New road cuts Dublin to Belfast trip to 90 minutes
It's the second time in recent years Newry has been bypassed
MOTORISTS will be able to travel between Dublin and Belfast in 90 minutes after the 'missing link' of the motorway was opened yesterday.
The 12km bypass of Newry, which has become a popular destination for cross-border shoppers, means that there is now continuous motorway between the two biggest cities on the island.
Taoiseach Brian Cowen, who attended the opening yesterday on the outskirts of Newry, said it was making the whole island a more attractive place for trade, investment, business and tourism.
And he strongly condemned the dissident republicans who were continuing to plan attacks on the security forces in the North.
"They are not relevant in this situation. This is about modern Ireland and 21st-century infrastructure, looking into the future. Really, we shouldn't allow people on the margins to take from this," he said.
The North's Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said the dissidents needed to "get real" and recognise that people were living in a new century. "They need to come and look at this road today and see what the future is like," he said.
The completion of the new €179m-stretch of roadway means that it is the second time that Newry has been bypassed. The first bypass opened in 1996 with four roundabouts, but they were blamed for the lengthy traffic jams that soon built up.
Mr Cowen joked that the border economy went in cycles and that it was all "a case of swings and roundabouts".
"Whatever about the swings, it looks like today we've finally got rid of the roundabouts," he said.
Mr Cowen said it would be now possible to travel between Dublin to Belfast in one-and-a-half hours, something that will be particularly useful this weekend with the All-Ireland football quarter-finals taking place in Croke Park.
"It'll allow the Down and Tyrone people to get down in double quick time," he said.
The new bypass will cut an estimated 10 minutes off the journey. With the Dublin-Cork motorway also completed, motorists can now drive from Belfast to Cork in four hours. Previously it would have taken seven-and-a-half hours.
The road was funded by the Northern Assembly and the British government through a public-private partnership.
Mr Cowen was asked if he could provide further funding for road infrastructure in the North -- in the wake of the Government's promise to provide €580m for the A5 Derry-to-Aughnacloy (which is located on the Monaghan-Tyrone border) motorway and the A8 Larne-to-Belfast dual carriageway.
Mr Cowen said the A5 road would open up access to the north west generally, which would be important for developing tourism and industry in the region.
"I think we have that commitment. I'm very personally committed to it and I think it's the right thing to do," he added.