Speech by the Taoiseach Mr Enda Kenny T.D. At the Launch of Construction Strategy National Sports Campus

Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, Welcome to the fantastic facilities of the National Sports Campus here in Abbotstown. The Government was delighted to include funding in the last Budget for an indoor arena to be built here.

It is the perfect location to publish the Government’s Construction Strategy that aims to return the sector to a sustainable size and help get unemployed construction workers back on site.

The central aim of the strategy is to provide homes for our people by tripling housing output by 2020 and adding 60,000 jobs to the construction sector over the same period.

It is also the perfect location to further outline a number of new building projects approved by the Government, worth up to €200 million, to be built right across the country.

It represents a huge boost for tourism, sports, local communities, jobs and for the construction industry itself.

This package of funding will see €5m set aside to allow Special Olympics Ireland to consolidate their Dublin, Leinster and Eastern Region offices into a single new HQ office here at the National Sports Campus.

Minister Hayes and the OPW have been responsible for progressing this project which allowed Government to make this vital investment.

It is necessary for the Government to support a sustainable and viable construction sector.

While the country is starting to recover with over 1,000 jobs a week being created we are still far from finishing the job.

There are still far too many people out of work and from my travels around the country I know that many places have still to see any signs of recovery.

The construction sector has a key role in supporting economic development and job creation in Ireland.

We are beginning to see signs of stabilisation in the sector.

The Government will support this recovery but only if it is based on the highest international standards in quality, excellence and trust.

Nobody wants to go back to the bad old days of the construction and property boom. That won’t benefit the country, young families or the sector itself.

The spectacular crash in the sector has caused widespread hardship and ruin for many.

The creation of a boom bust property market has left hundreds of thousands of families in negative equity, the consequences of which will be with us for many years to come.

I promise you there is no going back to that past.

But a sustainable construction sector supports development across the economy, whether it’s providing high quality commercial office space for major FDI companies or building vital economic infrastructure like telecommunications, water and energy networks.

And just as important a healthy construction sector is required to maintain the output of quality housing options for young families as Ireland’s population continues to grow. A severe shortage in supply is sharply driving up prices in some areas which is causing great difficulties for many young people.

Proposed policies in this area will be designed to help both first time buyers and to get new housing construction under way again.

In rebuilding a construction sector based on excellence and quality we have to stand up and confront the major deficiencies in the sector that tolerated poor standards through Fianna Fail’s weak regulatory and enforcement regime.

We will not tolerate any more Priory Hall’s or pyrite housing estates.

Whereas the previous Government stood over the regime that caused these problems, they also failed to find any solutions.

We were happy to facilitate a solution to Priory Hall and now I am happy to announce that we are setting aside €20 million for the Pyrite Remediation Scheme to help those families who were worst hit by the greed of the previous regime.

We have already introduced new reforms that will prevent the mistakes of the past being repeated.

New Building Regulations came into effect from 1st March set out the minimum requirements that must be achieved in bringing a building to completion.

The Construction Industry Register is up and running on a voluntary basis, and will be placed on a statutory footing by 2015.

But now having grown far too big during the boom the construction sector is now seriously underperforming.

At the peak of the housing bubble in 2006, over 93,000 housing units were completed across the country. The corresponding figure for 2013 was 8,301 – a reduction of 91%.

The sector has collapsed too far and we are paying the price in jobs and housing options.

This Construction Strategy is fundamentally about increasing activity in the construction sector to sensible, sustainable levels, and supporting viable job creation and employment in the sector.

It commits to a detailed, time-bound set of actions to identify and remove unnecessary obstacles or blockages to appropriate, high quality development, while ensuring that future growth and activity is sustainable, and underpinned by proper data and analysis.

We have consulted widely and reflected on the state of the sector in the preparation of this Strategy.

The 75 actions span across many related areas including housing, planning, financing, the commercial sector, infrastructure and public investment, standards and regulation, and skills and competitiveness.

The Strategy addresses many important issues and obstacles for the improvement of the sector and indeed for the country as a whole.

Such issues include:
· a strategic and measured approach to the provision of housing, nationally and in Dublin, with mechanisms in place to detect and act when things are going wrong;
· continuing improvement of the planning process, striking the right balance between current and future requirements;
· the availability of sustainable bank and non-bank financing for viable projects;
· appropriate access to mortgage finance on sustainable terms;
· effective enforcement of proper building standards and appropriate regulation;
· the identification and removal of blockages to necessary commercial development, and
· facilitating the strengthening of capacity in the sector, especially in terms of international expansion and technology advancements.

This strategy lays the groundwork for a world-class, competitive and dynamic sector operating to the highest standards and in line with best practice.

To help give the sector a further boost and to help create local jobs the Government has also just approved a €200 million stimulus package.

Funded from the sale of State Assets we are now committing to additional €50 million in local and regional roads.

The Department of Environment, Community & Local Government has outlined an additional allocation of €50m to increase social housing provision.

The new Minister for Children will invest an additional €5million in new childcare facilities and playgrounds.

And Minister Deenihan announced yesterday an additional €22 million for capital projects related to the Commemorations programme.

One project I’m excited to see progress on is the development of an interlinked, national greenway network and the commitment of €10 million to start the Dublin-Athlone-Galway route will help create an internationally recognised tourism attraction.

The Government has a plan for Ireland, a plan for jobs and stability.

We now have a plan for the construction sector. To get it back up off its knees and contribute again to Ireland’s recovery.

A sustainable construction sector based on the highest standards of quality is essential to make recovery local and to get Ireland working again.