Sunday 18 February 2018

Under-pressure Kenny pledges €50m for road to North

PATSY McARDLE and Don Lavery

The Government has done a U-turn on funding for the proposed cross-border A5 Monaghan-Derry road, which was effectively withdrawn during the week.

It has now promised €50m towards the project after Taoiseach Enda Kenny was told "in no uncertain terms" by Northern ministers Peter Robinson and Martin McGuinness that he had to find the money, at a meeting before the presidential inauguration last Friday.

Mr Kenny bowed to pressure from the Northern ministers by reinstating limited funding for the €470m project.

A government spokeswoman yesterday said €25m funding would now be provided in both 2015 and 2016 for the controversial road.

Lobbyists for the road said cutting funding would be seen as a very serious set-back to the ongoing benefits of the Good Friday Agreement.

Earlier this week, Transport Minister Leo Varadkar said that while the administration was "politically committed" to the A5 road upgrade, the capital budget cuts rendered it unaffordable.

Mr Kenny said last Thursday that it was not correct to say that the Government was abandoning whole transport projects. "They are being deferred until the economic situation allows them to proceed," he said.

He said it would be dishonest to continue with the planning phases of some transport projects in the knowledge the finance was not available to build them.

"The same applies to the A5/A8 road projects in Northern Ireland. The Government remains committed to these projects, even if they will now require a longer timeline.

"We are now proposing early discussions with the relevant authorities in Northern Ireland to explore a new implementation plan and timetable," he said.

But by yesterday the Government confirmed it was funding the road.

Details are expected to be announced during this week's North-South ministerial meeting in Armagh.

The decision to axe the plan caused open fury among cross-border groups in the Border region and was bitterly attacked by a cross-border group of elected representatives in the region.

Sunday Independent

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