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 Governments 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.”