Nichola Mallon reaffirms commitment to Narrow Water Bridge
INFRASTRUCTURE minister Nichola Mallon has reaffirmed her commitment to the Narrow Water Bridge.
She met with representatives from Newry, Mourne and Down council and Louth council on Wednesday to discuss the "way forward in delivering" the cross-border scheme.
Speaking afterwards, the SDLP minister said she was "committed to the delivery of this iconic project".
The bridge would span the picturesque Carlingford lough between Omeath in Co Louth and Narrow Water Castle near Warrenpoint, Co Down.
Planning permission was granted in 2012, with funding secured from the European Union and governments on both sides of the border.
But the project was shelved the following year after it emerged costs had been significantly underestimated.
Despite an eleventh-hour bid to meet the shortfall, the withdrawal of EU funding, which led to Stormont pulling out, saw the proposal collapse.
Ms Mallon said: "The Narrow Water Bridge project is a key all-island, transformative project that will improve connectivity but also open up opportunities for our island economy and tourism in particular.
"As soon as I became minister, I made it clear that I am committed to the delivery of this iconic project that will allow so many untapped opportunities to open up for south Down and Louth.
"I have been working with partners in the Irish government to ensure that this project remains on top of our shared agenda as a New Decade, New Approach promise, and today I was delighted to meet with partners in both the Louth and Newry, Mourne and Down Councils to discuss how we can work together to ensure delivery."
She said further discussions will take place in the summer to "give a progress report on the work to get Narrow Water Bridge built".
Declan McAteer from Newry, Mourne and Down council said he was "hugely encouraged by the minister’s enthusiasm".
"Apart from the immediate economic beneficial effects on the towns and villages on the shores of Carlingford Lough which this bridge will bring, the minister’s ambition around creating and increasing access to green corridors will provide a long-term improvement to the health and well-being of many citizens living in our respective council areas, as this bridge will link in with our two greenways," he said.
Antóin Watters from Louth county council said: "I feel progress is being made at last and after commitments from the minister, I am confident that the people of this area will get to see the completion of the bridge.
"The time for talking is over. It’s time to get the project moving.
"We need to keep the momentum going for the betterment of our respective council areas."