Funding for a cross-border bridge joining counties Down and Louth has been withdrawn by the European Union following the failure of government ministers in both parts of Ireland to agree to meet additional costs for the bridge’s construction.
Both the 26-County government in Dublin and the Six-County administration at Stormont had previously committed funding on the 195-metre bridge. However, an unexpected shortfall means the plan to link Omeath in County Louth to Warrenpoint in County Down has now fallen through.
A statement by the Department of Transport in Dublin denied it was to blame. It said: “The government has indicated on many occasions that it would be willing to help to address the shortfall in funding for the Narrow Water Bridge, but this depends entirely on matching contributions from the other parties, including the Northern Ireland Executive. These commitments have not as yet been forthcoming.”
There was no immediate statement from the DUP Minister for Finance, Sammy Wilson, who had appeared to agree to the bridge’s construction in May of this year. In a U-turn, he later insisted there was no additional cash to meet the increased costs.
It was thought the project could create 270 jobs and help to develop a scenic new tourist route from the Cooley peninsula in County Louth across the mouth of Carlingford Lough to coastal county Down.
South Down MP Margaret Ritchie of the SDLP said she was “extremely disappointed” by the announcement. But she added: “I am still of the belief that the Narrow Water Bridge would be an important economic stimulus for the local area.”
Sinn Fein representatives expressed their disappointment at the failure to secure the necessary additional funding. Local Assembly member Caitríona Ruane also blamed the Dublin government for failing to match words with actions.
“The funding necessary to make the bridge a reality was already in place,” she said.
“All that was needed was a commitment for a 6 million euro funding package from the Taoiseach and the Department of Transport.
“When Gerry Adams raised this issue with the Taoiseach in the Dáil this week, Enda Kenny said that he was in support of the project. I am disappointed that the Taoiseach’s actions did not match his words.”
“Urgent meetings” are now being sought with the Taoiseach and the Six-County First and deputy First Ministers by representatives of the border areas affected.