A5 Enough is Enough group host first public meeting to push for progress on 'death trap' road
TYRONE GAA has warned it is "only a matter of time" before someone attending their county headquarters is killed on the A5, as their new campaign to upgrade one of Ireland's most notorious roads got underway.
The county board hosted a public meeting of its new A5 Enough is Enough group on Monday night in Garvaghey, where attendees saw the launch of social media videos outlining the horrific cost of inaction on the A5 Western Transport Corridor project, which was first agreed by Stormont in 2007.
Following 44 deaths amid ongoing setbacks and rising costs to the project - of which no starting date is yet in sight - Tyrone GAA have set up the campaign group in hopes of finally securing the long-awaited upgrade, which would see a dual carriageway built along the 85km route between Aughnacloy and Derry.
At the meeting chaired by former RTÉ presenter Eileen Dunne, attendees heard from the loved ones of road victims, including Kate Corrigan, whose son Nathan was killed in an A5 collision in December 2021 along with friends Peter Finnegan and Petey McNamee. The trio, who were all aged in their 20s, were all members of GAA clubs.
She revealed how she "pleaded" with police officers to tell her that the news of her son's death was not true after they called at her home to break the heartbreaking news.
"We live with the trauma every day. We have flashbacks," she said, adding that following the tragedy her family has struggled to "piece our lives together again".
Among the new videos shown was an interview with retired Co Tyrone fire service commander Eamon McGrath.
The former first responder spoke of the "carnage" on the A5 in his years of service, adding that "a new road is going to save lives".
Ms Dunne spoke with former Tyrone midfielder Kevin Hughes, who lost his brother and sister in separate collisions on the A4 road which saw its own upgrade completed in 2010, six years after being approved.
Mr Hughes, who features in one of the new videos, said: "How many lives have to be lost before something is done? All people want to do is get to work, go to schools and go to the shops safely."
Former Tyrone All-Ireland winning footballer Peter Canavan recounted seeing the body of a popular school dinner lady who had been killed on the A5 while walking home from primary school in the late 1970s.
He described growing up beside the road in Ballygawley, and described it as "a nightmare, even for experienced drivers".
He said he "sincerely hopes" that an ongoing lack of progress does not force campaigners to consider standing a candidate in a future Stormont election on the issue.
Group chair Niall McKenna told attendees the A5 was a "death trap", including the junction close to the Garvaghey GAA centre.
"Statistically it's only a matter of time before someone attending here will die," he said.
"Ultimately, this issue is much bigger than the GAA...this road does not discriminate. It will kill you regardless of what sport you follow, or none."
Following the meeting, Sinn Féin MLA Michelle O'Neill said she had recently agreed with the Taoiseach that the the upgrade - which would be partially funded by the Republic - "must continue to be a shared priority for the Irish government and any new Executive."
The Department for Infrastructure has launched a new consultation on the A5 plans ahead of a delayed public inquiry into the project.
"This development has been held up for too long by legal challenges and public inquiries. Once these challenges are overcome, it must proceed without delay," the former deputy first minister said.
"Not only will this project transform a dangerous road, but it will also have huge economic benefits, create jobs and help connect the north west to the rest of the island."