Oireachtas committee supports advancement of Narrow Water Bridge project

May 20, 2013

Politicians and business interests from both sides of the border gathered last Thursday morning for an Oireachtas committee meeting to discuss the Narrow Water Bridge project, and the important issue of the delays at the Northern Ireland Department of Finance, which are seen to be a huge stumbling block in the advancement of the highly anticipated scheme.

Advocates of the cross border bridge who believe it could herald the regeneration of the north Louth/south Down Border region economy and the reconciliation of the cross border community, aired their concerns during the meeting about the remaining 20% of the funding still requiring approval amid opposition  from Northern Ireland Finance Minister, Sammy Wilson.

The Oireachtas Committee on the implementation of the Good Friday Agreement heard presentations on the impact of the proposed bridge from representatives of the Warrenpoint and Dundalk Chambers of Commerce who detailed the tourism and business potential of the project for their respective towns.

SDLP leader Margaret Ritchie MP said urgent pressure needed to be applied on the Northern Ireland executive to “unblock” the project before the EU funds earmarked for the project were returned, while Sean Crow TD said the bridge as a North South project “may not tick the box of Sammy Wilson.”

Senator Mary White said she hoped Mr Wilson would “consider his rigid position in the spirit of community relations”, particularly as time was now running out.

The Oireachtas Committee agreed to write to both Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore TD in an effort to advance the project.

Committee Chairman Joe McHugh TD said,

“There is longstanding, unanimous support among Committee Members for the Narrow Water bridge project and we thank business leaders from both sides of the border for the compelling economic case for the bridge they made to us. We compliment the work of the members of both Chambers, who have been to the forefront of a campaign for the bridge which precedes the peace process. With 3.1 million people living within one hour of the North Louth/South Down region, the tourism potential of such a connection between the Mournes and the Cooleys was emphasised.

“The Committee fully take on board the view that delivery of this project is fundamentally about people, and not politics. As co-guarantors of the Good Friday Agreement, it was pointed out that the Irish and British Governments have a critical role to play in delivering this piece of infrastructure for communities on both sides of the border.

“In that light, the Committee agreed to write to the Taoiseach Enda Kenny TD and Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore TD, with a transcript of today’s proceedings, to request they use their influence with Prime Minister David Cameron MP to ensure the realisation of the project.”