3p would transform the Liffey Valley

5th September 2001

PRACTICALLY every motorist in Dublin uses the West-Link at some time or another. A great deal of us spend an awful lot of time at it. By the time you read this the shock of the latest toll increase might have lessened a wee bit.

The basic toll has gone from 80p to £1. The reason for this is that the EU wanted VAT charged on tolls.

I’m not going to talk about this. I’m going to ignore the fact that it is absolutely outrageous to increase the cost to consumers by 20% when the level of service is abysmal.

I’m going to talk about the fact that the worst dullard in the class can see that imposing VAT of 20% on an 80p charge gives us a total of 96p.

On their leaflet explaining the increase National Toll Roads (NTR) say that it has already been agreed in the by-laws that all charges should be rounded to the nearest 10p.

Well that’s grand. I’ve no problem with that idea. You don’t want people trying to scrape together 96p or the toll booths having to give every car back 4p.

See? I can be flexible.

What annoys me is that the additional 4p is to disappear into the usual black hole without so much as a by-your-leave.

(By the way, isn’t it strange that they are doing the rounding just four months before the introduction of the Euro? If they had to impose the VAT after the euro changeover this would come to €1.22. Now that they are already charging £1 the euro rate comes to €1.27 and I wonder if they might be tempted to round up again to €1.30.)

Anyway, back to the present. The point is that this extra 4p could be better spent than adding undeserved profit to NTR or adding to the budget surplus.

The 4p collected amounts to some £1.4 million per annum. Given that there will undoubtedly be extra administration due to the VAT receipts we could allow 1p of the difference to accrue to NTR.

This would leave us with the other 3p or some £1.1 million per year.

This money should be set aside to develop the Liffey Valley.

The Liffey Valley runs roughly from Islandbridge to Leixlip. It is a spectacular amenity, largely intact, for the people of Dublin.

Various bits are under various forms of state ownership. The OPW has the War Memorial Park. SDCC owns Stewart’s river bank and Waterstown Park. Some branch of the state is responsible for Lucan Demesne. Then stretches are privately owned.

While a lot has been talked about the Liffey Valley, precious little has been done about its future. Developers would love to get their hands on it and some already have. The people along the river have fought tenaciously to keep the Valley open.

The Liffey Valley plays host to the West-Link Bridge. The bridge is the most conspicuous intrusion into the Valley, bringing noise and pollution. It is only right that the bridge pays something back to the Valley and the communities that host it.

What the Liffey Valley needs is a unified authority and the funding to go with it. The present ad-hoc committee from the various councils practically never meets and has very little reason to, as there is not much it can do.

The dream of a walk from the docks to the Kildare border will remain a dream unless someone up there does something about it.

Noel Dempsey has shown himself to be something of a visionary. His department (Environment) was responsible for issuing Ireland’s first Special Area Amenity Order(SAAO) for the Liffey Valley in 1990. The time has come to take the next step and to make the SAAO meaningful.

Over to you, Noel.

As well as that…

Supreme Court – no plebs need apply

IT must cost about £10,000 to put your hand on the knob of the door on the way into a Supreme Court hearing. Then the charges go up.

You have to be some sort of fanatic to approach the courts to have your rights vindicated. Either that or extremely rich.

We’re not talking about mere millionaires here. We’re talking about Denis O’Brien or J.P. McManus type of wealth. Anything else and you’re facing destitution if you lose.

Which makes Kathryn Sinnott’s personal journey to the High Court all the more remarkable. She was fanatical about her son’s rights and she put everything she had on the line.

The State only came along with the cash after she had won. Don’t forget that.

This is a ridiculous situation. The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of what the Constitution says. Yet ordinary citizens have no realistic access to it (or to the High Court).

We need a system where ordinary people could have access to the higher courts without betting your house on the outcome.

Perhaps we could reserve 10 cases a year where the costs would be paid by the State. The cases could be taken on the basis of petitions from the public. The more signatures, the greater the concern.