It’s now almost 16 years since plans were first revealed for a major scheme of works to upgrade the A5 road. Running between Londonderry and Aughnacloy, it was seen as a project to open the gateway between the city of Derry and the south of Ireland. A real economic boost.
Even more significantly, the scheme would come with the promise of saving lives on what has become one of the most dangerous stretches of road in Northern Ireland.
Now locked in a third public inquiry, the project has not been completed.
Had it started when originally intended, the workmen would be gone, the road would be safer, the economy benefiting and we would not be asking questions like why?
Why has it taken so long to get the project off the ground? Why does everyone say they want it to happen, yet it never does? And, sadly, why are we looking at another three young lives lost following an accident on the A5?
We’ve been here before. In 2010 the new A4 opened, crossing Tyrone and Fermanagh. At one stage, in the mid 1990s, 67 fatalities were recorded in accidents in the space of six years along that notorious road. Since completion of major improvements there has been one fatality. Surely that statistic speaks for itself. But this is not about statistics. This is about the danger to human life posed by a road that is quite simply not fit for purpose.
That, you would think, would be enough to press on as quickly as possible with the planned, and long-awaited project.
Sadly, any upgrading of the road will now come too late for the families of Nathan Corrigan, Petey McNamee and Peter Finnegan. All three died after the car they were travelling in on Monday was in collision with a lorry.
Former SDLP representative Anthony McGonnell campaigned over the dangers of the A4 before it was eventually upgraded.
“We still look back on the old A4 and the cemeteries around Tyrone and Fermanagh are full of the bodies of people who need not have died.
“The work was eventually completed and the benefit has been huge in terms of lives. The protection of human life has to be paramount,” he said.
Are we not supposed to look back on history and learn?
The time has long since passed when the shovels should have been picked up by the workmen to get the A5 job done.
Instead the shovels are again being picked up to dig the graves of three young men who did not need to die on a road that warnings have been made about for the last two decades.