Ireland’s first cross-border bridge secures EU funding

October 30, 2012

By Christine Keighery

The news that the Narrow Water Bridge project, the first major infrastructure link between Ireland, North and South, has secured €17.4 million of European funding from the Cross Border INTERREG IVA Programme, has been met with much delight from political representatives and involved agencies alike.

This major capital investment will see the development of a 195 metre single carriageway cable-stayed bridge across Carlingford Lough linking Counties Down and Louth and will be an opening bridge to enable tall ships, leisure craft and other marine vessels access to Victoria Lock and the Albert Basin in Newry.

Supporters of the bridge have long heralded its tourism and economic potential, citing it as a “gateway to the Mournes” which will also open up greater trade links between North and South.

The Chairman of the lead partner in the project, East Border Region, announced his delight last Wednesday as the announcement of funding approval was made by the INTERREG IVA Steering Committee.

Cllr Jackie Crowe wholeheartedly welcomed the news, saying,

“The Narrow Water Bridge is a genuinely symbolic cross border project providing the first bridge linking Ireland and Northern Ireland and will provide a momentous tourism and economic catalyst for the whole of the region. The Bridge development will provide much needed jobs in the construction sector in the short term and will undoubtedly enhance the tourism potential of the region as it acts as a gateway to the Mournes and Cooley Mountains.”

Now that funding has been secured, work on the development of the Bridge will begin immediately and will be completed by June 2015. East Border Region Ltd will be responsible for financial management and adherence to INTERREG regulations whilst Louth County Council, as Lead Council, will be responsible for building the Bridge, and Newry and Mourne District Council, as project partner will be integral in the delivery of the overall project.

Environment Minister, Alex Attwood, who, along with An Bord Pleanála south of the border, approved planning for the Narrow Water Bridge earlier this month, also welcomed the funding approval.

Describing the project as “a tremendous boost for cross border tourism, trade and relationships”, the Minister said,

“Two planning approvals and one funding approval all in one month means it’s all systems go. The tenacity, diligence and never say die attitude of public representatives in the area, including the Louth and Newry and Mourne Councils, has helped bring this project to life. I warmly commend them in that.

“It will be a great catalyst for generating cross border tourism and developing business on both sides of the border.

“Significantly, it is the first cross-border bridge built since partition and, in that sense, it is a positive outcome of the Good Friday Agreement and a potent symbol of the new Ireland.”

Such sentiments were echoed by all political representatives, with Alliance South Down spokesperson, Patrick Clarke, hailing the cross-border trade the new iconic and symbolic bridge would open up between South Down and County Louth.

SDLP Assembly Member for Newry and Armagh, Dominic Bradley MLA  added his delight to the news of the multi-million investment.

The SDLP’s Finance Spokesperson said,

“This is a fantastic project and fantastic news for the people of the Cooley Peninsula. The huge economic benefit for this community cannot be underestimated as the natural tourism potential of this region can now be joined up.”

Highlighting the fact that the funding is dependent on the support of the Department of Finance and Personnel in the north and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in the south, Mr Bradley urged both departments to swiftly confirm their support for the project and the Special EU Programmes Body’s (SEUPB) decision, to enable the project to begin without further delay.

Mayor of Newry and Mourne District Council, Councillor John McArdle said,

“This is fantastic news for the region, particularly in the current economic downturn.  It is a massive infrastructure development and I now look forward to seeing early progress towards construction work commencing with a view to the bridge being ready for use in 2015.”

Joint Chairman of the Louth Newry and Mourne Joint Committee, Councillor Jimmy Mc Creesh, also welcomed the news:

“The Narrow Water Bridge Project will become the most significant infrastructure project on the island of Ireland and will boost significantly the tourism potential of this Region.”