Belfast Telegraph

SDLP MLA criticises Paisley for 'obsessing' over Northern Ireland to Scotland bridge

An artist’s impression of how the bridge could look
An artist’s impression of how the bridge could look

By Michael Sheils McNamee

An SDLP MLA has hit out at Ian Paisley for "obsessing" over a possible bridge link between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

The party's infrastructure spokeswoman Sinead Bradley was responding after Mr Paisley made a request for a feasibility study to be carried out on the project to Secretary of State Karen Bradley.

The SDLP's Ms Bradley argued money would be better spent on the province's existing infrastructure.

“Chronic underfunding of our infrastructure here in Northern Ireland has led to an out-dated and too often dangerous road network. For decades this has held back our economy and created deeper disparity between east-west investment," said Ms Bradley.

Appearing before the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Mr Paisley asked the Secretary of State if she would consider a feasibility study into a bridge between Northern Ireland and mainland Britain.

"We've seen ingenuity in engineering skills with the 90 mile bridge being built between one part of mainland China and one of the islands off China," said Mr Paisley, noting a link between Northern Ireland and Scotland covers a stretch of 13 miles.

"I think anyone who visits the Causeway coast will always be struck by just how close Scotland is to Northern Ireland," responded Mrs Bradley, noting there are issues around the sea bed and current on the proposed site of the bridge link

Mrs Bradley said she was open to holding a meeting with representatives from Northern Ireland about the bridge.

Branding Mr Paisley's request the "political not the practical", the SDLP's Sinead Bradley said: “People are literally dying on our roads, yet the DUP in their ‘wisdom’ are obsessing over a bridge from Northern Ireland to Scotland.

"It beggars belief that we cannot build a 200m bridge from Warrenpoint to Omeath, but yet the Secretary of State has agreed to discuss a feasibility study for a bridge to Scotland.

“As political deadlock continues and our chronic infrastructure systems moves from bad to worse, it is bordering on offensive that the DUP would continue to push a pipe dream based on political aspirations rather than serve the people of Northern Ireland.”

DUP leader Arlene Foster and MP Sammy Wilson have both previously voiced their support for the project.

The catalyst for the bridge idea originally came from a speech made by former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson in January 2018, in which he floated the idea of a 22-mile bridge across the English Channel to France - something he said would improve transport links after Brexit.

Professor Alan Dunlop, one of the UK's leading architects, was asked by newspaper in Scotland to produce plans for a potential bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland.

He laid out two proposals for the route - one from Larne and Portpatrick (potentially costing around £20bn) or a crossing between the Mull of Kintyrne and Torr Head (potentially costing between £12bn and £15bn).

An artist's impression of the bridge was released in September.

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