Skip to main content
Normal View

Seanad Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 18 Nov 2009

Vol. 198 No. 5

Institutes of Technology.

I thank the Minister of State for attending to respond to this matter. It concerns the status of the Grangegorman development project, the DIT site on the northside of Dublin. It is a project that has been in planning for many years. Its aim is to have all DIT facilities across Dublin located on a single piece of land. At present, that piece of land is occupied by St. Brendan's Hospital. Bringing all of the facilities together will deliver greater efficiency to the way the DIT is run and will allow the various units and parts of the DIT to work better together.

This is a very exciting project for my part of Dublin. Not only does it offer an opportunity for a very successful and large third level institute to be located in the heart of it, but at a time when we are so desperately looking for innovation, ways to commercialise new ideas and new ways to employ people, the work the DIT is doing offers a very exciting vision as to how that can be done. One of the many things it seeks to do is to provide training for the array of skills necessary for our entire economy to do well. One can get training and education in the DIT for everything from nanotechnology to a trade. Bringing all of the services and facilities together on one site offers an opportunity for it to become more of a dynamo for the development of Dublin's economy, for businesses to work side by side with that facility and for people who work in Dublin to access exciting new educational opportunities. This is everything the Government speaks about when discussing moving the economy and our society forward. This is a golden opportunity.

Many rumours are now circulating, some of which were started by statements in the McCarthy report, that this project might be put on ice. There are rumours about the status of the Grangegorman Development Agency. All I care about is this project which will have such an ability to contribute to our economy and all of Dublin. It is a living example of what the smart economy could look like. I am looking for an update from the Minister of State and a guarantee from the Government that this very important project will go ahead in the near future.

I am taking this Adjournment debate on behalf of my colleague, the Minister for Education and Science, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe. I thank the Senator for raising this matter as it provides me with the opportunity to outline to the House the progress made by the Grangegorman Development Agency since its establishment in 2006.

As the Senator is aware, in 2001 the Government appointed an interdepartmental committee to examine the potential for the development of the Grangegorman site as a new Dublin Institute of Technology community campus. Its report was presented to the Government in November 2001 and the main recommendation of that report was the establishment of the Grangegorman Development Agency. Established under the Grangegorman Development Agency Act 2005, the general aim of the agency is to oversee the development of the lands at Grangegorman on behalf of the Departments of Education and Science and Health and Children, the Dublin Institute of Technology and the Health Service Executive. Grangegorman is a unique site and is of strategic importance to Dublin as a whole.

The first meeting of the agency was held in November 2006 and since that date the agency has done considerable work. It has established links with all the relevant stakeholders and established a consultative group as required under section 22 of the Act. The agency completed the drafting of a strategic plan and budget for the development of the whole site and submitted the draft plan and budget to the Department in October 2008 as provided in section 12(2)(h) of the Act. Copies of the plan and budget were also forwarded to the Minister for Health and Children for her consideration. Following receipt of the strategic plan, officials, in consultation with the Higher Education Authority, commenced an assessment of the proposals. The Department also sought the advice of the National Development Finance Agency on the funding portions of the draft cost-benefit analysis from the Dublin Institute of Technology and the draft strategic plan.

In March 2009, the agency submitted a revised strategic plan and budget. The revised plan takes account of the reduced prices that have materialised in the construction sector by updating construction prices to January 2009 values. The agency also reduced enabling infrastructure costs and revised the estimated value of the DIT's property portfolio to reflect current market trends. The revised plan proposes to deliver the complete project in phases.

Having completed the draft strategic plan and budget, the Grangegorman Development Agency provided the Department with a clear indication of the overall costs and timeframe for the development of the Grangegorman site. This has allowed the Department and the Department of Health and Children the opportunity to consider fully the costs and timeframes involved in utilising the Grangegorman campus to provide for the needs of both the Health Service Executive and the Dublin Institute of Technology. The strategic plan is being considered by the Department and it is the Minister's intention to bring the matter to Government as quickly as possible.

The Grangegorman Development Agency was one of a number of agencies referred to in the proposals contained in the report of the special group on public service numbers and expenditure programmes. I assure the Senator that all planned expenditure levels for the Department are being considered as part of the Estimates and budgetary process for 2010. This includes consideration of the Grangegorman development and decisions on all issues arising will be a matter for Government.

Section 17 of the Grangegorman Development Agency Act 2005 provides for the appointment of members to the board of the agency. Fourteen members of the board of Grangegorman Development Agency were appointed for a three-year term in 2006. The members' term of office expired on 18 October 2009. One member resigned in March 2009 and had not been replaced. The Act provides that the ordinary members of the agency shall consist of two persons nominated by the Minister for Health and Children, at least one of whom shall be an officer of the Health Service Executive, two persons nominated by the president of the Dublin Institute of Technology, one person nominated by the city manager of Dublin City Council, one person being a resident of the Grangegorman neighbourhood following an election process, and one elected public representative being a member of Dublin City Council and nominated by Dublin City Council. The Act provides that the remaining members of the agency other than the chief executive are nominees of the Minister for Education and Science and that all members of the agency are appointed by the Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance. The Act also provides that the Minister shall designate one member of the agency as chairperson.

In compliance with the Act, the Minister sought and has now received nominations from the Minister for Health and Children, the President of Dublin Institute of Technology and the Dublin city manager. The agency has completed the local election process for the selection of a resident of the Grangegorman neighbourhood and has informed the Department of the nominee. Dublin City Council has also provided the Minister with its nominee for the new board. Having completed the nomination process, the Minister is pleased to inform this House that letters of appointment have issued to new board members. I thank the Senator again for giving me the opportunity to outline to the House the up-to-date position on the Grangegorman Development Agency.

I thank the Minister of State for his response and I have just one question. Will he tell me when he believes the Government will make a decision on the strategic plan and when it will be able to announce its support for it?

I cannot anticipate a Government decision on this but I appreciate the Senator's interest in the matter. My interpretation of the response to the House is that it was reasonably positive.