Tuesday, 17 December 2019
Saincheisteanna Tráthúla - Topical Issue Debate
If I can satisfy Deputy Smith, and it is probably something that is difficult to do, I would certainly say the commitment of the Government to both of these projects is absolute and total. There is absolutely no pullback on them whatsoever. As the Deputy said, the commitment in terms of funds is there. The £75 million is committed to and we stand absolutely 100% behind it. There will be no pullback on that either. As the Deputy said, and as he knows, what is happening is there are perfectly legitimate, and very regrettable in many ways, delays on this and they are on the other side of the Border. We cannot do anything about them. They have been going on for a long time and every time there is one legal action it seems to be followed by another. These are proper planning objections and they are right. Those of us in a hurry to benefit the Border region and benefit tourism and show commitment to cross-Border roads and bridges regret this is happening but we must allow these procedures to happen.
Let me assure the Deputy that our commitment to the A5, which is a cross-Border commitment and a cross-Government commitment, is as great as his was when he was in government. At the earliest opportunity, that cross-Border project will go ahead. It is not our doing that is holding it back. We are particularly conscious of this not just in the light of what the Deputy has been saying continuously, which has been helpful, but because of what is happening in Brexit. We understand fully the need to promote, and we have acted upon it, activity in the Border regions.
This applies equally to Narrow Water bridge raised by Deputy Breathnach. There is no hesitation there either but there are certain difficulties because of the options presented. Whereas our commitment is equally strong in that case, we cannot actually ring-fence money for something that is not defined at this stage. Our commitment is there and the Deputy can take my word that substantial funding will be made available at the appropriate time when the project is defined and costed properly.