Wearing the ministerial hat.. and other assorted headgear..

It has the faint whiff of pork-barrel politics, and it looks like there’s some ministerial trespassing involved, but the BBC’s blogging Mark Devenport spotted some crossing Northern Ireland ministerial statements at the end of last week – on the apparent funding from the Republic of Ireland government for a study into a bridge at Narrow Water, County Down, following a North South Ministerial Council meeting. First with the news, on 7th Feb, was the NI Education minister – although the statement was issued as a Sinn Féin South Down MLA – and County Louth resident, Caitríona Ruane, “This flagship project [the bridge] has wonderful potential and would, I believe, provide a major boost for the local economy.” Next up, 8th Feb, was the Social Development minster, and SDLP South Down MLA, Margaret Ritchie, “The new bridge joining Narrow Water in the North and Cooley in the South will be an exciting gateway to County Down.” Which prompted a terse statement from the Regional Development minister, and SF Newry and Armagh MP, MLA, Conor Murphy, “I am well aware of the Dublin Government’s proposal to construct a bridge at Narrow Water which would link County Louth and County Down.” All of which is neatly brought into focus by Mark Devenport

So the implication appeared to be that not much new had happened at Dundalk, and the minister did not sound particularly happy about his DSD colleague treading on his patch. Also whilst the south might fund a study of the County Down bridge, the Newry and Armagh MP”s Department is funding a study of a Newry Road, something which Newry politicians are, in general, keener on than the bridge.

Meanwhile, more potential ministerial trespassing today, this time by the SF “Newry and Armagh MP”, Conor Murphy, who “has welcomed the Sinn Fein campaign to highlight the inadequate Ambulance Cover in south Armagh and demand that the issue be addressed and called on people to sign a petition to the Health Minister Michael McGimpsey.”

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  • ODONNELL

    The Southern Programme for Government 2007-2012 states clearly that it will construct the Narrow Water Bridge.

    It will make Conor Murphy look an absolute idiot should he go on opposing it. He should come out fully behind it once and for all.

  • The Narrow Water bridge project and the issue of the southern relief road are separate and not mutually exclusive.

    The Narrow Water idea has been doing the rounds for years and has been championed by people such as PJ Bradley.

    The need for a southern relief road is supported by the Chamber of Commerce and formed one of the cornerstones of a major campaign by the SDLP in the Greater Newry area a while back (http://www.sdlparchive.com/pr20december2006.shtm)- the idea is to provide a route for freight traffic from Warrenpoint docks and general traffic from the south Down and south Newry area to the Louth border without having to enter Newry itself. The Narrow Water project would not be enough to deal with this as the Newry/ Carlingford road would not be suitable to handle that amount of traffic. However, it would benefit tourism and make it easier to get from south Down to Louth from a leiaure rather than commercial point of view.

    Both proposed projects have very strong merits, and both need to be delivered for very different reasons.

  • New Yorker

    Several in SDLP have been working on this project for a long time and it looks like it will finally become a reality. Meanwhile there seems to be a hold up on work on the M1, just down the road from Conor Murphy, the minister overseeing the work. Is he the best talent SF have for ministerial level?

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    This is clearly a project that a ROI feasability study will suggest is of major benefit to the region north and south. Politically of course it also be very attractive.

    Unionists will undoubtedly be against this project – politically it will be very unattractive. The drive time from Dublin to Warrenpoint and further north will be less than an hour and a half – clearly within 2nd home range.

    There will presumably be some impact on sectarian demographics – which will help to explain the different attitudes to the project even if not explicitly mentioned.

  • aquifer

    Which one of them has bought the petrol station at OMeath?

  • Twinbrook

    politics is all about opportunism….

    and at the present, the sdlp need all the opportunism to hold on to the south down seat……

    saying that, SF if they continue with their choice of candidate might need the same degree of opportunism…

  • BonarLaw

    “So the implication appeared to be that not much new had happened at Dundalk”

    Scripted exchanges, a Dodds no-show, Robo finding an excuse to absent himself from proceedings for the best part of an hour and no FM press con I would say all suggest not much new happened at Dundalk.

    I see the next “summit” is due in October. Do we really need this circus twice a year when not much (new or otherwise) ever happens?

  • Elvis Parker

    Christ when are we going to grow up and stop throwing bones to nationalist politicians to stop their whinging? This idea is complete f**king nonsense. Totally sub economic it isnt even in the ‘sometime in the next 20 years’ list drawn up by DRD using rationale critieria like volumes of congestion, etc.
    Frankly it makes about as much sense as Monsignor Hume International Airport at Derry

  • It was Sammy Mc Nally what done it

    BL,

    “Do we really need this circus twice a year when not much (new or otherwise) ever happens? ”

    Yes it’s part on Non Iron’s constitution.

  • Doubter

    Ritchie looks a total fool on this – trying to claim credit for a feasability study that has already started.

    The NSMC has delivered some tangibles – the roads stuff for the north west; the canal restoration; this feasability study. I am sure if you went back and looked all of the work coming not just from the main plenary sessions but also the sectorals and the different NS bodies that it would add to a whole lot more than a ‘circus’ BUT then if this is the approach of some unionists (taking their eye off the ball) the real danger (for them) is that this goes a whole lot further.

  • lib2016

    I’m all for opening up acess to the Mournes but I hope that we can get consensus for tough planning restrictions. The SDLP have a disgraceful record recently and if Sinn Fein let themselves be sucked into a competition about backing the farmers and their attempts to hand the land of Ireland over to the developers who do we look to? Not the DUP, unfortunately. Time for a good strong statement from the Greens, perhaps?