Murphy rebukes Kennedy’s ‘mixed messages’ claim over Narrow Water

May 12, 2009

Following UUP MLA Danny Kennedy’s accusation that Sinn Fein is sending out ‘mixed messages’ regarding its position on the proposed Narrow Water Bridge, Regional Development Minister, Conor Murphy has hit back, claiming the move is nothing more than a political stunt in the run-up to the European elections.

Questioning Sinn Fein’s position on the matter, the UUP MLA and deputy leader Mr Kennedy said, “A few weeks ago, the Minister for Regional Development seemed to take a step back from the bridge idea when he told me he was unable to provide an update on the matter as it is nothing to do with him.  He claims that this is not a setback for the development as he cannot comment on what the authorities in the Republic are doing.

“Conversely, on April 10 this year the Agriculture Minister told my colleague, Tom Elliott, that she knew exactly what the Republic was doing on animal welfare legislation.  She is holding up updating our legislation for pointless north-south reasons, yet Conor Murphy tells us that he isn’t even asking the Republic what they are up to when it impacts on his constituency never mind his departmental responsibilities,” Mr Kennedy claimed.  

“Conor Murphy is clearly stepping back from this project, and I welcome this, as the idea for a bridge is based in ideology and not the requirements of the Newry and Warrenpoint road network or of economic development of the region.  

“Now, however, another Sinn Fein minister, Caitriona Ruane, has said that the bridge “must” go ahead.  She believes that the main benefit of the bridge is that it will attract visitors, which is of course nonsense unless it is a feat of engineering akin to the Golden Gate or Humber bridges,” Mr Kennedy said.

“I suspect that Conor Murphy knows that the roads priority in the vicinity of Warrenpoint Harbour is a Newry southern relief road.  I think that he knows that a republican ideological bridge at Narrow Water would be a complete waste of limited resources.”  

However, Minister Murphy rebuked Kennedy’s claims, saying, “Sinn Fein’s and my own, position of support for this project has been consistent and this remains the case.  This has been the subject of discussion between myself and Transport Minister, Noel Dempsey, at every North/South Transport meeting, where we have agreed that officials North and South would share information on both the Narrow Water and Southern Relief projects.  This process is ongoing.

“The Narrow Water project is being carried forward by Louth County Council and therefore they are the people who can provide updates as to its current progress, just as Noel Dempsey would refer any queries on the Southern Relief project to Roads Service in the North,” Mr Murphy continued.  “That has been the position on every occasion that Danny Kennedy, or any other MLA, has asked me a question on this matter and remains unchanged.

“The UUP/Conservatives are clearly trying to make themselves appear relevant in the run-up to the European election but they would be better off trying to promote their own candidate and policies than create some imaginary differences within Sinn Fein.”