Belfast Telegraph

A5 dual carriageway 'back on the road' as Dublin rethinks £400m funding

By Donna Deeney

Construction of the A5 dual carriageway may be back on the cards after the Irish government agreed to review its decision to withdraw £400m from the project.

Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said he believed progress could be made on the issue following a discussion at last week's North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) meeting.

There is speculation that Dublin's renewed interest may be linked to progress in the political talks, after the British and Irish governments were urged by local parties to create a financial package to secure a deal this week.

Speaking in the Assembly, Mr McGuinness said: "I was pleased to report to the Assembly that the Taoiseach has agreed to review the decision to withdraw from the A5 project."

He continued: "We had a very constructive discussion at the NSMC and the Taoiseach gave a clear commitment to seek additional structural funds to restore their contribution to this essential North-South project.

"I very much welcome that commitment because a restoration of the funds from Dublin will reignite this entire project."

In April, the High Court blocked permission for construction on the stretch between Derry and Aughnacloy following a legal challenge from a campaign group called the Alternative A5 Alliance, which is made up of farmers, landowners and their supporters.

The group won a judicial review after a ruling that an environmental impact assessment had not been carried out properly.

Mr Justice Stephens ruled that a fuller assessment of the impact on the rivers Foyle and Finn special areas of conservation should have been carried out.

The department says the work is currently ongoing.

However, Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy said that although the Executive's contribution of £110m had been reallocated, the project was still on the table.

He recently told a cross-border political delegation: "The dual carriageway scheme for the A5 between Derry/Londonderry and Ballygawley has been delayed, but the project has not been abandoned."

The possibility that the Irish government would return the £400m to the table was described as an stunt before May's Westminster general election by the chairman of the Alternative A5 Alliance.

John Dunbar said: "I was disappointed when I heard Martin McGuinness' comments to the Assembly but then I remembered there is an election in the offing and I think this is nothing more than a vote-catching exercise."

He added: "The A6 which carries 70% of the traffic between Londonderry and Belfast is a far more deserving project to be upgraded."

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