Independent candidate Peter Casey has hit out at broken election promises over the provision of a rail link for Donegal, adding that the next government must “end discrimination against the county”.
Mr Casey said: “Donegal is disconnected like no other county and that is a shameful indictment of representatives who have promised to progress the rail lobby for the county, but then upheld their party masters’ policies of neglect. This wanton discrimination against Donegal cannot be allowed to continue. People in Donegal have had enough of politicians who are implicit in this perpetual injustice.
“When Opposition in 2007, Donegal’s newly elected TD Joe McHugh issued a statement lambasting Fianna Fail for failing to entertain a rail link for the county. The statement said he had been ‘calling for a railway line for almost 8 years’. How come that after almost 13 more years – nine of those in government and almost six in a ministerial position – Joe has not moved the rail link with Derry and Sligo forward.
“The government Project 2040 plan contains no proposals to expand the much-needed rail network from neighbouring counties. Perhaps the minister can answer for the failure to deliver any progress on a rail connection for Donegal.”
As a business ambassador, Mr Casey has witnessed first-hand how “easy” it has been for major investors to reject Donegal as a location for setting up businesses, simply because of poor transport connectivity.
“On a number of occasions, I’ve personally brought prospective investors to Donegal from America and, while they loved our county’s quality of life and spectacular scenery, they chose to invest elsewhere in Ireland because it takes so long to get here. Donegal has been losing out for decades because of government neglect of infrastructure development here.”
Mr Casey said: “Donegal is very much the forgotten county when it comes to access. We have no rail connection, despite having one a hundred years ago. It’s something visitors find incredible in the 21st century. People living in all the other corners of Ireland take rail connectivity for granted and have done so for many decades. The lack of rail infrastructure is evidence of the disgraceful level of neglect suffered by our county.
“The 33rd Dáil must be forced to deliver expansion of the rail network from Sligo and Derry into Donegal. This connectivity will be essential to achieving increased inward investment, job creation, tourism growth and social development. It will further serve to cut carbon emissions by giving commuters an altogether greener travel solution.”
Mr Casey further criticised the government’s failure to include any new road development plans in Project 2040.
Mr Casey said: “There is one road in and out of Letterkenny and it comes to a standstill twice a day. This too is hindering investment. The proposed upgrade to the Letterkenny to Lifford road, linking the county to the A5 and Dublin, has been talked about for more than 20 years without any result. The by-pass of Ballybofey is over 60 years in discussions.
“There are no real plans for investment to adequately link Donegal with the rest of the nation. That is wrong and must change immediately in the next government term,” said Mr Casey.