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War of words between unionists over upgrading of A5

By Noel McAdam

Published 21/04/2016

The election war of words between the DUP and Ulster Unionists has turned into road rage over the A5 dual carriageway.

With two weeks left before polling day the two parties, which formed a pact for last year's Westminster race, are pulling no punches.

After personal insults at leadership level, the battle is coming down to key issues such as Northern Ireland's biggest roads project - the long-delayed A5 from Londonderry to Aughnacloy, on which £70m has been spent so far.

The DUP yesterday said that Regional Development Minister Michelle McIlveen had achieved more in five weeks than her predecessor Danny Kennedy did in five years. Trevor Clarke, former chairman of Stormont's regional development committee, hit out after a radio interview in which former UUP MLA Adrian Cochrane-Watson accused the DUP of "serial failure" over nine years.

South Antrim DUP candidate Mr Clarke said: "For the UUP to criticise infrastructure spending is utter hypocrisy when it was a UUP minister who stalled the biggest infrastructure project in Northern Ireland's history.

"Watson failed to mention that his colleague was the DRD Minister for the majority of the last term and failed to deliver on the most ambitious roads project in Northern Ireland. The A5 is a vital project for the construction sector and also for those in the west of the province.

"Whether cutting the grass, fixing street lights, reforming the compensation scheme for landowners or getting projects like the A5 moving, Michelle McIlveen was able to achieve more in five weeks than the UUP minister achieved in five years." But Mr Cochrane-Watson, who is also standing in South Antrim, said Mr Clarke was "playing an armchair politician".

"He should have contributed to the radio debate instead of hiding behind a statement later. It's laughable," he said.

"A minister turning up for a photograph at the completion of projects that have been years in the making doesn't count as an achievement."

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