Progress on the construction Narrow Water Bridge will be determined by the Taoiseach’s ‘Shared Island Unit’ that has a half a billion euro to spend over the next five years, Sinn Féin TD Ruairí Ó Murchú has said.
As part of the recent budget announcements, it was revealed that the Taoiseach’s ‘Shared Island Unit’ would receive €100 million a year in funding for the next half a decade.
Arising from the announcement, the Dundalk TD submitted a question for response by Taoiseach Micheál Martin on Wednesday.
Mr Martin said a number of projects are expected to progress because of the new, ring-fenced cash for the ‘Shared Island Unit’. The Taoiseach added that the unit would give a greater degree of certainty to projects that previously had got lost between two stools when handed over to government departments on both sides of the border.
The Sinn Féin TD said Mr Martin had included the Narrow Water Bridge in a list of projects he wants to see progression on, as well as the A5 motorway, and this is ‘welcome news’.
He said: ‘The Taoiseach spoke about the difficulty experienced by the State over the years regarding many projects it agreed to.
‘He talked about cross-border projects, such as the Narrow Water bridge and the A5, and promises that were made. When the projects were left with individual departments, they found reasons, probably genuinely good ones, not to proceed with them. They found other things to do.
‘While I might have difficulties with some parts of the terms of reference of the Shared Island Unit, I believe the unit is necessary if we are to complete some of the cross-border projects.
‘We have all heard tell in the past while of possible high-speed rail, particularly on a cross-border basis. This needs to happen.
‘Many commuters in the likes of Dundalk use the Enterprise train, which runs from Dublin to Belfast and back. The problem is that, in many cases, it only runs every two hours.
‘We need to have a greater level of connectivity and ensure more trips so it will be more possible to use the rail network for commuting. The price can also be a dissuader. We need to examine this. We have to give people opportunities.’
North Louth Councillor Antóin Watters agreed that it was welcome news and repeated that the Bridge “will be good for tourism in the area.”