Varad­kar pro­poses high-rise at Pool­beg to solve hous­ing cri­sis

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - - Front Page - Jody Cor­co­ran

TAOISEACH Leo Varad­kar has said that a “large part of the so­lu­tion” to the hous­ing cri­sis is high-rise apart­ment liv­ing in city cen­tre lo­ca­tions not “ur­ban sprawl”.

In an ar­ti­cle in to­day’s Sun­day In­de­pen­dent, Mr Varad­kar sug­gests that high-rise qual­ity apart­ments should be built at Dublin’s iconic Pool­beg gen­er­at­ing sta­tion, col­lo­qui­ally known as the Pool­beg Stacks.

Mr Varad­kar also comes out strongly in favour of Dublin Metro to run from St Stephen’s Green to Dublin Air- port and on­wards to Swords.

In an ar­ti­cle in which he out­lines a 13-point vi­sion for Ire­land in the next decade and be­yond, Mr Varad­kar writes of re­de­vel­op­ing the coun­try’s main cities. He says: “We are cur­rently tack­ling a se­ri­ous hous­ing short­age, and I sus­pect that a large part of the so­lu­tion lies in re­de­vel­op­ing our cities for high-rise qual­ity apart­ment liv­ing, not fur­ther ur­ban sprawl. We want vi­brant new neigh­bour­hoods all across the coun­try, such as in Water­ford’s north quays, Gal­way’s in­ner har­bour and Dublin’s Pool­beg.”

Separately, he told the Sun­day In­de­pen­dent: “Pool­beg could have a Luas line also. It’s in the Na­tional Trans­port Au­thor­ity plan for Dublin. I’ve been to San Diego and Chicago, where there are great ex­am­ples of how to mix older neigh­bour­hoods with high­rise. Good de­sign is key.”

Mr Varad­kar, who in his Twit­ter ac­count bi­og­ra­phy, de­scribes him­self as the ‘Saviour of the Pool­beg Stacks. No kid­ding’, said that any such de­vel­op­ment should re­tain the Pool­beg Stacks, though the power sta­tion could be con­verted. In his ar­ti­cle, Mr Varad­kar also says he will “en­cour­age bal­anced re­gional de­vel­op­ment” so that cities like Cork, Water­ford, Gal­way and Lim­er­ick can grow by 40 to 50pc and that ru­ral Ire­land also ben­e­fits.

“We will work on Dublin Metro, the Cork-Lim­er­ick mo­tor­way, the Gal­way city by­pass, and new roads to Derry, Sligo and Mayo to trans­form the way peo­ple can travel in this coun­try. In ad­di­tion, we want Dart trains to pick up pas­sen­gers from places like Leixlip, Drogheda and Clon­silla.”

The Taoiseach also says: “Next month, for the first time in 10 years, we will pub­lish a Bud­get that will bal­ance the books and re­duce the na­tional debt. This pro­vides a se­cure foun­da­tion that al­lows us to be am­bi­tious about the fu­ture and be­gin plan­ning for the next 10 years.”

He adds: “Of course we are oc­cu­pied with cur­rent is­sues and prob­lems, but we also recog­nise that a longer per­spec­tive is needed if we are re­ally to make progress as a coun­try.”

THERE was much to be wel­comed in Euro­pean Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union ad­dress last week in which he pre­sented his pri­or­i­ties for the year ahead and out­lined his vi­sion for how the Euro­pean Union could evolve, not least the sense of op­ti­mism he sought to por­tray af­ter a decade of stag­na­tion and the un­cer­tainty cre­ated by the UK’s de­ci­sion to leave the Euro­pean Union.

The speech in the Euro­pean Par­lia­ment was ac­com­pa­nied by the adop­tion of con­crete ini­tia­tives by the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion on trade, in­vest­ment screen­ing, cy­ber­se­cu­rity, in­dus­try, data and democ­racy.

How­ever, there were also sev­eral notes which will be of con­cern to this coun­try and all smaller, pe­riph­eral coun­tries in Europe, par­tic­u­larly in light of the UK’s exit, a de­ci­sion which will al­low the po­lit­i­cal power blocs of Ger­many and France more free­dom to dom­i­nate in­flu­ence within the EU.

In par­tic­u­lar, Mr Juncker’s stated in­ten­tion to move to qual­i­fied ma­jor­ity vot­ing for de­ci­sions on the com­mon con­sol­i­dated cor­po­rate tax base, on fair taxes for the dig­i­tal in­dus­try and on the fi­nan­cial trans­ac­tion tax should raise a red flag in Ire­land.

A gov­ern­ment-com­mis­sioned re­port re­cently con­cluded that Ire­land’s cor­po­rate tax code meets the high­est stan­dards in­ter­na­tion­ally and said that the surge in tax re­ceipts from multi­na­tion­als based here will con­tinue un­til at least 2020.

The re­view, by econ­o­mist Sea­mus Cof­fey, who is also chair­man of the Gov­ern­ment’s Fis­cal Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil, comes in the wake of a se­ries of con­tro­ver­sies con­cern­ing Ire­land’s cor­po­rate tax regime, cul­mi­nat­ing in the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion’s rul­ing last year that Ap­ple should re­pay €13bn in back taxes to Ire­land.

Mr Cof­fey was asked specif­i­cally to look at is­sues re­lat­ing to tax trans­parency, tax cer­tainty and the avoid­ance of pref­er­en­tial treat­ment, an al­le­ga­tion that has been re­peat­edly made against the Ir­ish Gov­ern­ment in re­la­tion to Ap­ple, but he was not asked to in­clude an ex­am­i­na­tion of a change to the State’s 12.5pc head­line rate of cor­po­rate tax.

Gov­ern­ments here have con­sis­tently made the case that a change to the coun­try’s cor­po­rate tax regime is a non­starter. There are well-re­hearsed rea­sons for hold­ing that po­si­tion, which is why any move to qual­i­fied ma­jor­ity vot­ing on such tax­a­tion is­sues should be re­sisted. Mr Juncker is de­ter­mined that Europe main­tains a united front in the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, so it was in­ad­vis­able to again raise the is­sue of a com­mon con­sol­i­dated cor­po­rate tax base at this junc­ture.

That said, it is in­creas­ingly ev­i­dent that changes are in train to the man­ner in which multi-na­tion­als, par­tic­u­larly dig­i­tal and phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal cor­po­ra­tions are treated for tax pur­poses at a global level.

It is im­por­tant that Ire­land con­tin­u­ously adapts to stay ahead, but on the cor­rect side of these over­due re­forms. It is vi­tal that Ire­land strikes a proper bal­ance between at­tract­ing in­ward in­vest­ment and not al­low­ing com­pa­nies to man­u­fac­ture new ways to avoid tax­a­tion. It is also im­por­tant that Ire­land co-op­er­ates, and be seen to co-op­er­ate with the re­form pro­gramme be­ing led by the OECD.

Mean­while, the out­come of the Brexit ne­go­ti­a­tions, while down­played by Mr Juncker, re­mains crit­i­cal to this coun­try’s fu­ture and, there­fore, per­haps should not have been min­imised to the ex­tent that it was in his ad­dress. That said, 10 years since the eco­nomic cri­sis, he did strike an op­ti­mistic note. Europe has rea­son to look for­ward with con­fi­dence, but coun­tries such as Ire­land also have grounds to tem­per such con­fi­dence with cau­tion.

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