THE first steps on the Narrow Water bridge could be taken in the coming months as Minister for Transport, Leo Varadkar gave approval for the planning process to proceed.
The Argus has learned that the Minister has written to Conn Murray, Manager of Louth County Council, to inform him that the cross border bridge project can now move forward to planning.
Dundalk Senator Jim D'arcy told the Argus that Minister Varadkar has confirmed that his 'authorisation to proceed is not needed', and the County Manager has been given the green light to fund the planning out of his own resources.
' This is great news', said D'arcy and a huge development in the whole process. 'I am pleased to have been involved, behind the scenes, over the past number of weeks in helping to bring this about.'
A key part of this development in the situation has been the commitment of the County Manager, Conn Murray, a fact acknowledged by Minister Varadkar.
'Most people would have let it drop, given the number of disappointments,' said Senator D'arcy. 'But the manager persevered and has now brought the project to another level when many thought it was dead and buried. He deserves great credit.'
The project will take some considerable time to go through the planning process in both jurisdictions, north and south during which time funding for the project itself will be sought from such as Intereg.
' The County Manager has committed that he would seek the approval of the elected members for the provision of resources to cover the cost of the planning process and this will be presented to the council at the next meeting.'
'Minister Varadker has also stated that if such funding were secured the Irish Government ' would not be found wanting' in coming up with its share of the money, around €1.5 million,' said Senator D'arcy.
He explained that as members of the Joint- Committee for the Implementation of the Good Friday Agreement both he and Senator Mary Malone will meet with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Eamon Gilmore to confirm his backing and that of the Northern Secretariat for the project.
' We also intend to speak to Senator Martin Mc Aleese,' stated Senator D'arcy
'Indeed the support of all public representatives, including those who have already made a significant contribution such as Seamus Kirk TD, Senator Terry Brennan and Cllr. Peter Savage will be needed as things move forward.'