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A5 'Famine road' is branded a waste of money by campaigner

An anti-A5 campaigner has called on Stormont parties to scrap the planned dual carriageway, branding it a "Famine road conceived for political purposes" which is losing support.

Ciaran McClean is vice chair of the Alternative A5 Alliance, which is waging a court battle to halt the 50-mile development.

Mr McClean, who was speaking in a personal capacity, said: "This is a political road; it is not based on need at all.

"It was the carrot that sealed the deal to get Sinn Fein and the DUP into bed."

The environmental campaigner dismissed arguments that it would bring much-needed jobs to the construction industry.

"The construction work arguments could be summed up in terms of Famine roads. It is really not a runner in practical terms."

During the Great Famine in the mid 19th century the authorities put the hungry to work building roads, often leading nowhere, to keep them occupied.

Mr McClean sees the A5 as the modern equivalent and argues that the existing road just needs widening.

"It is displacing sustainable jobs for temporary jobs and that is a waste of public money," he said.

The road is being built with the support of all the Executive parties, with Sinn Fein its strongest proponent.

Supporters see it as a vital cross-border project linking Derry and Donegal to the motorway network to Belfast and Dublin.

The Irish government originally vowed to help fund it because it would improve links to Donegal.

Sinn Fein values it partly because it runs through party constituencies in Northern Ireland.

The DUP agreed to it partly because Irish government funding, which has since been postponed, made it good value.

Last week Finance Minister Sammy Wilson told the Belfast Telegraph that the money should be switched to the A6, which would link Londonderry to Belfast and Dublin through Dungiven and Toome.

Story so far

The A5 dual carriageway from Derry to Aughnacloy was planned as the biggest-ever road development in Northern Ireland, part-funded by £300 million of Irish government money. Last month, in a case brought by the Alternative A5 Alliance, a judge said he was minded to halt work.

Belfast Telegraph