Northern Ireland news

A5 road upgrade stalled again as Dublin government redirects funds to plug children's hospital overspend

One year after the DUP walked away from a deal to restore the Stormont executive, we examine the fallout over the past 12 months and the likelihood of the institutions being restored anytime soon...

Road signs on the main Derry to Strabane road. Picture by Margaret McLaughlin

THE Derry-Dublin road upgrade has been stalled again after the taoiseach confirmed that €27 million earmarked for the project will be spent on plugging an overspend on the new National Children's Hospital.

The Irish government has been urged to reverse its decision after the cabinet agreed €100m in savings to meet cost overruns at the hospital, which is behind schedule.

The single largest saving will come from money set aside for the construction of the new A5 dual carriageway, which was to be partly funded by the Irish government.

Savings from other projects

Savings of around €24m will come from deferred Department of Health projects, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar told the Dáil yesterday.

Around €10m will be saved from delayed payments for the National Forensic Science Laboratory building. A further €10m will come from the Department of Education's budget to build a school at the children's hospital. Other savings will be found across several departments.

Read More: Political Correspondent John Manley on why the argument for restoring Stormont is weak (premium)

Last month, the Department for Infrastructure in Northern Ireland said building work on the A5 could begin later this year following a series of legal challenges.

The project would see a new 85km road running from New Buildings outside Derry via Strabane, Newtownstewart, Omagh and Ballygawley to the border at Aughnacloy in Co Tyrone.

Read More: NIO insists restoration of devolution is Karen Bradley's 'No 1 priority'

Building work on the A5 scheme was due to begin several years ago.

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But it has faced several obstacles, including legal action from environmental campaigners, land owners and a logjam created by the collapse of power-sharing at Stormont.

Call to reverse decision

Sinn Féin West Tyrone MP Órfhlaith Begley said the funding decision must be reversed.

"News that the Fine Gael government, propped by Fianna Fáil, has deferred funding for the A5 road upgrade project is a disappointment," she said.

"This is a vital infrastructural project and a key economic driver for the regeneration of the wider north west."

Stormont deadlock

SDLP West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan blamed the continuing deadlock at Stormont.

"The A5 scheme is vitally important for the north west and west of this province," he said.

"It will save countless lives while increasing the economic situation for businesses and individuals alike.

"The implications of having no Stormont in place is the reason why this funding has been withheld."

Fianna Fáil’s transport spokesman Robert Troy said the collapse of the assembly had had an impact on the A5 project.

But he said transport minister Shane Ross should do everything in his power to ensure the construction of the road "which has been promised since 2007".

Family accommodation bill

Meanwhile, it was reported that the Irish government is facing a bill of more than €10m to provide family accommodation at the national children’s hospital after it declined to give naming rights to a charity linked to fast food giant McDonald’s.

The Ronald McDonald House charity originally proposed funding all 53 accommodation units at the hospital.

It will now part-fund the unit after the Republic's Health Service Executive refused to give the charity naming rights.

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