Go-ahead for A6 Derry to Dungiven 'a DUP stunt aimed at the voter'
A DUP minister has been accused of a "barefaced electoral stunt" after bypassing the Assembly to give the green light to a long-awaited stretch of dual carriageway in the north west.
Regional Development Minister Michelle McIlveen yesterday gave the go-ahead for the £400m A6 Derry to Dungiven dualling scheme - if funding becomes available.
But MLAs were unable to quiz her over the money as she visited the outskirts of Dungiven to make the announcement.
Ms McIlveen said: "There is no doubt that this scheme represents a significant investment in our economy and will create hundreds of jobs. Businesses, too, will benefit from improved transport links while the public will enjoy a safer and better journey."
She said "part" of the scheme would be funded by "indicative allocations" up to April 2021. She added that her department was considering how much of the scheme can actually be delivered.
East Londonderry SDLP MLA John Dallat was critical about how the announcement was made.
"I was attending a committee meeting in Stormont, ironically on regional development, when I learned that the minister was in Dungiven for a photoshoot with DUP candidates for the forthcoming Assembly elections," he said.
"This statement should have been made in Stormont where there is an opportunity to ask serious questions about availability of money and timescale.
"The minister needs to understand that this is a power-sharing Assembly which is supposed to be inclusive, and organising what is a barefaced electoral stunt is not in the spirit of the Good Friday Agreement, or indeed in keeping with a partnership government."
The DUP said: "Having been an MLA since 1998, John Dallat should be aware of written ministerial statements, but the desire for a cheap party political attack clearly has impacted upon his memory.
"Only someone with the unique logic skills of John Dallat could interpret an announcement of a dual-carriageway from Londonderry to Dungiven, including the long-needed bypass, as a 'disregard for the needs of the west'."
East Londonderry MP Gregory Campbell insisted that despite a gap in the funding for the A6, the project was guaranteed.
He said: "The money exists to get the road started and over the course of the next three or four years we would expect and hope the budgetary purse-strings in London to loosen and we would expect to put aside monies for the new department that is coming into place in May that will allow the road structure to be built.
"The money will be found to build this road."