Northern Ireland news

`Bridge to Scotland was Simon Coveney's idea', claims Boris Johnson

Possible locations mooted for a bridge between Northern Ireland and Scotland

BORIS Johnson has claimed a proposed bridge between Scotland and Northern Ireland - which has attracted much ridicule - was actually the brainchild of tánaiste Simon Coveney.

Ahead of a major business and leadership summit in Dublin, the former British foreign secretary claimed Mr Coveney approached him with the idea during a meeting at his Westminster office.

"When I was foreign secretary, my Irish counterpart Simon Coveney came into my office and said 'Let's build a bridge' - and he wasn't being metaphorical. He was entirely serious," Mr Johnson told The Sunday Independent.

He went on to describe the proposal as "brave and right", adding that it should be "seriously examined".

However, the newspaper quoted a source close to Mr Coveney as describing Mr Johnson's claims are "complete nonsense", saying the only time a bridge was discussed was when the then foreign secretary mentioned it in passing prior to a meeting with the tánaiste in Dublin.

For his part, Mr Coveney sought to keep the focus on Brexit negotiations.

"There are 82 days to go to Brexit and we would not allow ourselves get distracted by a bridge," he told the paper.

"In all my interactions with Boris I have made clear that protecting peace in Ireland and preventing a hard border is my priority."

However, he did describe a physical bridge as "an engineering challenge for the future"

Mr Johnson, who resigned from Theresa May's cabinet in protest at her plans for a Brexit deal and is seen as a potential successor as Tory leader, floated the idea of a bridge in October.

It has previously been supported by the DUP, which proposed a feasibility study in 2015.

Suggested bridge locations are between Portpatrick in Scotland and either Larne, Co Antrim or Bangor, Co Down, although the 22-mile deep-water route would pose significant challenges.

The plans were described by a retired offshore engineer last year as being "about as feasible as building a bridge to the moon".

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