Northern Ireland

Campaigners for Narrow Water Bridge 'very much welcome' €3m Dublin government funding commitment

The Narrow Water Bridge project was first mooted almost 50 years ago
The Narrow Water Bridge project was first mooted almost 50 years ago

CAMPAIGNERS for the long-awaited Narrow Water Bridge project say they "very much welcome" the Dublin government's commitment of €3 million to progress work on the cross-border scheme.

But the Narrow Water Bridge Community Network (NWBCN) also warned "we are not there yet" and said they still had "painful memories of the catastrophic eleventh-hour collapse of the project" in 2013.

The proposed connection between Warrenpoint, Co Down and Omeath, Co Louth, has faced a series of delays and shortfalls in funding.

But Taoiseach Micheál Martin yesterday annnounced €3m in fresh funding from the Shared Island Fund to help kick start the much-anticipated project.

He said the money will be used to progress the "true all-island project".

Almost 50 years after the project was first mooted, it is hoped construction could begin in 2023.

Planning permission for a distinctive 280m cable stayed bridge - anchored by two towers at either end, for car and cycle traffic - 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.

Louth County Council said the €18m originally budgeted for was at least €12 million shy of what was required.

Despite an eleventh-hour bid to meet the shortfall, the withdrawal of EU funding, which led to Stormont pulling out, saw the proposal collapse.

In a statement last night, the NWBCN said that it welcomed the funding commitment by the Irish government.

"We at the network would like to make it clear that the Narrow Water Bridge has been many years in the making and we are not there yet," it said.

"The painful memories of the catastrophic eleventh-hour collapse of the project in 2013 are still fresh in the South Down area.

"The NWBCN remains committed to the design that was approved in 2012."

The group added that it "forward to engaging" with the various stakeholders involved to "bring this long overdue project, in Taoiseach Martin’s words in October 2020 to 'full delivery without undue delay'."

Sinn Féin MLA Sinead Ennis also welcomed the progress "to take the Narrow Water Bridge Project forward".

"Narrow Water bridge is a vital piece of all-island infrastructure which will transform the south Down area and is a commitment in the New Decade, New Approach agreement," she said.

"It will not only create jobs but it will also help attract more visitors and investment to the entire area.

"I look forward to more progress to come and will continue to work with both the Irish government and the Department of Infrastructure toward the delivery of this important project."