invest more in roads. I plead with the Minister. This is a huge issue. I and all other Fianna Fáil Deputies have every right to table motions and hold this Government to account. We will do that and we will make progress on this issue.

I remind Sinn Féin that the confidence and supply agreement we signed up to was to provide stable Government for this country. In signing it, we ensured that there was a reversal of the Fine Gael policy and a two-to-one split of additional funding to invest in services and infrastructure. Deputy Munster and the Government know that we cannot veto every decision or announcement that is made.

I overheard the two Ministers talking. They were taking solace in the fact that Sinn Féin was critical of Fianna Fáil. They agreed with Sinn Féin. However, they did that because they know they are failing in their own responsibilities and their own duties. They are taking solace from a party that refuses to take its seats in Westminster at a time when it could have huge influence on the future of Brexit. They take solace from a party that has been involved in a stalemate in Northern Ireland for the past 12 months. The only funding that comes out of Northern Ireland is that which pays the expenses of MLAs in respect of work they are not doing. The Minister is happy to cosy up to Sinn Féin because he knows that we on this side of the House are relentless in our opposition. We hold him to account for his inadequacies and his failings in his role as the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport for the past two years.

Like his colleagues in government, the Minister has visited many constituencies. However, they have all failed to follow up after their visits. I acknowledged there was an increase in funding this year. What the Minister has failed to acknowledge is that he was not able to secure the increase that he signed off on in A Programme for a Partnership Government. It was the Minister who signed off on a 50% increase and it was he who failed to deliver on that. It is because of the motion before us that he will have to come in and be answerable to this House every six months in respect of how he is going to address the deficiencies relating to our roads.

It is interesting to note that none of his Fine Gael colleagues are present. They are never at the Minister's side during any debate. I ask him to be as forceful in his negotiations in respect of provision for roads as he was for the reopening of Stepaside Garda station and in how judges are appointed to the Bench. We are not exaggerating the problems facing Ireland. It is not just rural Ireland. Regional roads and local roads are in our cities and rural areas. The Minister needs to accelerate funding. It will be more efficient in the long term. It is critical for balanced regional development. We need to ensure that water is properly drained off our roads and that hedgerows are cut back. We need to ensure that the money allocated is spent efficiently and that we are getting value for money.

I am glad the Minister is accepting this report but we will be keeping an eye on him every six months to ensure that he delivers when he says he is going to deliver. There is one thing for sure. The time for announcements and spin is over. If the Minister fails to deliver, the time for this Government will be over because we will pull the plug.

That concludes the debate.

Amendment put.

In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Thursday, 15 February 2018.

The Dáil adjourned at 10 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 14 February 2018.