According to reports the State is preparing to pay National Toll Roads (NTR) €500m plus to buy out the West Link Bridge.
It is now widely accepted that the original contract signed with NTR was a huge mistake. The original traffic estimate was 10,000 cars a day. Now around 100,000 cars a day use the bridge. Public servants drew up the contract and politicians approved it. Now motorists are paying for it.
Despite that fact that the original contract was a mistake, the Government apparently believes that the contract must be honoured regardless of the cost to ordinary people.
That is not the case. There is no absolute right to private property in Ireland. All claims are subject to the common good and social justice according to the constitution.
A recent example of this is the Government’s plan that developers must hand over part of their sites for affordable housing. They would only be paid for the current use of the land and not for its housing value.
The Supreme Court decided that the plan was constitutional. Even more importantly, the judgement said that the courts were entitled to rule on the extent of the right to private property.
This judgement means that the Government doesn’t know whether NTR is entitled to the €500m. It is reckless and extravagant in the extreme to conclude that the money must be paid to NTR without testing it in the courts.
The crucial point is that NTR has already been well paid for its contribution to the bridge. It is completely unreasonable for the company to expect super-profits from a contract made in error.
Imagine what could be done for poorer communities throughout the state with e500m. It could make a huge difference in the RAPID areas, which have the plans and local organisation available to spend the funds to benefit Ireland’s most disadvantaged children.
This is not a case against private profit because the profit has already been made many times over. This is a case for justice and fair play. The bridge is ours.
THE PPP scam
The Government has made much of the fact that the new motorways, like the M4, are finished at minimal cost to the taxpayer.
Private finance picks up the bill. Isn’t that nice?
The scam here is the sly use of the word ‘taxpayers’ rather than the more apt word ‘motorists’. The PPP schemes certainly won’t be saving motorists any money. And as over 80 per cent of households have cars, taxpayers and motorists are the same people.
In fact, motorists will be paying for the motorway and then adding a couple of hundred million into Ireland’s investment community.
I haven’t seen one iota of evidence that PPPs are any cheaper for Irish motorists than the state simply paying for the roads out of the exchequer or borrowing the money at today’s record low interest rates.
As far as I can see, PPPs are just another method for people with money to gorge themselves at the trough.