Call for action on shelved Narrow Water Bridge project

There are hopes that the Narrow Water Bridge project will be brought back onto the political agenda

SDLP MP Margaret Ritchie has challenged the Taoiseach to find funding for the shelved Narrow Water bridge project.

The South Down politician said she had received confirmation from the Enda Kenny that the Irish government "remains supportive of the concept of the Narrow Water Bridge".

Under the terms of the Fresh Start Agreement she said she understood the Narrow Water project would be put under "consideration by the North South Ministerial Council in June 2016".

But she questioned where the money for the project would come from.

Plans to build the cross-border road bridge linking counties Down and Louth were shelved in 2013 after it emerged that costs had been significantly underestimated.

Louth County Council said the €17.5m originally budgeted for was at least €15m shy of what was required.

Despite an 11th-hour bid to meet the shortfall, including a pledge of cash from the late businessman Lord Ballyedmond, the withdrawal of European Union funding saw the proposal collapse.

But Ms Ritchie last night said she understands the Executive and the Irish government have "agreed to undertake a review of the Narrow Water Bridge project with a view to identifying the options for its future development".

"The Taoiseach has further advised initial discussions at official level have already taken place and further meetings of Northern Ireland Executive/Irish government officials are being organised before reporting to the North South Ministerial Council in June," she said.

"While I welcome this commitment, the key issue here is how the project is going to be financed.

"I have asked the taoiseach to advise me on what funding has been identified by both administrations to bring forward the Narrow Water Bridge project.

"The Narrow Water Bridge project is an iconic and economically vital North South project that will bring real benefit to the community of the East Coast and wider afield."

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