THE road to build a bridge across Carlingford Lough has taken a lurch sideways as Louth Council have suspended progress. Following the submissions of tenders for the work, prices were much over the expected cost. This in turn has caused widespread concern on both sides of the border.
Dundalk Chamber of Commerce spokesman Paddy Malone said that their group along with many chambers in Louth and Down had lobbied for the building of the bridge, and that they had sat with consultants and discussed the project. He said: “This was a symbol of peace and reconciliation building the communities together. If there needed to be a toll to meet the shortfall of money then so be it. This bridge needs to be built for the future prosperity of the area.”
SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie welcomed the announcement from the Minister for Regional Development on Wednesday 10 July that the Narrow Water Bridge Order has been signed.
South Down SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie and South Down MLA Seán Rogers along with Louth Fine Gael TD Peter Fitzpatrick today (11 July) met with the Irish Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan TD to express their concern about the future of the Narrow Water Bridge and to urge the Irish Government to do all they can to move the project on.
Speaking after the meeting in the Dáil, Margaret Ritchie MP said: “The news this week that the Narrow Water Bridge is to be put on hold is a huge blow for the local community in Warrenpoint and in the Cooley Peninsula who have worked so long and hard for the project.
“I was determined to meet the Irish Government to discuss how the project could be moved on and to reemphasise the real benefits to the community and the local economy that the Narrow Water Bridge would have.
“We had a very constructive meeting with Minister Hogan and I am confident that the Irish Government is also committed to trying to find a solution that will advance the project.
“I am pleased that the Bridge Order has been approved, and this details the position, dimensions and operating procedures for the proposed bridge. Whilst this is a welcome step, it is ironic that the decision was made on the same day that Louth County Council put the project on hold due to funding issues.
“Great efforts and progress have been made, and we have had a very positive campaign in reaching this stage. Planning and marine consent have been achieved, and funding has been approved by the Northern Ireland Executive as well as from the Special EU Programmes Body.”
Ms Ritchie added:”I am determined to ensure this project is put back on track, and will work with the various authorities to see if they can come forward with a funding package for this North/South infrastructure project. It is vital for the Bridge to be realised and implemented.”
Sinn Féin’s Gerry Adams Intervenes Over Bridge Funding Problems
South Down MLA Caitriona Ruane has welcomed intervention from Gerry Adams TD in the Dáil on the Narrow Water Bridge.
Ms. Ruane said: “The announcement by Louth County Council to suspend the Narrow Water Bridge project (10 July) has major ramifications for both South Down and North Louth.
“I welcome the fact that Gerry Adams TD has taken to opportunity to raise the issue in Dáil Éireann with the Taoiseach Enda Kenny and that Mr. Kenny acknowledged the importance of this project.
“It is important that we overcome the latest hurdles in order to have the bridge completed.
“Sinn Féin has not given up on this project and we will work both North and South to see it delivered to help regenerate economic prosperity in the region,” added Ms Ruane.