Attwood denies bridge plans claims
A political row has erupted over plans to build a new cross-border bridge.
Environment Minister Alex Attwood took to the floor of the Assembly to refute allegations about the integrity of his approval for the Narrow Water Bridge.
The SDLP MLA said he felt compelled to take the exceptional step after questions were raised about the speed at which the application was processed.
He said: "There is no smell around this process and decision. There are only the standards of good planning, good practice and good government."
In October the European Union said it would give 17.4 million euro (£14.1 million) for the 660m, single-lane cable bridge between Co Down and Co Louth. The bridge could be open by 2015.
Earlier this month, Finance Minister Sammy Wilson warned that the Executive could be left with a multimillion-pound bill for the bridge.
Mr Attwood denied there was a spat between government ministers over the bridge but said he had decided to speak out because accountability practices had been called into question.
Mr Attwood added: "This was a good planning decision, made in good time, on good grounds.
"This proposal attracts cross-community and cross-border support. It is a planning application that builds trade, tourism and relationships.
"It is an application that Europe wants to support, Dublin wants to support and Belfast should support."