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Spend the £20bn tackling addiction, not Northern Ireland to Scotland bridge, says judge

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Comments: Barney McElholm

Comments: Barney McElholm

Comments: Barney McElholm

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's suggestion of a bridge connecting Northern Ireland and Scotland has been questioned by a district judge here.

Barney McElholm, speaking at Londonderry Magistrates Court on Friday, said he believed "quite frankly, this bridge is not needed".

He also suggested that the £20bn needed to build the bridge should instead be used to provide and fund appropriate clinics in Northern Ireland for alcohol and drug addicts.

He made his comments during the sentencing of an alcoholic woman who admitted three offences of disorderly behaviour last year.

Catherine Patterson (30), from the Top Of The Hill in the Waterside area of Derry, received a six-month jail sentence, suspended for three years, and was put on probation for two years. She was further ordered to complete 60 hours of community service. One of the disorderly behaviour incidents took place inside Altnagelvin Hospital's accident and emergency department last June 17.

Mr McElholm, who has frequently criticised the lack of residential clinics available locally to treat addicts, said instead of people talking about spending billions on a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland, the money should be used to provide appropriate addiction centres.

"Quite frankly, this bridge is not needed," he insisted.

"Instead of spending that sort of money in that way, why not use the money to establish clinics where people with addiction issues and who offend and reoffend because of their addiction, can be constrained and confined in order that they can get the therapy and counselling they need so that they can then be returned to the community with a realistic prospect of conquering their addictions once and for all," he suggested.

"I am not denigrating the work being done by the statutory and voluntary agencies in terms of dealing with people with serious addictions, but there are those who need to be confined to help them get over their physical and then psychological addictions."

"To simply send someone out back into the community to enable them to go straight to the nearest off-licence or to the dealer of their choice to get Xanax or whatever, that simply will not work."

Belfast Telegraph