Ireland offers ‘huge infra opportunity’

Financing Irish Infrastructure 2017: Population boom will drive demand, particularly in housing; private finance will be required to fill the gap

The predicted boom in the Irish population over the coming decades will fuel the increasing need for new infrastructure – particularly for new homes, schools and health services, experts have warned.

Speakers at this week’s Financing Irish Infrastructure conference agreed that housing is set to be a major challenge for the country, with significant increases in population predicted to 2040.

Gerard Cahillane, deputy director and head of operations & finance at the National Development Finance Agency, pointed to figures suggesting there is likely to be upwards of one million more people in Ireland in 2040 than there are today.

Fergal O’Brien, director of policy and public affairs at Irish business group Ibec, went further: “We think it’s going to be closer to two million,” he said.

“We see a 1-1.5% gap in GDP that will need to be filled by private finance. That is around €3bn on current GDP.”

He added that the country has been watching the UK’s experience of City Deals to see whether a similar approach could be developed for Ireland’s urban centres.

As well as increasing the need for new housing, the population boom will put greater pressure on health and education services.

Emma Leonard, principal officer at the Department of Education and Skills, told delegates that her department’s focus is on the best way to provide additional places in schools.

Greg Dempsey, deputy secretary at the Department of Health, pointed out that as well as being larger, the population is getting older, putting more pressure on the nursing home sector.

A full write-up of the Financing Irish Infrastructure conference will feature in the first issue of Partnerships Bulletin of the New Year