Varadkar proposes high-rise at Poolbeg to solve housing crisis
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.