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Threat of U-turn on £600m road plan sparks barrage

By Noel McAdam

The massive A5 road project went centre-stage in the Assembly election battle yesterday as parties queued up to slam Ulster Unionist demands that £600m earmarked for it should be spent elsewhere.

In turn the DUP, Sinn Fein and SDLP rounded on UUP insistence the cash should have gone instead to the Altnagelvin radiotherapy unit, for social housing, and would have met the schools maintainance bill.

The UUP said it would do a |U-turn on the Department for Regional Development’s commitment to spend half of its budget over the next four years on the ‘western transport corridor’ from Aughnacloy to Newbuildings, outside Londonderry.

It proposed instead that parts of the road should become a dual carriageway, and with expected costs potentially soaring to £800m, could also pay for the long-delayed A2 Shore Road upgrade through Greenisland.

Senior UUP MLA Fred Cobain told a Press conference: “This was a choice made by the DUP and SF-led Executive, their ministers gave preference to a road over health, housing and education.

“It has nothing do with the Irish subsidy for the A5 project.

“The fact is they chose the A5 over and above all these other projects, and in our view it is a disgraceful decision.”

The outgoing North Belfast MLA said both pensioner and child poverty is growing, the demand for social housing is increasing and too many children are being educated in buildings “not fit for human habitation”.

West Tyrone DUP representative Tom Buchanan hit back: “UUP comments that they would take money from roads infrastructure and switch to social housing or the cancer centre is rank hypocrisy given that it was the UUP that supported the Tory Party 40% cuts to our capital budgets.”

A Sinn Fein statement said: “The Irish government remains committed in its support of this project.

“It will not be completed for at least four years, yet Michael McGimpsey took a pre-emptive decision on the last day of this Assembly to refuse to proceed with this crucial facility.”

SDLP Foyle candidate Pol Callaghan hit out: “The UUP’s latest statement is another example of a flagging party grabbing out in desperation for ideas, and shows the importance of returning more SDLP MLAs and ministers.”

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