Northern Ireland news

Girlfriend of GAA player killed in A1 crash 'totally disheartened' after public inquiry announcement

Karl Heaney and Ciara Sands

THE girlfriend of a GAA player killed in a road crash on the A1 in Co Down has said she has been left "totally disheartened" after it was announced a public inquiry will be held into a proposed improvement scheme.

Ciara Sands, who lost her boyfriend Karl Heaney in a collision in May last year, said it means at least a year will be added to the time scale for the safety upgrade on the notorious route.

But she said while she and Karl's family are "extremely disappointed" by the decision, they are "not going to give up" in their campaign for changes to the A1, the main Belfast to Dublin road.

Mr Heaney (27), from Warrenpoint, was travelling home from training with Newry Mitchels GAC when he died in a two-vehicle collision between Banbridge and Dromore.

His death prompted Ms Sands and his family to launch a petition calling for improvements to the route by the Department for Infrastructure.

They said proposals were published in 2011 but have not progressed.

Over the past year they have campaigned for the scheme to be started on the road, which carries more than 40,000 vehicles every day.

But they have been told by the department that a public inquiry is required as they have been unable to resolve objections from landowners, stakeholders and members of the public.

"The department have said it has to go to public inquiry, which we are totally disheartened by," Ms Sands said.

"We have been told the public inquiry won't start to at least March 2020 and is expected to last nine to 12 months.

"We just would have preferred if this stage could have been skipped, this is going to add at least a year onto the project."

Ms Sands said they were "so grateful" to everyone who had supported their ongoing campaign.

"We received 11,000 signatures on our petition and we are so grateful for all their support we have received," she said.

"But we are not going to give up, we will keep on highlighting the dangers of the road.

"We don't want to see anyone else have to go through what we have had to go through.

"If the changes aren't implemented, we are not going to be the last to go through this."

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