09/12/2010

A5 Road Scheme Protest Redundant?

Although contractors have already been signed up, political developments have cast doubt on a promise made by the Dáil Government to give £400m (€500m) to the Stormont Executive to upgrade the A5/M2, Dublin to Londonderry Road as part of an £850m scheme.

Those groups in NI who oppose the huge Strabane to Derry upgrade on environmental and cost grounds may therefore have been handed an early Christmas present.

Last summer, protestors against the dualling of the A5 road from Aughnacloy to Londonderry even 'set up camp' along the route and said the environmental impact far outweighed any shortened journey time.

Most of the N2 to N14 upgrade from Monahan to Letterkenny lies within NI, but news from the Irish Republic's Labour Party may mean that after an anticipated change of government in Dublin, money earmarked by Brian Cowen's current ruling coalition may be running out of road.

The original promise was made at the time of the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement, and has since been renewed by Mr Cowen's Minister for Transport, Noel Dempsey.

Ironically, as the public consultation and Environmental Statement for the A5 dual carriageway, to be built from the N2/Border to Derry, and on to Letterkenny was published, Labour's Transport Spokesman, Joe Costello, said: "Ireland is in the worst recession in the history of the State.

"Spending one billion euro on a new road from Dublin to Derry including a €500 million spend in Northern Ireland will certainly not be a priority for the Labour Party while essentials such as health and education are being savagely cut.
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"The Labour Party has made it clear that we will be revisiting the National Development Plan and Transport 21 in the context of the present state of the public finances. A realistic cost benefit analysis will be applied to every project," he said.

Should Labour form a substantial part of any new Dáil administration in 2011 after the coming elections, Mr Costello said: "We are no longer in a position to fund the road in the South, so how could we fund the northern section?"

Now, experts are predicting that if the Republic fails to deliver the €500m then the Stormont Executive could only proceed if all other road works in NI are halted for five years and therefore may be forced instead to settle for a partial redevelopment, or to defer the contract.

That's despite contractors being appointed already and land having been identified for vesting to make way for the work to begin next year for an estimated completion in 2015.

The NI A5 protestors are not alone in the pre-festive boost either as the Irish Republic's Save Newgrange group has also been campaigning for years against possible damage to ancient heritage sites.

A spokeswoman said: "We welcome Labour's response to the pre-budgetary survey and their promise to perform a new cost/benefit analysis on the Slane bypass and the A5 upgrade.

"We will be updating our EU Complaint, on the basis that there should have been cross-border public consultation for both ends of this single 'transboundary project'.

See: UUP Opposed To A5 Plan

(BMcC/GK)

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