I thank the Chair for allowing me to raise this issue of importance to the region I represent.
If proof was needed that the Government's policy on the north-west is to turn it into a nature reserve with large tracts of forests, mountains and lakes and the odd human inhabitant living in a hut, the announcement by the Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources, Deputy Fahey, yesterday evening outlining the proposed extension of the natural gas pipeline from the Corrib field gas find off the Mayo coast that will service towns such as Tuam, Athenry, Galway city, Castlebar and Claremorris, with no proposal for a pipeline to service any area of the north-west, confirms the Government's total abdication of its commitment to the region. That decision and others taken recently show a total lack of commitment to the development of Counties Sligo, Leitrim and Donegal.
The road infrastructure to the region has failed to receive funding under the national development plan. The N4 will have dual carriageway status from Dublin to Mullingar and only single carriageway status, as currently exists, from Mullingar to Sligo. The proposed new signalling system for the Sligo-Dublin rail link has been postponed indefinitely due to a debacle of the highest incompetence shown by a semi-State body and the Minister presiding over it.
How can a region develop if the Government is not prepared to give a lead and provide the necessary funding for infrastructural development? How can the most isolated region in the country hope to develop when the Government discriminates against it? The Government has taken the region for granted and shown scant regard for the many families who are trying to eke out a living in the area. I have no doubt that the political arrogance manifests itself by reason of the fact that of the ten Deputies who represent the region, only three oppose the Government.
The statement by the Minister, Deputy Fahey, yesterday confirmed that he would pursue the building of a further pipeline from Pollatomishvia Ballina to Sligo, depending on whether Bord Gáis can provide the funding. I challenge the Minister's statement. BGE may have the administrative responsibility for the pipeline but it will be necessary for the Government to provide the financing for the project. The Minister for the Marine and Natural Resources should abandon his aspirational claptrap and convince his Government colleagues to provide the necessary funding to take the national gas pipeline to Sligo and the north-west.
My constituents do not want pious promises. They want the funding for the gas pipeline, the upgrading of the N4 from single carriageway to dual carriageway or motorway status from Sligo to Mullingar and the immediate improvement of the signalling system on the Sligo-Dublin rail track. This investment in the north-west is necessary if the people there are to see jobs brought to the three counties and to experience the necessary increase in population that will allow us to grow economically and socially.