Seanad debates

Wednesday, 21 February 2024

Nithe i dtosach suíonna - Commencement Matters

Road Projects

10:30 am

Photo of Niall BlaneyNiall Blaney (Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Minister of State for coming to the Chamber for this debate on the A5, the N2 and the TEN-T in the North. It was fantastic that there was an announcement yesterday of €600 million for the A5. It is brilliant news. I would like to know where everything moves from here. The A5 has been the blockage for so long. I remember being told on air by some of the Acting Chair's colleagues in Donegal not to worry about the A5 because Conor Murphy, the Minister in Northern Ireland, was dealing with it and it would be sorted. This did not happen.

We hope the funding is back on the table. Stormont is back up and running and we hope the A5 will now start to move with progression. Projects were held up on the Southern end and Northern end. I am particularly dealing with the Northern end and the TEN-T project. It is important that they all move forward. I know the Department has a case study on the TEN-T. This must come to Cabinet and it needs approval. Perhaps the Minister of State will brief us on the projects, including the TEN-T in the North, the A5 in between and N2 Clontibret piece at the bottom. Will the Minister of State give us an update on this?

I remember meeting the then Taoiseach more than 20 years ago to lobby for the N2 and A5. That was back at the time the national development plan was announced. Many other projects were also announced, such as the M1, the N4, the N6 from Galway to Dublin, the Limerick to Cork route and the famous Waterford route.Back at that time the N2-A5 at the midway point had the exact same traffic volumes in 2000 as the Galway to Dublin route had. It had greater traffic volumes than the Limerick route or the Waterford route. Now, almost 25 years on, we are still awaiting our project. Because of that, we have fallen back as a community. We are not getting the same opportunities. Without those business opportunities, it is not possible to create the same jobs, leading to a brain drain that is a strain on our economy. It is really important that we drive these projects on as speedily as we can.

Photo of James BrowneJames Browne (Wexford, Fianna Fail)
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I thank the Senator for raising this important matter on the status of Irish Government funding for the N2 and A5 Dublin to Derry route and also the important issue of TEN-T. As he will be aware, the Government’s commitment to the A5 upgrade was discussed at Cabinet yesterday and an allocation of €600 million was confirmed for this project. This financial commitment towards the costs of the A5 road upgrade project will sit in parallel with the progression of planning and design work on the related N2 Clontibret and Donegal TEN-T schemes. The scale of this financial commitment is indicative of the significance of the A5, and of the related Donegal TEN-T and N2 Clontibret upgrades, for the north-west region and cross-Border connectivity on the island.

The Government welcomes the restoration of the power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland and we are optimistic that yesterday’s announcements will send a positive signal of the Government’s ongoing commitment to working together. In particular, we look forward to the early resumption of meetings of the North-South Ministerial Council. The North-South Ministerial Council is the formal institution of the Good Friday Agreement with the mandate to advance practical co-operation on a North-South basis. The Government will work closely with the new executive, including on the many areas where North-South co-operation makes a positive difference to communities on both sides of the Border, such as the matter in question.

The funding announced yesterday illustrates the Government’s long-standing commitment to the upgrade of the A5 and its desire to see swift progress on its construction. This upgrade is long-overdue and is of paramount importance for the improvement of safety and mobility on the island of Ireland. We strongly believe that the allocation of €600 million of Irish Government funds towards the upgrade of the A5 will provide a critical impetus to this important project - a project which when completed will provide a tangible positive impact for people across the island.

Not only will this infrastructure project improve lives and opportunities in the north west, it is also a demonstration of the Government’s belief in the benefits of collaborative investment in large-scale all-island infrastructure. This is the driving rationale behind the shared island initiative, building a more confident, inclusive and prosperous island that delivers for everyone, North and South.

The commitment to the A5 and better connecting Dublin, Derry and the north west exemplifies the tangible benefits of cross-border investment co-operation and is indicative of the myriad of possibilities available through partnership with both the new executive and the British Government. We hope that the Government contribution will facilitate the project in proceeding as quickly as possible, in conjunction with confirmation of funding from other sources. The Government is optimistic that the upgrade of the A5 and N2 is but one example of where we can enable the creation of a more connected, safe and prosperous island.

Photo of Niall BlaneyNiall Blaney (Fianna Fail)
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I agree with everything in the Minister of State's statement. Yesterday's news that the Irish Government's money is back on the table was absolutely fantastic. I implore both the UK Government and the Stormont Administration to step up now and make this project a reality. I ask the Minister of State to take a message back to the Minister, Deputy Ryan, and the Department of Transport. The case study for the TEN-T project is with the Department and is due to come to Cabinet. I would like the Minister to put urgency on that project. It needs to happen. There is a complete logjam in the town of Letterkenny at the moment.

There is a four-pronged approach in that project: the Ballybofey-Stranorlar bypass; the route down Lurgybrack on to the N14; the new bypass in Letterkenny, the bridge across the River Swilly; and the road that will join up to the A5. It is a four-pronged project, taken as one project. It is a very significant piece of infrastructure. Now that progress is happening on the A5, this project can now also progress. I would like the Minister for Transport to give this the urgency it needs.

Photo of James BrowneJames Browne (Wexford, Fianna Fail)
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Again, I thank the Senator for raising the very important matter of the delivery of funding for the A2 and N5 Dublin to Derry route. He welcomed the Cabinet decision to allocate €600 million for this very important project. This funding is now confirmed. He has been fighting this cause for some time and has been lobbying intensively to get this funding across the line. The funding that has been announced is very important.

The improved connections between Dublin, Derry and the wider north-west region through this infrastructure project will provide multiple benefits, including for trade, tourism, investment and road safety. It has been the consistent expectation of business and community stakeholders that the road be built and this must be delivered.

We hope that the resumption of activity of the North-South Ministerial Council will enable the Government to engage constructively with the executive in Northern Ireland to further this project without undue delay.

The Government is aware of the value and importance of North-South connectivity. This funding will not only benefit Donegal and Derry, but will benefit the much wider area in terms of support for the communities right across the north west and connectivity down to Dublin.