Taoiseach promises to ‘look into it’ just as the eleventh hour passes on Narrow Water bridge…

So the EU money is gone, withdrawn as Wesley Johnston notes on the grounds “that the project’s instigators (Louth County Council) have not been able to secure sufficient funding to complete it in time for the deadline of June 2015”.

Locally Paul Malone of the Newry Times seems fairly sanguine about a project that’s been mouldering in the local imagination for forty years…

The Interreg IVA fund pulled out in the end because of a shortfall of just £5m, which arises from Louth County Council’s failure to account in its initial estimates (around £18 million) for what look like some necessary technical additions to the bridge to ensure its stability in tidal waters.

That shortfall now (minus the European money) sits at a, pardon the pun, ‘unbridgeable’ £20 million.

So for want of £5 million a shovel ready cross border bridge in an area now feeling the pinch on both side was lost. Sammy Wilson stumped £2,691,880, but with the caveat that he would not stump up for project overruns.

Louth County Council had vouched £781,962. The taoiseach all the way along it seems kept his hands firmly in his pockets.

Fianna Fail leader Micheal Martin, whose party laid out a National Development Plan (in better days it must be said) which allegedly included €14 million for the bridge project, laid the blame firmly at the door of Enda Kenny:

Europe has withdrawn its funding because the Government has refused to step up to the plate in time and play its part in making up the shortfall for the project. Not only did the Government refuse to put forward additional funding, it also refused to actively engage with the Northern Executive to find a way forward.

There’s that yawning gap again… That said, this project has looked dead before and come back to life again… In response to a question from Gerry Adams last week, Kenny did hold out some hope that something could be pulled out of the fire

But he will be depending on some flexibility from a fund that looks like it won’t be around in future…

For more detail read Wesley Johnston’s excellent page on the bridge

  • Morpheus

    Does anyone really have an issue if this bridge doesn’t go ahead? The jobs would’ve been fantastic but the proposal was made, it turns out it is too expensive, it isn’t feasible, fair enough, we move on. Unlike the A5 ‘Famine Road’ debacle at least the decision is made for the right reasons

  • cynic2

    What Famine Road?

    Yet more winging about a project that simply didn’t make economic sense and was killed because the Department in question hadn’t followed the right procedures AND the Irish who promised the money in the good times couldn’t afford their end of the bargain anyway.

    Now that seems converted to ‘its all the Proddies fault’.and an attempt is made to link it to a famine almost 200 years ago. Thats a bit like Prods criticizing the decision because if the road had been there in the 17th Century William of Orange could have relieved Derry far quicker than he did

    Do grow up

  • Morpheus

    “It better to be silent and thought a fool then open your mouth and remove all doubt.”

    The DRDs own figures showed that the A5 already has double the number of vehicles travelling on it every day which are required for a duel-carriageway.

    You talk of the not following the right procedures well let me ask you this: do you honestly believe that every single person in the entire DRD, who have been building roads for decades, including the Minister himself, forgot about the Environmental Assessment on one of the biggest projects the DRD would ever have undertaken providing thousands of much needed jobs to an area sorely in need of them? He put up as much fight as a wet paper bag to set things right despite the fact that he was in charge of that project for years before the decision was made to pull the plug, not having all the ducks in a row is on his shoulders. The decision was a party political decision – have a look at page 19 of the UUP’s manifesto reads;
    “An urgent review of the decision to commit over 50% of DRD’s next budget to a road from Donegal to Dublin. We advocate a refocusing on the need to commission the A2 project at Greenisland, rather than the A5 Western Transport Corridor; “

    That road was never going ahead once he got his mits on it. Personally, I couldn’t give a toss if the road met up with an ROI somewhere along the line but what about the thousands and thousands of people from Derry all the way to the M1 who use that route every day?

    Feck ’em all say the UUP, that’s Sinn Fein territory

  • Mick Fealty

    My own personal jury is out on the optimal utility of the bridge, but we are not just talking about the failure of the Dublin government to stump up enough to ‘bridge’ the gap, but a failure broker some kind of deal between the Taoiseach’s office and OFMdFM to plug a relatively small gap…

    Given Mark H Durkan just pulled the plug on making the Mournes a national park last week, I’d say the real problem here is not whether there’s going to be a new bridge as much as how much (or how little) thinking is going into rural regeneration strategies…

    In the meantime sending 15 mill home for the want of five between four other parties looks a bit, ‘Duh!’

  • cynic2

    What a little sectarian rant.

    This project was started off by Conor Murphy in DRD and all the planning work would have been done by him. We know that Conor cant have been biased against the project. Marty told him to do it and he will have obeyed orders.

    Danny Kennedy took it over in mid 2011 – around 12 months before the failure to undertake the EA was discovered. That failure was initiated long before and almost certainly in Murphy’s time as Minster – yet you blame Kennedy. So far from all the ‘ducks being on his shoulders’ this was yet another Shinner failure – like so many others in Murphy’s shambolic reign in DRD

    And pray why shouldn’t there be a review in times of austerity of a decision to commit over 50% of budget to one road when the Irish had already said they couldn’t meet their end of the bargain to build the link in the Republic? Without that this was a road going nowhere. Why was a decision to commit to this ever taken in the first instance without cast iron guarantees in place and a full and effective planning process?

    So this white elephant is dead – but it was killed by SF incompetence and Irish indifference not unionist manipulation. Of cousre that may be why you protest so much. We cannot let the Shinner Sheep realise the truth so lets play the MOPE game, scream and shout and blame themuns

    So where now? Upgrading the road to Belfast will give the same benefit at the expense of just 20 minutes extra on a trip to Dublin and at hugely reduced costs. It will also make best use of the existing investment in roads like the M2 that are below capacity.

    The thousands of jobs ‘lost’ will be created elsewhere – so rejoice that a more rational policy may emerge rather than a sectarian decision to buy votes in the west at the expense of the reet of Northern Ireland

  • cynic2


    I disagree. This whole plan was an utter shambles. The business case just didn’t stack up. Not only are the benefits highly questionable but the whole costing exercise was hopefully optimistic or fudged to try and make the numbers fit. When Louth council saw the bill they ran a mile – and they were right to do so.

    This was gesture politics by the SDLP using all our money to try and net votes in South Down. Like the A5 another potential white elephant that, thank heavens for the judgment of real politicians in the Republic looking to their budgets and voters interest, was culled in good time

    When will our lot (on both sides) every get away from this? They behave like children let lose in the public sector sweet shop with sweaty palms and desperate to spend every penny in their pcoket on the brightest stickiest tooth rotting most confection

  • cynic2

    I’d say the real problem here is not whether there’s going to be a new bridge as much as how much (or how little) thinking is going into rural regeneration strategies…

    I agree in part but think its also more fundamental than that> Our electoral quota is so low that MLa feel hostage to any significant minority group. In the Mournes itr is the farmers so the SDLP and their Ministers cannot afford to alienate farmers in a constituency vital to them no matter how vital the issue is to NI as a whole.

  • Peter Lombard

    It is common knowledge that if and when work commences on Narrow Water Bridge a Newry businessman is committed to spending €25 million on building a new hotel complex on the site of the old Park Hotel outside Omeath. It is envisaged that when completed the complex will employ eighty plus staff plus extras. These jobs will suit workers from both jurisdictions.

    Talk about looking a gift horse in the mouth – Kenny / Gilmore and Robinson /McGuinness should simply get on with the work.

  • Pete Baker


    There’s a reference of interest in recent written answers in the Dáil [14 November].

    North-South Ministerial Council

    34. Deputy Brendan Smith asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Eamon Gilmore Zoom on Eamon Gilmore the issues discussed at the recent North South Ministerial Council; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48711/13]

    Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): The most recent meeting of the North South Ministerial Council (NSMC) in plenary format was held in Armagh on 8 November 2013. This was the seventeenth Plenary meeting of the NSMC. At the meeting, discussions covered a wide range of financial, economic and EU matters including the economic challenges faced in both jurisdictions.

    Ministers reviewed the progress made on the areas of co-operation and by the North/South Bodies. The actions being undertaken by each Administration to help support economic recovery and the importance of attracting Foreign Direct Investment and ensuring adequate access to credit within the banking sector in each jurisdiction was recognised as was the disposal of assets by NAMA in ways which would support economic recovery in both jurisdictions. Ministers agreed that they should continue to prioritise economic recovery, job creation, the best use of public funds and the most effective delivery of services for their citizens.

    The contribution of the Tourism Industry to both economies was highlighted, particularly the success of ongoing, initiatives including The Gathering Ireland 2013 and the UK City of Culture celebrations. Ministers also looked forward to the hosting of the Giro d’Italia on the island in 2014. Opportunities for cooperation in developing trade links with emerging markets on an all-island basis were also discussed. Our Embassies continue to be available to assist trade missions from both parts of the island and individual companies from either North or South or on an all-island basis to take advantage of opportunities for mutual cooperation.

    There was discussion about progress made to date under the Building a Prosperous and United Community economic package for Northern Ireland, and Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to the package. The importance of European funding to both jurisdictions was recognised, particularly the new PEACE and INTERREG funding programmes and exploring further possibilities for mutually beneficial collaboration to draw down funding. There was also a discussion on youth unemployment. Ministers agreed that, where possible, we should work together to make the most of the common approaches being taken North and South to deal with this key issue for the whole island.

    Following my recent visit to Derry I was pleased that we had an opportunity to discuss the North West Gateway Initiative and to encourage forward momentum on it. We noted that a report on the outcome of the consultation on the Initiative with key stakeholders in the North West will be brought to a future NSMC Institutional meeting.

    With regard to the St Andrews Agreement Review, the Council agreed that Ministers will now consider their priorities for further co-operation in their respective sectoral areas. The outcome of this exercise will be considered at a future NSMC Institutional meeting. Immediately before the Plenary meeting the Taoiseach, First Minister, deputy First Minister and I attended a conference in Armagh, organized by the GAA, IRFU and IFA which explored the role of sport in reconciliation. During the Plenary meeting Ministers endorsed the ongoing collaboration between sporting organisations to tackle racism, sectarianism and division.

    Ministers expressed their continuing support for the concept of the Narrow Water Bridge and asked for an urgent analysis of the issues involved, with the priority being not to lose the EU funding involved. We will continue to work closely and constructively on all of these issues with our Northern colleagues. [added emphasis]

  • Morpheus

    Murphy did start off the project and he was replaced in May 2011 so the current guy had 2 years to finish the project off but that was never gonna happen from reading that manifesto. You can be dam sure that if Murphy were in office in 2013 there would have been no breach in the habitats directive because the new road is not only wanted by the tax-paying inhabitants of the western counties it is absolutely needed. We are approaching 2014 ffs and a tractor can still hold up the journeys of thousands of people.

    As I said before I don’t give a fiddlers if it meets up with any ROI road or not. The fact of the matter is that the minimum requirement for a duel carriage way is 11,000 vehicles per day – Derry to Strabane gets 22,200, Strabane to Omagh gets 16,800 and Omagh to the M1 gets 13,200. Every part of that road more than meets the minimum requirements.

    You talk of the Irish withdrawal from their part of the project but if you knew the project you would know that in Feb 2012 the decision was made to proceed with the Derry-Ballygawley stretches and that passed public inquiry the following July.

    It was bugger all to do with austerity because the money was quickly allocated to other projects.

    I have never voted SF in my life and have no plans to ever do so so please save the MOPE and ‘sheep’ bollix, it carries to water whatsoever. This project was to help everyone be they Catholic, Protestant or whatever. It was pulled for party political reasons bollic to the people who need it – I hope we get direct rule some day soon to take decisions like this away from those half-witted, bigots in Stormont.

  • cynic2

    “It is common knowledge that if and when work commences on Narrow Water Bridge a Newry businessman is committed to spending €25 million on building a new hotel complex on the site of the old Park Hotel outside Omeath.”

    Amazing. If that is true why was it not freely disclosed before? So if the public deign to build a bridge he will open a hotel with a whole 80 jobs – that’s only £200k a job – a snip.

    And what contact if any has he had with SDLP or SF MLAs on this please? Is that ‘common knowledge’ too???? Has it been openly declared?

  • cynic2

    It was pulled because the Department lost a JR. The plans were approved under Murphy and the blame for the gap leis with SF

    I repeat – building a new road from Derry to the M2 would be better value> there is a difference between traffic ‘justifying’ a dual carriageway and ‘needing’ one and just because its justified doesn’t mean its the best option

  • Charles_Gould

    SF are influential in the Executive with their dFM and three ministers. They also have TDs in the Dail. They are to blame for this failure.

    SF don’t care about South Down.

  • Charles_Gould

    The A26 probably needs it most.

  • jagmaster

    Cynic2 so what do you want to happen with every proposed building project in the future? Refuse it if it doesn’t directly benefit Belfast and it’s surrounds? The sense of pride and prestige from an architectural landmark on the local populace far outweighs the costs of building it in the first place.

  • cynic2

    We have limited money, Whatt i want to see is a properly constructed robust business case with a cost benefit analysis for all projects. Then we can reasonably and openly make the best choices what to spend.

    In this case we had back of a fag packet calculations that were wildly optimistic on the costs. The benefits have never been clear other than pious hops of more tourism. I could never understand why tourists (who mostly probably arrive from Newry) wouldn’t just cross the River in Newry and turn left to Omeath without the need to go to Narrow Water to cross the proposed new bridge. Its exactly the same distance!!!!

  • Charles_Gould

    Is there a ferry there, at present?

  • Charles_Gould

    Might a bridge at Strangford be more economic? That would help deprived people on the Ards Peninsula,

  • Kevin Says

    Cynic2, you say that tourists would arrive in Newry and then turn left to Omeath. That could only apply to those arriving from Belfast and the north when all the available information suggests that additional visitors need to attracted from the south.

    Newry is a huge bottleneck and the whole point of the bridge is to allow people to travel up and down the east coast without necessarily going through the city/town/large village on the Clanrye river.

    If they want to go through Newry, fine. If they want to see the Mourne region and the Cooley peninsula, the bridge will allow them to do so thanks to a EU grant which covers almost all of the costs.

    This is a project which has been sidetracked after huge amounts of public money have been squandered on schemes elsewhere which never saw the light of day. It deserves a chance to prove its worth.

  • Reader

    Charles_Gould: Might a bridge at Strangford be more economic? That would help deprived people on the Ards Peninsula.
    Then, for the trifling cost of a half mile long bridge across strongly tidal waters, the people of Portaferry (population 2,400) could drive 8 miles to Downpatrick instead of 17 miles to Newtownards to do their shopping without the bother of using the ferry.

  • Charles_Gould

    The ferry isn’t that much of a bother.

    Isn’t there a ferry at Narrow Water?

  • jagmaster

    Cynic, architecture and business are two completely different concepts. Sometimes you just have to build the thing and damn the begrudgers. If we followed your analyses the Eiffel Tower or the Empire State building would probably never have being built.

    To put it in context Gareth Bale was sold for £80 million to Real Madrid. They’ll only get 8 good years out of him if they’re lucky whereas the bridge would last for much much longer at less than half the price.

  • Reader

    jagmeister; The Eiffel Tower is architecture, Gareth Bale is economics, the Empire State building is architecture and economics. It definitely looks like the Narrow Water bridge is not economic, and if is is architecture then it is architecture in the back side of nowhere. Maybe if they had built it across the Foyle in time for the City of Culture business it could have made sense.

  • Charles_Gould

    There is a ferry service I believe, so people can still get across from one side to other?

  • cynic2

    “when all the available information suggests that additional visitors need to attracted from the south.”

    So they drive past the Omeath road in Newry to get to the Bridge? Sorry – that’s grasping at straws

  • cynic2

    “architecture and business are two completely different concepts”

    So are hubris and business. I have never heard it suggested that this concrete bridge will enhance the ambiance of this area – only that it will ‘bring people together’ and promote jobs. Its all utter nonsense. Six months of the year there are no tourists. Omeath is a tiny town that has limited capacity.

    This is an utter waste of money that was being promoted for party political reasons and was going to cost every NI Tax payer about £30. I can think of better things I want my Government to spend my money on

  • cynic2

    “There is a ferry service ”

    …..now now Charles, don’t prick the balloon….there’s votes to be gathered and the Prods to be blamed

  • jagmaster

    It’s only a passenger ferry, no cars only bicycles and it only operates between June and September.

    To take cynic2’s logic to the extreme we may as all well move to Belfast as anywhere outside it is not deemed suitable to spend money on. At least while we’re there we can take time to visit the Titanic Centre which cost £70 million to build with £60 million coming from the public purse.

  • cynic2

    “To take cynic2′s logic to the extreme we may as all well move to Belfast as anywhere outside it is not deemed suitable to spend money on. ”

    Where did I ever say that. Your petulant remarks assume that nowhere outside Belfast is economically worth spending money on which is nonsense. My argument is simply that we need tio spend scare money where it will do most good. Generally that will be near to urban centers – but that means places like Dungannon, Omagh, Enniskillen, Strabane, Derry, Magherafelt and Cookstown as well as the Belfast Conurbation

    Let me give you an example. For the money spent on the Belfast Derry Railway (another practical white elephant) we could have the most luxurious hourly bus service that would be faster, more comfortable and actually stop near where most Derry people live not on the other side of the river.

    But the railway is so symbolic that millions will be wasted on it or otherwise Derry will be seen to ‘lose out’

  • cynic2

    “it only operates between June and September”

    Yes…in the VERY SHORT tourist season

  • Morpheus

    “My argument is simply that we need tio spend scare money where it will do most good. Generally that will be near to urban centers – but that means places like Dungannon, Omagh, Enniskillen, Strabane, Derry, Magherafelt and Cookstown as well as the Belfast Conurbation”

    The A5 would provide a high-speed connection not only between all the towns you mention but connecting them all to Belfast and Derry. Business benefits, tourism benefits and the people can go about their business unimpeded by tractors and congestion. It’s nearly 2014 ffs!

  • Kensei

    We are in a very serious recession. There is a bundle of money from European that can’t be repurposed elsewhere, and was given up for relatively small sums. So a bundle of stimulus for an entire cross order area has been lost. It is highly unlikely that this would have had anything other than a positive RoI, but Keyness comes to mind:

    “It is curious how common sense, wriggling for an escape from absurd conclusions, has been apt to reach a preference for wholly ‘wasteful’ forms of loan expenditure rather than for partly wasteful forms, which, because they are not wholly wasteful, tend to be judged on strict ‘business’ principles.”

  • Charles_Gould

    If the ferry only operates in summer, it suggests demand is not high. The one at Strangford runs year round.